Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Hurray for the summer

Making daisy chains on the lawn, strawberry ice-cream melting in the heat, sizzling barbecues in the garden, long, lazy days - the summer has officially arrived.

First stop, the local garden centre, just a few minutes walk from the cottage, to stock up on sunflowers and Anemones.

And not forgetting cottage garden blooms for my hanging baskets.

A visit to a charming local pub, with duck pond and play area for Tommy.

Here's Tommy enjoying his blackcurrant fruit drink.

Here's Tommy again, collecting daisies in the garden of the pub opposite the cottage. It's been named as the second best pub garden in Essex. Quite a claim to fame! I can confirm it's very pretty and Tommy loves running around and playing football with daddy.

He also likes playing with his cars in the garden.

And standing on the bench.

It's also perfect weather to invite family for afternoon tea in our garden.

Hurray for the summer.

Monday, 29 June 2015

The house on the cliff top

Mark and I are back from our yearly trip to Cornwall, because unfortunately we didn't win the National Lottery or the the EuroMillions.
If we had of won, we could have purchased the stunning house on the cliff top (even though it wasn't for sale). Or called both our offices to inform we would not be returning to work, due to unforeseen circumstances (we have both agreed we will not expose our wealth, in case it should lead to jealousy and animosity).
Then we'd throw a huge party. And drink champagne from gold plated flutes. And George Michael would be our star guest.
Aren't fantasies great. Sometimes I wonder if half the fun is the fantasising.
Mark and I often spend our pretend money on a cottage in the Cotswolds, a chateau in the South of France, a holiday home in Cornwall, and a country style, tastefully decorated mansion in the village, with an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, a cocktail bar, and a mini parked on the driveway for yours truly (I'm a terrible parker, so should be able to cope with a mini), and an Aston Martin and Range Rover for Mark.
Not that we're greedy!
Oh and we'd also take all our family and friends on a holiday of a lifetime. Even though we are supposed to be keeping our good fortune private.
Then we check back into reality and discuss if we can afford a takeaway at the weekend.
Believe it or not I have never really been money obsessed, I've always thought it far more important to be happy and healthy. You could be rich but lonely, loaded but poorly.
Of course not having enough money can be stressful, so you'd have to get the balance right. Comfortable and content.
And what would you do if you really did own all the money you could ever imagine possible? Rather like a class a celebrity, someone who has so much cash it's obscene. Would you go wild and end up with a stint in rehab? Because you had nothing left to strive for, nothing to dream about. You had it all, and guess what, it wasn't the answer. You weren't happy. Bugger!
At the risk of sounding corny, Mark and Tommy make me feel like the richest person in the world. Rich in love, luck, and happiness. I don't need winning numbers to confirm this.
Although that cliff top house in Cornwall would have been nice, the views were amazing. You should have seen it, dear readers...

Pictures to be uploaded soon.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Cheese sandwich

Last night I dreamt about my brother again.
I have a real love and hate relationship with these dreams.
The setting is always the same; it's my parent's house and he suddenly appears in his bedroom/the lounge/the kitchen.
"Lee's back!" I will always scream.
In some dreams this is very normal. It's as if he popped out for a loaf of bread (albeit, with a 24 year detour) and he's home again. Isn't that nice. Now let's all have a cheese sandwich and move on.
In other dreams it is very distressing. Family members and friends are present and we are all beside ourselves with grief and happiness.
"But you died," I will say. "We didn't think we'd ever see you again."
Lee will explain that yes he did die, but we are incorrect in assuming that he is no longer with us.
"You may not be able to see me, but I am still here. My presence and love will never leave you. I will always look after you and be here for you. It's just a different way than before."
By this point we are all sobbing and rushing to hold him. It's emotional.
There are also dreams where I question his mortality and he insists there has been a mistake, there must have been another Lee, another family who mourn. I even feel silly, embarrassed, in these dreams. How on earth could I have got it so wrong?!
Last night's dream was different. For the first time ever it took place in somewhere other than my parent's home. It was Mark and I's kitchen. I was actually scolding Mark for not putting a recycling bag in the dustbin. I then turned around and gasped. I was not moaning at Mark. With his handsome looks and his cheeky grin, my brother was standing next to the dustbin.
"Lee's back!"
This time I was mortified that he was alive and well and I was talking about something so insignificant as rubbish. Plus, he admitted it was him, not Mark, who'd forgot the recycling bag.
I apologied profusely for moaning when there were so many other important issues, such as the fact he was back!
We embraced and laughed and everything was as it should be. I even told him how much I'd missed him.
Then I woke up.
And that's the part I hate.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Not quite as I planned it

Is there really such a thing as perfection?
Or is striving for perfection like chasing the impossible dream?
Personally, I think there are moments of perfection. Then after that, well, life can be flawed. But flawed can be interesting too, and let's face it, we would be wise to accept that sometimes life and plans misbehave.
Alas, I'm a sucker for perfection. I often conjure idyllic visions in my head, and guess what? They often bring me back down to earth with an almighty, ungracious bump.
For instance, when we invite guests to our home for a summer barbecue, I take the planning and visualising very seriously.
Like last Saturday. The occasion had been noted in my diary for ages, Shell and Steve and girls for barbie. Therefore, I had been very busy with lists of food to purchase, even a separate list for plates and bowls to use for purchased food. (The hand painted bowl from Portugal for the pasta, the pink tubs, decorated with delicate roses, for the strawberry ice-cream, etc, etc.)
The night before the big event, I cooked the pasta, and prepared the most exotic salad I have ever prepared (rocket, with couscous, feta cheese and butternut squash) and merrily ticked things off my list.
Merrily is indeed the correct word. So excited was I to be entertaining the next day, and praising myself for my organised status, that I kept pouring 'just one more glass of wine'.
The result? I went to bed far too late, fairly squiffy. Therefore, woke up very tired and a little fuzzy headed, not ready to fight another day at all.
I was disappointed with myself. I had imagined another early morning, feeling revitalised, and watering the purple flowers in the tranquil garden, whilst the birds were singing their dawn chorus, and most of the street were still sleeping.
Instead, I sat in bed with Tommy and hubby for ages watching Noddy and other such delights, until I couldn't put it off any longer. I had to get up and begin the day.
Of course I then started to panic, fearing there wasn't enough time to clean and organise and create a great ambiance for our guests.
And Mark's gout was playing havoc with his right foot. It was the size of a small balloon, extremely red and excruciatingly painful. Poor Mark. And bugger, he could't start and keep guard of the barbecue whilst I was cleaning/organising/hosting/looking after Tommy.
I was starting to get that sinking feeling.
Next, a freaky gust of wind blew the umbrella from our garden table, and umbrella stand snapped!
"Brilliant!" said I. "Now our guests have no shade and will burn to death!" I can be prone to bouts of drama whilst stressed.
But that's not the worst part. I was running around the kitchen like a headless loony, and in my clumsy state, I dropped a glass jar on the stone floor.
It smashed into tiny pieces. Tommy, thinking he was helping me, picked up a piece of broken glass.
"No!" I screamed.
Too late. Tommy bled for the first time. A lot. He was absolutely fine about it. I, on the other hand, was trying not to cry. I guiltily held his little finger, and called my mum. I needed to check if we should take him to the hospital.
We didn't take him to the hospital, but it was a close call. I had to swallow a headache tablet as my anxiety levels were sky high and my head was now thumping like a kangaroo on acid.
Just before our guests arrived, I placed bunting, cushions, candle holder, picnic blanket, children's tent, children's tea set and toys on picnic blanket, milk bottles filled with summer fruit and pink straws, in garden, and tried to relax. I remember thinking, I could still pull this off.
Despite the fact we had to ask if our guests would mind arriving an hour later than scheduled, due to Mark's gout and Tommy's finger, and despite the fact the barbecue was not a barbecue, I had to cook the food in the oven and frying pan, it was a lovely afternoon.
Then we all went down the pub.

In the tent.

Playing in our garden.

Pub garden. I bought bubbles and cars for the kids to play with. Here's Tommy and Freya sitting by the brick wall.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Things I never thought I'd say

Well isn’t life just full of surprises.
There I was chugging away at this little thing called ‘my life' when I found myself saying something completely out of character. Believe me, it has seemed like an eternity since I made this remark. And I did ponder at one point, whether I would ever state this again.
Okay, I had been thinking about something for a while, imagining it, contemplating it, until I decided to act upon it. Particularly as my pitifully small, but never the less appreciated, pay rise would accommodate it.
I’ve joined a gym dear readers, after one day declaring to Mark, “I need to join a gym again.”
I thought my gym days were well and truly behind me. My thought process used to be; when would I have the time and inclination? I work full time, I’m a mum, and I have a little life of my own you know. Who cares if my wobbly bits are wobblier than ever?
Well actually, I care.
I’ve been feeling, how shall I put this, rather yucky recently. My beloved son is now 19 months old and I still haven’t shifted the extra baby weight. I still sigh constantly at my wardrobe and all the outfits I still can’t fit into.
I tried, a bit, to loose weight and improve my fitness levels. I power walked around the park, more than twice. I borrowed father-in-laws exercise bike and grabbed the odd 15 minutes here and there whilst hubby and son were in the bath. But alas, it wasn’t enough.
Then one day, after I’d caught sight of my reflection and cringed (again), work colleague mentioned she’d joined the gym opposite our red brick building. She didn’t have a lot of extra time to visit this gym, so she was exercising in her lunch hour.
I’ll be honest, this thought filled me with horror at first. You go to the gym in your lunch hour? You mean, you don’t surf the web, gossip in the canteen, or visit the delightful shopping parade which is situated a ten minute walk from the office?
But then I kept thinking about it.
I could visit the gym in my lunch hour? What’s more important, surfing, gossiping and shopping, or finally doing something about my chubbiness and poor fitness?
Slowly the thought of a gym membership was becoming more and more attractive. I was imagining the old me, the one who used to take care of her appearance, who did not avoid mirrors and who wore nice clothes.
I’ve never regarded myself as high maintenance, yet I used to bother. Recently I fear I have the appearance of someone who has stopped bothering as they really don’t have the time or desire.
I want to change. I don’t want to be out of breath walking up stairs, or bursting out of my clothes. Or feeling envious towards smaller, younger, female versions.
So I bought pink and grey sports wear to motivate me and joined the gym. Although to be honest, there's nothing like not wishing to waste £45 a month to motivate you.
I go to the gym in my lunch hour. It’s a nice place. I listen to music whilst working out, then I have a quick shower before returning to the office.
And yesterday I found myself saying, “I’m enjoying my trips to the gym. Some days I wish I could stay longer.”
Yes, dear readers, things have really changed around here.
Onwards and upwards! Rather like my sessions on the treadmill.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The Village Fayre

Thank you May, for your second bank holiday.
On this occasion, we spent the day at the village fayre, in a neighbouring village. Mark and I took my parents, and we all had such a lovely time.

It's a picturesque place, with attractions on the village green, and surrounding area.

There were stalls crammed with jewellery and arts and crafts.

Hook-a-duck for the kids.

The mad hatter stall.

Beautifully decorated Cupcakes, yes I did buy one!

This vehicle was a £1 a ride.

Tommy had lots of fun watching the children in the racing carts, and watching me win him a toy lobster.

And he loved running about, but not always the same way as us!

This adorable tea room, on the outskirts of the village green, was also an antique shop.

My mum and I happily browsed among the gems.

I spied some old postcards, this one was dated 24th September 1942 and in fancy writing it said...I do hope Betty is feeling better. We visited this gay place today, you wouldn't believe we were at war.

We then stopped for toasted sandwiches, cake and coffee (chocolate milkshake for Tommy).


Tommy pretending to read the menu (in daddy's shades).

After the fayre, we visited the garden centre. Here are my purchases. It's time to make the garden pretty again.

Then Mark disappeared to the bedroom to watch the cricket, a worn out Tommy snoozed on the sofa, so I watched a Miss Marple film and ate chocolate.
The perfect end to a perfect day.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Jamie Oliver and the princess castle

I'm not usually a spur of the moment kind of girl. So when I realised the nice building in front of me was Jamie Oliver's restaurant, and because he is my favourite chef, I said to my hubby Mark, "We should definitely dine here one day."
I wasn't expecting him to suggest, "Why don't we eat here now?"
Now? You mean, we won't go home and eat cottage pie, as planned? We won't go home and talk about it and Google the menu, then over a few days decide which weekend we should visit Jamie's establishment, and if we should dine alone, or invite family or friend?
I was feeling a little uneasy.
"What about the cottage pie?"
"The cottage pie can wait."
"We probably have to book."
"Let's go inside and see."
So we did.
How brave of me. I figured Mark was right, the cottage pie could wait, and this was Jamie Oliver's restaurant after all.

Trattoria, the Italian one.

It was a rustic kind of place, and you can watch the chefs at work.

The walls were stacked with pics of Jamie, and random pieces of art.

Helping Tommy with the menu and his colouring pencils. These were supplied by the staff.

Tommy creating a masterpiece.

I ordered the Margherita pizza. It was very tasty.

Tommy had fish fingers and chips. I cut them into little pieces for him, and sampled some. I must say, they were the best fish fingers and chips I've ever tasted.

A salad complimented the children's meal. Tommy had great fun shaking, as requested.

He likes to feed daddy.

Tucking into the chocolate ice-cream. What concentration.

I thoroughly recommend Trattoria. There was a buzzing atmosphere, attentive staff, and the food was tasty and reasonable. The kid's menu was impressive, great choice and healthy products.
We're planning on visiting again. Note the word planning!
But hey, I'm not knocking this spur of the moment lark, I rather enjoyed it.

Oh and before eating we visited a fun fair, and Tommy loved the princess castle. Can you see us?