Friday 14 June 2013

european vacation

I decided that we had to get away and have a little family holiday somewhere during half term break. Our last break ended a bit sooner than expected and with the loss of Jasper, so a week away felt like a good thing to do.

I looked at Cornwall as an option as we're not having our summer holiday there this year, but almost everything was already booked because I'd left it late. Then I thought a return to Center Parcs would be a nice idea, until I saw that Elveden expected us to cough up over £1,600 for a one week stay. I remembered friends saying that Center Parcs on the continent was a lot cheaper, and right they were - I booked us in at De Vossemeren in Belgium for a week for £800. The Land of Beer and Chocolate! Yes, please.

I paid for our Eurotunnel crossing with Tesco vouchers (loyalty points), so our only travel costs were for diesel and our passport misadventure (see previous post.) Eurotunnel is something to behold. You drive your car on to a train. YOU DRIVE YOUR CAR ON TO A TRAIN THAT GOES UNDERWATER. I shit you not. In roughly 35 minutes, you go from Folkestone in Kent to Calais in France.
It's the most ridiculous and fantastic thing ever. I don't care how sad this makes me, the novelty of this thing still hasn't worn off.

We emerged on the other side chanting our mantra: "Drive on the right." After a long journey thanks to a delayed train, Antwerpian traffic, and one son hurling into a plastic bag, we arrived at Center Parcs. 

Center Parcs in Belgium is surreal because it looks like an English Center Parcs, has all the same logos, but everything's in four different languages. When  you arrive, you know this is not going to be like England - the "Meh, do what the hell you want" vibe starts right at the gate. You don't have to go through barriers and have your guests carefully counted and verified by someone,  you just drive in, get yourself parked, and wander over to an information desk where someone just takes your word for it.

The park itself is very similar to the one in Elveden - the villa floorplans are the same and they are surrounded by woodland, and the pool layout is almost identical. It's a smaller park, which makes getting around with small children so much easier. The other European kids weren't on holiday that week (except maybe the Germans) so it wasn't very crowded.
We didn't leave her in the woods.
The activities are similar (swimming, indoor and outdoor sports, bowling, etc.) but far cheaper. The pool area is amazing, not because it has anything extra (although the underwater aquarium pool is pretty cool), but because they just don't really give a monkey's who goes on the slides. The age minimum is supposedly 8, but after we watched several small children with armbands and float vests going down the rapids with their parents, we threw caution to the wind and took all three kids down and on some of the slides. Back home, we would be much  more limited which makes doing anything as a family difficult (I usually end up trapped in the toddler pool area for hours on end.) In Belgium, they stick two fingers up to health and safety. Go! Be free to slide down our big plastic watery tubes as a family unit!

The other thing you will encounter at a European Center Parcs is a lot of beer-bellied men in very small Speedos and very large women in bikinis who simply Do Not Care, which is fine by me. The fact that I won't feel fat and don't even have to bother shaving my legs makes for a pretty good holiday, in my opinion.

Now, if you're eating, you may want to skip this bit. Although I say the villas are like their English counterparts, the toilets are not. There is what I can only describe as a "poo shelf" in every toilet. It's like a normal toilet, except for reasons unknown, there is a little step at the back where your poo rests tidily until you flush it away. My German sister-in-law forewarned us about the Poo Shelf, claiming that most Germans are hypochondriacs and like to inspect their poo in a Gillian McKeith manner.

Okay, you can come back now.

Climbing our way up to the sports cafe.
The pool is in the market dome area, which is where everything is located - again, very handy when you've got a lot of kids in tow. It's a jungle in there, literally. The market dome is bursting with trees, plants, flamingos and parrots, rope bridges to climb and stone paths in fish-filled ponds. 

There are the obligatory useless and overpriced shops, a food store, and a few cafes and restaurants (one of which was closed.) The food store is okayish, but not great if you are doing any great amount of self catering. You're limited by the lack of an oven in the villas (you have a hob and microwave, but no oven) so it's already a bit of a challenge to come up with meal ideas, especially if there is no fresh meat or vegetables in the store that day. Stock changed radically from day-to-day, which I suppose is in keeping with the European market mentality; you buy whatever's there on the day you shop. It was excellent for baked goods, snacks, and booze, though. If you're happy to live on baguettes, Doritos, and beer for the week, you're sorted. Oh, and you must like edam or gouda. Want any other cheese? You're screwed.

The restaurants are also okayish. As mentioned, one was shut (seasonal hours?) which left three others to choose from: a pancake restaurant, a buffet (which we never tried), and a place called The Grill. The Grill was fine - not great and hugely overpriced, but that's what you expect at a Center Parcs. I made quite a few meals in the villa using the hob and an electric grill we brought ourselves (like a Foreman grill.) Which reminds me, unlike Center Parcs in Elvedon, the smoke alarm doesn't start blaring at you the minute you emit any heat from the kitchen, including the toaster. I should also mention that the sports bar makes an amazing mojito that packs quite a kick for €6.

In front of a bookstore in Antwerp
The great thing about this park is that it's only an hour from Antwerp and theme parks, museums, and is just meters from the Dutch border. You're not limited to the park itself, which makes for a more interesting week. We went into Antwerp for the day - a pretty, friendly, compact city. You can default to French if English isn't understood (which isn't the case in some other parts of Belgium) although it's so touristy that everyone speaks English along with at least three other languages. 

We had some lunch, an open top horse trolley thingy tour, and I bought chocolate from two different shops. (I've eaten it all now.) 

Could have made a little more effort. Lack of gnomes.
When we drove through Lommel to get to Center Parcs on our first day, I was impressed at how tidy this little town is. Everyone's garden is immaculate and all the buildings look new. It wasn't until we drove to Antwerp that I realised that all towns are like this, and homeowners obviously take great pride in their outdoor space. It sounds a bit creepy, but I thought it was lovely. 

Everyone we met was friendly and didn't seem deeply resentful about having to speak English to us. The Belgians love the Canadians, which is always a bonus. Thanks to our wartime efforts, there is a memorial plaque in Antwerp to honour our soldiers.

The week was wonderful, despite the passport drama, the three hour delay getting on to the Eurotunnel train, two cases of sick children in the car, and coming back with miserable colds. It was an adventure. So many languages, so many new things to see, so many waffles. We got there in the time it takes us to drive to Cornwall. Brilliant, brilliant fun had by all. We will definitely return and have our day in Bruges next time.

Friday 12 April 2013

eating, sightseeing, more eating: our Easter holiday summary

What busy bees we've been! The kids have two weeks off here for Easter (which is too long if you're not going away anywhere this time of year, in my opinion) so we've been filling our days with fun. I totally admit that I choose activities and places to eat based on things I like; you won't find me suffering in silence at a Chuck E. Cheese. So this break, we had days out in London and Cambridge, and a trip to the safari park. And quite a lot of eating.

The fun started in London with a trip to the museums. I was going to start with the Tate Modern, but I took us to the wrong tube station. I'm sorry, but Mansion House and Manor House are too similarly named for my liking. Anyway, we skipped Tate and went straight to lunch to Benihana's, which is one of Jack's favourites. I haven't been for years - probably since I introduced Paul to the concept on a business trip to Florida before we were married - and it was good fun. It was very quiet and we pretty much had the place to ourselves. The onion volcano was awesome.

Easter holiday fun

The next stop was the Science Museum (fun, but the kids got bored fairly quickly) then the Natural History Museum (more fun, couldn't pull the kids away.) Museums are free in London, all the time. How amazing is that? You do have to pay for special exhibitions, like the David Bowie one at the V&A, but it's free to wander around the rest of the museums. I love that they're accessible to everyone. All museums should be like this.

Easter holiday fun

Our day ended with a trip to Hamley's toy shop (overcrowded and overrated, and not at all like the toy shop in "Big" which is what all toy shops should be like) and supper at Mother Mash. It's a great concept but the food is not as great. Don't get me wrong, it's tasty but could be done so much better. I think it's a good place to go if you're not English and not used to getting pie and sausages that are well made - it's certainly better than your standard pub fare - but the food suffers from precooking and reheating. Needless to say, the kids absolutely loved it, service was excellent, and it was a fair price for all the food we ate.

Easter holiday fun

I took the girls to Cambridge while Paul took Jack to a rugby match at Twickenham with other friends. As always, my first priority was food, so we had lunch at Jamie's Italian. I signed up to their mailing list ages ago and was recently sent a "gold card". I wasn't sure what it entailed, but knew that it got me £10 off our first visit using the card. Much to my delight, not only did I get a discount, I got a free "taster" (fresh mozzarella with basil and oil), free pudding, and because it was my birthday the week before, a free bottle of prosecco. BEST DAY EVER.

Easter holiday fun

I've been meaning to check out the new science centre since it opened and it was well worth a visit. Don't be put off by its size, which is about as big as the ground floor of our house. Which isn't big at all. I thought the girls would look around for 5 minutes and want to leave, but they were transfixed by all the hands-on activities. We made maple tree "helicopter" seeds out of paper and flew them in a wind tunnel, listened to demonstrations about things like static electricity, and examined giant plastic eyeballs.  As we looked at the exhibits, staff came around to tell us interesting facts about what we were looking at. We were there for almost two hours, before I lured them away with the promise of cake at Patisserie Valerie. It's a great little place, and cost us a grand total of £6.

Easter holiday fun

Our final fun day out (before I had to go back to work, boooo) was at Woburn Safari Park, which is very expensive if you forget to order Tesco vouchers far enough in advance. Seriously, don't go unless you're doing it on vouchers. It's stupid expensive for what it is. The first part is a driving safari, which is pretty much the same concept anywhere in the world. You drive around, try to spot animals, then monkeys poo on your car and rip off the antenna. The other part of the park has bird shows, play areas, and a few more animals.

Easter holiday fun

As always, the day involved food. We had supper at Wagamama, a Japanese-inspired chain restaurant with long bench seating and a lot of noodles. It's good, but it won't put any authentic places out of business. They have a varied and interesting kid's menu, and the portions are massive, much to Jack's delight. The food is fresh, nicely cooked, and full of flavour. I had a humungous bowl of udon noodles with steak and veggies, and the girls had little cod balls with curry sauce and rice. Jack started to complain about having a child's portion of chicken ramen soup, until it arrived and was bigger than his head.

Easter holiday fun

It's been a fun, tiring break. I hope the kids got something out of it (other than big bellies) and I'm grateful that I have the opportunity to take them on days out like this. And now, after a long two weeks and a tough work schedule, I'm off to Ragdale Hall with a couple of friends to do nothing. I may be some time.

Tuesday 12 February 2013

in honour of jasper t. dog

I can't even remember how or when we decided we'd get a dog, but I do remember that it was a very good idea and something I'd wanted to do for a very long time. Paul came up with his name, just blurting it out when we were pretending to call our dog (that we hadn't even got yet.) We thought Jasper was the perfect name for a dog. And it was.

In August 2003, before we were parents, we got a dog. He was 11 weeks old and was supposed to go off to America to be trained as a bomb sniffer dog, but the deal fell through and his entire litter suddenly became available. We got him from Fenflyers Labradors, and we were lucky because their dogs are high in demand. He had a silly Kennel Club name (My Captain Marvel, I kid you not) and an impressive pedigree. We didn't really care about that though, we just thought he was lovely. He wasn't a tiny puppy like in the Andrex ads, but he was still pretty small. He had huge floppy ears and enormous paws.


We were advised to get him a cuddly toy to keep him company, especially when we were out at work. We got him a stuffed dog called Doodles, who was from a kid's show called "The Tweenies" (which we didn't know about because we weren't yet parents and didn't have millions of CBeebies hours logged.) We came home one day to find poor Doodles in pieces, along with a tea towel and an ice cube tray.


While we were away, he ate: the wall, a kitchen cupboard, an entire box of formula, and a whole loaf of high fibre bread. Labradors are chewy.

He loved the water, whether it came out of the shower:


or if it was in his favourite river:


After his first year, the children started coming along. He put up with little fingers in his eyes, little hands pulling his tail, being used as a step ladder or a horsey, and having his space invaded.

Jasper gives up

Never once complaining or fighting back.

When I was pregnant with Jack, he didn't act any differently or seem to be aware of the imminent arrival of a little person. When we came home from hospital he suddenly became the protector, leaning himself up against the moses basket when the midwife visited to create a canine barrier. When I was pregnant with Mia, he went on high alert during the last few weeks of my pregnancy. He'd follow me around with a slightly worried expression and started the habit of coming upstairs to lie at the end of my bed every morning. When Mia was born, he poked his head over the side of the birthing pool, had a little sniff, and retired to his bed. Even before I knew I was pregnant with Isla, Jasper sat and stared at me for an entire evening - maybe with recognition and protection, but probably more out of disbelief.   He stayed in his bed the entire time I was in labour, again only emerging to give her a little look when she was born.

He was a dog that even dog-haters (or dog-fearers) liked. I can't tell you how many times I heard people say, with sincerity, "I don't like dogs, but I really like Jasper."


Then three months ago, an oncology vet told us that Jasper had cancer and had maybe 4-6 months left with us. All he had was a limp, but otherwise he was as energetic as a puppy. It really didn't make any sense. He had radiotherapy, got a little worse, had more radiotherapy, then got quite a lot better. We knew he wasn't going to get better, but it seemed like we'd have him around for a little while longer.

Last weekend we went away, leaving Jasper with my in-laws here at home, I think he decided it was time to go. When we got home he was so poorly; I sat on the floor next to his bed and stroked his floppy ears and that very soft spot just above his nose and told him over and over that he was a good boy and that it was time for sleep. Within an hour of our return, he was gone. Just like that.

Ferri Photography (2 of 10)

There is an enormous empty space in our kitchen now and the silence when the doorbell goes is heartbreaking. I miss his big floppy ears and his big licky tongue. I miss being whacked on the legs by his lead-lined tail. I miss being greeted by a furry being that thought I was the most awesome fucking thing in the world.

Our dog was called Jasper and he would have been 10 in three months. He was a very, very good boy.

Sunday 3 February 2013

Day 30: words about Jack

Day 30: words about Jack by Lisa Durbin
Day 30: words about Jack, a photo by Lisa Durbin on Flickr.

So behind. Surprised? Me neither. Anyway, this came home in Jack's book bag last week and I thought it was just lovely. It's a quote about Jack from his classmates, and every kid will get one during the school year. Isn't that cool? He was so pleased with this and we all had a good giggle reading through some of these.

I think grownups should do this, too. I mean how nice would it be to hear something positive about yourself from your peers?

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Day 29: sick day

Day 29: sick day by Lisa Durbin
Day 29: sick day, a photo by Lisa Durbin on Flickr.

I have a terrible immune system. Whenever I tell my friends and family that I'm unwell, the response is usually, "AGAIN?" I don't know if it's because I'm asthmatic or if it's because I have small children (think it's the former because Paul rarely has a cold), but this is my winter. Someone gets a bug, I get it too, I get better, another kid gets a bug, I get that one, etc.

I've tried a few things: changes to my diet, extra vitamins, cutting things out of my diet, getting the flu shot. Chicken soup seems to be the best healer so far (and getting caught up on sleep.) Thankfully I never seem to be unwell for long. I'll get a crappy cold for maybe 3 days maximum. Hey, at least I haven't had Norovirus this year so far. That makes a change from every past winter!

So today I'm at home, feeling like my head's underwater and aching all over. Oh and to top it all off, I burned my mouth on my soup. Pitiful me.

Monday 28 January 2013

Day 28: knitty

Day 28: knitty by Lisa Durbin
Day 28: knitty, a photo by Lisa Durbin on Flickr.
This isn't just to show you my (rather sad and slow) knitting skillz, but to talk about the stitch markers.

A few years ago, I came across a pattern that called for stitch markers. Having absolutely no idea what they were, I looked them up on t'internet and came across some beauties by Annarella (who doesn't seem to have a blog anymore sadly, but her pics are still on Flickr here: I asked my friend Melanie if she could make something similar that I could buy from her, as she is the beady, jewellery making type. She took on the challenge and I eagerly awaiting my new markers. Not that I knew how to use them, but hey - knitting bling!

Melanie popped these markers in the post for me, as a gift, and I was thrilled. Not only did they have pretty beads on them, they spelled out my name. How cool was that?

I am now working on a shawl that requires all four of my markers, and they clack and jangle away while I knit. They are sweet and special, and they remind me that someone did something very nice for me.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

it's not just about the bacon

No photo today, sorry. I think it'll be more like "Photo Every Few Days or When It Strikes My Fancy".

When you do a less "conventional" diet (or "way of life" as many call it), you spend a lot of time justifying and explaining it to other people. Which, to be honest, doesn't really bother me and people are simply genuinely curious. In general, conversations tend to go like this:

Person A: "I'm on a diet."
Person B: "Oh, which one?"
Person A: "Weight Watchers."
Person B: [some words of understanding/reference to self or family member who followed the same plan]

Whereas with me:
Me: "I'm on a diet."
Person A: "Oh, which one?"
Me: "Well, it's not really a diet plan as such. I don't eat sugar, grains, or high starch foods and I do intermittant fasting."
Person A: "You WHAT?" [or, more often, "Oh, like Atkins." accompanied by a nose wrinkle.]

It's interesting because if you broke down what I ate and presented it to someone without specifying that it's low in carbohydrates, they wouldn't bat an eye. Once I mention low carbing, the assumption is that I eat my weight in steak and butter. Which I could, I suppose, but then I wouldn't actually lose any weight and I'd be bored shitless.

There was a really good, informative piece on the BBC about intermittent fasting ( which turned out to be not really fasting (as you eat on your "fast" days) but the concept does work on the same level.  On my fast days, I wait as long as I can before eating (i.e. based on a genuine urge for food rather than habit) and eat a small amount that day. I tend to go around 18 hours from my last big meal to my first food on the fast day.

On my non-fast days, I eat low carb. I don't go nuts and eat whatever I want, but I don't count calories. Again, I eat when I'm hungry and I eat foods that I deem healthy. So today for example (a non-fast day) I had:
  • Breakfast: 2 sausages
  • Snack: a little nibbly thing of cheesy crackers from my Graze box
  • Lunch: leftover cottage pie made with cauliflower mash, with peas
  • Snack: another nibbly thing of dark choc and almonds from my Graze box
  • Dinner: duck breasts with a stir fry, topped with cashew nuts
And oh lordy, I'm full. My dinner was at 6:30ish, and I will likely not eat until around 2pm tomorrow. The kind of food I'm eating keeps hunger at bay and the fast days are generally pretty easy.

On a fast day, I might have:
  • No breakfast (OH NOOOO! It's the most important meal of the day! Did you know a cereal company came up with that tidbit of health-related information? Really.)
  • Late lunch: grilled chicken on salad, olives, carrots with a bit of hummus.
  • Dinner: grilled haddock, prawns, scallops with lemon squeezed on top, served on sauteed spinach and leeks
Doesn't sound too deprived, does it? I've lost half a stone (7lbs) in two weeks, although I know I always dump a lot at first. It'll slow down to a more reasonable level of 1-2 (or no) pounds from here on.

I'm not entirely sure why my way of eating requires more explanation than someone doing a low fat, low calorie diet. The criticism I hear most is that low carbing is unhealthy because you "eliminate an entire food group." (Since when was sugar a food group? I digress.) If you're on other more traditional diets, there is certainly some form of elimination (or severe restriction) going on in terms of fat.

I don't totally avoid treats, for the sake of my sanity. On my non-fasting days, I will have carbs and sugar sometimes (usually in the form of wine or cake) but like any diet, I can't go nuts with it. The fasting I think will work because I don't like to have to think too much about what I'm doing. And if I want to "binge", that's okay - because I can fast the next day. Psychologically, it just seems easier to me.

I'm not going all defensive and getting pissy about people asking me questions. I'm very happy to chat about food, whether it's about stuffing my face or trying to lose weight. I've learned a lot from many different people but mostly from trial and error. There are "tricks" I use on a low carb diet that I used to employ when I was on Weight Watchers many moons ago. It's all good and it's all about what works for you.

Monday 21 January 2013


Day 21: flowers

I came home after an exhilarating and thoroughly enjoyable snow day with the kids to a card through our door - flowers had been delivered to our next door neighbour's house. For me! And it's not even my birthday.
Day 21: flowers
Joking to my friend, I said "What's Paul done??" I opened the envelope and saw that the flowers weren't from my husband after all:

Day 21: flowers

They were from a young family I'd been helping through the (very sparse, very sporadic) breastfeeding peer supporting role I've been involved in since Isla was four months old. To say this made me day was an understatement. Knowing that I was able to help someone feel a little better and get them through some tough times means a lot.

Also, we had a snow day today. We built a huge snowman and the kids raced down a hill on a sled for the afternoon. Not bad for a Monday, eh?

Sunday 20 January 2013

comfort food

Day 20: comfort food by Lisa Durbin
Day 20: comfort food, a photo by Lisa Durbin on Flickr.

Day 20: pinched a few extra roasties after supper tonight.

I love Sundays. We start the day with a full English cooked by Paul (bacon, sausages, eggs, sometimes mushrooms, and black pudding) and end it with a roast dinner. Today was one of my favourite kind of Sundays - a lazy Sunday. Jack had his BFF for a sleepover, which kept him busy and happy this morning. No one got dressed until 10:00, and all we've done all day is watch movies and the falling snow outside.

If there's one thing I would take with me if I were ever to return to Canada (which I won't), it would be the Sunday roast. As sad as it sounds, it's the highlight of my week. The kids get so excited about it, too. What can I say, we like our roasties.

Saturday 19 January 2013


Day 19: tidy by Lisa Durbin
Day 19: tidy, a photo by Lisa Durbin on Flickr.

Day 19: cleaning frenzy. I've spent most of the day clearing out the kids' rooms, in a fit of post-Christmas/pre-Jack's birthday decluttering.

I am on a mission to rid this house of junk, to get rid of the constant need to walk around stuff. You can't walk anywhere in this house without having to walk over or around things, every door has something piled up behind it, and the cupboards are packed full of stuff. Not even useful stuff, just STUFF.

I'm not quite at "Hoarders" level yet, but I have some sort of block about putting things up for sale or bundling them up for charity. It's not like putting items on eBay is a chore (although getting to the post office is a complete pain) and there are plenty of Facebook pages for our area if you want to sell items. I just need to get around to it, but for some reason I don't.

Maybe I can hire a decluttering intern.

Friday 18 January 2013

fully stocked

Day 18: fully stocked by Lisa Durbin
Day 18: fully stocked, a photo by Lisa Durbin on Flickr.

Day 18: we're ready for Snowmageddon. Bring it on.

(So far, we've got about 1" of snow.)

Thursday 17 January 2013

work work work

Day 17: I am in the office with a mahoosive headache. The frost was pretty this morning, but I didn't get a chance to take a pic.

Wednesday 16 January 2013


I forgot to take a photo again today. It was frosty and pretty outside, though. You'll just have to use your imagination. (I can tell this photo a day thing ain't gonna last.)

Tuesday 15 January 2013


Day 14: we got a little snow yesterday. It was fluffy and pretty, and the kids were very excited to wake up to it but it quickly melted away. Despite the Met Office's numerous warnings and alerts, all we got was a bit of a dusting.

Worst. Snowstorm. Ever.

Day 15: I forgot to take a photo. Nothing interesting happened today anyway.

Sunday 13 January 2013

let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Day 13: snow watch by Lisa Durbin
Day 13: snow watch, a photo by Lisa Durbin on Flickr.

Day 13: We're on Snow Watch. Due for our first snowfall since February 2012, and the girls are a little bit excited about it. Jack is out playing rugby at a match in Milton Keynes and is likely a little less excited about the whole thing.

Saturday 12 January 2013

look up - look waaaay up

Day 12: construction by Lisa Durbin
Day 12: construction, a photo by Lisa Durbin on Flickr.

Day 12: we build a high bed for Jack.

Richard Parker

Day 11: "Life of Pi" by Lisa Durbin
Day 11: "Life of Pi", a photo by Lisa Durbin on Flickr.

Day 11: "Life of Pi"

A beautiful, moving, incredible film. I'm not usually a fan of 3D (I often find it doesn't add much to the experience) but this was astounding.

I've had the book since it came out in hardcover, but have yet to get around to reading it. I have a bit of an issue with book purchasing but not having the time to read, which is not good when you own a Kindle and can obtain books with one click. I'm glad I hadn't read the book beforehand so I didn't know what to expect, but now I'm very curious to read it.

I didn't know it takes place in Montreal (although I know Yann Martel grew up there and we have claimed him as our own) and it was lovely to see shots of my former hometown - and it was lovely that the film clearly identifies it as Montreal. We're used to being a stand-in for an endless number of American towns and very rarely appear as ourselves.

Lots to think about. And how nice to see a film at the cinema that isn't by Pixar.

Wednesday 9 January 2013

Sunday 6 January 2013

picture a day

I saw that my friend is doing something called "Project 365" over on her Suburban Mum blog, and I thought it was a great idea. It's simply one picture per day, but I thought it would be good to do for two reasons: it'll get me blogging more regularly and maybe I'll learn how to use my camera by the end of 2013.

I missed out the first couple of days and forgot to start posting them on here, but hey - better late than never.

So, we start on day 3: my new Uggs that proved tricky:

Truth be told, I've never been a big Uggs fan (or at least, not a fan of the original style Uggs.) Sadly, they've become the boots of chavs all over the UK and that didn't really appeal to me. I wanted a pair of warm, comfy boots and came across the biker style Uggs on the Office web site. I liked the style a lot more than the originals and they were heavily marked down. I couldn't resist! Had a bit of drama when I couldn't get them past my toes, but eventually realised that you cannot get them on unless you have bare feet. Wearing socks with these boots would be far too warm anyway. Suffice it to say, the boots finally went on and they are amazingly comfy. They're like wearing fluffy slippers to work all day long. Lovely.

Day 4: happy birthday, Katie:

One of my best friends had a couple of us over for a drink and "Magic Mike" viewing (HELLO!), and I made her a white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake. It was a really lovely evening; chilled and fun. If it isn't obvious from this photo, I still haven't really got the hang of my camera.

Day 5: Jack's bike wash:

I guess if anything "good" came from our car accident a few months ago, it was the settlement money that Jack and I got for our injuries and stress. It wasn't a fortune, but it was enough for our little boy to get a brand new bike, a new bed (forthcoming), and a bit left over to put in his savings account. He spent ages washing it proudly in our front yard, and somehow managed to get a big blob of soap suds on his head.

Day 6: packing away Christmas:

Although it's really nice to have our living room back, it's always a bit sad when Christmas gets packed away for another 11 months. We had a really lovely Christmas this year down in Kent with the in-laws. It was relaxing, full of food and prosecco, and Paul and I managed to sneak out for a film/supper.

Right, caught up now.

Saturday 5 January 2013

resolving, 2013 edition

Yikes, I only just realised that it's that time of year - time to go back to last year's January post about resolutions and see how far I've come. Or not come.

My goals for 2012 were:

  • Purge and organise. I started working on this recently and it's been incredibly liberating. There is still quite a way to go yet, and I still have yet to find a way to keep myself organised. 
Ah, yes. The house is a tip. I did declutter the kitchen the other day, though.
  • Make our home a sweet home. We aren't going to move for quite some time, so we need to sort out all the loose ends around here and make this a place we can really be happy with, at least for the next little while. Must. Get. Rid. Of. That. Floral. Wallpaper. In. The. Corridor. Gaaaaaah. 
We actually talked about this on the drive home after Christmas. The plan is to look into renovating and adding another room at the back of the house. I am so gonna make this happen. Mama wants her living room back and a peaceful place without a television blaring in it.
  • Focus on my health. I don't just mean losing weight (which has been the albatross around my neck for decades now), but finding solutions for the small yet annoying health niggles I've been enduring for the past couple of years. 
Move along, nothing to see here.
  • Figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I might return to work, in some capacity, when Isla increases her hours at nursery in September. It might be tech writing again, or it might be something totally different. I don't know yet. Be creative. My soul goes numb when I'm not doing something creative, whether it's delving into the cobwebby part of my brain that used to do graphic design, making something, or figuring out how to do a rugby ball cake (true.) 
I did return to the office in the form of contracting/tech writing, and I'm loving it. It's given me back my identity and confidence in spades. Which leads to...
  • Get "published". Doesn't have to be paid work (it likely won't be and will probably be an article online), but I need to write and it would be great to get a piece out there in the public domain. This is very much related to my last point. 
I ended up getting two regular writing gigs and it's been amazing fun. I'm so glad that I ended up pursuing this dream, because it led to many fantastic opportunities last year (like chatting to Lewis Smith. Oh yes indeed.)
  • Buy as much London Olympic tat as possible. (Not really. Well, maybe just a little tat.)
We scored two Wenlocks and a Pride the lion, a baseball cap, and a souvenir photo. Not bad!

My goals for 2013 are:

  • Again with the house decluttering and making bigger thing. The mess. Oh god, the mess. Make it go away.
  • Stick to the damn diet. Managed two days of it so far but ate quite a lot of cheesecake and crisps last night. I am a very good diet starter.
  • Keep writing. I'm keeping my ear to the ground and looking out for any opportunities. Last year gave me a real boost and I feel more confident to pitch articles. 
  • Do something interesting. Not sure what this will be yet. Learn a skill? Go somewhere new? Finally sit down with that book on writing Japanese characters? I just want to do something a bit different that doesn't involve leaping from a plane or getting something pierced.
  • Spend less time online. I did take my iPad with me when we went away for Christmas, but because I can't type on it to save my life, I spent much less time on it. I just used it to do a bit of work, check emails in the morning, and that was about it - and it was kind of nice. So less time farting around on the internet, starting now. Goodnight.