Can you guess what we’ve been up to recently from the title of this blog post? Last weekend my husband and I set off on a lovely weekend walk in the countryside, planning to find a bluebell wood which (having googled it) we knew was nearby. After a long period of cold wintry weather in April, the sun was finally out so we wanted to make the most of this lovely spring weekend and get outside. We pulled on our boots, packed up our gloves (just in case the wind picked up) and even took a snack with us to nibble on at lunchtime. We were ready to head out into the great outdoors, to breathe in the fresh air, get a bit of exercise after a week cooped up in the office, and drink in the glorious views. Little did we know that all – and I mean ALL – the spring flowers had finally come into bloom. Our amble through the countryside had quickly turned into a botany trip. Spotting different flowers as we strolled along the footpath became a competition between us, almost like ticking off the flowers in an ‘Eye Spy’ wildflower book. Luckily, we’d brought the camera with us in anticipation of getting some pretty shots in the bluebell woods, so we began taking photos of all the flowers we saw on the route. We had soon photographed more varieties of flower, blossom and ‘weed’ than we could count, and that was before we’d even found our way into the wood. When we arrived at Reydon Wood the route had been marked out by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust as a dedicated ‘bluebell walk’ so we strolled through the first part of the wood, still gathering photos of other varieties of flower, and hoping to round a corner and see a swathe of bluebells. You won’t believe it, but as we wandered along the path, the clouds burst open and it started to hail! Luckily, the canopy of the woodland protected us from being pelted with hailstones but we could see it coming down against the sunny backdrop of fields. Could a hail storm produce a rainbow, we wondered? Would it be solid? Thankfully, it was just a quick shower of hail and soon the blue skies were filled with fluffy clouds and sunshine again.
If you don’t already know it, skating rocks! I’m sure that many of you have been roller skating as a teen, shuffled around an ice rink at a Christmas market or even grabbed a skateboard earlier in life. But to do it as an adult is a whole different experience. It’s actually fun. If you’ve not been skating in years, I’m here to change all that. I want to get you skating!
I probably don’t need to tell you that it’s great exercise, but I do need to tell you what a lovely idea it is to go on a skating date with your other half. You get to hold hands all day, enjoy the exhilaration of going a bit faster than you should, help each stay upright and ‘kiss-it-better’ if you fall down! And with Valentine’s Day coming up in February, what better excuse do you need to try out your childhood hobby again? Okay, my husband and I take plenty of walks, have fun dates and go to lots of events, but roller skating combines all of my favourite experiences and then adds music. That’s how cool it is. And speaking of cool…
Over Christmas my husband and I went ice skating at Somerset House. I actually had no idea that we were going to skate, we were just planning a day out in London to see the Ai Weiwei exhibition at the Royal Academy… or so I thought. We were visiting London just before my birthday and hubby had planned a surprise ice-skating session as a special birthday treat. After a big hug we skipped towards the festive rink, snapped some excited photos and buckled up our ice-skates.
Having only tried to ice-skate once before in my life (and not been all that great at it) my first few steps onto the ice were rather wobbly. I’m usually alright with roller skates, having done a lot of skating as a child (I was utterly fearless at the age of 10!) so feel at home skating around a roller rink. But ice-skating is a completely different experience. I think the slippery ice adds extra jeopardy to an activity that’s already throwing me off balance – you should see me hobbling across the carpeted area after I put my skates on. As accomplished skaters whizzed past me and nervous shufflers like me gripped the sides of the rink, I bravely stepped out onto the ice and immediately had to cling on to my husband to stay upright. Continue reading “Tuesday Shoesday – Get your skates on!” »
When I shared tips for taking care of cats during the autumn and winter earlier this week I had a great response and my attention turned to other pets in the family. I thought about the animals we care for who are ‘outside’ pets; in our family we have chickens and guinea pigs, and other pets such as rabbits and even dogs in kennels need a little extra special treatment during the colder months. So today I’m sharing some ideas on things you can do to make your outside pets comfortable in the winter, and I’m starting with poultry. This week I ordered some ‘treats’ for my mum’s chickens. She has a flock of bantams in her garden and they are the sweetest, friendliest little hens I’ve ever met. When I was shopping for some cat products earlier this week (more about that later!) I spotted some poultry deals on the Swallow Aquatics pet shop website. With my husband having recently used up the last of the mite powder while cleaning out the chickens recently, I knew that a replacement was needed. So when I saw the Johnson’s Housing Spray was reduced I added a can to my online basket. I also picked up a bottle of antibacterial powder just in case any of mum’s bantams need treatment for cuts or grazes (though they never have so far!) over the winter, and I couldn’t resist treating the flock to a Johnson’s Corn and Grit Treat Bar. I took the treats over to mum’s chickens this morning and snapped some photos of the cute little bantams while I was there. I researched ways of making chickens more comfortable during the winter and here are some tips that I found on MyPetChicken.com:
- You can rub moisturiser or Vaseline on to wattles and combs to prevent frostbite.
- Chickens gradually get used to the cold weather over time so there is no need to heat the coop at all.
- Don’t allow water to freeze so check it during the day and bring it indoors overnight then return it to the coop in the morning.
- Regularly clear out the coop because they may be spending more time indoors during the longer hours of darkness so may mess up their bedding more quickly.
Do you sometimes find your mind wandering off to a place far away where it settles down on a comfy sofa to take in the stunning coastal view from your seafront property? When I’m daydreaming about my dream home, that’s exactly where my brain takes me and sometimes I can even do a tour of my imaginary home in my mind without ever leaving my desk. Hours of fun, huh? Well I’ve decided that my dream home shouldn’t be confined to my mind any longer and that sharing it on the blog will reinforce what I’d like to achieve in life. So, as a little exercise in projection and ambition, I’m going to research the realities of my dream home to give me a firm focus for the future and maybe you can do the same too!
I’m not saying that I’m unhappy with where I live at the moment – it’s in an idyllic village, on a peaceful road and is well-located (we have a train station nearby and an A road linking to all the big towns nearby) but it’s a small house and is unlikely to grow much bigger over time! This is precisely why I needed to renovate a vintage caravan to create my workshop and office space and we’re currently working on the garden to turn it into another outside room. I’m sure that I wouldn’t need to expand into the garden in my dream home because in my mind it’s already big enough inside!
I watch regularly Escape To The County on BBC (mostly when the lovely Alistair Appleton is on!) and have no trouble choosing which of the half-a-million pound houses I’d like to live in, but realistically I wouldn’t be able to afford a mortgage on a stately pile or sprawling modern luxury pad! So I’m researching where I’d like to live, what it would look like and how much this would cost me. And I’m starting with location: it needs to be near the coast, preferably with a sea-view, but more realistically it would be in-land but no further than half an hours drive from the sea. I think I prefer this kind of coastal location because as a child I lived more centrally in the country and holidays were always at the seaside so I associate the coast with happy times and relaxation. I know I wouldn’t be on a lifelong holiday if I lived in a seaside town (and I know I’d probably get naffed off with summer tourists!) but I feel sure that I’d spend more time outdoors and live a slightly slower pace of life.
So that’s the location sorted, so what about the house itself? I’d love a barn conversion. In fact, any kind of home which features large open-plan spaces and vaulted ceilings. It’s the sense of space that I’d like to achieve which, after living in bungalows for most of my life, would be a luxury. I do like the Georgian features of pretty doll’s-house-esque town houses; high ceilings, picture rails, tall windows and shutters etc, but I think a large home with these kind of period features would be way beyond my price range. I used a mortgage calculator on the Principality Building Society website and was surprised that I would be able to get a decent mortgage that I could actually afford to pay back but it wouldn’t stretch to my Georgian mansion on the seafront so I’m going for a small barn that I’d like to be able to convert myself.
I’m in no hurry to move, so my dream would be to buy an old farm building with planning permission and turn it into the home of my dreams over the course of a few years. It would have a big brick fireplace, woodburning stove or an Aga with back-boiler and solar panels on the roof because I’d like to be self-sufficient in terms of electricity and heating, as well as having a large enough garden plot grown our own veggies and be self-sufficient in the traditional sense too – although how much digging I’d actually do is anyone’s guess! I’d love to have a sun-trap walled garden that the cats would enjoy lounging in, with a hammock and alfresco dining area, then a ‘secret’ kitchen garden beyond that.
The interior of the house would look just like all the perfectly-staged houses in Country Living magazine and I’d throw in a few of our favourite mid-century pieces of furniture to make it more like the kind of home we would live in. Of course the most important thing in any house is space for a Christmas tree, so the ceiling would need to be open to the eaves so that I can fit in a massive spruce and loads of fairy lights!
This little exercise has been fun (especially hunting out images in Pinterest!) and I hope you’ll give it a go too. It’s really helped me to visualise what I’d like my future home to be and I’m interested to discover that my dreams are fairly realistic and quite possibly achievable n a few years time, which has given me something to strive towards. Can you envisage your own dream home? What would you choose and why? Let me know if you make up your own dream home blog post and I’ll share your links!
In association with Principality Building Society