Friday, 25 January 2013

Friday Round Up

weekend eggs benedict & my new favourite cup - wilson enjoys the snow - new garage, scaffolding & snow
our new lounge - jessie gets cosy - beautiful snowy scenery
chicken chowing down on a burnt muffin - essie 'don't sweater it' - chicken creeping up on jessie

Thank goodness this week is over! I've got the first stage of a big project at work out of the way and can breathe a big sigh of relief now until the second part begins and the sleepless nights can start all over again. Oh joy!

Still, I've got lots to look forward to now. Bizarrely, and for the first time ever, I'm really looking forward to working on the new house this weekend. In the past I've tried to shirk away from it, find excuses not to go and I've begrudged the time spent there when I'd rather be doing something else. But recently I've turned a corner and feel completely differently about it. It's going to be a beautiful home and I'm so lucky to be able to live there. I'm lucky that we've designed it all ourselves to fit around our lives and needs and that we (well, Matt mostly) have been in it from the beginning. It won't just be a home, it's really going to have deep meaning for us and a history that we can build on together

We spent all of last weekend there, me painting the kitchen windows and whitewashing out the spare bedrooms and Matt latting the roof of the extension ready to insulate. We spent Saturday night at Matt's garage painting skirting boards - rock n roll eh?

I spent most of this week in my home office again, gazing out of the window and wondering if the snow and ice will ever thaw. I had to go to Milton Keynes yesterday for a meeting and I was so pleased to be back on the road, eating motorway service station junk food, drinking too much coffee and singing along to the Les Mis soundtrack all the way home (I only cried twice) The lowlights of the day were

* Getting locked out of the building in the 'VIP' car park which was actually underground and scared the bejesus out of me on the way in

* Getting lost in the building's service area on the way out. Telling Matt all about it later it sounded ridiculous but at the time, my heart was pounding - a long, grey corridor with numerous grey, locked doors - I totally lost my bearings and couldn't even find the door I'd come in through. Eventually a kind cleaner rescued me

* And in between those two embarrassing instances, I was tarting myself up in the mirror of the lift when it arrived at my floor and, unbeknown to me, the doors were glass. So the crowd of people waiting for the lift saw me hoicking up my tights and checking my teeth for lipstick. My face was flaming,  I can tell you! 

Tomorrow we're heading into town for an evening at my parent's with my sister, her fiance and my gorgeous little nephew Finley Joe. We're having another Mulligatawny Night, which I'm VERY excited about - my dad makes the best mulligatawny soup in the world, we eat it from bowls with extra rice and lots of 'mmmm, yummy' noises

Next week is my birthday so I'll be taking a couple of days off work to go to Eden Hall for my traditional day of pampering with my best pal and have a day in York. Sadly it's for a dentist appointment but I'll also fit in some shopping (I need some new glasses) and lunch at Betty's because it would be rude not to

Have a great weekend everyone!


Thursday, 24 January 2013

Winter Saviours Part 4 - Hair

My hair is dry and damaged due to over colouring but the cold weather and central heating make it worse, if I don't up my haircare game it becomes even drier and more knotty. I've got a haircare routine I'm really happy with at the moment and my hair looks and feels much better for it. The biggest concern for me at this time of year is to smooth down the damaged bits and keep it tangle free and moisturised to prevent more frizzy bits developing

I'm currently alternating two different moisturising shampoos - Kerastase Bain Satin 2 and Korres Almond and Linseed Oil Shampoo. The Kerastase one feels more luxurious to wash with than the Korres one but I still use the Korres one because the results after drying are so good. Full reviews of both of these to come

Recently I discovered the Charles Worthington Intense Rescue Melting Balm. This is a solid wax which you scoop out of the pot, rub around in your hands until it melts into liquid, then smooth over the mid lengths and ends of your (dry) hair. I like to leave it for as long as possible - all day if I'm working from home - before washing out and conditioning as usual. I find it makes my hair really smooth and soft and I like the feeling of 'feeding' my hair with an intensive treat. It's fairly pricey but I've had my pot for ages and barely made a dent in it, you really don't need much. Plus it's usually on offer in Boots with at least £5 off

I am a bit of a conditioner junkie, always trying something new (and spending a fortune on it!) But the conditioner I come back to again and again is Joico K Pak Intense Hydrator. I like to use this on towel dried hair after washing, comb it through then wrap my hair up in a turban and let it soak in for a good half an hour. After rinsing out and drying the results are absolutely amazing. I highly recommend it

Prior to blow drying I use Kerastase Nectar Thermique to protect my hair from the heat. It also acts and a leave in conditioner too and smells delicious

You can't beat a hair oil to keep your hair moisturised and I alternate between two - Orofluido and Moroccan Oil. I've yet to decide which is my favourite, both are excellent and make a great job of smoothing and detangling damp hair before blow drying

That was the last of my Winter Saviours posts, you can find parts 1, 2 and 3 by clicking these links

 Let me know if you have any Winter Saviours that I should try

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Winter Saviours Part 3 - Hands & Feet

It's only over the last few years that I've noticed a difference in the skin on my hands and feet. They seem generally drier and certainly noticeably drier during the winter months. If I don't moisturise them before bed they feel terrible!

When I do an all over body scrub I always make sure my hands and feet are included, but between times, I like to use Crabtree & Evelyn's Gardener's Hand Recovery to keep them smooth. This stuff is amazing - you use it on dry hands in a handwashing action , then rinse off to reveal smoother, moisturised hands. I follow up with my favourite hand cream which at the moment is The Body Shop Honey & Beeswax Hand & Foot butter (it's not on their website anymore but it's worth a look instore). Crabtree & Evelyn also do a Gardener's Hand Cream which I'll be repurchasing once I've finished this pot of Body Shop cream. If my hands are really parched, I'll smother them in cream and wear gloves overnight to give them a treat. A bit of a passion killer but sometimes, needs must! I also like to use cuticle oil all over my nails when I'm not wearing polish to keep them hydrated, my favourite is OPI Avoplex Nail & Cuticle Replenishing Oil, which smells luxurious and really takes care of my dry cuticles and the bits each side of my nails that I have a disgusting tendency to bite

For my feet, I like to buff with a Body Shop foot file and lather them in This Works Perfect Heels Rescue Balm before tucking them up in my Body Shop booties and heading off to bed. This is a thick, quite waxy foot cream that is heavy duty enough to take care of cracked heels as well as softening the rest of the foot - it's effects are quite unbelievable

As you can imagine, I'm a bit of a sight in bed some nights! And on those nights I really miss being single :)

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Winter Saviours Part 2 - Body

This is the second in my Winter Saviour series, you can find Part 1 here. I hope you're enjoying this series, I'm enjoying putting it together!

I make no secret of the fact that I'm lazy when it comes to beauty. I like to use shortcuts where I can because let's face it, who has time to spend hours looking after themselves every day? I know I don't. So every other night when I have a bath, I use a product in the bathwater that will moisturise my skin, and save me the bother of moisturising when I get out. My favourites are Elemis Skin Nourishing Milk Bath and Espa Restorative Bath Oil. The Elemis product can also be used as a moisturiser but it turns a bath into such a treat. I wasn't enamoured with it at first but I adore it now and will definitely be repurchasing. The Espa bath oil is one of a range of bath oils (they also have a range of body oils) with different, pampering scents. This one is known as 'a hug in a bottle' and I'd agree with that, the scent reminds me of my favourite spa

Since the weather first started to turn colder, my legs have been so dry that at times they've felt sore. I had been using the Elemis product mentioned above on them until I discovered how amazing it was in the bath! So I treated myself to This Works Skin Deep Dry Leg Oil and I've been using it every evening before bed. The fragrance is divine and it has made a huge difference to my dry legs

The above products are not cheap and if you want a budget alternative there are plenty out there including good old baby oil, which can be splashed into your bath or rubbed into dry legs for relief. As always on this blog, the links above are the cheapest places to buy these products at the minute but a quick Google search at any time is worth a try - it's rarely necessary to buy at full RRP

A regular body scrub is essential to keep skin at it's best during the winter and I find it really wakes up my circulation too, leaving me zinging! My favourite is Ritual's Sakura Scrub, scented with Organic Rice and Cherry Blossom. This is the perfect scrub and I like to follow it up with the decadent body moisturiser from the same range. I reviewed both products here if you'd like to read full details. Again, these are quite pricey and an absolutely brilliant, slightly cheaper alternative is Soap & Glory's Flake Away scrub followed by one of their delicious smelling moisturisers - my favourites are The Righteous Butter and Smoothie Star Body Buttercream. I love the scent of these moisturisers but they are very rich and can be a bit sticky so I like to apply a good hour before bed to avoid that horrible, stuck-to-the-sheets feeling!

So there you have my current winter skin saviours for the body - look out for Part 3 tomorrow! What are your favourite bath and body products, do you have any recommendations for me?

Monday, 21 January 2013

Winter Saviours Part 1 - Face

Whilst I love how pretty the snow makes the world look, it certainly has it's downsides. Snow and cold wind on the face are not kind to our skin, but central heating is our skin's enemy too, making it dull, dry and dehydrated

I've noticed my skin is a lot drier at the moment, not just my face but my body too, including my hands and feet. I am quite lazy by nature but even I have had to make some time to pamper myself a bit to try to keep myself from turning into a dry old biscuit

I thought a little series might be in order so here it is - part one of my Winter Saviours! Products which I rely on to save the day during the colder months. First up - Face. Read on ...

Our faces are usually the only things exposed to the elements when the weather is bad (unless you're a fan of balaclavas) so it makes sense that they come off worst. At this time of year I tend to exfoliate more than usual - every other day or so. I alternate my Liz Earle Gentle Exfoliator with Dermalogica's Daily Microfoliant. Both of these are hero products for me, they have different textures which is why I use both, depending on what I need at the time. I use the Liz Earle one on an evening because the scent is relaxing and it has a slightly oilier texture which is a perfect base for my night cream. The Dermalogica one is a powder which you mix with water to create a paste and I find this is better on a morning as it takes care of any excess oil on the skin and leaves a beautiful, smooth finish - perfect if you're about to apply make up

I like to use a mask after exfoliating on an evening and my favourite is the Liz Earle Intensive Nourishing Treatment Mask - a heavy cream mask which I massage into my skin and allow to penetrate for around 10-15 mins. You can leave it on overnight if your skin is really parched but I find 15 mins is perfect. It leaves my skin plump and soft without that nasty pore-clogging feeling some intensive moisture masks give

My usual evening cleanser is Liz Earle's Cleanse & Polish and I use it twice a day at this time of year rather than using a foaming cleanser in the morning. I like to double cleanse and leave the second application on for 10 mins or so before polishing off - my skin seems to drink it up

I'm experimenting with night creams at the moment and haven't found one I'd recommend but for day time I like to use Dermalogica's Skin Smoothing Cream, which does exactly as it says on the tin. It's aimed at drier or mature skin so is fairly rich but without being cloying and primer/make up go on easily over it

My biggest problem at the moment is dry lips. My lips are dry all year round but the central heating is playing havoc with them at the moment so I like to scrub them every day with Lush's Bubblegum Lip Scrub - a gorgeous, sweet, sugary scrub which you can lick off after use. I follow this up with my all time favourite lip balm - Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula Lip Butter. If you suffer with dry lips you MUST give this a try, it's the only lip balm that has any effect on my lips and believe me, I've tried dozens. It used to be widely available at Boots but I've noticed it seems to have disappeared from there, however, you can still get it from Amazon with free p&p and super quick delivery - I just stocked up!

I hope this was useful to you and don't forget to check back tomorrow for Part 2 - Body

Friday, 18 January 2013

Friday Round Up

It's been a long old week around these parts. My little heart-stopper on Monday seems a lifetime ago. I've been confined to barracks this week, my diary was pretty full and I was due to drive nearly 700 miles in total but the dangerous roads put a stop to that so I've been hibernating at home with the dogs. The roads have been a bit better later in the week but still, setting out on those types of long journey in these conditions seems a bit mad. I remember a woman I used to work with once got stuck in snowy traffic on the way home from Portsmouth for 13 hours. 13 hours! She'd had nothing with her to eat or drink, was freezing and dying for a wee. She said it was the most miserable experience of her live and from then on she carried a 'survival kit' in the boot of her car - bottled water, a blanket, packets of biscuits and chocolate. And a She-Pee. As I was due to go to Portsmouth yesterday, I was quite happy to cancel it, it's a nightmare journey at the best of times

It's nice to work from home when it's cold and snowy but I do start to climb the walls after a couple of days in my little home office. I'm looking forward to getting out of the house this weekend, even though I'll only be going to the other house to paint. Which is going to be FREEEEZING, no doubt. I've got my thermals at the ready!

Needless to say, the dogs LOVE the snow. It seems to send them into the type of frenzy that puppies are famous for, high speed figures of eight and that sort of thing, We've had some fun walks although we haven't left the village - it's been all about getting them to an open field where they can just let rip! Wilson found a tennis ball yesterday and spent ages throwing it in the air, dropping it so that Jessie would try to steal it, then picking it up and running away. The ball got covered in snow and became bigger and bigger, he carried it all the way home and had frosty little whiskers and eyelashes from all the snow he'd been flinging around!

Cold weather makes me long for warmth, cosiness and comfort food so I've been eating like a pig and baking up a storm this week. I made a Victoria Sponge on Tuesday and sticky gingerbread last night which I'm going to eat with double cream today. Actually, maybe I should lay off the double cream - I put quite a bit in our mac n cheese last night and it was so rich it gave us both tummy ache

I DID manage to see Les Miserables, thanks to Liz and her sensible car and was absolutely blown away. I keep re-living bits of it and I've been singing Les Mis tunes around the house all week! If you haven't seen it yet you really must. I thought some of the casting was inspired, some of it less so, some of the singing was a bit cringe-worthy but overall it was fantastic. Some of the camera work was incredible and seeing it as a film gave the whole story another dimension. I loved it

Have a great weekend everyone!


Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Obligatory Snow Post

I'm sure I don't need to tell you that the majority of the country had snow yesterday. We woke up to a light covering and it started to fall again at lunch time, so when I took the dogs out we all had lots of fun playing in the snowy fields.

I came home and got back to work until Matt called at around 3pm to tell me that he'd sold the Freelander (NOOOOOOOO!!!!) and needed to take it to Lincoln. He was going to need a lift back but was worried about my car in the snow. I started to tell him not to be so silly but when I looked out of the window it was bucketing down with snow and there were a good few inches on the ground. I couldn't believe how much worse it had got in the last few hours. Nonetheless, the offer for the truck was so good that I told him to meet me at home and I'd follow him to Lincoln

I'd seriously underestimated the conditions and especially, how my car would cope. I've only had it since October so I've never driven it in snow and ice but being a big, heavy automatic with big wide wheels I kind of knew that I was going to have to be veeeery careful

Getting out of the village was more than a little hairy but once we got to the main road it was slightly easier, if slow going. We made it to Lincoln, said goodbye to the truck and Matt hopped into my car for the journey home. I love being in the car with him, we always seem to end up having really in depth conversations! Once we neared home and left the main road we saw a car on it's roof in the ditch and Matt started dispensing gratuitous advice about being careful.

'I know what I'm doing', I told him. 'You forget that I drive 40,000 miles a year. I've probably driven more miles in the last few years than you have in your whole life!'

Famous last words ....

As we got close to the village I started looking for the turn off but I couldn't see it. 'I can't see the turn off, where is it?' I muttered, sitting forward and peering through the windscreen. Suddenly it was there to my left and I braked and skiiiiiidded ....

'Ooops! I'll take the next turn off', I said. But by that point we were cresting a hill and as we came over the brow I saw orange and red flashing lights. A car had crashed, half in the ditch and half on the verge and an enormous recovery truck was parked slap bang in the middle of the road

'Oh my God', I gasped as we started to descend the hill and skid, 'what do I do, what do I do???'
'Pump the brake! Pump the brake!'
'I'm pumping! Nothing's happening!' What do I DO???'
'Keep pumping! Slow down, slow down!'

We skidded all the way down the hill and I made a snap decision to run the car into the verge. The deep snow should stop us before we got to the ditch. We may not be able to get the car out but the alternatives were crashing into the other car or crashing into the truck - neither of which were appealing

We crashed into the drift and came to a halt a few feet from the crashed car and I wailed. Matt took over and managed to get us out of the snow and around the recovery truck, thank goodness there were no cars coming up behind us or from the opposite direction or there would have been no way of avoiding a crash. I was hanging on to the passenger door handle and armrest for dear life and felt in a flat spin. I've only ever had two close calls like that, both in ice and snow and both with Matt in the car (typical) The feeling is terrifying - the total lack of control and seeing a disaster unfold in front of your eyes in slow motion is just so frightening

I cancelled all meetings for today and I'm staying at home in my nice warm house, with a candle burning and copious amounts of hot chocolate with squirty cream. Most of the time I'm really blase about driving but when you come so close to having an accident like that it reminds you that you can't take for granted that you will be OK. We could have ended up on our roof in the ditch like the other car we saw. Only minutes before we'd been talking about how we spend all our time working and planning for the future rather than living for the day to day and appreciating what we have now - how appropriate!

Anyway, we're both OK, that's what matters. And I'll be thinking VERY carefully before driving that car in snow and ice again

Friday, 11 January 2013

Friday Round Up

new read - bedtime treat for me - bedtime treat for matt
feelunique sales treats - crossed paws - headache patches don't work for me
wilson hanging out with the chickens - dinky frizzle egg - friday night

It's been a bit of an animal focused week and I've no problem with that. The best thing that happened this week was the return of our little Frizzle hen which has made us both happier than you can imagine. I found out today that she had been camping out in our neighbour's coop for a few days at least. And as you can see from the picture above, she's already laying her little white eggs again

Last weekend I was visiting my parents and was followed by a large, fat tabby cat. He followed me around the corner where I parked my car, across the road, up the drive, through the gate and into the house. He appeared very old and a bit confused. He had nearly been hit by a couple of cars as he crossed the road after me - he certainly didn't have the road sense of an old cat and I was worried about him. He had a collar and tag so I rang his owners and left a message while he lounged on my dad's kitchen floor. He was very old and had arthritis, poor thing, but he managed to whizz out of the back door before long and find his way home. It turned out he'd been a stray and was rescued by a local lady who took pity on him

It's also been a week of animal reunions - one of Matt's friends had his van stolen from his drive with his 14 year old black lab in the back early in the week. We were so worried for the poor dog, he'd have had no idea where he was or what was going on. He's a bit confused most of the time, a bit like Boris the cat, hence he liked to spend his time in the van rather than in the house with the other dogs. Luckily he was found this morning, wandering down a country lane a few miles away. I assume the thieves dumped him which is awful but far preferable to the alternative I suppose. Anyway, he's home and safe and I expect he'll be spending more time in the house nowadays

This weekend I'm finally going to get my eyes tested (as I've been intending to since November) and book cinema tickets for Les Miserables. I'm SO excited to see it as I've been a mad, obsessive Les Mis fan since I was about 13. I own more than one recording of it and the 10th anniversary DVD and even have a favourite cast (the Dream Cast, for your info) so I'm going to be pretty hard to impress but I just HAVE to see it. Because I am an old lady and have a bad back, I have to go to a Vue cinema and book their VIP seats because they are the only ones I can be comfy in for the length of a film. I couldn't get tickets for this weekend but hopefully next week I can go. Having listened to/watched the musical so many hundreds of times, the words are imprinted onto my brain so I will have to make a conscious effort not to sing my way through the film. In fact, they needn't have bothered casting so many famous names, I could have done the whole thing from start to finish for about 80% of the cost :)

Have a great weekend everyone

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Rachael Reviews - GHD Air Hairdryer

If you've been reading this little old blog for a while, you'll know that I'm pretty obsessed with haircare. Until last month I'd spent over a year gradually lightening my hair because colour build up had made it WAY too dark for me - I'm pretty pale and not getting any younger so it really wasn't flattering. A lighter shade did wonders for my complexion and disguised the errant greys that sprout through every month but the repeated highlighting took it's toll on my hair and I wasn't happy

I've had long hair for years and I like to wear it fairly natural. A good cut means that it falls nicely even if I don't do a 'proper blow dry' and my hair has always been soft and tangle free, easy for me to run my fingers through (a habit that annoys me as much as it must annoy everyone else I meet) Ditching the bleach and having about 4 inches cut off the long layers got rid of the worst of the strawlike ends that had developed but there was still visible damage - you know those frizzy flyaway hairs that refuse to lay straight and sleek? They are my bugbear

I was a bit concerned that my previous hairdryer wasn't helping matters. It would get INCREDIBLY hot, too hot to touch the nozzle and it used to steam up the windows when I used it which made me wonder what it was doing for my hair

I'd seen the GHD Air hairdryer reviewed elsewhere and was seriously tempted by the promises of sleeker, smoother hair but at £99.95 it seemed extortionate, especially when I already had a fully functioning hairdryer. However, John Lewis had it in their sale between Christmas and New Year with £20 off so I decided to bite the bullet and treat myself. For Christmas, you know ...

So when it arrived I was excited by the pretty box, silly I know but when I spend a lot of money on something I want it to feel like a treat and it really did! The dryer comes with two separate nozzles - I've been using the wider one as it seems more conducive to the sleek finish I prefer and, as I use a HUGE paddle brush to dry my hair with, it covers a larger area of the brush than the smaller nozzle

The dryer itself has two different speeds and two different heat settings. I've been using the high speed and the lower heat. If I were to do a proper blow dry with a round brush I'd probably use the hotter setting (neither are as hot as the medium setting which I used on my old dryer) There is also a cool shot button to set your style

The dryer is lighter and quieter than I expected and has a salon length cable - all things you'd expect for this price. It's an ionic dryer, which is something I've never tried and always assumed was a bit of a gimmick. I won't pretend that I understand how this works but IT DOES

The difference in my hair after the first use was unbelievable. Usually my hair would be a bit wild after I dried it, a bit ... BIG. I couldn't wash my hair in the morning because I'd need to sleep on it to flatten it down a bit before I could be seen in public. Not with this dryer - it was unrecognisable. Smooth, sleek and silky straight away. It seemed a waste to sleep on it!  Not only that but I estimate that it cut my drying time in half thanks to the powerful 2100w motor, even making light work of the back section which usually takes ages to dry. The damaged bits of my hair were far less visible as most of them were lying smooth against the rest of my hair and overall it looked shinier than usual as well as being tangle free

I put this down to two things. Firstly, the amazing nozzle which concentrates airflow precisely, allowing you to really smooth the hair downwards. Secondly - I guess - the ionic technology. Whatever that is. But I used the same shampoo/conditioner/styling product combo as usual so the difference can really only be down to the dryer

The only minor niggle is the positioning of the buttons - they are exactly where I'd normally hold the dryer so I have to hold it a little more carefully to avoid switching it off accidentally. But that's no biggie - I can definitely deal with it

Overall this hairdryer gets 9.5/10 from me, losing half a point for the button positions. But the results are amazing and (how sad is this?) I actually look forward to washing and drying my hair because I love using it so much! I'm sure the novelty will wear off soon but at the moment it doesn't feel like the chore it used to be

Although it's no longer in the sale, John Lewis have some sort of cashback offer in conjunction with GHD until the end of the month so if you have some Christmas money to spend and you are haircare obsessed like me ... get to it!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Oh Happy Day!

Remember a couple of weeks ago in this post, I told you how we'd had some chicken trouble? Or rather, we'd had some other animal trouble, when I found a dead chicken in the garden and one missing?

Well yesterday I looked out of my office window and thought I saw this little lady. 'Can't be', I told myself, 'it must be one of the others with it's feathers a bit ruffled'

But I went out later to give the chickens their afternoon treat and there she was. Our little Frizzle!

She settled straight back in with the Buffs and when I checked the shed last night, there she was, cosied underneath them all with just her little red face peeking out

In case you weren't aware (and why would you be?) a Frizzle is a Pekin Bantam which has been selectively bred so that the feathers turn away from their body rather than towards it, giving them a 'frizzly' look. I used to think they're odd looking but now I find them cute, although they really suffer when it rains, having no feathery protection! Here she is with one of the normal Pekins for comparison 

I was sure she was the dead chicken I found on the grass but it must have been our old black banty and the Frizzle had made a run for it. I'd had a little niggling feeling that one might still be alive as we only found one body but I thought I was kidding myself. I'd only really taken to the Frizzle a few weeks before she disappeared and I was so sad to think she had been the one that got caught. I always seem to fall for the runt of the litter or the underdog and she was the littlest chicken we had and such a quirky little thing

And now, more than ever, I'm sure it wasn't a fox that killed the banty but a loose dog. It happened the week the pub across the road was taken over by a couple with a Jack Russell terrier and the only day I forgot to close the gates when I went to the office for the day. And there were no typical fox clues - now we know that one wasn't taken, plus the dead chicken looked as though it had been mauled rather than a quick foxy decapitation

Anyway, the little Frizzle is back and she looks pretty healthy so I think she must have joined someone else's flock for a while. Speaking of which, we appear to have gained a cockerel today

Which is bloody annoying considering we got rid of our own three, but he's only small and quite a handsome chap with his green feathers and dark eyes! He's not causing any trouble so I suppose he can stay for now

The main thing is the Frizzle is home. And life is good :-)

Monday, 7 January 2013

Christmas Trip To Chester

As I mentioned in a few posts last month, my friend Liz and I like to take a Christmas trip in December, usually when all of our shopping and preparations have been completed and we can have a little time spoiling ourselves guilt-free

It didn't quite work out like that this time around due to my lack of organisational skills but there was still plenty of time to shop (and eat)

I love Chester because it's beautiful and festive. I love the medieval buildings and the sense of history. There's literally so much to look at! There are a great range of shops too, although it doesn't take much to impress me, being a country dweller anything more fancy than a Tesco will win me over

Our usual routine is to set off around 9.30am, have a coffee and brunch stop on the way and arrive at our hotel around midday. I use Premier Inn regularly with my job so I am on their mailing list and find out early when they have their end of year sale. I can usually book a night in Chester for £19 - £29 which is a real bargain - worth looking out for if you fancy a trip yourself

Once we've stashed our bags we head off for the first round of shopping. Sadly, this year the weather was less than kind to us and because I was battling a chest infection I was bundled up in my scarf, bobble hat and layers of vests to stay warm and dry, which was not conducive to getting my shop on. Furthermore, I had managed to dress myself in a fetching combo of burgundy cords, brown ankle boots, a green tweed jacket and a burgundy bobble hat - the overall effect was one of 'miserable Christmas elf'. There's a good reason I don't do fashion posts!

We did some last minute gift shopping and stopped at a patisserie (tea for me, coffee and an AMAZING raspberry tart for Liz which I forgot to photo) and I bought Christmas stockings for Matt and I from The White Company

We hit the Christmas market and partook in cups of hot mulled wine and cider, the wine in particular was delicious!  

We popped in to Hotel Chocolat, my ultimate favourite chocolate shop and happened across a very sweet, very tired 9 week old puppy who was being socialised as part of his training ... to be a guide dog. He was so cute and it was quite amazing to think that he will be someone's lifeline one day. Look at those whiskers!

As it started to get dark it started to get more Christmassy

We went for dinner at Barton Rouge, an Indian restaurant only five minutes walk from the hotel. The service was excellent and the food was delicious, if a little hotter than expected! I'd highly recommend it

The next day, after a good lie-in and laying waste to a hearty all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast we hit the shops again. Liz laid her recent diet to one side for this trip and I have to say, I've never seen her eat so much!

After a Debenhams splurge (YSL counter for Liz, Ojon for me) we stopped at a little tea room for refreshing glasses of raspberry lemonade. The tea room was in a crypt, which gave it a certain atmosphere

We finished our Christmas shopping and headed home in the afternoon, a little less laden than last year. I think the combination of feeling rough and the miserable, drizzly weather affected my shopping urge. Which was actually pretty good for my bank balance!

Despite our reduced shopping, we did have a wonderful time. I love our little trips and I'm already looking forward to the next one. Although, the evidence might suggest that perhaps we already spend too much time together ....

Great minds think alike!

Friday, 4 January 2013

Friday Round Up

road trip = unimpressed dog - sale bargains - new cupboards, ready for oiling
buffet for two - cheers! - hairdryer love
this works (and it really does!) - daddy-daughter bonding - cute christmas present from my stepmum

Is anyone else finding it near impossible to get back into the rhythm of everyday life after the mammoth food/film/snooze fest that was Christmas??

Every year I fall into the trap of going to bed in the early hours and sleeping in until late morning. I told myself that this year would be different but it wasn't. I'm obsessive about sleep and messing with my sleep cycle causes me serious problems including migraines, mardiness and total lack of concentration. I managed to stave off a few migraines over the holidays but failed yesterday and took to my bed at 3pm. If you are a sufferer you will know the misery (although I quite like the sleepy, drugged up feeling that a 'migraine hangover' brings!) and if you haven't tried them, I strongly recommend Syndol tablets. If I take these early enough I can avoid my prescription tablets, which knock me out for a good four hours or more!

That aside, I was seriously lacking in motivation this week, although I can feel myself creeping back to normal now. Matt and I had the laziest Christmas ever but we needed it, him especially, He's worked so hard all year on the house, his business etc and was just seriously tired. Having such a long break from the new house has sapped his motivation too, we went round there on Sunday and it all looked like a big mess again, like an insurmountable pile of work that has become a part of our everyday lives and will never be finished. We talked about boarding it up and just going back to it when we have the energy but that's no good - it will only drag on longer. We need to find our motivation and get stuck back into it. Easier said than done of course

Last weekend we took a road trip to visit Matt's mum in Oxfordshire and thank goodness, we had the lovely Freelander back! What a beautiful area. We took the dogs for a lovely long walk, had dinner at Marco Pierre White's restaurant and popped to the Aga Cookshop where I added to my collection of Aga cookware. Matt's lovely mum started this for me with a kettle and our Christmas presents included an Aga toaster and some lovely mugs which have become our new favourites. I got some oven gauntlets and tea towels in the sale with 40% off, which made my day!

In other sale shopping news, I finally caved and purchased the GHD Air hairdryer from John Lewis as they had £20 off. I've only used it once but I am absolutely stunned by the difference it made to my hair - who'd have thought a hairdryer could be so amazing? Full review coming your way next week. I also made good use of This Works' 25% off just before Christmas to buy their No Wrinkles Eye Cream, which I've had my eye on for ages (geddit??) 

New Year's Eve was a quiet affair for us because Jessie is terrified of fireworks so I don't like to leave her. Yes that's right, my gundog is frightened of fireworks. You can fire a 12 bore shotgun right next to her and she won't flinch but fireworks make her shake like a leaf. I don't mind, I'm not really one for going out and hate NYE because of the crowds and extortionate prices, so we had ourselves a little buffet for two, a glass of fizz (with a shot of home made sloe gin) and were in bed by 1am!

Earlier in the day I'd been driving into town to deliver a birthday card when I'd seen the three cars in front of me swerve and skid. It was raining heavily and visibility was poor but I thought I could see a dog in the road. As I got closer I could see there were actually two dogs - Rottweilers - wandering in and out of the road. I pulled over and they went on to the verge, sat down and waited expectantly. I jumped out of the car and manged to grab the collar of the larger one but the other was frightened and ran back into the road. I walked the larger dog away, chattering quietly to him until the smaller one came back to see what was going on. They were lovely dogs and unbelievably lucky that they hadn't been hit by a car - the speed limit on that road is 60mph. I crouched on the verge with my back to the driving rain, hanging on to their collars until my guardian angel (Best Friend Liz) came to the rescue with spare leads and her hatchback car (mine is a saloon and no good for dogs!) We loaded the dogs into her car and took them to the local vet to be scanned for microchips. We found out that they were from about four miles away and had escaped from home, apparently it's not the first time. The smaller one was a bitch in season and the larger one was an entire male so the owners may get a surprise shortly!

This weekend I'll be catching up with some blogging, I've got my Chester trip to tell you all about and some reviews to share, I'm looking forward to bringing you up to speed!

What will you all be up to this weekend?

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Year!

Here we are at the beginning of a brand new year

I'm quite superstitious about New Year and starting the year in the way you mean to go on. I always make sure I have clean bedding on New Year's Eve and have washed my hair, the house has to be clean and tidy, all the washing done and put away etc. It just wouldn't feel right to welcome in the New Year if things weren't quite up to scratch! My family used to carry out some elaborate process of letting the old year out of the back door of the house and the new year in the front ... the person with the darkest hair had to bring in a lump of coal or something ... I never quite got to grips with that!

But I like the feeling of a clean slate on January 1st and the opportunity for self improvement in the year ahead. So here are my personal resolutions for 2013 

Swear less
I'm not proud to admit that I have a bit of a potty mouth - this year I am definitely going to try and tone down the swearing. I can manage it when I'm around my nephew or Matt's parents so it can't be that hard, right?

Exercise the dogs more
Since I've not been working the dogs or training them for competitions they've been getting a lot less exercise and both of them have put on a few kilos (as have I!) So this year I'll be spending longer walking them every day

Learn to make pastry
I gave up on trying to make my own pastry years ago, after numerous abortive attempts and much swearing (see first resolution) But 2013 will be the year that I perfect the skill. Or at least give it another go (and swear less when it all goes horribly wrong)

Spend more time with my family
My little nephew is growing up so fast and is so much fun to be around, I don't want to miss out on any time with him. I want to see him more and do fun stuff with him rather than paying him the odd, rushed visit when I'm in town. This year I'll plan ahead to make sure I have more time to spend with him and hopefully I can do some babysitting duty too. My sister is getting married this year and my dad and (soon-to-be-) stepmum won't be far behind them, I want to savour these special times and be part of them, not just a brief visitor

Remember birthdays
I am disgraceful when it comes to remembering people's birthdays. This year I am going to write every single one on my calendar and keep a stock of birthday cards. If I see a card that would be perfect for someone I will just buy it, even if their birthday isn't for six months. That way I will always have their card ready and won't have to do a last minute raid on the Co-Op's crappy card selection

Be more organised next Christmas
This December I let myself down badly, ignoring my own advice of 'to fail to prepare is to prepare to fail'. Things went wrong, didn't happen at all or were done in a last minute panic, which isn't like me. Next year will be different - I've already started planning. Presents will be bought early, I will have plenty of wrapping paper, cards, tags and sellotape, the wreath will be hung the day I buy it, not two weeks later when it's half dead ... look out December 2013, I won't be caught out again

Hopefully, having my resolutions written down will help me keep track of how well (or not) I'm doing this year

Have you made any New Year Resolutions? I'd love to know what they are!

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