Monday, 30 January 2012

Wish me luck... (or break a leg)

Tomorrow I'm leading staff training for all of the staff at my new school. Nervous is an understatement. I've done this in previous schools several times BUT tonight (of all nights!) I left my external hard drive at work with all my planning/ prepartion work on it. Gulp. Hence, I don't feel fully prepared and have a serious case of the jitters.

So, I'm off to bed and, hopefully, the butterflies in my stomach will allow me to get enough rest to feel half-human in the morning.

Wish me luck... (or break a leg)!

Hope everyone has a restful night. x

Sunday, 29 January 2012

... and relax...again!

Yesterday the relaxation continued! My mum came over and we went food shopping together. We joined Slimming World on Thursday (after my own vain attempt to loose that extra tyre that sits around my middle), so we sat and planned what we would eat for the week and then went food shopping.

After, my mum stayed for lunch, and, in the second cooking disaster of the weekend(!) I managed to totally mess it up! I was halfway through a recipe for falafel when it said 'Refrigerate for eight hours'. Eight hours; that's a long time to wait for lunch! Needless to say I gave up and we ate something else.

We all took Gizzy out for a walk together and then we curled up on the sofa to watch the second 'Lord of the Rings' film. We're currently reading the book to Ben and we've passed 800 pages, mind you, it's taken since Easter 2011 as we tend to save it for long car journeys.

{Don't be fooled, I was in my PJs too moments after this photo was taken}

Following the theme of the weekend (relaxation), we went to the cinema to see 'Cars 2'. Odeon have a great deal where it's only £1.50 for a none-new release kid's film- does that make sense? It was pretty awful but Ben enjoyed it and for less than a fiver for the three of us, who can complain?

We went to the cinema with friends and were amused by Ben and their daughter Eve: as we walked up to Nando's together for lunch they looked like they were on a mini-date together. Unfortunately we missed the two of them strolling ahead of us holding hands, but Steve got this on of them as we arrived and they walked up to the maitre d', we almost expected them to ask for a quiet table for two!  

Sadly for me, Nando's isn't great for my diet (sorry, I mean, healthy eating plan) so I'll have to be really good for the next few days.

Before heading home, we popped in to see Grandma/ Great Grandma (to Ben). Steve's Uncle Herbie was there too- it's amazing to have four generations in one room!

Following a bad fall many years back she's bedridden at home but, as her name suggests, Joy is always in high spirits! During the photo with Steve she suggested they hand jive and when I was having my photo taken it turned into a pile- on!

{Ben with Great Grandma Joy}

{The dance-off!}

{The pile-on. Don't worry, no Great Grandmas were harmed in the taking of this photo!}

Hope your weekend was as

Friday, 27 January 2012

... and relax.

A busy week for all of the family this week. It's great to feel productive but I have to say, I was pretty excited to relax this evening and begin the mental wind-down for the weekend. 

This weekend I've avoided turned our leisure time into another 'to-do' list. I made cottage pie and green salad while Steve and Ben took Gizzy out. After a near-dinner-disaster was narrowly avoided (don't ask), Steve and Ben played with some Lego while I relaxed in a bath. The problem was, that half way through my bath, this appeared in it:

{Biased I know, but he is rather lovely}

Hope your Friday is a wonderful start to the weekend for you.x

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

You gotta have heART

Art. You gotta love it. But, hand in hand with art comes something that gives me cold shivers: creativity. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by so many creative people: my father sculpts, my mother bakes, Steve draws (even Ben draws), one of my best friends is a master florist, many of our friends are professional photographers, art teachers... got the picture yet? They are uber CREATIVE. I, am not.

It's not something that sits easily with me. I have dabbled in all sorts but never found anything that I really enjoyed. I always found this frustrating, especially seeing the satisfaction those around me get from their creative passions.  My job does have creative aspects, but I wanted something that would offer escapism from the daily grind. 

 Luckily for me, I found it this year:

Stained glass always fascinated me and drew me in, but it didn't occur to me it was something I could do. I was unsure how you would go about learning and whether I had the 'creativity' to do it. But, determined to find a creative outlet, I persevered. 

The above is my first attempt at fusing glass. Luckily, I found a local artist who also offered tuition at a really reasonable price. I did enjoy the fusing of the glass and it was certainly easy in fact, the hardest part was thinking of the design. There are changes I would make if doing it again: the harsh, abstract nature of the branches doesn't sit well with the gentle, mellow green of the leaves. If I was repeating it, I would keep the trunk short and stop it where it meets the greenery of the tree. I did love the glass powder which creates the lovely affect of the setting sun. I wanted to try both fused glass and stained to see which I enjoyed the most; there was no competition. This truly fed my soul:

My first attempt at stained glass. I loved it. The end product may be simple but it was the whole process that was wonderful. I'm one of those rubbish people who can't clear my mind during yoga or massage, this though, required you to be absorbed in every moment and I found this truly relaxing. So now it hangs proudly in my kitchen over the window. Can't wait to get started on my next design, after all, I am a creative person.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Yesterday, all our troubles seemed so far away...

How quickly Monday comes around! Monday morning is the only time I envy those who work at home/ in offices: normally because I've had a late night on Sunday (23:30 last night), in denial that I need to be up at 05:50 to walk Gizzy and get sorted for work. Nevermind, at least there is always the comforting thought of yesterday...

After our early morning visit yesterday we went for a walk to the beautiful Thornley Woods. All my family know this woodland as the 'Feely Box' as, since we were tiny, the visitor centre has a box of random items such as pine cones, birds nests, sheep skull etc that you were allowed to feel and explore; it was exciting as a child to be told you were allowed to touch such delicate things! Hence there would be many a Sunday we would ask to go for a walk to the 'Feeley Box'. Sadly, the centre was shut today for some renovation work (finished end of February), but there was still an exciting sculpture trail that had been created since we last visited.

{Can't believe how grown up, and beautiful, Ben looks here}

{Boys in trees}

{Piggy backs- Ben making the most of the fact that I can still (just) about carry him}

{Ben took this- quite the budding photographer!}


{Afterwards we stopped for hot chocolate and cakes at Gibside}

{His Victoria sponge might have been bigger but my beetroot cake was certainly tastier!}

Sunday, 22 January 2012

2 + 1+ 1 = 4

My beautiful friends Ric and Lindsay have just gave their lovely son Jackson a little sister: welcome to the world baby Josephine! I have to declare that I'm already in love with the little lady and can't wait to meet up again in half-term for another catch up and some more cuddles with this gorgeous two!

Huge congratulation guys!


So, our second evening without the boy. We went out to The New Exchange, our friends are getting married there in June and it came highly recommended. Overall it was a lovely and low-key evening followed up with, yes, you, you guessed it, another episode of 'The Wire'- who says we don't lead a glamorous life eh?

A lovely evening.x

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Feed the soul... then the face

Who would Adam and Eve it! Despite no work and no boy, I was still awake early and up with the larks. Not that I'm complaining. I took it as an opportunity to catch up with a film I'd been meaning to watch and made some tasty breakfast which I'll share with you later this week.

So far the day looked like this:

{Pondering the art at The Laing Art Gallery}

After we went to the beautiful old Grainger Market. It was splendid once upon a time but went a bit downhill over the years.  Happily, it is now buzzing with atmosphere and a great place to peruse.

We floated round the shops for an hour afterwards. Steve got some new work shoes in The Office sale (I'd show you but it's nothing exciting: brown leather- not much else to say). As he has giant feet (size 12) he is lucky and can get great deals in the sales.

We popped into Fenwick's Foodhall, sadly, we didn't have time to have a good browse but we did quickly grab a couple of handsome looking peach melbas and after popped to H&M to get these beautiful shoes for my friends who just had a baby.

Steve's watching the football as I write then we'll take Gizzy out and try to pretend I don't have a pile of marking to do (oh the joys of teaching). Never mind, still a lovely meal to look forward to, the return of the boy tomorrow and a visit to see my friends and the newest member of their family.x

Friday, 20 January 2012

A VERY quiet weekend

I have such mixed feelings this weekend as we're spending tonight, tomorrow and Saturday night (gulp!) without Ben. I won't see my boy till Sunday! Ben is off to his grandparents as they wanted to have some quality time with him and are taking him to the theatre tomorrow.  My sensible head tells me he'll love it and it'll be great to have some adult time BUT my mammy brain can't help but notice how quiet the house is without the boy!

So, what to do with a child-free evening?

{Excuse the pout, I was about to sip my drink. Excuse the scary lady behind me... I have no excuse for her!}

Excuse our sleepy heads... we always look this shattered on a Friday (sad times). We rang to say goodnight to Ben and Steve's mum scolded us for being home before seven on a date night. I'm not too worried: we have a whole weekend together! Tomorrow we're off to town in the morning, home in the afternoon for some school work and finally out for a meal for our anniversary- good times. 

Well, I'm going to kick Steve out of the bath now so I can jump in, jump in my PJs, open a bottle of vino and check out a bit more of 'The Wire'. 

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Park Life

I'm sure there are a whole host of parents/ step-parents/ carers/ grandparents etc out there who would totally diasagree with me but...

I like my parks with an element of risk!

A child of the 80s, I remember slipping under the bars of a swing straight onto the concrete below. For weeks I proudly displayed my 'egg' bump and learnt a valuable lesson- basically, don't let your dad push you too high!Seriously though, we were thrilled on Christmas day when we found the park near Great Grandma's had this new addition:

Both boys thoroughly enjoyed it:

Don't misunderstand me, I think it's reckless to take silly risks with our children, but I'm all for well considered and calculated risks. Climbing frames are thrilling because you may fall- you have to focus and learn what your body is (and isn't) capable of. I'm sure lots of people could message horror stories of tragic accidents that have taken place in play areas, but I'm also sure that there are even more accidents that take place in the home.

Due to overly zealous health and saftey regulations, there was a phase (in England at least) where the construction of new play areas seemed to foucs on the safe and the known.

Personally, we're excited to see the re-emergence of more risky (and fun) play areas in this country- bring it on!

Monday, 16 January 2012

30 years young

My thoughts last night turned to my 30th: what to do, where to have it, who to invite, what to prepare? When I was young I adored birthdays but as I hit my teenage years I became very self-conscious and didn't enjoy the inevitable spotlight that birthdays attracted. Although I'm not such a birthday Grinch now, I still don't relish the thought of anything beyond a low skill celebration. With a milestone birthday in sight, that doesn't seem to be an option.

This year, my birthday falls on Mother's Day (very lovely, but also a very convenient excuse reason to celebrate another time- after all, everyone will surely have their own plans to celebrate and therefore be unable to attend). Because of this wonderful calender clash, Steve, Ben, Gizzy and I are escaping to the peace and tranquillity of the Lake District for the weekend- pure secluded bliss! Weather providing, I hope to fit in some walks, a picnic, a browse in a couple of the antique and vintage shops and some tasty food.

{I'm not sure I'd ever tire of the stunning scenery of the Lake District}

That covers the birthday weekend beautifully, but I still want to mark the occasion in some small way with friends and family. I've decided to invite friends for food at an incredibly cheap local Italian, Sambuca's. I'm not going to lie, the food isn't the  greatest but at £2:50 at pizza, nobody is complaining! To make the celebration even more fun I'll be sharing the evening with my lovely friend Lucy who turns thirty the month before me.

So, birthday weekend and friends sorted, the question remained- what to do with family? We had a wonderful Halloween party for family (sadly we took very few pictures as we were too busy serving soup, monitoring apple bobbing or discouraging Ben and his cousins from using our bed as a trampoline while eating jelly). Having an informal gathering at home adds some pressure (cooking, cleaning, dealing with the aftermath etc), but somehow, in my own little mind, it is a lot less pressured than hiring the venue for an event. Don't get me wrong, it's not the process of booking that bothers me, more the 'I'm having a proper event
just for myself and have booked a room for the
occasion'- yikes! No, that's not for me.

Well, that decided, I just have to ponder on the details. Invites will be home made but I don't want my mug splattered across the front or anything too faffy to create; for once, the web is uninspiring (Martha Stewart- this is the first time you dissapointed). There is also those little decorative touches that suggest a hint of celebration- although I don't want anything fancy pants, I do want to make it a bit more special than it would feel if people were just popping round for a cuppa! 

Naturally I'm drawn to all shades of blue,but as my living room is blue and the kitchen is a blue/ grey, I felt that more blue would be overkill. Silver felt a touch predictable and pink, well, I'm just not a pink kinda gal!
While perusing the web for inspiration, I found little in the way of grown-up party decor, however, I did find these little lovelies!

I'd be lying if I said I was considering these purely for Ben and his cousins.

If you have any ideas for cheap and cheerful (and not too time consuming) decorative ideas please feel free to share! x

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Lazing on a sunny afternoon

Being Sunday, today was very much about traditional Sunday activities. We popped in to see two sets of grandparents; my mum (who hadn't been feeling well) and Steve's grandma (Ben's great grandma) who had also not been feeling her usual perky self.

We also payed a visit to the market on Newcastle Quayside. It was a beautifully sunny, but freezing cold, day and we stopped to warm ourselves with burgers and currywrust from the German food stall- it was delish!

It had the most unbelievable selection of sauces! I opted for garlic mayo and some sort of spicy chilli sauce, Steve ended up with most of the sauce on his gloves whereas Ben had it all over his face.

{Steve already pointed out that I look a bit 'rubber faced' in this photo-thanks! That said, I do agree with him.And yes, that is a photo of a grown woman wearing ear muffs}

We walked along the river a little way to burn off the calories and take in the lovely winter weather.

{The Baltic Art Gallery and Millenium Bridge}
{The Sage Music Venue and some lucky people}

We didn't get far before we spotted this macaroon stall (below). Now there were plenty of tasty cupcake stalls too, but in my experience, the cakes from markets like this tend to look beautiful but taste a bit, well, 'blah'. I have to say, we're really glad we did opt for these bad boys; our favourite flavours (yes, we have eaten them already) were: salted caramel, peanut butter and jelly and popcorn. 

In fact, they were so tasty that I've decided to have some instead of a birthday cake for my 30th. They were £4:50 for 10 which means that I could get 40 for less than £20- a bargain when you think how much you would spend on a bought cake.

We're now tucked up back in the warm with the boys watching the football an me watching (or rather, glaring at) the pile of books in the corner that needs marking. I'm not quite sure I'm ready for the weekend to be over yet! There's still an evening walk with Gizzy to enjoy and later on the second episode of series one of 'The Wire'. Back to the grindstone tomorrow, for us at least.x