Summer 2014 highlights

Hello chaps and chapesses!

I know it’s not quite boots-and-hats-and-scarves-and-hot-chocolate weather yet, but once we get into September, I feel like summer has ended.  It’s probably the hangover from years spent in education, where the end of August means the end of the summer holidays and the start of a brand new academic year.

Anyway, the point I’m getting to is that as we’re now (in my head, at least) at the end of summer, I thought it would be a good time to look back at some of my summer highlights.

may2014

I completed my first ever half marathon in Chester, on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far.

I wanted to wear that medal for days afterwards.  It’s now hanging on my mirror.

I spent the bank holidays getting a bit tiddly with friends – once in Shropshire and once in Aberdeen.

june2014

I spent my birthday swinging through the trees at GoApe.

I took a picture of my newly-27-year-old face.

I chuckled at Graeme and Toby messing around in the garden.

I looked Liam Gallagher up Snowdon.

july2014

I went on a few picnics, and pulled silly faces with Graeme.

I went on an evening picnic in Ellesmere, and at the Horseshoe Falls in Llangollen.

august2014

I baked my first ever Swiss roll.

I got my first ever loom band.

I went to bingo night with the girls.

I explored Antony Gormley’s Another Place on Crosby Beach.

What did you get up to this summer?


52 lists: What’s on my weekly shopping list

Hello chaps and chapesses!

Here are some things that we always seem to run out of:

1.  Bananas – I eat loads of these bad boys, with breakfast, as a snack, before the gym, in a smoothie…..

2.  Quorn chicken pieces – we’re not vegetarian, but these are high in protein, low in calories, and surprisingly tasty.

3.  Eggs – for baking, scrambling, poaching, boiling, omeletting…..

4.  Milk – for the copious amount of tea we drink between us.

5.  Flowers – to brighten up the house.

The 52 Lists project was the really rather wonderful idea of Emma.

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A-Z of me: A

Hello chaps and chapesses!

You know what I like most about the blogs I read?  The feeling that I’m getting to know the blogger, like they’re letting me in on a little bit of their life and their personality.  That’s one of the many happy things about the blogging world.  So, I thought I would spread some of the get-to-know-me happiness, and tell you a bit more about myself in the form of an A-Z.  Are you excited?  I am!

*****

When I asked Graeme what A-word I could use to describe myself, his immediate and enthusiastic suggestion was ‘Ass!’  I decided not to go with his suggestion.

A is for Ancestors.

…because what better place to start telling you about me, than with the people who made me who I am?

mum-and-dad

These are my parents.  My mum always pushed me to do well at school, and to be careful with money.  We haven’t always seen eye to eye on everything, but I know she always just wanted the best for me.  She’s taught me that holding a grudge only hurts the person holding it, and what goes around comes around.  My dad is the most laid-back person I know – I think it’s because he’s content in who he is.  I’ve inherited his sense of humour and his passion for doing what I love, but thankfully not his moustache.

Mam & Dats - wedding 23-8-86

These are my dad’s parents, known to me as Mam and Dats.  Mam was a fantastic cook, and I’d like to think I get my love of baking from her.  Dats always encouraged me to speak Welsh when I was little – he used to tilt his head to one side and say ‘I don’t understand English in this ear, you’ll have to tell me in Welsh instead.’  It worked.

Saundersfoot March 2000

These are my mum’s parents, affectionately called Nana and Grampa.  Nana had the vivid imagination of a child, and loved to tell me stories full of magic and mystery.  Grampa was quiet and mild-mannered, and loved to read.  I can remember going on peaceful walks with him.

Xmas 03 (2)

This is Uncle Tal.  He was Grampa’s younger brother, and was known as the ‘character’ in the family.  He lived alone for years, which made him quite eccentric.  He always had an eye for a bargain, and would never be swindled.

I don’t really know much about any previous generations of my family, but I definitely want to find out.  Every time I watch an episode of Who Do You Think You Are I think to myself, ‘I really must research my family tree….’. I’m planning to dedicate some serious time to it next year – I can’t wait to find out more about my people!


52 lists: My childhood dreams

Hello chaps and chapesses!

Ahh remember when you were a kid, and dreamt of  doing all sorts of weird and wonderful things when you grew up?  Like, living in a castle on a cloud with a herd of unicorns and mermaids?  Was that just me?

childhood-dreams

source

Here are a few other things I dreamt of when I was a little ‘un:

1.  Being an author.  If I’m honest, I can’t say this dream is quite dead yet.

2.  Playing keyboard in Elton John’s band.  This dream is probably dead now.  Just.

3.  Having a sister.  I’m an only child, and can remember asking Father Christmas for a baby sister one year.

4.  Living at the seaside.

5.  Going camping and having grand adventures and solving crimes.  Basically, to be one of the Famous Five.

The 52 Lists project was the really rather wonderful idea of Emma.

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Recipe: Chocolate chip cookies

Hello chaps and chapesses!

I’ve rediscovered my love of cookies recently.

There are literally gazillions of cookie recipes out there (yes, literally), because as Alice from the Cup and Saucer wisely pointed out, everyone has a different idea of what makes the ‘perfect’ cookie.  For me, it should be chewy and gooey, with good quality chocolate that’s melted a bit while baking.  When you find a recipe that’s just right for you, it is a magical moment, and for me, this is that magical recipe.

I’ve made at least four batches of these over the last couple of weeks, and each batch has turned out gooey, chewy, and delightful, just the way I like them.

choc-chip-cookies

Yes, they taste as good as they look.  Yes, I am bragging.

Here’s what you’ll need:

115g butter
50g caster sugar
110g soft brown sugar
a few drops of vanilla extract
1 beaten egg
170g chocolate chips
155g plain flour
a pinch of baking powder

And here’s how to do it:

Preheat the oven to 180C / gas mark 4.
Line a tray with greaseproof paper.
Cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.
Add the beaten egg and vanilla, and mix well.
Add the chocolate chips, mix well to make sure they’re well distributed.
Mix the baking powder with the flour.
Add gradually and mix well to form a soft dough.
The dough will be sticky, but resist the temptation to add more flour, or the cookies will come out crispy rather than chewy.
Roll the dough into balls.  Place them onto the sheet, spaced out a little so they have room to spread as they bake.
Bake for 10-12 minutes.
Let them cool down a bit on the tray before you move them to a wire rack (or before you eat them while they’re still warm…)
Enjoy with a large cup of tea.


Book review: The Fault In Our Stars

Hello chaps and chapesses!

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault In Our Stars

I expected to like this book.  A tragic romance would usually be right up my street, but there was something not quite right about this one.

The book is about Hazel and Augustus, two teenagers who meet at a teenage cancer support group.  We know that Hazel has terminal cancer, so I was all set for a grand, emotional, heart-wrenchingly sad love story.  But somehow, it just didn’t deliver.

I felt like the romance between Hazel and Augustus was rushed.  It felt like, all of a sudden they were in love.  Hazel famously says that she fell in love the way you fall asleep – gradually, then all at once, but for me there was no ‘gradually’, it was just ‘all at once’.  This made it hard for me to believe in the romance – I just didn’t buy it.  The book isn’t particularly long, so maybe there’s some bigger point here about life being short, and needing to squeeze everything in while we’ve got the chance, but somehow I doubt it.

I found Hazel and Augustus quite trying as well.  I’m not saying that main characters should always be likeable (far from it), but if the reader is supposed to be invested in the Great Love Story, and to cry buckets at the sad parts, then you need to make them care about the characters.  John Green just didn’t quite manage that for me. I found Hazel and Augustus superior, pretentious and smug, and to be honest, I really didn’t care about either of them.  Maybe this is one of those very rare occasions where the film is better than the book – if the actors can play Hazel and Augustus sympathetically, and in a way that makes me care, then there might be a chance to salvage the story.

All in all, I was disappointed with this book.  I was hoping for great things, and was left feeling pretty flat.

Have you read The Fault in Our Stars?  Have you seen the film? What did you think?


52 lists: What I can see right now

Hello chaps and chapesses!

I’m writing this on my sofa on a peaceful Saturday morning, before I give Graeme a lift to Chester for a day out with his buddies at the races.  Here’s what’s in my line of vision:

1.  Not one, not two, but eight heart shapes in the living room.  What is it they say about home being where the heart is?

2. The new neighbours’ little girl running up their driveway with the cute, determined, arm-heavy run of a toddler.

3. A yoga mat and at least four pairs of trainers in the hallway.

4. Photos of our grandparents on the hearth.

5. My copywriting course materials in a box on the pouffe.  I’m planning to crack on with that this afternoon.

6.  A lotta, lotta cushions, and a lotta, lotta candles.

The 52 Lists project was the really rather wonderful idea of Emma.

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