Sunday, 10 December 2017

Tree-Trimming with Sentiment

Being what you might politely describe as festively eclectic, my Christmas tree probably wouldn't make it into the window of any fancy department store.  Perfectly colour co-ordinated or thoughtfully-themed it is not... but there is a certain sentiment behind many of its decs.


Now it goes without saying that Christmas is a special time of the year, however in my humble opinion, it belongs very firmly in December.  Until at least the 1st of the festive month, I absolutely refuse to acknowledge the bombardment of commercial Christmas (usually thrust upon us before our Halloween cobwebs have blown away, and the remnant embers of our Guy Fawkes celebrations are still glowing).  All that said, once I do finally submit to the onset of all things Santa and sleigh bells, I have to admit that I love it... well most of it!

As you may have already gathered, I can be a bit of a traditionalist (aka grumpy old sod) when it comes to the Yuletide season. As well as being irritated that it all starts so ridiculously early, I'm also frustrated that many of us buckle under the pressure to spend an arm and a leg on 'stuff' that no-one really wants or needs, and I'm saddened at the excessively decadent acts of consumption in which many of us participate, whilst others in the world go without basic human needs!

Bah humbug eh... well perhaps maybe, but don't get me wrong, far be it from me to preach. I'm ashamed to admit I'm as guilty as the next person of over indulgence at this time of year (or actually any time of year)... eating, drinking, spending, you name it!  However, I'm conscious it could all be very different, and would love to see a way less commercialised Christmas, with everyone taking pleasure in the simple things, relaxing without worry or pressure, and soaking up the real joys of the season.

Anyhow, rant over... I said I love Christmas, and I do (when I finally surrender to the inevitability of it all) and here are just a few of the things that I look forward to the most:

Vino (of course), of the mulled variety; pimped-up Brussel sprouts (you know what I'm saying, chestnuts/bacon - nom nom!); roaring open fires; no clock-watching or morning alarms; playing Scrabble, Monopoly... hey, even Charades (in fact any old game which serves to drag everyone away from the TV); okay, TV (all those fabulous seasonal specials repeated year after year, of which we never seem to tire);  the aroma slash taste of cinnamon and cloves; twinkly fairy lights (though actually I do these all year round); the cat and dog having an absolute ball with the discarded gift wrap; Netflix binging; guilt-free-pre-noon-fizz-sipping; silly PJs, jumpers, socks; mince pies; festive tunes - from Fairytale of New York, to absolutely anything Michael Buble; uninterrupted time with loved-ones (cliché but true); and of course, the ceremonious decoration of the ultimate Christmas tradition... the treeeee!

Now I realise some folk like everything to match, to co-ordinate by way of colour or theme, and be nothing less than fit to take centre stage in a garden centre Christmas-wonderland display.  However, impressive and aesthetically pleasing as they are, (and far be it from me to judge - each to their own), these works of art for me lack soul, originality, authenticity... sentiment!

So, when it comes to the good old Christmas tree decoration, what does tickle my tinsel?! Well, I'm a bit of a sentimentalist, and many of my evergreen's ornaments evoke some very special memories.   Each year when I dig out those dusty boxes from the loft, there's an excited anticipation that I'm not only about to be reunited with some very individual and beautiful ornaments, but also reminded of precious moments, fabulous times, and incredible people. Here are just a few of my favourite Christmas tree decs...

Many years ago I worked very closely with a little boy undergoing treatment for Leukemia (he was 4 or 5 at the time), and this one was a gift from him. That little boy I'm happy to say battled with, and eventually beat, his illness. He's now in his twenties and evidently living life to the full! He, and his family, are an inspiration and I think of them fondly when I hang this ornament.



This rather lovely pair has emerged from the loft year after year for quite some time now -  made by the 'kids' (now 23 and 25), before they grew up into the wonderful adults they are today. All glitter, sequins and pva glue, I can still see their proud little faces carefully hanging these works of art, slowly and wonderfully transforming the bare branches of our tree into something quite magical!



I guess a boomerang is not the most traditional of festive tree adornments, but this one was bought as a souvenir of our wonderful trip to Sydney in 2016, and it reminds me of the fabulous and very precious time spent with my lovely daughter, who went to live there two years ago.  These days, she lives the enviable life of commuting daily by ferry across the beautiful Sydney harbour, and living right by Manly beach with rooftop views of the harbour and the ocean!  I long to spend more time with her, but realistically don't think she's planning on moving back to the UK anytime soon... and who could blame her?  Oh well, nothing for it... I'll just have to go there more often!



No prizes for guessing the origins of these two, the sentiment behind which is two-fold. First of all they were bought as souvenirs of a very lovely trip to Edinburgh with the hubby and  kids. Secondly they remind me of my dad, who is sadly no longer with us.  Born and bred just outside Edinburgh, I can still hear his soft Scottish tones, and remember how proud he was to have roots in this rather special part of the world. I think of him when I hang these decorations, and remember what a lovely, lovely man he was!



Perfectly personalised, and charmingly traditional, this one was a very thoughtful gift from my parents-in-law, brought back from their special trip to see New England in the fall.  A spectacle I hope to experience for myself someday!


Now these rather gorgeous decorations came from Santa's very own workshop, many years ago... in the rather magical (and very chilly) Lapland!  The one on the right is a shop-bought souvenir of our Christmas wonderland trip. The ones on the left are creations made by the kids (along with Mr Claus himself) during a Christmas crafting activity we stumbled upon whilst trying to shelter from the -30 degree cold!



This one was bought as a souvenir of a special day by the sea, and of a wonderful and charmingly eclectic Brighton. Hubby and I were visiting my son, Mitch (who was studying in Guildford at the time), and we decided to head for the seaside!  I'd never been to Brighton, but was captivated by the Lanes' historic maze of extraordinary antique shops, mixed with a scattering of contemporary boutiques.  Loved it... must go back!






This little collection was hand-made by my 86-years-young mum. She's always loved a bit of crafting, and has certainly not lost her touch over the years.  Every year when I hang these ornaments, I'm reminded of what an inspiration my mum has been, and continues to be.
These days, mum uses her spare time and crafting skills to create 'trauma teddies' - cute little knitted bears, donated to the emergency services and in turn passed on to children experiencing, or trying to overcome, traumatic experiences in their young lives. Great work mum, if I'm lucky enough to reach 86-years-young, I hope I'm just like you!




Given as a gift by my daughter (I think just the year before setting off on her Australian adventure) this cute paper-craft Santa never fails to make me smile with pride.  Little did either of us know when Elissa gave me this gift, how her life was about to change!




Having battled with cancer for a number of years, and realising she may not see another Christmas, one of my husband's colleagues made these decorations just last year.  Given to loved ones, and sold to others to raise funds for charitable causes, these gorgeous hand-made hearts contain a tiny scroll... each with a very special message.  Sadly, Mrs Crawford (aged only in her mid-fifties) didn't live to enjoy another Christmas, and it is with a heavy heart, but also with fond memories of a lovely lady, that we hang these decorations this year.



No particular story or sentiment behind these ones actually... they're just gorgeous in their own right and deserved a mention.  Left to right... best Christmas cracker toy ever, cute wooden jigsaw; glass 'alternative' angel, bought in Hamburg, Germany; jolly old snowman from Leeds' German Market; cute beaded wreath, sequin miniature tree, and beautifully crafted angel (school Christmas Fair I do believe).


So those are just a few of my favourites!  Hopefully, over the years to come, I'll go on adding to my random, and very special collection of Christmas tree decorations
 (although might need to get a bigger tree!)

More importantly, I will also be adding to my equally random and very special collection of precious memories, fabulous times, and encounters with incredible people.

Happy Christmas everyone!






Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Riding Dapper for a Cause

One day, every year, in over 500 cities across the globe, thousands of dapper chaps (and chapettes) climb upon their classic and vintage-style motorcycles, and take to the open road.
As well as having a ton-of-fun, these finely dressed gentlefolk are also raising funds and awareness for a very good cause... well, why wouldn't you want to join in?!


The Distinguished Gentleman's Ride (DGR) was founded in 2012 by Mark Hawwa in Sydney, Australia, and soon became a global fund-raising event to raise awareness of  prostate cancer and male suicide prevention.

What can I say, this event is right up our street on so many levels, as soon as we heard of its existence,  Neil and I just had to take part.  Neil's always been a biker, and since his early teens has had all kinds of motorcycles, from a Yamaha FS1E (the good old Fizzy) to a GSXR 1000 (extremely uncomfortable as a pillion!)  He now settles for something a little more sedate (and economical) and tootles around on a Sinnis 250 Retro Star, with one eye firmly on a Triumph Boneville when finances permit.  We both have an interest in all things 'classic' and 'vintage'; and ultimately just enjoy dressing up and having fun!  Add to that, the fact that this event is all in aid of a very good cause, and we were totally sold.

The Leeds Leg of the DGR saw the gathering of over 200 immaculately attired ladies, gents, boys, and girls each arriving at our meeting point to the sound of throbbing motorcycle engines. It was a wonderfully bright sunny Sunday morning, in a car park on the outskirts of Leeds City Centre, and the excitement and anticipation was palpable.

Participants gathered, chatted, admired one-another's bikes and outfits, and drank coffee from a nearby McDonalds, before hitting the roads in and around Leeds as participants in this marvellous global awareness and fund raising activity.

From Kirkstall to Poole, Otley to Golden Acre Park, taking in the fabulous Roundhay Park Mansion on the way, we had a wonderful ride through some beautiful Yorkshire locations.  People along the way were amazing, waving, cheering and even chatting while we waited at traffic lights, curious to know what this eclectic convoy of motorcycles ridden by immaculately turned out enthusiasts was all about.

This global event, held in September each year, is nothing short of remarkable!  It's fun, it's inclusive, it's 'vintage', it's 'classic', it's a sociable motorcyclist's dream, and it makes a massive difference!   In fact I understand that the Leeds Leg of the DGR alone raised over £14,000 this year, with a humongous $4,856,861 raised worldwide. 

I was so taken with my pillion experience, I'm considering acquiring a customised Italian-style retro scooter of my own in time for next year's DGR.  What a ludicrous idea, me becoming a fully-fledged distinguished rider in my own right?.. watch this space! 

Fancy taking part yourself, or simply supporting the cause? visit: https://www.gentlemansride.com/ 

Thanks for reading (more pics below) :-)














Friday, 17 November 2017

My Thoughts on The Big Five 'Oh'... Good, Bad, and Ugly!

So, it's been just over a week since I hit half a century, and I’ve been thinking (possibly over-thinking) what future birthdays might mean to me.



For a start, should I change my blog tagline? Does fifty still count as post-forty, don’t you have to be at least 51 to be ‘post’ fifty, etc etc…  does anyone really care!? Also, having recently been warned by a so called friend “be careful you don’t stop looking after yourself now you’re middle aged”, I am determined to dispel any chance of becoming frumpy fifty, and over the months and years ahead will look to explore my hidden 'foxy’ fifties side instead!

I guess as we reach a certain time of life it’s easy to become less excited about our own birthdays, and perhaps not quite so enthusiastic in our ‘celebration’ of becoming yet another year older.  Though as I write this, I’m scolding myself... what are you thinking woman, you’re 50 not 90 - that said, I shall be highly delighted if I get anywhere near such a grand old age. And, the more I think, the more I ask myself why do we so often see growing older as such a negative. Isn’t having avoided the alternative for yet another year in itself something to be thankful for?   In fact it should be argued that actually, the older we get the more there is to celebrate!

I read a quote once which went something like “If you didn’t know how old you are, how old would you be?” and yes, some days the answer to that question may well be 65 plus, but in all honesty most of the time it would be a figure considerably younger than I am.  All things considered, I reckon far more good than bad comes with age, and it’s just a matter of seeing our birthday-tipple-glass as half-full as opposed to half-empty.

So, accepting I can do nothing to slow the passing of time, and realising I am in fact super lucky to have survived and experienced the joys, trials and tribulations of yet another year, I’ve decided that all future birthdays will go something like this…

The Good

They will be at least a day (more if I can manage to drag it out) of pure, unashamed, indulgent ME time.  Perhaps I’ll sip champagne and eat cake (lots of cake), and if I so wish, spend all day in a onesie curled up in front of a log fire with the pets, watching my favourite movie (one problem, I don’t actually own a onesie at this point in time, but maybe a pressie idea for my next birthday).  If I’m feeling a little more adventurous I may decide to disappear with my lovely hubby for a whole weekend (longer if the mood takes me) to enjoy some kind of mysterious romantic escape - all paid for by him of course ;-). In a nutshell, I shall be unashamedly selfish and do whatever my heart desires.


Also, in my perfect birthday dream, I will be inundated with birthday well-wishes from loved ones; and cards of the hand-crafted, cute, sentimental, humorous and pure filthy variety will drop through my letterbox and adorn my mantle-piece. If I’m lucky, my birthday celebrations might also include parties, evenings out and, of course, pressies! And I will remind myself, that I may be a year older, but I am also a year wider… erm wiser! What’s not to love?!

The Bad

Harsh (but true) I am fully aware that post 50, too much champagne sipping will result in needing the loo in the middle of the night,  being unable to get out of bed in the morning, puffy eyes, and raging heartburn.  The oh so sweet and completely decadent birthday cake will leave me feeling bloated, guilty, and will almost certainly lead to tears the next time I step on the scales.  I will prepare myself for the fact that birthday surprises at this time of life might also include a few extra fine lines around the eyes, age-spot mass multiplication, and the odd addition to my growing collection of silver highlights.  I accept that I may also notice an increase in my short term memory loss (although, that may possibly be more to do with the excessive champagne sipping than age, in which case it’s absolutely worth it!).

And finally... the Ugly

Well, I reckon this will only set in if I don’t spend my fifty plus birthday celebrations enjoying the good and disgracefully accepting the bad.  My plan to avoid any ‘ugliness’ is to embrace my so-called maturity, along with the knowledge and experience that come with it. I’m going to celebrate the fact that yet another birthday means I’ve been lucky enough to have spent a further year taking pride in my wonderful family; forming new relationships and seeing existing ones deepen; I’ve been afforded the time and opportunity to travel and see a little more of our amazing world, to discover all kinds of weird and wonderful ways to have more fun (please don't read too much into that!); to continue to learn and develop in all kinds of ways; and to experience things I thought (or actually in some cases hoped) I never ever would.  Any potential ugliness... dealt with!

And so, age-related deep thinking aside, I can now begin to embrace the adventures and challenges of the year ahead (good, bad and ugly) whilst looking forward to my next wonderful birthday!

Many happy returns one and all, whatever your age.

Wow!  It's been quite a while still I last posted... really enjoyed that. 



(Adapted from my original post ‘Birthdays, the Good the Bad and the Ugly, Dec 2013)



Wednesday, 7 September 2016

This thing called Swing!

Just over a year ago now, my hubby Neil and I set ourselves a challenge,  learn to dance!   Little did we know back then, that this thing called Swing would impact so positively on our lives.



It was during a weekend at the wonderful Retro Festival in Newbury, Summer of 2015, that we first witnessed the joy to be had through Swing Dance (click here to read previous post on Retro Fest, 'Vintage and Retro Heaven').  Neil and I share a love of all things vintage and retro, and we were looking forward to spending our weekend listening to live music from the 1920s to the 1960s, browsing stalls selling clothes and artefacts from a bygone era, and perhaps mooching around the odd classic vehicle exhibition (and we did).  What we hadn't expected though, was to be totally wowed by some absolutely amazing vintage dancing.

We watched in awe as young, old, and everyone in between took to the dance floors busting their Lindy, Charleston, Balboa and Jazz moves. They were fabulous, clearly having a ball, and we were totally inspired.  Right there and then, we decided to set ourselves a goal... not only would we learn one or two of these impressive moves for ourselves, but we would return to these heaving dance floors the following year and join in the fun!

As soon as we got home from our festival frolics we began our search for dance classes and soon found that 'Swing Dance Leeds' ran a whole range of Swing Dance opportunities in our area (click here for more info on SDL).  We wasted no time in getting ourselves down to a Lindy Hop Beginners' class and, from that very first lesson, realised what a fantastic hobby we'd discovered.

It kind of goes without saying that dancing in general (whatever the style) is fun, and it certainly can't fail to improve those fitness levels. It also helps to flex the old grey matter, learning any new skill can be a challenge (especially when you're forty something!) and dancing is certainly no exception. However, having been involved with other dance genres in the past, I feel reasonably qualified to say that Swing Dance certainly stands out from the rest, and most definitely has a certain je ne sais quoi! 

Obviously it holds huge vintage appeal, along with the amazing music and clothing styles that go with the fabulous Swing era, but there are one or two other reasons to fall in love with this particular dance scene. Twelve months ago we had no idea such a large community of dance enthusiasts existed in our very own city.  Now, quite literally, we could be dancing and socialising every single day of the week (if only we had the energy!)  Yes, Swing Dance certainly seems to attract a certain kind of person... friendly, fun loving and so very welcoming of anyone who simply wants to join in and dance - whether or not you believe you have two huge left feet or a sub-zero sense of rhythm - but that's enough about Neil and I (haha).  Seriously, get yourself involved in the Swing Dance scene and you'll soon pick up a few impressive moves.  We've found that even the most experienced and talented of dancers are far from elitist, and are more than willing to dance with us newbies, passing on their knowledge and offering invaluable social dance and learning opportunities.

During this past year my lovely hubby and I have attended regular and varied classes with SDL, we've participated in dance workshops and have hit the social dance floors as often as we can (very tentatively at first, but our confidence is growing and growing). Last year, we threw ourselves in at the deep end and took part in a public dance performance in aid of charity (again through SDL) which involved learning a routine with a bunch of lovely people (all of whom were strangers at the time, but many of whom we still meet and dance with regularly), and we've even dipped our toes in the Sydney Swing Dance scene during a recent trip to Aus (thank you to the lovely Iona for introducing us)... it's all been absolutely fabulous!

So, if you're looking for a new challenge, a little fun and fitness and the opportunity to meet and dance with some great like-minded people, do I recommend Swing Dance?.. absolutely!  If you're based in Leeds check out SDL, if not just search the net for Swing Dance lessons in your area, I can almost guarantee you won't regret it.

And, did we achieve our goal?  Well yes we did, although sadly we couldn't return to Retro Festival as it clashed with a rather marvelous trip of a lifetime to Vietnam and Australia :-) - perhaps a later post to follow about that.  However, when we returned to old Blightly, we did attend the equally exciting Twinwood Vintage Dance and Music Festival where we confidently took to the dance floors along with the throngs of other dancers, (young and old) to soak up the music and simply enjoy this fabulous thing called Swing!

Thanks for reading, hope you're inspired to dance and have fun!
















Sunday, 21 February 2016

Liquid Lunch Anyone?

According to the Urban Dictionary, a Liquid Lunch is "a lunch break comprised entirely of alcoholic beverages and no food"... well not this one!

Au-contraire, not only is this liquid lunch alcohol free, it's nutritious, refreshing and tastes way way better than it looks, honest.


Feeling a little sluggish and under the weather, skin looking a tad dull, and with my 50th birthday now less than two years away, I decided it was perhaps time to make a few small changes to my lifestyle.  It could be said I'm partial to a little over indulgence, and can all too easily adopt the "what the hell, life's too short" attitude when it suits. Not that there's anything wrong with enjoying a drop of Merlot, tucking into a favourite chocolate bar, or sinking into the settee instead of taking some exercise (in fact I often enjoy all three at the same time)... and yes therein lies the problem!  Not that I don't buy into the idea that life is absolutely for enjoying, but I also acknowledge the importance of looking after myself - now more than ever. So, time to moderate my all too regular over-indulgence, and get a grip! 

For me, the need to change my habits wasn't anything to do with weight loss, but everything to do with feeling a little healthier and a whole lot 'cleaner' on the inside.  So far (touch wood), I've managed to get through life without too many ailments, and I've not had to work too hard to keep off the extra pounds.  However, I figure at the ripe old age of forty eight (apparently a time of life when everything can start to go rapidly downhill), I can't take this state of affairs for granted any longer... an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure as they say.

Now, having recently made just a few small tweaks to my lifestyle, I'm already feeling the benefits. Just a few months on, I'm feeling fitter, have more energy, my skin's looking better than it has in a long time and, as an added bonus, my clothes are fitting much more comfortably.

So what have I changed?  Well, for a start I needed to significantly reduce my alcohol intake.  I love sipping on a glass of vino to unwind, and would think nothing of pouring myself a glass or two most nights. Now, having taken stock of the situation, this treat is restricted to weekends only. Another positive change has been my hubby and I taking up a fun, energetic and very sociable form of exercise, Swing Dance. Not only are we having a great time learning this new skill together, but we've made some lovely friends and it's working wonders on my fitness levels and muscle tone (more about this in another post).

And so, onto the most recent tweak in lifestyle, my luscious green liquid lunch which I've been enjoying at least four times a week. Now I know green smoothies have become very popular recently and with very good reason. Yes, I can understand why some may find the look totally off putting, after all who could deny this concoction looks like something from the bottom of your garden pond. However just one serving of this latest lunch fad probably contains more goodness than I was previously consuming over the course of a week. What's more, it's refreshing, quick and easy to make,  and actually tastes really great. Of course if you find you need something more substantial for lunch, this smoothie would make an equally great breakfast, just add a spoonful of porridge oats and/or a drizzle of honey... deelish!

So, how to make it?  You'll need:

Blender - doesn't have to be anything fancy,  mine's only a very cheap and simple one. 
Curly Kale (v large handful) - one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet! Really pack as much of this into your smoothie as possible -  it's oh so good for you. Don't worry if you're not a huge fan, you'll barely taste it (same applies to the spinach and cucumber). 
Baby Spinach (v large handful) - good source of fibre, vitamins A/C, calcium and iron.
Cucumber (as much as you can fit in) - low in calories and rich in a number of nutrients.
Banana x 1 - low in saturated fat, no cholesterol, source of fibre.
Grapes x 4-6 - very low in saturated fat and cholesterol, good source of vitamins C/K.
Small cup of cold tap water.
Juice of half a lime or lemon.

Like a bit of spice? Then add one of the following:
Teaspoon of ground Cinnamon - good for balancing blood sugar levels.
Small pinch of  Cayenne Pepper - known to help boost metabolism. Go very steady with this until you've found the perfect amount for you... it really packs a punch!
Thin, thumb sized slice of fresh Ginger - helps aid digestion, ease nausea - also helps fight flu and the common cold.
For a bit of change you could use a small unpeeled apple or pear, kiwi fruit (skin removed), or any variety of frozen fruit (mango and pineapple are delicious). Keep the fruit to a minimum though, in order to avoid overdoing the natural sugar content. 

It's an absolute must for me to enjoy this smoothie super chilled. If you don't have time to wait for that, add some crushed ice before blending. 

Then, quite simply, slam it all in the blender and give it a good blast... voila!



I guess I should finish by saying something along the lines of this liquid lunch is to be enjoyed as part of a well balanced diet... so there you are. I should probably also say that on the days I have my smoothie for lunch, I do also have a regular breakfast and dinner.  This particular tweak to my lifestyle was about increasing my intake of the nutrients and goodness found in it's ingredients,
not about dieting!

Enjoy!


Sunday, 14 February 2016

Our Valentversary!

So what does this day of love and romance mean to you?


Maybe it’s all about the flowers (the price of which would buy you the whole florists shop any other time of year), or could it be the romantic intimate table for two in the usually dead but tonight full-to-bursting restaurant, where you can choose from a ‘special’ (and triple the usual price) Valentine’s menu. Perhaps a fancy box of champagne truffles would be the key to your heart (even more-so if accompanied by a chilled bottle of the bubbly stuff itself). It could be that none of the above fit your idea of romance, and in fact you’re more of a good Rom-Com DVD (if there’s such a thing), take-out pizza, few beers, and a cuddle on the sofa kind of gal!

Well, for me and my Valentine, this day of love and romance has an extra special meaning... it’s also our Wedding Anniversary!  And no, we’re not a pair of incurable old romantics, just the day we'd decided upon (mainly due to work commitments) was the first Saturday of the February school half term holidays - which that particular year just happened to be Valentine’s Day!

And what a fantastic Valentine's Day it was! This was marriage number two for both of us, and we wanted to keep things fairly low key, but obviously still very special.  So, we decided that our nuptials would have more the feel of a celebratory evening out than a ‘wedding’.  I didn’t want an ivory ‘gown’, wedding cars, or bridesmaids, and Neil didn’t want a stag do in Amsterdam (well at least that’s what he told me!) or even a best man to get him organised. I didn’t want to ‘surprise’ Neil on the day so, completely breaking with tradition, he came wedding dress shopping with me – he was the one I wanted to please, I wasn't too bothered really what anyone else thought. I didn’t want to be escorted down an aisle or ‘given-away’, and we didn’t want a guest list as long as your arm, consisting mainly of long-lost family members we'd never even met.

So, after not too much deliberation, we decided on a guest list of just 24, and our venue was a gorgeous little country house hotel on the outskirts of Leeds. The ceremony itself took place in the hotel Library, a beautifully intimate room, with a roaring fire and red carpet laid out especially for the occasion!  Being a pair of fairly modest souls, we didn’t really want to make a grand entrance and so, we gathered with our guests before the ceremony to enjoy a celebratory glass of fizz.  Then, when the time arrived, we casually sauntered into the Library, together with our guests (still sipping our champagne), to the velvety tones of Nat ‘King’ Cole's ‘Let there be Love’.

Once the serious stuff was done, we made our way into the hotel restaurant (exclusively ours for the evening), for our delicious reception meal.  The table was beautifully decorated ‘Valentine style’ with a scattering of red rose petals, love-heart confetti, Valentine’s trivia and lots and lots of twinkling tea-lights... perfect!

Bellies full, feeling happy and relaxed, and having made our way through more than a glass or two of the old fizzy stuff, some of us (in fact most of us), let our hair down and had a bit of a boogie before our wonderful day sadly came to an end.

That’s all seven years ago now (I’d forgotten just how blonde I was! - should I go back there? uugh, no I don't think so!), and obviously we’re never going to top such a fabulous Valentine’s Day. As you fellow married folk will know, the honeymoon period doesn’t last forever.  We were under no illusions though, and knew only too well that our relationship would have its ups and downs (and believe me, it has!) But here we are, still together, still enjoying the good times and working together through any not so good times... and, most importantly, we're still very much in love.

So, this Valentine’s Day, once the champagne has run dry, when the red roses are starting to wilt, and when the credits roll on the Rom-Com DVD remember this (one of the readings from our very, very special Valentine’s Day wedding) ...



Sooner or later we begin to understand that love is more than verses on Valentines, and romance in the movies.  We begin to know that love is here and now, real and true.  Love is the creator of our favourite memories and the foundation of our fondest dreams.

Have a very 'love'ly day!





Friday, 8 January 2016

Brand New Year, Same Old Me?!

So, did life suddenly change for you at the stroke of midnight this New Year's Eve?
Well maybe for some it did, but I'm guessing for an awful lot more of us 2016 will hold much of the same old, same old... and perhaps that's not such a bad thing.

Having probably spent the previous couple of weeks (and in some cases possibly months) eating your way through mountains of mince pies, spending obscene amounts of money on gifts no-one really wants or needs, and having watched endless TV repeats of festive 'classics', I don't know about you, but I'm more than a little relieved to get back to some normality this week. And it's no wonder some of us feel this way - evidently, so eager are we to ensure our family and friends have the most magical of experiences over Christmas and New Year, we feel the need to begin our endless preparations sometime around mid-September! Don't get me wrong I love the season of goodwill as much as the next person but, at the risk of sounding old fashioned, I do not love the consumeristic circus it's become. And so on to the New Year... once the multi million pound firework displays have quite literally gone up in smoke in capital cities across the globe, when the party popper streamers have been eaten up by the Dyson, and when you've finally managed to shake off that Prosecco party hangover, what next?

Well, contrary to the impression that last paragraph may have given, my intent with this post was not to rant on about how, in my opinion, the joys of a more traditional Christmas have become lost, but rather to rant on about the apparent expectation of some that we, and/or the world around us, will improve overnight simply because we are entering a new calendar year!

Of course change (for better or worse) just happens, it is one of life's few inevitabilities, and I shared my thoughts on this in an earlier post 'My Thoughts on Change... the Only Constant'.  However the kind of change or improvement many of us look to make each new year include things such as give up alcohol, eat less chocolate, and not just join a gym but actually visit and work out there once in a while! Sounds great eh but if you're anything like me, whilst all of these things are not impossible, buckets full of determination would be required to achieve them; as well as a level of commitment which, if I'm honest with myself would not last beyond mid-February!

So I decided for me, the dawning of 2016 would not only provoke thoughts of things I might want to change or improve, but also of those things that make me happy just as they are. Instead of half killing myself at the gym in an attempt to achieve that washboard stomach or pretending to myself I could ever become teetotal (let's face it neither of these things are ever going to happen) I am determined to regularly count my blessings and appreciate the things about myself and my life with which I'm already absolutely content... those things which I hope will never change. And what about the things in life that I may well want to change or improve, but know that I never can? Well, I'm simply going to accept that's the case and let them go - c'est la vie!

I know there's always room for improvement and that it's healthy to strive for it, indeed I will for sure try to drink less alcohol, eat less chocolate and work on improving my fitness level (just a little!). However, I certainly will not be losing sleep or be beating myself with a big stick if I happen to have lost the will by Valentine's Day!

And maybe... no hopefully, no definitely, I won't be just the same old me in 2016.  But the new and improved me won't be the result of anything to do with chocolate, alcohol or any old treadmill, it will be the result of my realisation that there's an awful lot to be said for just being happy and content with who you are, and with what you have... call it an age thing!

Happy New Year, and good luck with those resolutions!