Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Getting sporty

As a child I was quite a sporty person. I played in goal and left wing on the school hockey team, was a keen sprinter and had horses at home (lucky girl) that kept me occupied most evenings and weekends. Sport has always been integral to my family. My grandmother was known for her athletics prowess at University, my uncle and aunt were captains at their local golf club and my other aunt played tennis for Kent.



When I went to University I had aspirations of joining the university rowing team, but the 6am starts got the better of me and I inevitably dropped out. Gradually, running, hockey, netball and riding gave way to club nights, lie-ins, dissertations and long library stints. I became more and more sedentary. Ten years later I’m trying to get back into exercise. I run and walk the dog, go swimming and hit the gym. I still want learn to row, and am keen to play more team sports too.

As well as participating in sport, my family has always been keen spectators. Every year growing up my mum treated the Wimbledon ballot like an effort to get Glastonbury tickets. She’d arrange a network of friends and colleagues to bid for them so she was guaranteed a spot (inevitably always the men’s semi-finals – win win!) My sister and I would bicker over who got the prized spare ticket, and spend an afternoon sipping Pimms in cans and eating fresh strawberries.

Frank is an avid Tranmere Rovers supporter, and while my family has never been into football, I really enjoy going with him to watch the odd match. There’s something about a lower league football game that makes me swell with pride for Frank and his hometown of Birkenhead. Unlike the big clubs, they’re far less polished, a bit shabby, and decked out with local die-hard fans – the kind that have been supporting the same club for 50 years. I like that sense of community and loyalty.

There’s nothing quite like being in the thick of a sporting event, cheering on your team from the sidelines. In the coming year I’m keen to watch more sport in the flesh rather than on TV. Here are a few things that are top of my list.

Cricket
I grew up in a small village, where every weekend you’d see the local team gleaming in their cricket whites, playing in the morning sunshine on the local green. I went to Nottingham University and always intended to go to Trent Bridge to watch a cricket match, but like so many things, I never got round to it. With the Ashes in full swing at the moment it’s hard to miss the cricket on tv or even online with all of the coverage from Coral. I've often found myself doing wedding arts and crafts with a cricket game on in the background, ever tempted to place a small bet (I like to think I’m a dab hand at guessing the scores, although that could be just plain beginner’s luck!) I love how quintessentially British Cricket is, and while I’m not that keen to get too close to a cricket ball that’s flying through the air, the sound of a ‘thwack!’ followed by shouts and clapping never fails to take me back to my childhood.

The London International Hose Show at Olympia
As a child this was without doubt the highlight of my year. Whether it was dressage to music, Shetland pony racing, the Spanish Riding School or the showjumping, I would sit wide-eyed on the edge of my seat, as my childhood heroes leapt over jumps that were bigger than me. I’m determined to drag Frank along sometime soon, to get him in the Christmas spirit!

Roller Derby
A lovely lady I used to work with plays Roller Derby for the London Roller Girls and Team England (Lexi Lightspeed in case you’re interested) and I always loved our chats in the office about what she’d been up to. She’s basically the toughest little lass I know – and I’d love to see her in action. There’s something so empowering about women slamming into each other on roller skates!


Are there any sports you’re itching to see in the flesh? Or do you participate in something exciting? I’m always keen to try new things. I can’t say I’ll necessarily start boxing (ping pong is probably nearer my thing!) but I love to know what people get up to!

Monday, 24 August 2015

Wedding catch-up

In 12 days I will be walking up the aisle towards a whole new future with Frank. It's strange to think how quickly our big day has crept up on us and there is still so much to do. A girl I work with is getting married around the same time and has loved every minute of the lead-up. I on the otherhand have not been the most enthusiastic bride (to put it mildly). I'm not particularly girly and have found the endless planning to be a bit of a bore, not to mention the spiralling costs. Frank and I have been saving furiously for over a year for the big day, and it seems that no amount of playing SkyBingo can match the wrath of wedding suppliers. Recently I was quoted £700 to have a car drive me 10 minutes up the road to the church. After balking I rung a taxi firm. There's something a little sad about riding to the church in a taxi rather than a nice old car, but we wanted to spend our money elsewhere.

A few weeks ago I went on my hen do with seven of the loveliest lady pals a girl could ask for. We hired a cottage in the peak district where we ate, drank and played lots of silly games. Planning the hen do had been a bit of an after thought if I'm honest. I had no idea what to do and was flitting between different ideas. I considered a trip to France to see my mum or else a city break involving eating in swanky restaurants and playing roulette complete with cocktail in hand, but the pull of the countryside proved too strong to ignore. It was the perfect balance of girly fun and chilled relaxation. The girls had gone to so much effort and I felt really special. Saying goodbye felt sombre and sad. There's nothing quite like having the people you love most (especially girls) all together.

Since then I've been chest deep in spray paint, RSVP cards, spreadsheets and cake samples. Being quite disorganised I only sent out our wedding invitations about a month ago. Working in design and print means I can be a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to print projects. We had a few false starts where I wasn't happy with the print quality and wanted them redone. Our colours are navy and peachy coral on the day, and I opted for this lovely design from Sweet Water Decor on Etsy. My printer very kindly did them for free, and we were thrilled with the result. The watercolour is so pretty.

Wedding invitations

Wedding invitations

Wedding invitations

Wedding invitations

Everything is slowly coming together. We finally have the wedding rings after one got held up in the post for three weeks. Frank is passionate about Viking history, so I found him a genuine Viking gold dipped brass ring to have as his wedding band. We wanted something meaningful and special and he absolutely loves it.

We have several other personal touches that I can't wait to show you. In general we've kept things very simple as our wedding venue has some lovely natural features that we don't want to compete with. Now I just have to concentrate on getting through the next week and a half without panicking too much! Eek!

sally

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Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Corners of our home: the spare room

Having a spare room is a novelty I haven’t quite got my head around. When I was a Londoner there were several ‘holy grails’ of the housing world, which amounted to having a garden, stairs or a spare room. Now I have all three it’s pretty exciting to say the least. I’ve been growing my own vegetables, getting some peace and quiet in the upstairs back bedroom or else inviting people to stay for the weekend without worrying about where to put them.

By most standards our house is pretty small. We have two double bedrooms, a box room, room for a dining table in the kitchen and a decent lounge. But having rattled around in various shoeboxes over the years, the space to me feels enormous. I love that we can have people come to stay without dragging out the blow-up bed. I love that we can eat dinner at the dining table and have the space to cook together. And I love that I have a little writing nook to while away the hours.

Our spare room has become a bit of an afterthought though, and is in desperate need of sprucing up. I plan to paint the walls a slightly greyer shade of blue to give it a fresh, calming look, but until then I’ve been looking for a few ways to jazz it up a bit in the meantime.

Ikea bed sheets have always been a firm favourite of mine. They last for years and I love the patterns. I've had these floral sheets for about 5 years and they're still going strong. Right now I have my eye on these and these (although I really do have enough bed sheets - truly!)

Wanting to create a serene space where people can get a restful night's sleep, I invested in blackout curtains from John Lewis and also bought a gorgeous Scottish pure wool throw while in Edinburgh to keep guests cosy and warm in winter.







Recently Carpetright started selling a range of new rugs, and they very kindly offered me one from their range. Knowing I wanted a geometric look in the spare room, I opted for the Sloane blue and I couldn’t be more thrilled with how it looks. It's a really sturdy, hard-wearing rug (which has already survived two cats and a dog rolling all over it!) that doesn't show up every speck like my lounge rug does. The geometric pattern is so pretty and subtle. It instantly added more interest to the room.







Now I just need a lick of paint and a few touches. I can't wait to see what the finished room will look like! Do you have a room that needs a bit of TLC?

sally

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Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Honeymoon dreaming

Over the last week my savings account has been decimated as wedding bills for florists, photographers, caterers and decorations have started creeping into my inbox. Weddings - even small ones like ours - seem to snowball. £2 per guest for a favour. £5 for a buttonhole. £3.95 for a glass of fizz. The list goes on.

Haemorrhaging money is never pretty, and we've had to make some tough decisions along the way. £700 for a couple of cars to drive us 10 minutes up the road isn't exactly feasible, so I'll be hoiking my dress into a taxi instead. No biggie. But one thing we have had to sacrifice - for now at least - is our honeymoon. As much as we would love to jet off to a Caribbean island for three weeks, we're scraping the bottom of our accounts just to get to the wedding day, let alone on an aeroplane straight after. So we've decided on a little 'staycation' immediately after the wedding, with plans to jet off on a big adventure in the spring.

Postponing a honeymoon has its advantages. It's something to look forward to in the early months of married life after the initial euphoria of being newlyweds has dispersed. It can also be a priority instead of an afterthought in the chaos of organising a wedding - I can't wait to put our heads together and properly plan a big adventure. Although the detail is far from our minds at the moment, Frank and I have been letting our minds drift to plan the adventure of a lifetime. We're still very much undecided on our destination, but we have managed to whittle it down to a short(ish) list.

^ image via

Japan
The idea of cherry blossom, temples, sushi and snow-tipped mountains is enough to make me swoon. I've never been to South East Asia, and have been itching to tick it off my (long) wanderlust list. At first I felt a little daunted about travelling somewhere where I can't speak a single word of the language. Don't get me wrong. I'm not the kind of person who only travels to English-speaking countries, but the alien alphabet and unfamiliar sounds make me wonder how I'd navigate around. I think I'd manage to muddle my way through a restaurant order or a metro system, but if we were to be unwell I wouldn't have a clue what to do or where to go. Apparently there have been some efforts to combat this, which makes me feel a bit more at ease. Websites like Healthy Tokyo mean that if you need a dentist or a doctor on your trip, you can find someone who speaks English. I've been picturing myself exploring the 88 temple route of Shikoku Island, blinking in the lights and buzz of Tokyo, admiring the cherry blossom in Kenrokuen Garden and standing in awe of the Nachi Falls. I've never been there and already I'm hooked.


Costa Rica
I'm not the kind of person to sit on a beach and read all day. I get bored and want to explore the sights and smells of a country. Costa Rica seems like the perfect blend for me - pristine white beaches, lush forests, vibrant cities. I think it would be both a well-earned rest and a big adventure. And they have sloths. Baby sloths. Surely that's reason enough?

^ Image via

Iceland
Frank has been talking about going to Scandinavia for as long as we've been together. He's passionate about ancient history, particularly the Vikings, and would be in his element exploring ancient runes. I know a few people who have been to Iceland. The volcanoes and natural hot springs are definitely be a draw (as well as the Northern Lights of course!). I'm not convinced that I'd like to spend my honeymoon donning walking boots and an ice jacket, but Frank may well persuade me...

^ Image via

I'm very excited about planning our honeymoon a bit more once we have a certain big day ticked off our calendars!

sally

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Wednesday, 12 August 2015

A weekend in Wales

It probably seems a bit OTT to be seen swanning off to the countryside for the weekend when we have so much wedding planning left to do. Recently we've been dashing here, there and everywhere buying this and that, or else sitting hunched over spreadsheets or dousing ourselves in glitter and spraypaint. Anyone who says their relationship doesn't take a minor thrashing during the wedding planning process has to be lying. There has been more than one cross word said between me and Frank of late, and as much as I'd like us to drift towards our wedding day on a diet of fizzy tummies, cuddles and love poetry, at times it's been hard to keep the bigger picture in mind.

So I've been trying to take some time out from the to-do lists to focus on our marriage and NOT the wedding. What do we want from our first months and years together? Where do we want our priorities to lie? How do we plan to keep the magic alive? Being a 30-something bride automatically gets people thinking (and sometimes talking) about babies, but the truth is, after all the preamble (not to mention our relocation and new jobs this year) I'm desperate to have some quality, quiet time with Frank and to get our goals and plans in check.

So when Santander offered to send us on a romantic weekend away as part of their #SantanDeREAMS campaign, I couldn't think of a better use of our pre-wedding time to take a break from the stresses of table plans and RSVPs, to unwind and get back to the reason we're doing all this in the first place. Sadly, Frank and I aren't yet on the housing ladder, and this will become our next big focus after the wedding. In a bid to promote their range of mortgages, Santander wanted to know where would be our dream place to live. And so we got thinking. My thoughts first flitted towards big country houses or sprawling thatched cottages with roses outside the front door, but eventually we settled on something far more quirky and far more us: a gypsy caravan in the beautiful Welsh countryside.

And so, a few Saturdays ago, we packed up ourselves and the dog and hopped on the train to Abergavenny.

After a short taxi ride and a little traipse across a field, we came upon our beautiful little caravan.



Set in a secluded spot with beautiful views across the Welsh countryside, we could hardly believe our luck.







Because the Gypsy caravan only has space for a bed and very little more, the plot also consists of an eco house and a sauna, with bathroom, cooking amenities and a firepit to boot.







The owner, Nick, had very kindly left us with freshly baked bread, and fresh milk, so we set out a little lunch on the table outside.





We went for a lovely long walk through the countryside (with Stanley on his lead when we came across sheep - no Stanley, the don't want to be 'friends'.... We also stumbled across some beautiful castle ruins which made for some lovely exploring.















Stanley was in his element roaming around the plot and sniffing all the delicious smells.





That night we lit a fire and drank a glass of wine in the crackling firelight. Then we snuggled up in the gypsy caravan for a good night's sleep before making our reluctant way home.





We came back to Manchester feeling renewed in energy, affection and mindset, and I now I can't think of anything better than (eventually) passing our years against a backdrop of hayfields, dewy cobwebs, grazing sheep and straggling brambles. A big thank you to Santander for giving us some space and reflection in this calamitous time.

Oh, and if anyone is interested in staying in the Wind in the Willows caravan you can find it on AirBnB. I plan to go back every. single. year.

sally

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