Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Scruffy dogs and riverside walks

There have been lots of changes over the past six weeks since Stanley became a permanent fixture in our lives. We live near the river, lots of parks, woods and green space, so evenings and weekends are spent out in the fresh air spotting ducklings and frolicking with other dogs. I have never met a little person more excited to see you every day and so free and giving with his affection. We thought we had him sussed early on, but it's only been in the last fortnight that he's gained more confidence and his little personality has started to shine through. We've discovered his adoration for anything that squeaks (he'll chew a soft toy continuously until he finds the squeaker and then squeaks it joyfully for 10 minutes at a time), and taught him the joy of sticks (which he didn't get the point of at first). We've taught him to lie down and to be patient with the cats. We've realised how friendly he is with everyone (particularly if it involves a belly rub), but occasionally he takes a disliking to someone (often old ladies) and barks at them. We've discovered that he's not keen on water, but loves chasing ducks. He can keep himself entertained for hours with a pressed bone, and he will do anything - anything - for a bit of sausage (a bit like Frank actually).

What we've spent on collars, leads, toys, food and bowls we've definitely made up for in companionship and happiness. I've learned that Stanley's bound to ignore the expensive toys in favour of a simple tennis ball. I've learned that no matter how cute he looks wearing a harness with pink flamingos on, he will chew it to bits in protest (we've been through two harnesses, two leads and two phone chargers so far...). I've learned not to scrimp on cheap ID tags but to go for the deep engraved pet tags instead because he scrapes off the details while rolling around like a lunatic. And I've learned that even after the worst possible day, that little face, those bushy eyebrows and those cocked ears can melt even the grumpiest heart.

Whether he's clambering all over you when you get home from work or galloping after a squeaky ball in the park, his joy is infectious, and we've fallen head over heels with this scruffy little mutt.

Stanley

Stanley

Stanley

Stanley

Stanley

sally

Follow me on bloglovin' | twitter | instagram | pinterest | facebook
This site contains links to outside sources including paid affiliates. Queenie and the Dew is not responsible for the content of any third party website.
Partnered post

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Easy peasy baked spinach and pea risotto

Is anything closer to perfection than a dollop of creamy, salty butter and a sliced onion sizzling in a pan? Add to that some crisp white wine, plump Arborio rice, juicy peas, melted cheese and fistfuls of fresh spinach and you have one of my favourite comfort foods.

This creamy, gooey risotto is the perfect thing to dollop into a bowl and devour in your pyjamas while sitting in front of the tv. It also has the added benefit that it doesn't require babysitting, ladling in spoonfuls of stock and stirring furiously to prevent it from forming a burnt sludge at the bottom of the pan.

This may not be quite heaven, but it's pretty darn close.

Easy pea and spinach baked risotto

Easy pea and spinach baked risotto

Easy pea and spinach baked risotto

Easy pea and spinach baked risotto

To feed four (or two on a particularly rainy, dreary, or hangover-fueled day), you will need:

1 onion, sliced

2 tablespoons of butter

125ml white wine

750ml chicken or vegetable stock

1 cup Arborio risotto rice

2 cups spinach

1/2 cup frozen peas

1/2 cup parmesan or cheddar cheese

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees. Warm a frying pan or wok on a medium heat. Add the butter and when melted, throw in the sliced onion. Let it sizzle for a good 5 minutes until the onion is soft, savouring the delicious, buttery smell.

Easy pea and spinach baked risotto

Pour in your white wine and let it bubble away until it's nearly evaporated.

Easy pea and spinach baked risotto

Throw in the rice...

Easy pea and spinach baked risotto

Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Add a good grating of salt and pepper, transfer to an ovenproof dish, cover and pop in the oven for 20-25 mins.

Easy pea and spinach baked risotto

Throw in the spinach and peas and give it a good stir until the spinach has wilted.

Easy pea and spinach baked risotto

Grate in your cheese and stir until gooey and melted.

Easy pea and spinach baked risotto

Easy pea and spinach baked risotto

Add more salt and pepper to taste, dollop onto a plate and serve. Perfect with a glass of crisp white wine or some cucumber and lemon infused water.

Easy pea and spinach baked risotto

Easy pea and spinach baked risotto

Easy pea and spinach baked risotto

And there you have it. An unky, gooey, scrummy affair that you'll want to devour time and time again. Bon apetit!

sally

Follow me on bloglovin' | twitter | instagram | pinterest | facebook
This site contains links to outside sources including paid affiliates. Queenie and the Dew is not responsible for the content of any third party website.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

A visit to Clevedon Hall, Somerset

Last fortnight could have been a complete wash out, to be honest. Not only was there a farcical quantity of drizzle falling from the sky (enough for me to give up and spend three days with my hair scraped back into a bun), I also caught gastric flu. Rubbish. Thankfully I had two train tickets to North Somerset propped up on the hall table - the little ray of sunshine that gave me momentum enough to slurp Lemsip like it was going out of fashion. And so on Saturday morning we escaped the tourists and sirens and smog and hopped on a train through green fields and flowering meadows to the little seaside town of Clevedon.

The purpose of our trip was to visit Clevedon Hall, a 19th century mansion nestled against the coastline that has been recently refurbished as a luxury wedding venue. Arriving late afternoon, we crunched across the gravel to admire the house from every aspect, soaking up the warmth of the sun and mentally picturing ourselves as lord and lady of the manor.

Clevedon Hall, Somerset

Clevedon Hall, Somerset

Clevedon Hall, Somerset

We were shown to our room (or should I say suite - it was easily the same square footage as our last flat in London) where we stood blinking in simultaneous delight and disbelief. Convinced there must be some mistake and that we'd been shown to the bridal suite, we investigated every nook and cranny - the gargantuan squidgy bed, the seating area, the chandeliers, two huge windows and of course the stunning bathroom complete with double shower and roll-top bath. I later discovered that every room is equally beautiful, but each with a different look and feel.

Clevedon Hall, Somerset

Clevedon Hall, Somerset

Clevedon Hall, Somerset

Determined to make full use of our home for the weekend, I slipped into the soft bath robe and spent a little time snoozing and reading before heading down for dinner.

Clevedon Hall, Somerset

Clevedon Hall, Somerset

Clevedon Hall, Somerset

Clevedon Hall, Somerset

After starting the evening with prosecco and canapes, we were treated to a 4-course meal from award-winning head chef Alan Jones. Naturally for me the food was the most anticipated part of the trip, and the highlight was the beef carpaccio with poached cherries and candided walnuts, which I wolfed down despite my still slightly iffy stomach. This was followed by pork belly with wild garlic puree and vanilla set jelly with raspberry and champagne soup. As a very bad blogger I devoured my pork before remembering to photograph it. Oops!

Clevedon Hall, Somerset

Clevedon Hall, Somerset

Clevedon Hall, Somerset

Back in our room I took some time to decompress after the long journey. I was pleased to see that the rooms don't have a tv, which was a welcome invitation to simply sit, relax and relish the sound of silence: an unfamiliar frequency to us city dwellers.

Clevedon Hall, Somerset

After an incredible night's sleep in the world's comfiest bed, I sipped peppermint tea and read while Frank lazed in the bath reading the paper and looking out over the gardens. Truth be told his entire weekend had been gearing up to this moment, and it proved difficult to drag him out (he was finally tempted by the prospect of sausages!)

Clevedon Hall, Somerset

Clevedon Hall, Somerset

Clevedon Hall, Somerset

Breakfast consisted of a buffet including succulent locally sourced sausages and bacon, freshly baked breads and pastries, eggs, yoghurt, fruit and cereal, and we filled ourselves up in anticipation of the long journey home.

Clevedon Hall, Somerset

Clevedon Hall

We then spent a little time roaming around the grounds and enjoying the swing that looks out over the lake, before making our reluctant way home.

Clevedon Hall, Somerset

As a child I grew up next to the sea, and a wander into Clevedon meant I could gratefully soak up the salty sea air, breezy coastline and screeching seagulls.

Clevedon Hall, Somerset

Clevedon Hall, Somerset

Despite lacking a tripod or rig, I decided to take some footage of the weekend and worked it up into very wobbly video (sorry about that). Hopefully it gives you a flavour of our very peaceful, very appreciated weekend.



*This stay was courtesy of Clevedon Hall but all opinions are my own.


sally

Follow me on bloglovin' | twitter | instagram | pinterest | facebook
This site contains links to outside sources including paid affiliates. Queenie and the Dew is not responsible for the content of any third party website.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Am I happy?

Over the past few days I've had some kind of sicky, fluey, stomach-churning lurgy that has snatched my appetite away and left me feeling pretty low. It doesn't take much to turn me into a wimpering heap of pathetic-ness. Poor Frank has been dashing up and down the stairs fetching me Lemsip for my shivers, peppermint tea for my sickness and hot water bottles for my back pain (since when can you have vomiting and a fever at the same time?!) - he's going to need some kind of hair replacement system after the amount of demands I've made of him recently! In any case, I'm yet to feel back to my old self. I suppose what I'm getting at is that current health woes may be dictating my state of mind just a teensy bit, but there's nothing quite like a therapeutic vent now is there?

I've probably alluded to this in every post I've written in 2015 (which admittedly isn't that many), but I feel like somewhere along the line I lost my way a little bit. A few years ago I broke up with my then boyfriend, having spent the past few months helping to nurse his mum through her death. It was the single hardest situation I've ever faced, and yet even in the dark hospice corridors, where machines beeped, patients cried out in pain and family members wept and waited and hugged their mugs of tea, I found little chinks of light glittering through the cracks. I somehow kept my perspective.

In 2012 I found my balance. My home life wasn't happy, but being single meant I was able to spend six months focusing unequivocally and unapologetically on myself. I stopped drinking alcohol, I threw out my TV, I lit scented candles and sprayed lavender on my pillow every night. I blogged creatively, I dressed up, I went to the cinema by myself, I painted my nails and slept in. I knitted and wrote poetry, had adventures, devoured books, went to boot camp and spent every Sunday ironing my outfits ready for the week ahead. I felt organised, healthy, balanced and content.

This morning on the bus I realised that while I'm happy, I'm not as happy as I could be. The truth is I've slipped into more bad habits than I care to admit. Instead of bedding down early and reading a good book, I stay up late watching episodes of Mad Men and drinking wine. Instead of visiting museums and having adventures, I potter around sweeping the kitchen floor and tugging washing out of the machine. I lurch from one task to the next and don't truly stop to appreciate my life, create memories or try new things.

I want to live a big life. I want to feel grateful, balanced, excited and energised. And want to feel healthy and strong. I want to fill every waking minute with 60 seconds' worth of distance run. But I'm so far from that point right now. And it has to stop. Mediocrity and apathy has to stop.

I thought I'd share some pictures from old posts (circa 2012 or 'the golden age') to visually remind myself of the person I want to be: someone who sews, paints my nails, notices pretty light, explores gardens, burns scented candles, takes photos, plays Scrabble, cooks new recipes and sucks the marrow out of life. Not someone who scrapes their hair into a haphazard ponytail, cooks the same recipes each week and leaves this blog adrift because I can't be bothered to do something about it.

Saatchi Gallery

Sock monkey

Omelette muffins

Picture 001

Birthday at Kew Gardens

Yankee

Horse riding in France

Bedroom (5)

Sunrise in Blackheath

Good Friday afternoon tea

Kew Gardens

Tulips

The-red-house-National-Trust

Lomography

Night in

Stockley Farm

Picture 086

OPI Shatter the Scales nail polish from Poundland!

It's very easy to sit here daydreaming about how good things used to be, while continuing to make the same mistakes over and over again. If I want to take control of my life and my happiness I realise things have to change. It will take time, and small, minuscule steps, but gradually I want to get to a place where I no longer feel guilty, sad, irritable and apathetic.

I'm almost a little hesitant to open up Pandora's box, because there are so many things I want to address, like reading more, sleeping earlier, taking care of nagging to-dos, complaining less, taking more photos, blogging more, taking chances, getting a grip on my finances, getting a grip on my grey hair (that doesn't involve resorting to a hair toupee!), spending quality time with friends, drinking less, exercising more, remembering birthdays... the list goes on and on.

I hope this post hasn't turned into a big whinge-fest - it certainly feels like a lot of muddled thoughst have come tumbling out of my head. The crux of it is I want to live a more positive, fun, grateful and mindful life. My first task is to get my house in order, both literally and metaphorically. Tonight I'm going to blitz the house from top to bottom in preparation of Frank's friend coming to stay. I've placed a big grocery order, and I'm going to concentrate on decluttering my physical and online space in order to make more space for my mind to breathe. Then (fingers crossed) I can make a plan.

sally

Follow me on bloglovin' | twitter | instagram | pinterest | facebook
This site contains links to outside sources including paid affiliates. Queenie and the Dew is not responsible for the content of any third party website.
Partnered post