Silent Sunday


Thinking about winter

I wrote a post yesterday for my work blog about summer holiday tips. There were some great tips in there because I got loads of help from our Facebook fans. This got me thinking about the fact that I will have to do something similar for our next auction, which is a winter holiday. This will be a little more difficult because I have never been on a ski holiday. I have been snowboarding but only in the Tamworth Snow Dome. I’ve always wanted to go on a winter holiday but it’s not something I’ve ever managed to get around to. 

Our next holiday auction is going to be for a winter holiday to Whistler, Canada. I’ve never been there, but I have done loads of research about it and I am absolutely desperate to go. Not only does it have some of the best skiing and snowboarding in North America, it also has many other amazing things to offer. 

Imagine spending a day dog-sledding, then heading back to the hotel for a dip in the heated pool and hot tub, relaxing in the sauna and then heading off into Whistler village for a night of apres-ski. Or you could replace the dog-sledding with heli-skiing, sleigh-riding, zip-lining or bear viewing. How amazing. 

I will be so jealous when I’m packing the winner off on this holiday. If only I could enter myself! So does anybody have any winter holiday tips that I can pass on? If you’re into winter holidays, the holiday competition for this one starts on 10th June. Please bear in mind that if you win, I will be insanely jealous. 

A timely reminder from Pluto and Soxa

Today I received an email asking if I wanted to feature an infographic in my blog. The infographic is about looking after your pets and the theme is that “love is not enough”. 

It is genuinely amazing what people do for their pets, including us. As you may have noticed from my previous blog posts, the dogs really are part of the family. Where possible, they are included in our days out. When Soxa had a stroke, my husband took a day off work to stay with her and take her to the vets. Libby is even doing a 1KM walk to raise money for the dogs home that we got Pluto from because he really is her best friend. 

Imagine my horror then, when I had a look at the infographic and realised that it was all about doing the most essential thing that you can do for your pets- keeping their vaccinations up to date. Of course, it immediately struck me that both Pluto and Soxa are overdue for their vaccinations. It is absolutely true that this most simple thing just can’t be overlooked. Unfortunately there are lots of infectious diseases out there that our pets can catch, luckily they are easily preventable. 

First thing tomorrow I will be phoning the vets to book our two in for their jabs. I would feel so guilty if they got ill and it was my fault. So, here is the infographic. Please have a look at it and make sure that your pets are up to date with their vaccinations. 

Protect Your Pet – An infographic by Pet Health Info

Back in the swim of things

A few years ago, I competed in a few triathlons and took part in a few quite long open water swims including a 10km river swim and a 3 mile sea swim. My last open water swim was two years ago, just a 1500 metres in the river at the start of a triathlon. I have been meaning to get back into the water for the last few weeks, but I kept putting it off for one reason or another. This morning though, a friend of mine sent me a text to say that she was going for a swim in the lake this evening. 

I basically struggled to think of an excuse why we couldn’t go, so at 6 pm this evening I found myself preparing to get into the lake. Before getting anywhere near the lake, I had to squeeze myself into my wetsuit. Not only is it two years since I last put the wetsuit on, I’ve also had a baby in between. None the less, I managed to squeeze myself into it. 

Once I had got over the initial shock of the cold water, I started to enjoy it as I knew I would. This time, it was a really different experience. My husband and I both went swimming, so he went in first along with my friend whilst I stayed with Libby. By the time my husband had finished his swim and I’d got changed, my friend stayed in for a couple more laps with me and after that, I had the whole lake to myself. 

We haven’t swam in this lake before. It’s open every day with brilliant changing facilities and, it seems, nobody else uses it. I have never experienced open water swimming without people around me before. I have always gone to organised sessions or events. The feeling of swimming along alone in a lake with nobody in sight was really quite invigorating. Despite my initial reservations, I had a great swim and I’m determined to go again soon. 

Libby also had a brilliant time. She paddled in the edge of the lake a couple of times and got closer than she’s ever been before to a duck! Here she is making friends… well, taking a break from making friends to try to pinch my phone!

And then there were 7… is this the culprit?

This morning the weather was reasonable and Libby was in a good mood, so we headed off to see the ducks and play on the park. We went with my mum, who was really excited to show Libby all the ducklings. 

Mum went to the park a few days ago and there was one mother duck with 11 ducklings. It was with a combination of disappointment and horror that she realised that there are now only seven. We watched the ducks for a while and then headed off on our merry way to play on the slide. That’s when we spotted an unexpected visitor… 

My mum was convinced that this guy was guilty of the duckling massacre. I’m not so sure, there are such huge fish in the pond that I’m not so sure he’d waste his time on the tiny little ducklings… what do you think? 

Crafty presents

I have recently written a post about making gin to give to people as presents. It’s now nearly time to start foraging for the ingredients, which has given me a bit of a taste for the whole idea. So, this year I will be making as many of my presents as I can. I would also love to get Libby involved in at least some of the things that I make.

This will be done in the free time that I don’t have. The ingredients and materials that I need will be purchased with the money I haven’t got. That’s why I think I need a bit of help. I’m really hoping that somebody out there will have some fabulous ideas. I’m thinking maybe my good friends +Marianne Hopwood+Claire Baston and +Ben Michelle Powell might have some great ideas. If anyone at all has any ideas though, please do let me know, I’d love to hear any comments and I’d love to read your blogs if you have written a post about this sort of thing. 

Here are my (borrowed) ideas so far: 

  • Elderflower gin
  • Cherry Brandy
  • Skittle vodka
  • Various sorts of jam
  • Chutney- green tomato and apple has been successful in the past
  • Taking up knitting (I currently can’t knit) and making some scarves
  • Buying some nice charity shop items and “improving / personalising” them
Here are the main issues I’m having: 
  • 14 year old brother. Problematic in every way. I would also like ideas as to what I could make for him
  • 11 month old daughter. Equally problematic. Also, is there anything I could make for her that would be an acceptable parent to child present? 
  • Mum- doesn’t drink, doesn’t like chutney, doesn’t eat sweets. Just jam seems like an insufficient present for my mum
  • Husband- would love to find something that Libby and I could make for him. He has everything and will think I’m being a bit of a cheapskate for doing this at all. 
  • The nice bottles to put the gin into are spectacularly expensive! Can anyone recommend somewhere cheap to buy them or a recycled alternative? 
My ultimate aim is for whatever presents I make to be as exciting as the wrapping paper was for Libby last Christmas! 

Dreams of a bathroom…

So, here we are in 2013. That means that it’s nearly 10 years since I first bought this house. I was 23 when I bought it. The house was too big for me on my own to be able to afford or renovate, and it needed some work doing.

I’ve since moved out of the house but didn’t sell it, then moved back in here with my husband in February of last year. Now that we are living here as a family, it’s a fantastic place to be, ideal for the three of us with plenty of space and a nice little garden. Sadly though, I’ve never been able to afford to sort out our bathroom. The bathroom suite is the same one that was there when I bought it, which was outdated and, quite frankly, hideous ten years ago.

So, it’s time to start planning my dream bathroom. At the moment it’s still just a dream but as Eleanor Roosevelt said, the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

My dream bathroom today is a little bit different to my dream bathroom of 2003. A baby really does change everything. It’s no longer all about aesthetics, I now have to consider the practicalities.

The first thing I want to do is to knock down the god-awful dividing wall between my bathroom and toilet. We currently have a pokey little bathroom that, with the added space, could be spacious enough for a separate shower and a nice big bath. Of course, both a shower and a bath will be essential. A shower for the daily grind, getting everyone washed and ready to go off to where they need to be quickly. A bath is my luxury. A nice, long, deep bath where I can stretch out with bubble bath and a glass of champagne.

Ok ok, back to the practicalities. There are three of us now and I hope that one day we will add a fourth to our number. That’s a lot of showers, and a lot of towels. So my dream bathroom will definitely have nice big, classy heated towel rails. I can’t stand wet towels or unnecessary washing and this will solve both of those problems instantly.

On another practical note, I have always worried about our bathroom floor. Firstly, it’s rubbish. Secondly, it’s slippery. Actually, for our little family, that’s not the end of the world. Occasionally though, my husband’s dad comes to stay with us and I always worry about him slipping when he gets out of the shower. He’s elderly so a fall could be really serious and I would hate to have that on my conscience.

That’s why I’ve looked into the best non-slip flooring option. My dad has a wipe-clean fabric bathroom floor. It’s quite nice to walk on because it’s soft. I suppose it’s practical and it’s definitely non-slip, but I just wouldn’t really want a fabric floor. I much prefer the idea of some real tiles. My favourite are the tumbled travertine tiles. They are tumbled to enhance the naturally pitted nature of the travertine they are made out of. This means that they look great, feel quite soft underfoot and, best of all, they have a great grip even when they’re wet so they’re not slippery! I also love the anecdote that the Coliseum in Rome is made of Travertine so even the wear and tear of a family bathroom shouldn’t phase them!

My final bathroom extravagance would be a lovely modern, elegant sink. It would have to be sleek and slender and have big silver taps. I can’t decide on the design, but it would be a feature of the room and it would, of course, be easy to keep clean. The same goes for the whole bathroom, cleaning it has to be a doddle, if not a pleasure.

One day I’ll get my dream bathroom. I’m saving up, my time will come. And when it does, bring on bath time!

This post was sponsored but the views, opinions, hideous bathroom suite, elderly inlaws and future dream bathroom are all mine.

Ten steps to the perfect Plutonium Sox barbecue

So, barbecue season is upon us! Oh no, my mistake, it isn’t. But it should be, and I’m feeling unusually optimistic that it will be soon! Last summer, our barbecues were impromptu, disorganised and, quite frankly, a bit crap. So this year, as a one-off, once in a lifetime, never to be repeated exercise, I’m planning this year’s barbecues. I’ve made a list and I do believe I’ve cracked it. This year’s barbecues are going to be a different story! So here is my ten-step guide to avoiding the sort of barbecues we had last year!

  1. Meat: Buy the best meat you can afford. Ours this year will come from our local farm shop. I’m vegetarian but my husband swears by these locally produced burgers. From a vegetarian perspective, I feel much better about it because it is ethically sourced ‘happy meat’ with a very low carbon footprint.
  2. Fish: As with the meat, I would always be happier if this was ethically sourced and as local as possible. My fish preparation tips are to soak it in lemon, season it with salt, pepper and thyme, wrap it in foil so it is airtight and then put it on the barbeque for 20 minutes.
  3. Vegetarian: This is my forté! My main tip for vegetarians who are having a barbecue with meat eaters is to have two separate barbecues, one for meat and fish and one for vegetarian things. You will also find that the meat-eaters like the look of your veggie items that they had been so scathing about before they smelt them, so make plenty! My favourite veggie things on the barbecue are vegetable and halloumi skewers and asparagus. Corn on the cob is also great, along with the usual veggie burgers and veggie sausages.
  4. Other food: Baked potatoes can be cooked really nicely on the barbecue when wrapped in tin foil and placed directly into the coals. Coleslaw, potato salad, pasta salad and greek salad make great side orders that are easy for people to help themselves to, along with crisps carrot sticks, celery sticks and dips.
  5. Weather: I have pre-ordered a heatwave for the next two weeks so that I can fit in a few barbecues in perfect weather. If you don’t have this luxury, an alternative is to purchase a small gazebo so that you can still have a barbecue even if the weather isn’t kind to you. Only the barbecues and the chef need to be under the gazebo so it only has to be tiny.
  6. Desserts: Great, simple desserts that people can help themselves to include bannoffee pie, trifle and fresh fruit salad. If you are feeling a bit more adventurous and want to cook your dessert on the barbecue, you could try peeling some bananas, wrapping them in foil and putting them on the barbecue. When you take them off, they will be nicely cooked through and you can split them down the middle and put chocolate buttons into them. On top of those, you can put slices of strawberry and small scoops of vanilla ice-cream. Delicious.
  7. Drinks: A bring your own drinks rule is a great idea to create a wine and beer buffet. Just make sure you have plenty of glasses! I always find that telling people to bring their own drinks is the best part of having a social gathering at home because we tend to be drinking it for several weeks afterwards.
  8. The competitive edge: We are lucky enough to have two family friends who pride themselves on their cocktail making. At this year’s barbecues, we are going to have an ongoing series of competitions in which they each make their own versions of pre-defined cocktails and we judge them on whose is the best. The winner will be crowned based on points at the end of the barbecue season. This could be done with any aspect of the barbecue- food, salads, desserts or cocktails.
  9. Guests: The company is the most important part of any social occasion. My tip in this respect would be that unless you are having a huge party, don’t mix your social groups. If people don’t know each other or usually socialise together, it is likely to be awkward. Stick to groups that you know get along. An argument or uncomfortable social situation will be stressful for you and prevent you from enjoying the party that you have worked so hard to create.
  10. Plan, plan, plan: Your ten steps to success are unlikely to be the same as mine. You might also want to consider garden furniture, child-proofing your garden or ensuring that it is looking suitably stylish before your guests arrive. This fantastic website offers lots more barbecue tips and advice.

Disclaimer- this post is sponsored but the views, opinions, pre-ordered heatwave, competitive family friends and rather relaxed looking dog are all mine.

This email made my day!

I just wanted to share this email conversation that has brightened up my evening. 

Email I received from a genuine company who had got the wrong email address: 

Question: Should the heat come out of the flu?

Hello Pete,
Yes some heat will come out of the flue,
Just as your exhaust pipe of the car becomes hot, 
Depending on the efficiency rating of your heating system anything from 
5%-25% of you heat will discharge out of the flue pipe.
Regards, peter

My response: 

Thank you for your concern but I don't have warm air coming out of my flue. I think your customer has given you the wrong email address 😉