Month: December 2015

Goodbye 2015, hello 2016!

As 2015 comes to a close, I thought I’d write a little reflection post about the kind of year I’ve had and finish with a few goals for 2016.

It has been a busy year to say the least, but also the best year of my life. For me this year was all about adventures and growing as a person – improving myself and my life and really just doing the things I want to do. After a tough few years, this was really important to me. I can’t say the entire year has been perfect. There have most definitely been some very personal and ongoing struggles; but for the most part, this year has been good to me.

I started out 2015 as I start any new year – with lots and lots of lists. The first was a list of new years resolutions. These were:

  • Sort out my health problems
  • Advance in my career
  • Write more/publish more
  • Read more
  • Finish dissertation and graduate
  • Learn to drive
  • Try to eat healthier
  • Try to eat less/smaller portions

Of these goals I made steps to sorting out my health problems and although there’s still some way to go, I am hopeful I will get there. I advanced in my career, I wrote less (giving up my freelancing position) but then I started this blog so will be writing more. I finished my dissertation and graduated (yay!), I have started to eat healthier and less and so far I’ve lost 9 pounds through that. Overall I’d call that a success. The goals that weren’t fulfilled this year are naturally being carried over in to 2016. As far as the reading is concerned, I’ve already bought a book ready to get stuck in to and learning to drive is a big priority of mine.

My bucket list was also updated and I managed to tick off a large chunk of it (but this list is far too long to publish here)

However, from that bucket list, this year I managed to set up a blog (obviously), take pottery classes, take knitting classes and learn to knit, knit my own scarf, go strawberry picking in a field, get my thighs tattooed and a cactus tattoo, write my dissertation and graduate, take up a hobby, start a collection, visit Paris, have my first proper holiday abroad, go to a London show and take the Jack the Ripper walk in London.

If it sounds like a busy year, that’s because it was. Perhaps the busiest year I’ve ever had. I managed to squeeze a lot in to it. My personal highlights were collecting all of my lovely finches which have changed my life indescribably for the better, moving house twice with my boyfriend, exploring the Catacombes of Paris and seeing the Eiffel tower, exploring different caves in Spain, swimming in our private pool under the stars and watching a concert on a lake at the Caves of Drach, holding and flying owls and a harris hawk on a bird experience day at Eagle Heights, holidays at the caravan in Dorset and all of the many wonderful adventures we had there (including the less wonderful getting stuck in sinking mud in the New Forest) and so much more.

I also created a list of things I definitely wanted to do and experience this year (my adventure list.) Of that list I did the following:

  • Visit the British Wildlife Centre
  • Visit Dennis Sever’s House
  • Highgate Cemetery
  • Birdworld
  • Chistlehurst caves in Kent
  • Theatre (we saw Bend it Like Beckham and it was wonderful)
  • London Zoo
  • Car bootsale
  • Picnic in a London park
  • BBQ
  • Strawberry field picking

Of that list there are a few things I missed out on and will be pursuing in 2016 – Kew gardens being a big one for me as I have wanted to go for years. I think there will be a couple of revisits to the above also as some of the days out were really amazing and I’d like to record them properly here.

It feels like it has been a very special year and I personally feel very blessed and lucky – especially to have spent it all with my partner in crime.

So what does 2016 have in store for me? If it is even a fraction as good as 2015 I will be a very happy woman.  I have already got a list packed full of things I hope to do and achieve. My new years resolution list is somewhat shorter and perhaps simpler this year though:

  • Read more
  • Be kinder
  • Keep doing more of what I love
  • Learn to drive
  • Get down to X stone. (my goal weight.)

I think I will get there and I’m certainly excited for the journey! Writing out goals is a big thing for me because it forces to recognise all of my achievements and reflect back on happy times.

How has your year been, and what are your goals for 2016?

Christmas craft project

The festive season is almost over and Christmas is feeling a little like a distant and hazy cheese-filled memory, but I’d like to take the time to share a Christmas craft project I completed.

This year I knew I wanted to give my friends and family something thoughtful and handmade. I decided scarves were the way to go and I took up knitting lessons, learned how to knit and started a load of different projects – there was my mum’s moss stitch scarf and my dads’ cable knit one… then, as it often has a funny way of doing, life got in the way and I found myself with a pile of half-finished knits and no motivation.

As it turns out, scarves were definitely not the way to go. So my Christmas craft project had to be something that was relatively cheap, simple enough to achieve and not all that time consuming. I decided I would make a Christmas card.

Firstly I dug out my watercolours and painted a robin as they are my favourite festive birds. I was quite happy with the finished result which I think portrays my style.

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Then I scanned it in to my computer and made some tweaks / adjustments in Photoshop.

My next port of call was the craft shops. I hit these to find some cards to print on. I found some from Polaroid which looked promising and only cost a quid (bargain!)

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I thought the printing would be a relatively easy process but it definitely was not. It turns out I’m not very good at creating cards on my laptop. My boyfriend helped me and we finally achieved something which I felt was presentable (although not quite as polished as I’d have liked.)

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One of the downfalls to the Polaroid card paper is that is was very thin. It did stand independently without too much wobble but the the card itself looked inexpensive (most probably because it was.) You can’t grumble when you’ve paid a pound but I’ll still try.

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My Christmas card stack included Sophie Jackson who was a very brave little girl. She received 10,000 Christmas cards – I hope these showed her that she was special and in everyones thoughts.

Overall I was fairly happy with the finished product and friends and family commented how nice the cards were which was pleasant. However – I managed to sneak a peek at some after their delivery and noticed they had developed smudges that made them look less than professional. Actually this was quite upsetting to see because I think it took away from the overall aesthetic. The smudging could be because the cards got wet in the post. It could be because they cost a pound. All I can really do is speculate –  I’m not sure what happened there but either way the Polaroid card stock is not something I would use for future projects or recommend to others. (Although I’m sure they do have some better products than this.)

I’d like to try this project again next year with better card that is thicker, glossier and doesn’t smudge.

For now I hope the cards achieved (in some small way) what they set out to; show those I love that I am thinking of them.

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Did you get crafty this Christmas?

 

 

In the bird room

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned in every post ever, we moved recently. Our new flat has two bedrooms which was a major pull for us. Being in a steady loving relationship we felt that two rooms would be appropriate. One for us and one for the babies. And when I say babies, what I actually mean is the birds. All of the birds.

So at this point we have about 20 finches (a whole charm!) They recently moved in to the bird room and although they still remain caged, it’s a lot more spacious and they can be let out to fly around without the fear of them smacking in to anything or falling behind cabinets. They are rather small birds and this can be a problem. The bird room is great though, and currently houses a very large aviary- type flight cage and three other large cages. I often get asked if the birds all have their own names. Of course they do. With the exception of the six chicks we recently hatched (and can’t bear to part with) every bird is named.

And here they are – a kinda whose who of the bird room.

This is Pepper. She is a hen zebra finch and one of the first finches I ever owned. She is the friendliest of the bunch and very inquisitive.

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This is Biscuit who is also a hen. We got Biscuit and Pepper together at the same time and believe they are probably sisters. Both Biscuit and Pepper recently had chicks (three each.)

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This is Freckles a cock zebra finch. He is paired with Pepper and they had three chicks together (all hens.) Freckles was an amazing dad doing almost all of the feeding.

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This is Cheeks, a cock zebra finch. Here he is seen with the bird he is paired with – Biscuit. Together they had three chicks two of which were hens and one cock.

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These are our penguin zebra finches. At the front is Pumpkin (a cock) next to him is Mabel (a hen) – Biscuit is pictured once again. Pumpkin is very sweet and likes cuddling up to the other birds. Mabel is a bit tougher and likes to sing loudly and defiantly.

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And now on to the chicks. I don’t think I’ve captured them all but we have five hens and one cock. At the moment they are going through that cute stage where they are growing feathers in. Below is our little boy – note his adorable patchy little cheeks.

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All of the above live in the largest aviary although should be separated soon when we find another large cage to house the chicks who will soon be troublesome adults.

In this photo you can see Sweetpea a hen zebra finch. Behind (the brown and white) is Bramble who is a bengalese finch and Button who is a cock bengalese finch. These guys are always singing.

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This is Raisin who is a black-cheeked cock zebra finch. He lives with Button, Bramble and Sweetpea. He used to live in the larger aviary but he was a terrible bully. He’s pretty cute though.

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The third cage houses our owl finches and orange cheeked waxbills. These are tiny birds and passive so they live happily together without squabble. The zebra finches can be prone to fighting and being mean to each other but these have never had any problems.

Below is Clementine and Wotsit – our orange cheeks, and our cock owl finch Pipkin.

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Pickle, Pipkin, Clementine and Wotsit. I will come clean here and tell you that I can’t identify which orange cheek is which as they are virtually the same to look at. Nevermind- they are both very skittish and sweet!

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And finally our fourth cage houses our redpolls. Unlike the other finches these are not foreign. These are actually the only British finches we own (although I’d love to own more so watch this space!)

Below is our cock Muffin – he loves destroying seed bells and has a lot of character.

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And this is our hen Chestnut. She has very beautiful markings. I particularly like the yellow accents around her face, when she is annoyed with something or wants the zebra finches to stop squawking she makes a very angry sound that is not too dissimilar to a telephone ringing.

Redpolls are wild birds and in the UK you can only sell them if they have been ringed. Ours both bear ring bands and were purchased at a bird fair in Brightlingsea.

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And thus concludes the tour of the bird room (for now!) I next want to purchase some quails but we’ll see. Bird seed and upkeep is quite costly when you have 20 beaks to feed!

I think birds are wonderful to watch and very rewarding to keep. Do you own any special birds?

A winter walk

Yesterday (Saturday 19th December) marked one full week since we left Stratford and moved to Essex. However, being employed and busy human beings, we’ve barely had time to unpack/relax in our new home let alone explore our surroundings. Yesterday we decided to celebrate some much needed downtime and make our second ever visit to the country park near our new home – North Weald.

After a stint in Stratford, greenery was a site for sore eyes (even if the trees were sparse.)

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However, we had both clearly been living in London for too long because we were woefully under-prepared for the mud in our flimsy shoes whilst everyone else was clad in wellies. (I have now put these on my shopping list as an essential.)

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Exploring North Weald

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We rambled on through the mud and made our first stop at the little shop by the car park. As soon as we entered I wanted everything- from the cuddly deer to the hot choc laced with Amaretto. Like the spoilt child I am I came away with a little greenfinch pin and some feed for the deer and the ducks.

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My partner Gareth showcasing said feed.

The last time we visited North Weald it was summertime and the deer were full of life. As it’s winter we did wonder if the deer would have been moved elsewhere but we were glad to discover they were still there and we were able to feed them. I love deer – they are such sweet little creatures.

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DSC_0663 - Copy.JPGWe fed the ducks too although they looked rather plump and went about taking the food in a rather apathetic manner (a case of the good life I presume.)

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The great thing about North Weald (besides all of the beautiful creatures you will discover there) is that whether it’s summer or winter it’s still a very beautiful and scenic place to explore. The lake is particularly lovely.

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There’s also a little bird hide there which is pretty neat. Inside there’s a fact sheet about siskins and how they populate North Weald. We didn’t spot any siskins but we did see a fair few plump squirrels all digging frantically amongst the leaves.

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Looking out from the bird hide.
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Inside the bird hide we found this slip. If only it were mine.

 

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BlueBell Tree House. I’m not sure what this is for. Perhaps the squirrels have tea parties inside?

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I found an unusual pinecone

On our way back to the car we stopped to take some clippings of holly to decorate our fireplace with.

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All in all we had a wonderful time at North Weald and it felt fantastic to get some fresh air. I definitely believe that country parks are not just for the summer – there’s a certain charm to taking a chilly winter walk.

Where is your favourite place to explore during the winter months?

 

 

London…it’s not me, it’s you.

My love affair with London ended around ten months ago – just two months in to living in Stratford. Prior to moving to London, I spent most weekends ferrying myself up there for some market or the other. I thought Camden was ‘unique’ and the coffee shop outside Aldgate Station was the bee’s knees. Prior to the move I had images of wild nights out in Shoreditch and black cabs home past midnight. I had grand visions of myself taking every class and seizing every opportunity I could. And I guess, in its own way London was good to me. But much in the same way an acquaintance can be fun to bump in to on a night out, you don’t want to be around it all the time; in short, London is fun for a fling, but you don’t want to settle down with it.

So I did what any reasonable twenty-something would do, and I jumped ship. My partner and I moved to Essex . An ‘Essex girl’ born and bred, this was pretty exciting for me. The prospect of a proper chip shop (not a fried chicken / greasy kebab shop) and just a smidge more greenery was (and still is) the dream.

So why didn’t London and I work out?

Well, now the smog has cleared, I think I’ve narrowed it down.

The people are rude

Okay okay – a sweeping statement I know. And I’m not one to generalise so let’s be fair. Of course not all of the people are rude – that would be ridiculous. There’s good and bad wherever you go and obviously it would be impossible for the entire population of London to be on my personal naughty list. So, being reasonable I’d say…98% of the people in London are rude. Is that fair? I think that’s fair. On almost every occasion I had the displeasure of traveling on the 25 bus I was shoved and elbowed and glared at. I got the impression that the bus drivers wanted to murder us all and, I guess I couldn’t blame them.  People are busy in London. They have places to be, people to see – and they are ruthless. If you have ever crammed on to a tube at rush hour you’ll know what I mean. And living in London was like a never-ending tube ride.

There are no proper chip shops

Poppy’s is the well-known chip shop in East London. But when you live in Stratford, popping to poppy’s for a cod and chips is a just a bit of a mission. Where I lived all of the takeaway shops served fried chicken (albeit delicious fried chicken), kebabs and pizza. I did discover two chippies in relative close proximity…but the chips were limp and lifeless. And when you’re  settling down and creating a home with your loved one, a good chip shop is something to consider. What? It matters. It matters to me.

There’s hardly any greenery

Whilst London does boast some beautifully manicured parks, it is a challenge to find anywhere you feel really relaxed walking. The constant sounds of the city sort of cancel out any of the feel-good vibes you might otherwise get from a brisk morning walk in the woods. Sometimes I felt like it was hard to breathe. When I moved to Stratford I knew I wouldn’t be surrounded by fields and woodland and green space. I just didn’t anticipate how much I would miss it.

You don’t get a lot for your money

I’m sure it won’t suprise anyone when I say that living in London is expensive. My partner and I lived in a crummy one bed masionette that was seriously mouldy. This woefully inadequate housing cost a bomb all things considered. And it’s not just crappy house prices that wound me up either. The cost of living was noticeably higher. You shouldn’t have to remortage your soul just to buy a beer. That’s not living; it’s existing.

The reality doesn’t live up to the expectations

I guess the biggest thing about living in London for me, was that the reality of it was not as I had anticipated. Originally I moved for work – and for the convience of it (it afforded me more time in bed every morning.) But as mentioned above, I did have some preconceptions of what London life would be like. Whilst I did have a few nights out, and I did join a couple of classes, I didn’t really do as much as I thought I would. I found myself spending most of my weekends in Essex or at the seaside because that’s where I preferred to spend my leisure time. Whilst I am sure there are people who adore living in London, I didn’t at all.

So now, as I mentioned earlier – we are living in Essex (which I am sure some will argue is not much better!) But we are happily wedged between some country parks and the nicest chippie I’ve had all year – success! I’m feeling pretty positive about the move, and looking forward to exploring the area and discovering some cool little places.

To add some balance to this (only ever so slightly negative) post, what do you absolutely love about living in London?