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Spring Appreciation Post

Sunlight filters through lush green leaves and the sky is a brilliant blue,  dappled with soft, lazy clouds. The scent of lavender hangs on the crisp air and birds can be heard singing and chirping from high above. Everywhere you look there is life and colour; Spring heralds a new season and new beginnings.

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There’s something about the seasons Autumn and Spring that speaks deeply to my soul. One brings death, the other brings birth; both bring a spectacular change in the flora and fauna around us. Both dazzle me with their beauty.

And there’s something about Spring that always makes me feel like I have a fresh start. A fresh chance to take adventures, appreciate natural beauty and find inner peace. March through to July are happy, calm months for me. I enjoy sitting outside in the comfortable climate and soaking up my surroundings. Walks in the countryside are particularly pleasing; I still feel a thrill every time I see a white cotton tail darting out of sight or spot some delicate crocuses pushing through the soil to soak up the sun.

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The moment I spot daffodils I feel that Spring is on its way in. The buttery yellow flowers are symbolic of the changing of seasons to me, and I love how cheerful and bright they make everything seem. I love the flowers that begin to bloom as it gets warmer, and the heavily scented blossoms that hang from the trees.  I love to watch the butterflies finally emerge with their powdery wings, and the bees buzzing between the flower beds and borders of a beautifully manicured garden. Most of all I love to watch the birds collect twigs and straw to make their nests, raise their young and start to fill the mornings with their beautiful song.

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Spring feels like a gasp of fresh air after the dark nights, stark trees and bitter chill of Winter. It is a beautiful season and it is almost upon us. Can we all just take a moment to appreciate how wonderful that is?

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February Lust List

We made it through January, hurrah! The romantic month of February was cold, damp and a little miserable but March is finally here and I’m super excited for Spring. Anyway, here’s a few things that set my heart racing this month.

Please note: this post contains affiliate links.

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Self Care Sundays

I will admit I’m an anxious person prone to bouts of stress, depression and self-doubt. Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to do too many things at once, cramming as much as I possibly can in to an already very packed schedule. It can be really difficult for me to sit still and just relax. This means I’m not always the best at self care or looking after my own mental health. I have come to realise though that it’s so very important to take time out for yourself to relax and de-stress.

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New Publishing Schedule & Blog Updates For Pretty Little Finch

My blog has been going for a little over a year now and, whilst I think I’m pretty good at updating it monthly (I haven’t missed a month yet!) I’m starting to feel that it needs to have a more structured publishing schedule. That said I’m going to aim to update it twice weekly on Wednesdays and Saturdays, starting from next week. I have a blogger event this weekend so I’ll try to get that written up and on the blog by Wednesday.

In the meantime if there’s anything you’d like to read or see here at Pretty Little Finch please let me know and I will try to cover it! Suggestions are really welcome as all the additional blogging is going to require more material!

Stickertopia Adult Sticker Books for Mindfulness

Disclaimer: I was not paid or gifted to write this post.

Love them or hate them, there’s no arguing that adult colouring books have become a ‘thing’ in a big way.

Centred around the ideas of mindfulness, a technique taught in cognitive behavioural therapy, adult colouring books are a fun throw back designed to help adults curb stress. The idea behind it is to become fully immersed in the task at hand (colouring) and to focus your senses and become present in the moment; something which is increasingly difficult for this stressed out generation to achieve.

Anyway, we’ve all seen them in book shops and supermarkets and there are now so many different types for sale it would seem there’s one to suit every interest. But have you heard of adult sticker books?

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January Lust List

The festivities are well and truly over. January is a difficult month -it’s hard to conjure up any sense of magic in the frozen mornings and rainy afternoons when there’s no fairy lights and tinsel to accompany the abysmal weather. It’s a terrible month, and it’s not hard to see why they call our reaction to it the ‘January blues’.

But let’s not let our pessimism run away with us. It’s not all bad. Here are my personal highlights of the month and the things that have kept me excited.

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Mini Lush Kitchen Haul

I was bitterly disappointed to miss the Lush boxing day sales this year as I had hoped to snatch up lots of lovely bargains. To cheer myself up I thought I’d pick up a few exclusive goodies from the Lush Kitchen instead. I purchased all online and have not used any of these before.

When the box was delivered I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed as I favour fruity and sweet smells and this box was emanating a heavy floral scent. Kind of silly of me as almost everything I picked up has floral elements to it. Anyway, I’m still excited to give everything a go and broaden my Lush horizons.

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Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017!

Once again it’s time to wave goodbye to the past year, set sights on the future and do a bit of reflecting on what has been. It’s gone by in such a flash, I can barely believe it is 2017!

For many it seems 2016 has been a bit of a disappointing year and certainly we’ve lost some of the greatest icons of our time. But on a personal, selfish level – 2016 has been pretty good to me. Of course, as always it has had its peaks and troughs. Some of the darker moments have been tough to get through but if I’m looking at it as a whole – it’s definitely been a positive year overall.

In 2016 I visited Paris and explored the catacombs, rode a carousel in front of the Eiffel tower and took a river boat tour at night, visited Rome and stood in awe in the Colosseum and wandered through the Sistern chapel, visited the Nuremburg Christmas markets in Germany, holidayed in Dorset and built more beautiful memories, added the quails and a hedgehog to our ever expanding feathered (and quilled) family, turned 27 (eek) and celebrated it in style at Bird World! Visited Kew Gardens at long last, picked pumpkins and took a Frightmove house tour at Halloween. Visited Tropical wings and took lots of fun days out. Ran a fun race for life, and spent lots of time wandering around RHS gardens, country parks, woodlands and fields!

In short, I had a lot of fun and made some wonderful memories.

Last year I set my all important new years resolutions and wrote them down on this blog.  If you can’t be bothered to skip back and see what they were, I will summarise here:

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

I decided that I wanted to keep my goals somewhat vague and thus, more achievable. From that list I can see I completed three out of the five which isn’t bad going at all. (I think we could call it a success.) These were:

Read more – 2016 was the year I rekindled my love affair with books. As a child and a teen my nose was constantly stuck in a book. I devoured novel after novel and spent many happy hours laying in the garden or in bed absolutely absorbed in a story. But, sadly as I got a little older, and my anxiety got a little worse I found it much harder to read. I started to read chic lit as it didn’t require much attention and was generally a ‘happy’ topic which helped me forget for a while. Then it fizzled out and I didn’t read at all. Reading is important though and I always wanted to get back to it. In 2016 I thought I’d start with a new genre I hadn’t tried before; crime/thriller. It totally worked! This year I have read 22 books – not bad going at all! (and I’m hooked on the suspense and plot twists!)

Be kinder – This is something else I have really worked at on a personal level in 2016. I have tried to pay more attention to the scenarios that pop up in everyday life where an act of kindness is needed or wanted. Sometimes this has been buying food/tea for the homeless, other times lending a listening ear to friends. I won’t list all of the kind things I have done this year as this kind of defeats the object, but I think I have been the best me to others that I could have been.

Keep doing more of what I love – Again, another thing I worked really hard at. Although, not really work when you’re enjoying yourself! This year I have kept up my blog and writing. I have kept up going out and taking photographs. I have kept up adventures. And I have kept growing my family of feathered friends too!

So that was pretty positive. What didn’t I quite achieve though?

Learn to drive – Whilst I haven’t completed this one I have taken good steps towards it. Last year I had around 18 hours of lessons (and I can technically drive a car now, just not legally – or if I want to park anywhere!) So this wasn’t quite a write off. I did have problems with finding a decent instructor though, and my anxiety did get in the way somewhat. This year I will be looking for a new instructor, a new fresh start and I WILL learn to drive!

Get down to my goal weight – Okay, this one was a total BUST. At one point I did actually lose about half a stone and I was on a really good fitness and health kick. But then I slumped. So maybe I just wasn’t ready for it at the time.

So, what are my goals for 2017 this year? Well, I think I want them to be a little less vague this year:

  • Add more things to my Etsy shop. (I’m thinking a pin) and just spend a little more time working on my business.
  • Progress in my career.
  • Finish off my sleeve.
  • LEARN TO DRIVE! (I must, I must!)
  • Learn to sew. Buy a sewing machine/take a class and become good at it.
  • Lose one stone, four pounds. NOT my goal weight, but the first steps towards feeling more comfortable in myself.

I also hope to do a lot more with my time. I really want to visit Cornwall and the wonderful Eden project (this has been on a to do list for a long time now) I also really want to stay in the Lake District, and have some more bird flying/experience days as those always make me happy.

On a personal level I want to build my health back up again and as such I will be attending regular therapy sessions, trying to get to the gym a little more, and practice my stress relief yoga.

All in all I want 2017 to be a year of growth for me.

If you’ve read through this exceedingly long post – congratulations! What are your New Years resolutions/ goals for this year?

 

 

A Frosty Trip to Langdon Nature Reserve

The ground was thick with frost this morning, but with the brilliant sunshine beaming down and chasing away the cold it was a lovely time to take a walk. We decided to visit Langdon Nature Reserve as we have driven past it a few times but have never stopped to take a proper look, plus it is only a short 15 minute drive from our house which makes it ideal.

The Essex Wildlife Trust reserve is set on 461 acres of woodland, meadows and former plot land gardens and at the very heart sits a huge, glassy lake, filled with ducks and water fowl.

A shop and cafe are nestled in the parking lot. We did not stop to eat here but we did take a quick peek and it looked very cosy, serving cakes, sandwiches and crisps as well as the all essential garden bird feeders and fat balls.

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Next to the cafe/shop was a small manicured garden with benches and lots of bird feeders. We spotted plenty of plump, well fed robins as well as blue tits, great tits, sparrows and dunnocks. Areas with bird feeders are always my favourite so we spent a lot of time here, lurking around and listening to the birds.

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Walking through the reserve we spotted lots of different species of birds – some we couldn’t identify, as well as a little mouse/water vole (I couldn’t get close enough to check!) The area was abundant with wildlife with the lake being a real hub for water fowl. The lake had actually frozen over from the cold and the ducks looked quite happy to skid and flap across the ice.

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The park also has a wonderful Peter Rabbit trail to keep younger minds occupied and happy. As someone who read and adored Peter Rabbit and friends as a child, I myself really enjoyed wandering around and spotting the beautiful wooden sculptures. Mrs Tiggy Winkle was always my favourite so I was delighted to find her!

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All in all we spent an hour at Langdon Nature Reserve and really enjoyed it. The mix of open fields / woodlands and water worked really well making it a good all round country park to walk in with something interesting to spot around every corner. In the summer time there is fruit picking in the orchard with apples, pears, cherries and more – so I will definitely be heading back then to pick some fruit!

Christmas in Nuremberg

We landed in Germany early on a Thursday morning. The first thing that we noticed was that Nuremberg was bitterly cold. The kind of cold that freezes the tip of your nose, bites at your fingers and creates a thick puff of cloud with every breath you take. Even bundled up against it in thick wooden hats, scarves and mittens it seeped through and chilled our bones. At the hotel we added extra layers before setting off for the markets.

As we entered Hauptmarkt the smell of candied nuts, cinnamon and mulled wine hung thick on the air, punctuated occasionally by the waft of smokey grilled sausages. Twinkling fairy lights and wreaths adorned every stall and light glittered off the hanging glass baubles. An assault on the senses, stepping in to Nuremberg Christmas markets was like stepping in to a Winter Wonderland; somewhere between old fairytales and dreams.

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Shoppers bustled around, clutching ceramic mugs filled with Gluhwein, trails of steam curling up through the cold air and leaving behind a tantalising scent. Hungry from our journey we ordered two mugs of Gluhwein with an extra shot of Amaretto for warmth and followed those with Bratwursts in brioche buns. When you order Gluhwein there is a deposit system which means you can wander around the stalls with your own mug before returning it. We warmed our fingers on the mugs as we shopped. The stalls were varied and displayed a vast array of festive goodies. There were stalls laden with cookies, cakes and sweet treats, others with carefully crafted glass ornaments and trinkets, stuffed teddy bears and old fashioned metal toys. And of course, the traditional prune men- there truly was something to please and delight everyone.

My favourite little purchase was a funny little pickle ornament with a tag that read: The Christmas Pickle. This original custom brings alive the spirit of gift giving. The lucky person is the first one to find the glass pickle hidden in the branches of the Christmas tree. Whoever finds the pickle is rewarded with an additional gift.

I bought two of these pickles. One for our tree and one for my parents. I think it is a lovely and unusual tradition.

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We came back to the market when the sun had gone down and it was dark outside. If you had told me the market could become even more magical I wouldn’t have believed it – but at night Hauptmarkt is particularly special. The locals came out to stand on the cobbled streets and chat over steaming drinks, a brass band played music on a stage outside the church and every inch of the market was illuminated with pretty lights. We shopped and wandered around once more, taking in everything we had seen earlier from a new perspective.

Later we ate in an Italian restaurant, having stuffed our faces with all kinds of German cakes, chocolates and sausages earlier on in the day. Located near the Hauptbahnhof, Osteria Del Centro was a little restaurant with dim lights, scrubbed wooden tables and a real pizza oven. We ate a full three courses there (something I almost never do) including bruschetta, delicious pasta for me, pizza for Gareth and profiteroles to finish- all washed down with cold Keller beer.

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Bamberg

The next morning we took the train from Nuremburg to Bamberg. The 40 odd minute journey seemed to go by in a flash as we whizzed through the German countryside.

The market in Bamberg was much smaller than the Hauptmarkt but it was filled with fun gifts and yet more delicious food. I purchased a beautiful knitted scarf in shades of orange that reminded me of spaghetti hoops and a small clockwork chicken. I spent quite some time lusting over the beautiful clockwork toys, my attention piqued by a lovely little snail. We ate more bratwursts in buns and these hot potato shavings that were just like crisps and then set off to look at the towns architecture.

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Certainly Bamberg is a very picturesque town. The buildings are mostly original, and we had fun pointing out the intricate structures to each other. We meandered through the narrow cobbled streets, gazing in awe at everything around us, tall pastel coloured buildings standing out against the grey sky. Each shop was beautifully decorated with wreaths, baubles and pinecones and seemed to be in competition with the last. Gareth even managed to find a record shop down one of the side streets and we spent awhile in there rifling through dusty vinyls.

If you’re visiting Nuremberg, I can’t recommend a trip to Bamberg enough as it is a very beautiful place.

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Finally

On our last day in Germany it began to snow. Tiny glittering specks falling down from the sky and leaving the thinnest coat of ice on the ground. It was colder than the previous days but, full of plans for the day and in awe of how beautiful it looked we barely noticed the chill. We visited the Nuremburg castle and took in the views of the town from the top of the tower. Afterwards we paid a visit to Albrecht Durers house. It was interesting to learn about the famous German painter and to wander from room to room in his house taking in the views and catching a glimpse of what life was like in Germany during the high renaissance. However I did find myself wishing they had more of his original paintings (his self portrait resides in Munich.)

Our last stop of our last day was the market- there we made our final purchases said our goodbyes to the beautiful Hauptmarkt.

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Some of our haul. Note the little pickle!