Thursday, 30 August 2012

Camper Van, Caves & Candles

Last week we had our annual “holiday” – however this year due to Baby Boy being so young and therefore needing at least a double-decker bus to transport all his necessary baby paraphernalia, e.g.; highchair, travel-cot, pram, etc, and that’s not to mention our belongings on top, we opted to stay home and take day trips instead.

This actually worked very well, there was no stress whatsoever, and Mia seemed more than happy to sleep in her own bed (relieved no doubt not to have to check her sleeping bag for earwigs as she had had to do last year every night in the caravan). We had a lovely day on the Monday at King Arthur’s Labyrinth in Machynlleth. On route we stopped off to admire the view of the Clewedog Dam, it was just after and the occupants of this fantastic VW camper van were evidently still asleep inside!

I LOVE these, and couldn’t resist taking some snaps – Mia said “lets pretend it’s ours” and leapt in front of the camera, you could almost believe it if it weren’t for the husband’s Mazda just in view from behind the VW!

How I would love to have spent the night in there, waking up to coffee and bacon sandwiches overlooking that wonderful view, even on a wet morning like that….maybe one day! I dreamt about this the rest of the way to Machynlleth!

King Arthur’s Labyrinth was great fun; a boat trip with a hooded Monk took you deep underground to ancient caves which told the story of King Arthur and Excalibur. Mia loved it;

(image from Google)

Afterwards we had some lunch and then had a browse around the craft centre, where Mia & I tried our hand at dipping candles; it was great fun!

Some lovely candles for sale;

Our candles; a bit wonky, (ok, quite a lot wonky!) but I love them because we made them and they remind me of such a lovely day out!

We got home in time to collect Baby Boy from his childminder, the caves were not suitable for children of his age, and we wanted to give Mia a good day out as she’s had to settle for fewer such days since I had him. Thursday, however, we all went to the coast, and a great time, I will post on that day very soon.

A lovely day out...and not an earwig in sight! :)

Marina xx

Saturday, 18 August 2012

An Afternoon In The Teepee

Hello all, I wanted to share with you some pictures of Mia finally being able to enjoy our new Cath Kidston teepee, purchased some time ago in the CK sale with a collection of "birthday money", it was the first time the weather had allowed us to put it up - though it was well worth the wait, isn't it fantastic!;

We spent a lovely, lazy afternoon reading vintage children's annuals;

And playing a board game, so much better than being stuck in front of the TV;

I'm hoping we shall have some more nice weather for next week, we've booked some time off work and have planned a few day trips. Usually this would be the week of our annual holiday, though we have decided that as Baby Boy is still so young it would be easier this year to stay at home and have some nice days out. We're also planning a trip to the river with our fishing nets followed by a picnic and perhaps some time to relax and read. I'm really enjoying Wuthering Heights at the moment, the first time i've read it, I purchased this 1970's Corgi copy for 10p at a local jumble sale;

Not really what you'd call a "Summer Read" I don't suppose, more suited to a bleak Winter evening curled up by the log fire, still, i'm enjoying it all the same.

Have a lovely weekend all,

Marina xx

P.S. As always, thank you for the lovely comments on my last post, the chickens have settled in SO well, Mia has started up her own little egg business selling them by the dozen to my work colleagues and neighbours - she is very pleased! :)

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The New Additions

Hello all, and thank you so much, as always, for the lovely comments you left on my previous post - much appreciated! I do feel more relaxed about putting our house up for sale this time, i'm finding easier to distance myself from other potential houses, and to enjoy where we are for the time being.

Anyway, moving on, last week we had 5 new additions to the family of the feathered variety – “Pumpkin”, “Dumpling”, “Petal”, “Hazel” and “Penny” our ex-chicken farm hens, rescued from slaughter and enjoying life with us, and producing around 35 eggs per week! Omelette anyone?!

Mia is thrilled with them, her favourite being “Pumpkin”. She named them all, even before we had them, although we were originally going to have just 3. How we came to end up with two more is all down to Mia being able to get around her grandparents so easily! How she manages that, whereas I, as their only daughter, would not have had so much luck at that age, still baffles me! We’d arranged with Nan & Grandpa that we would keep our hens in their large enclosure surrounded by electric fencing. They only have 3 old bantam hens left, and hence there would be plenty of room. So 3 were agreed upon, names chosen, and an evening picked for Mia to go with Grandpa to choose and collect them. Then, 2 days before this, Mia wangles one more, simply by stating that if she were to have 4 instead, then if two were to die, she would still have 2 left – whereas if she only had 3, that would leave 1 lonely hen on her own – plus she’s already thought of a most perfect hen-name “Hazel”!. Grandpa relented.

So, two days later, off they go to the chicken farm, Mia waving goodbye to Baby Boy & I from the back of their 4x4 with a HUGE box beside her, pricked with breathing holes and tried with string ready for her 4 lucky hens, which unbeknown to them, were about to be saved from becoming chicken pies!

I was very excited too, but sadly couldn’t go as it was Baby Boy’s bedtime, and Mia was planning to stay with Nan and Grandpa to help settle her hens in. However, I did phone her when they got back later on that evening, and Mia was VERY excited;

“Mum I’ve got FIVE!!!”

“FIVE?????” I repeat though somehow not too surprised (I know Mia)

I then reply “How have you got five?”

“The lady GAVE me the 5th one for free! She said I could have her Mum and I’ve called her Penny” came the answer.

“What did Nanny and Grandpa say??” I ask, knowing they probably didn’t have much choice;

“Oh they didn’t mind!!!” came the confident answer - my poor parents!

So that's the story of how we ended up with two more hens that I bargained for! Still, we were very pleased when Mia came home the next morning with a freshly laid egg;

Which we made in to lovely strawberry cupcakes;

We've also this week acquired another Guinea Pig! A local lady didn't want him as his mate had died, and she wasn't wanting to get another piggie. Guinea pigs shouldn't be kept alone, so she asked if we would take him. At the moment we are "fostering" him for the local Guinea Pig Rescue, run by a friend in a nearby town, from whom we had Dexter and Bracken. His best chance is to be bonded with a baby boar from the Rescue, so at the moment he is being kept on foster and in "quaranteen" by ourselves. I'm trying not to get too's very hard. Just look at that cute face;

I'll leave you with a picture of Baby Boy looking "oh so serious" whilst observing the new piggie in his run. Hope you're all having a lovely week xx

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Remembering..The One That Got Away!

You’d be mistaken (if not understandably) in thinking that I’m referring to a man here, however I consider myself lucky enough to have married the love of my life! I’m actually talking about a house. If anyone reading this has ever fallen in love with a property, and then “just missed out”, you will no doubt identify with the feelings expressed in this post. I know many people who have shared a similar experience, and the shocking feeling of sadness and longing that goes with it. One friend in particular lost out to the same property 3 times! And has admitted that although she is happy in her home now, if she were ever to see a “For Sale” board outside that particular house it would plunge her again in to turmoil, even 10 years on! Of course in my line of work (a firm of solicitors), it is not unusual to encounter a devastated couple whose dreams of a beautiful house have just been shattered as the chain has broken, I remember one lady in particular who sobbed the whole way through her interview. I felt terrible for her.

(image from Google)

I often think of this house, more so at the moment though, as this week we placed our own property on the market – yet again. I will be go in to the reasons why, and a little about the houses that we viewed last weekend in a seperate post, as this is kind of a more serious post, which i'm writing more for "me", I will be therefore very surprised if anyone actually reads this to the end! Thank you though, if you do! :)

“The One” for us, came around not just once – but TWICE – which has made it all the more raw in my mind, and something which I still think about. The funny thing is, the house itself, or rather a 1970’s bungalow, is nothing special at all, - it’s sometimes, however, all about location, and this one was perfect. Situated on the very outskirts of our small Victorian town, on a quiet, well spaced-out estate of bungalows, detached with a private drive, - and here’s the best bit – with the most lovely view, overlooking a nature reserve, with small lake which even had a pair of swans! We first went to see it on a dreary February morning in 2009, it was a probate property so the elderly lady who had lived there since it was first built had sadly recently passed away, and the house still had all of her belongings in it. There was perhaps something about this, making it feel so cosy and homely, (very retro!) though the sight of her slippers still tucked under the bed made my eyes water (those things get me every time!), but it was when we walked out in to the garden, a lawn sloping down to a little fence and then nothing but nature reserve as far as the eye could see, and two swans swimming on the small man-made lake only a few hundred yards away – even on that dreary morning, it felt like home. I had never experienced this feeling before, and sadly haven’t since. I could well and truly have moved in there and then the feeling was totally overwhelming.

(image from Google)

For days afterwards I thought of nothing else, this was very bad, I know, but I even dreamed of that lake with the swans, and imagined vividly our lives spanned out over the next 10 years, children playing on that lawn, having breakfast on the patio in the early morning, looking out over that nature reserve – the whole lifestyle had completely captivated me. My husband, as always, is much more grounded that me, but even he got excited at the thought of what we might do to the property, an idea spurned by my father, who was also slightly obsessed with the place, was that we should have a dormer-extension up in to the roof, giving us spectacular views over the nature reserve from the upstairs bedrooms. While this was happening our house at the time (not where we are living now), was getting quite a lot of interest – the following Saturday it had 4 viewings in one day, and one couple were “very interested” as the estate agent put it. We’d already expressed our interest in the bungalow, and prompted by the estate agent, went for a second viewing, this time with a local builder, in order to give us a quote for the extension, which, if we were successful in buying the place, we planned to get done right away. We’d also made enquiries as to planning, and although nothing was set in stone, two of the neighbours, one just two doors away had done exactly the same thing and had already set the precedent, so it was very unlikely to have been refused.
We ended up spending a very long second viewing with my father in tow (he couldn’t keep away either!), and the builder, who gave us a very reasonable quote, and my goodness, we really had then well and truly fallen for the place. We made a provisional offer based on the sale of our house, and then waited, hoping beyond hope that our house would sell soon. Unfortunately, to cut a long story short, the people who had been “very interested” in our house, faded in to oblivion, and my dear dad, (I actually still well up sometimes to think of this) even offered to lend us the money as a kind of bridging loan, in order to secure the property until our house sold. This was unbelievably kind, though we knew in our hearts that it would have been putting my parents in an extremely difficult financial situation should our house not sell for a long time – and after much deliberation, we decided that we just couldn’t put them in that position.

Sadly, just a month before we finally got an offer on our property, the bungalow sold for the same money that we’d originally offered. I was absolutely devastated, I am not ashamed to say that boy did I cry! I know this is an age-old story, has happened to so many people, though everybody that has experienced it have said that they can well and truly identify with the feeling of loss.

Of course we moved eventually, we waited until we had an offer on our then property, viewed the house we live in now the following day, made an offer on the Monday and were in a month later. After the months of turmoil with the previous house, this was very straightforward.

The bungalow, however, never completely faded from my mind, and just two years later, at the beginning of last year it came back on to the market yet again. We thought about it, and although we had been toying with the idea of putting our house up for sale, though hadn’t decided anything for sure, I have to admit that certainly on my part, this was definitely the catalyst. We had just put in a new kitchen and rushed to get our house on the market, not even waiting for the new kitchen floor to be laid before having the photographs taken! We made an appointment to see the bungalow again, which was arranged for 2 weeks time due to the vendor being away. The estate agent had even arranged for another builder to come along too, to give us an up-to-date quote for the extension in order for us to take that in to consideration. While we were waiting to see it, another couple, who had viewed it some weeks before put in an offer – though it was considerably low. The vendor wasn’t happy with this, and still wanted us to view, knowing of the history with us and the house, and the estate agent told us not to worry as that particular couple had a habit of putting in low offers on a lot of properties just “testing the water”, and didn’t seem to think they were serious. However, just 3 days before we were due to see it again the said couple upped their offer, and this time the vendor had decided to “consider” it.

The husband and I spent a very agonising evening discussing everything and mulled over every possibility we could think of in order to secure the property – even as far out as looking in to the possibility of renting out our current house, though financially we weren’t sure we’d be able to do this, though we were that desperate - I seriously would have done anything at this point - as long as it was legal!! Unfortunately this time as the property had been done up and modernised since the elderly lady had lived there, complete with new boiler and electrics, it was now on the market for considerably more than the last time, and my father, although again caught up in the whole affair, understandably couldn’t help us out this time, and besides, we still had to sell our own house.

All that we could do, is express our sincere interest and state exactly what we would be prepared to pay – the full asking price – should our house sell and if the vendor was prepared to wait.

He thought about it, but in the meantime cancelled our viewing on that coming Saturday, I was gutted, but perhaps it was for the best….as the following week he accepted the other couple’s lower offer, and that was that, it was gone. I have to admit that even now, I cannot bring myself to throw out the “details of sale”, with that wonderful photograph of The View! I keep it as a reminder – partly to never get so involved in a house until its well and truly ours! I will often sometimes come across the details unexpectedly when tidying up and after all this time, I feel a sharp stab of sadness - though it was obviously not meant to be – perhaps it just served as a lesson in life.

I’m sorry for such a long, probably boring post, I hope you don’t mind I’m writing this more for my own benefit, as I feel it’s important to remember – and learn – from this experience, especially now that we are again selling our house and on the look out for the next one. Part of me is very cautious, although we have found a possible 2 out of the 5 that we saw on Saturday, there is one which I like very much indeed, and could perhaps get completely carried away – but then I stop and think of “the one that got away” and it does ground me.

Perhaps we will be luckier on this occasion….only time will tell.

Marina xx

Friday, 3 August 2012

Husband's Relief at Cancelled Village Show!....

...would no doubt have been the headline if this were the local rag!

Yes, today should have been the day of our village show, which unfortunately, much to Mia’s dismay, has been cancelled due to the heavy rain we’ve experienced this Summer.

I’m disappointed too, I would love to have entered some of our eggs from our newly-acquired hens in the “best 6 eggs” class, or had a go at the “best floral arrangement in a teacup”, not to mention the “tallest thistle” which we always just miss out on – having come 4th last year, we one day aim to find one worthy of at least the top three!

My poor dad, however, will no doubt be relieved that this year, he hasn’t been summoned to go in search of, in Mia’s words, “the most gigantic thistle in the world, grandpa”. And my father, who would do anything for his little granddaughter heads out with his shovel, usually in the rain, and comes home, hours later, triumphant (in his eyes) with a 7 foot thistle in tow and arms and face covered in scratches. Every year we transport the horrible spiky thing in my husband’s car – having struggled to get it in there in the first place, battling to get it out again, Mia very nearly losing an eye in the process, only to find that when we arrive at the marquee there are already a long line of thistles – a great deal taller than ours! Mia is deflated – and so I am, (just a tad!), and Husband is left wondering why on earth we bother.

Most of all though, I will miss the children’s Fancy Dress competition. Now, I say “children’s”, though I have to admit, it is the parents with the whom the competition really lies. Every year we battle it out as to who can produce the best costume, festooned upon our little darlings as they line up in front of the Judge (usually the local Vicar, whom I have to say, always looks as though he would rather be sampling the sponge cake from the WI tent rather than being handed this particular role! And I can’t say I blame him). The atmosphere amongst the parents while the Vicar carefully studies each child’s ensemble could literally be cut through with a knife. And once the winners have been announced, we politely congratulate the winning child’s mother “what a fantastic costume you have made”, all the while vowing inside to outdo her the following year! Last year, Mia was a Rubix cube – she came second, pipped at the post by the Jack-in-a-Box!

My poor Husband still rolls his eyes in despair at the sheer mention of the Jack-in-a-Box – I’m sure he is secretly relieved that there has been no such competition this year – and his wife, in her quest to “outdo that bloomin Jack-in-a-box” has not been up until the early hours making a “Tin Man” outfit. Yes, we had decided on the Tin Man this year, Mia loves the Wizard of Oz, and had chosen this outfit as far back as last December, I kid you not.

Another part of the show that he won’t miss is the children’s sports. How lovely, you might say, the children having fun in the three-legged races and jumping around in their sacks. Well, yes indeed, unless you have our child, who, upon realising that she hadn’t won the egg and spoon one year, flung her egg as far as she could manage, and then the spoon as well, just for good measure!

(My little darling, above, with the blue t-shirt and red shorts)

There she was, stomping across the field towards us, arms folded, tears streaming down her cheeks, everyone looking as us bemused, and my lovely husband chooses that moment to announce “right, see you later, I’m off home” and quickly makes a dash for it, leaving me to deal with the aftermath. I know I should tell her off for being so silly, but instead I ignore it and distract her with the cake tent – all the while amazed at how far she’d managed to throw that egg – now if that were a competition she’d have won for sure!

Yes, the Husband may have had a lucky escape, but I have certainly missed the village show. Still, there’s always next year…you’d better watch out Jack-in-a-Box, the Tin Man may have his day yet….!

(image from Google)

Marina xx

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Royal Welsh Show

We had a lovely couple of days at the Royal Welsh Show in Builth Wells last week. There had been much speculation in the past month as to whether or not it would still go ahead, due to the horrendous weather we have all been experiencing of late. However, we were extremely lucky, and the sun baked down for the whole four days – dare I say it, it was perhaps even a little too hot! (Mia thought so, anyway).

I thought I’d share with you some photographs of the fantastic entries in the produce and handicraft competitions. If you are a Kirstie Allsop fan like me, you may very well have watched her Handmade Britain series last year, whereby she attended at the Royal Welsh and took part in some of these classes.

I LOVE things like this, I literally spent a good hour here, much to Mia’s annoyance, I had to promise her a go on her favourite “Bat Ride” afterwards in order to keep her happy!

We have “an animal from a vegetable”;

The Lion, above, took first prize, but I also loved these!:

The Queen’s Jubilee children’s section:

Some lovely tea-cosies:

A great way to display a Family Tree:

And now this just had to be my favourite class - the Queens Jubilee Cake Competition. There were only 3 enties here, but oh my goodness just look at them - this is the cake which took not only first place - but my breath away as well, it's just amazing!

A Street Party scene, it's hard to believe it's actually a cake - looks way too good to eat!

This cake came 2nd, still fantastic;

And 3rd:

I thought these cakes were fantastic too, the standard in all of the competitions was extremely high;

I have to hand it to her, poor Mia was bored stiff after an hour watching me excitedly take photographs and trying to drag me away from that amazing cake, so a go on the "Bat Drop" ride was definitely called for! She goes on this every year, it's something she always looks forward to. When she was younger I used to have to go on with her..very glad she's old enough to go on her own, i'm more than happy just to have an icecream and watch!

We had a lovely day, but i'm very glad it's over now for another year, if you're familiar with my blog you'll know that my husband works for the Royal Welsh, and we hardly see him in the build-up and during that week, he's always extremely busy indeed!

I'll leave you with a couple of photos of the amazing wood carvings - now imagine having those in your garden - I wonder how much that bear would cost?!

Hope you're all having a good week,
Marina xx