Friday Feeling [23] – well done Australia, part 2

In case you needed proof that Australia did the right thing in voting for the legalisation of gay marriage this week, meet Arthur and John – aged 85 and 89.

Australia’s oldest gay couple to finally marry after 50 years

Together for 50 years, they’e apparently Australia’s oldest gay couple. They’ve no doubt been through homophobia, hatred and people not wanting to mix with them purely because of their sexual preference, but they’ve stuck together.

Why?

Love!

They’ll finally be able to recognise their love and commitment through marriage.

Read their story here.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

Advertisements

My house just had it’s Pinocchio moment!

When we bought our house earlier this year, it certainly wasn’t for it’s charming good looks!

In fact, it was such a strange building that we’d been scrolling past it on RightMove for almost 4 months, dismissing it completely out of hand. It was in the postcode we wanted, but that’s where the appeal ended. It was marketed as a 2 bedroom apartment with a private garden and 3 garages. And it looked like this.

Our house when we bought it

We assumed that, as an apartment, it would be leasehold; that it was some type of commercial property; and that the 3 garages were probably rented out or, if not, what the hell were they there for?! Plus we were moving out of a 2 bedroom place, and specifically wanted a 3 bed.

It wasn’t until the husband, in a fit of back to work after Christmas boredom, had a proper look at it that it even became a possibility. He came home from work and told me it was actually freehold, all of the garages belonged to and were being sold with the property and, looking on Google maps, it was in a very secluded area. Also, it had potential for planning permission. Bubbles of excitement started to develop.

The other thing to say here is that we had a very limited search area. When Phil & Kirsty talk about Location, Location, Location – we embody that! We had perhaps a square mile area where we wanted to live, and we were struggling to consider other towns or locations. The problem with that square mile area was that there weren’t really many properties that matched our needs. There’s lots of flats (which, as I say, we were moving away from), lots of Victorian houses which don’t have a garage (essential for the husband’s Harley) and very poor street parking which is high in demand, and lots of really big multi bedroom houses which were way way out of our price range. There really weren’t a lot of properties which were going to meet our (strict) requirements.

So, when the funny apartment with 3 garages started to tick some boxes, we began to wonder whether, in the absence of something available that matched our wants and needs, we could actually part build something instead?

I won’t bore you with the tumultuous offer process, estate agent dealings or price negotiations. Or the planning permission, rules and regulations. Obviously there was a happy ending because we bought the property, and we’re now making it into a traditional house. We’re converting the double garage (leaving the 3rd garage in place for the husband’s motorbike), knocking that through into what was a really big porch, and building an extension to the side which will open out on to the garden. Downstairs will be fully open plan, with an L shaped kitchen and lounge area in the (former) garage, a dining space in the extension, and the large hall/walkway up for discussion! The layout of upstairs will remain the same, but we’ll repurpose the space – what’s currently the lounge will become our bedroom, the kitchen will be a laundry/utility room, and we’ll have 2 more bedrooms and the bathroom as is.

The builders have been on site for 5 weeks and it’s been a stressful and exciting time. Every morning at 8am we hear them starting work and every evening we get home wondering what will have changed that day. On the plus side, because the property was a 2 bedroom apartment, we’re living relatively undisturbed upstairs with no building mess or interruption (although we still have a lot of boxes and bags that we didn’t unpack after the move because we didn’t have space to put everything!)

You’re probably wondering about the Pinocchio moment I mentioned in the title of this post? Remember when Pinocchio the puppet gets his wish, turns to Geppetto and says “look, I’m a real boy!”

Pinocchio I'm a real boy

Well, where once was 2 garage doors is now 2 proper, double glazed, uPVC framed opening windows. And we have the rudiments of a canopy over what will be our new front door. I feel like our property is saying “look, people who saw past the weirdness, I’m a real house!”

Our house now

Unfortunately, for now, that’s as far as it goes, because we have to wait for the extension glazing and the front door to be manufactured, delivered and fitted. The builders have downed tools for a few weeks because they can’t proceed with doing anything inside until everything is watertight. But we’ve picked and ordered our kitchen and worktops, interior doors and flooring, and it’s SO EXCITING! Still clinging on to the hope that we’ll be done before Christmas (god knows I’ll be cracking the whip on those builders!) and then I get to do all the exciting stuff like cushions and pictures and pretties, which is far more interesting than plasterboard and wall insulation.

When we moved into the flat 11 and a half years ago, we had a bit of work done then – redesigned kitchen and an interior wall knocked down. It was so stressful and messy that we swore we’d never move anywhere that needed big work doing again. You can see how that vow worked out!

I’m sure I’ll be boring bombarding you with lots more pictures in the weeks to come, as we start the decorating and dressing of the new rooms!

Have you ever taken on a building project? Done lots of work to a property? Let me know!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

 

Well done Australia!

I was thrilled to wake up to the news that 2/3rds of Australians have voted in favour of gay marriage being made legal.

Well done Australia

Amazing news for gay people, for morality and for common sense. To stop people from marrying just because they have the same genitals is bonkers.

I read a story recently, where a 12 year old boy was marching in favour of gay marriage so he can marry Chris Hemsworth when he grows up.

Marry Chris Hemsworth

Not sure Chris will be available, but at least this young boy will now grow up in a country where he has the freedom to meet and marry the man of his dreams.

Love is love!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

The latest Dignity in Dying campaign and research

Today, Dignity in Dying have released their latest research into public support for a change in the law, to allow terminally ill people to choose when to end their life based on their own pain and experiences.

I’m a staunch supporter of the charity and have blogged previously about why I support them, the work they do, and why they do it. My Dad was denied the chance to go to Dignitas for a dignified end to his life on his terms, thanks to his doctor blocking access to his medical records on ethical and legal grounds. In truth, he shouldn’t have had to consider going to another country, like some kind of criminal. The option for assisted dying in his own home, surrounded by family and loved ones, should be a basic human right.

When Dad died, we asked for donations rather than flowers at his funeral. People were incredibly generous, and we were able to make a sizeable donation to Dignity in Dying, in Dad’s honour. Through this, Dad’s wife Julie started a dialogue with them around Dad’s circumstances, and they asked if she’d be interested in helping them to raise the profile of why a change in the law is needed, to which she readily agreed.

I’m so proud of Julie for getting involved and sharing her story, especially as it’s only just over a year since my Dad passed away. It’s still very raw for her, and reliving it is hard. But she feels very strongly about helping the charity and contributing to a very worthwhile cause, and wants to do whatever she can in Dad’s memory.

Such is the strength of Julie’s story, that DiD have made her the current face of their campaign. She’s on the homepage of their website, and 2 of her videos feature on the research page, alongside other people who have been in similar situations.

Dignity in Dying - the true cost of outsourcing death to Dignitas

All we’re asking for is choice. The choice for people to live their life for as long as they are able, and the choice to end it when the pain and suffering is too much.

If you feel strongly about the right for choice and would like to support Dignity in Dying, you can make a one off donation or set up a monthly donation via the giving page on their website. You can also become a member for regular updates.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

Friday Feeling [22] – you go girl!

Today’s Friday feeling is slightly different, in that it’s not warm and fuzzy, but a celebration of girl power.

Popstar Sia (who I’m aware of in terms of existence but not in terms of music – I say that not in a condescending or rude way, purely that I’m old and probably not her target market!) has hit back at a sleazy paparazzo who was threatening to sell nude photographs of her, by releasing them herself.

Sia

In a big old “fuck you” move, she’s taken the supposed shame out of the pics, which the seller was counting on, and turned it into a positive for herself. Shame can only exist where there’s secrecy, and secrecy drives underground and underhanded behaviour like blackmail and bidding wars, so this is a genius move on her part.

Also, as an addendum, why should she feel shame? It’s her body and her life; she wasn’t doing anything seedy or bad (and, even if she was, it’s her business), and she was in a private place where she shouldn’t be spied on or photographed.

I love that the seedy photographer, who thought he was in for a big fat paycheck, has not only lost his cash cow but been make to look like a total mug in the process.

Well done Sia!

Read the full story here.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

Cheers, Steve!

I had an email from the CEO and co-founder of TripAdvisor, Steve Kaufer, the other day – thanking me for posting my 150th review. Wasn’t that nice?!TripAdvisor logoNow, the cynics amongst you might think that this was a computer generated email because Steve Kaufer is far too busy and important to email ickle ol’ me. But I like to think otherwise.

On a serious note, TripAdvisor is a site I rely heavily on when planning trips and I really value the insight shared by other travellers. I never book a hotel without referring to TripAdvisor as it’s a great way to get real people’s opinions, and I think it’s important to contribute as well.

A while ago I posted my top 5 tips for writing a TripAdvisor review. You can read them here.

I recently found out that you can also review flights on TripAdvisor, so have been doing that too. I couldn’t speak highly enough about Malaysia Airlines after our trip to Penang (read about that herehere, here, here, and here) and Kuala Lumpur (read about that here, here, and here) – the service, comfort and food were all faultless. On the flip side, our flights to and from Greece (trip report here and here) with Thomas Cook were really uncomfortable; all squished in with hardly and leg room or arm room. Ironically the inflight magazine boasted how all of the fleet were now lots more comfortable with great inflight entertainment – not on our metal bird they weren’t! I reviewed both honestly and truthfully, to give future travellers an idea of what to expect.

TripAdvisor has also been instrumental in planning our trip to Rome for my 40th birthday, and our trip to Santorini for our 10th wedding anniversary next year. Super exciting!

Are you a TripAdvisor fan? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

 

 

5 things I eat as an adult that I wouldn’t touch as a child

As I sat eating my fish, chips and mushy peas on Friday night, I had a flashback to being about 6 years old and sitting in the school dinner hall while a boy from my class flashed a luminescent green grin full of mushy peas. I’m not sure if that was the point at which I decided I didn’t like them, but it sticks in my head as the reason, for many many years, I always told people that I didn’t eat mushy peas. Everything about them seemed wrong to me – the colour (why were they so bright?!), the texture (so sloppy) and just the very concept.

Mushy peas

Fast forward to probably as recently as last year, and the husband assured me that I was missing out. So, one night, I had a taste and he was right! I really liked the flavour. The texture, which I had been so against, was the perfect accompaniment for fish and chips and, was it just me or did they look less nuclear green too?

What changed? Was it my tastebuds? My perception? My greedy approach to life and fear of missing out?!

Here are some more things I wouldn’t eat as a kid, but have big love for now.

Parsnips

Probably my most favourite meal in the whole wide world is my Mom’s beef stew and dumplings, with boiled potatoes, lashings of Worcestershire sauce and fresh white bread for mopping up the gravy (mouth actually watering). When I was little, my Dad used to like parsnips in it. I hated parsnips. They were too perfumed and spoilt my favourite dinner. Taking the parsnips out of my bowl of food wasn’t good enough, I could still taste them! And heaven forbid they appear on a roast dinner!

Parsnips

These days I’m all for parsnips. My Mom doesn’t put them in stew, but that’s because other family members don’t like them. I’d wolf them down! Roast parsnips are an integral part of a roast dinner, and I’ve been known to make and eat parsnip mash in the past too (it’s nice on top of a shepherd’s pie). Beautiful.

Tomatoes

Even getting a tomato seed on my hand used to freak me out, and they always tasted so bitter and wrong. I would only have tinned tomato juice on my English breakfast, not any of the tinned tomatoes.

Tomatoes

Now tomato is an integral part of a good salad (especially sweet cherry tomatoes), delicious when it’s the tinned variety and a welcome addition to a juicy burger.

Gherkins

Going to McDonalds always involved opening the burger, removing the top bun and fishing out the gherkins to be thrown away. It could be a messy business in a cheeseburger or Big Mac, feeling about in the sauce for the offending critters.

Sliced gherkins

I think the turning point must have been when I’d forgotten to take it off one time and wasn’t offended by it. Now I love pickles on a burger, and my go to Subway sandwich always has a generous handful on top.

Black pudding

I used to watch my Nan cooking black pudding for my Grandad’s greasy fry up breakfast and wonder why on earth anyone would want to eat it. It’s pigs blood and fat, for goodness sake! Then, at a wedding a few years back, the starter included of small pieces of black pudding, which I ate to be polite and found out I really liked.

Black pudding

It can be over powering, so best in small quantities, but is a REALLY good accompaniment as a burger topping, and also works well when dry fried on a none greasy full English breakfast.

How about you? Have your tastebuds changed over the years? Are there things you eat now that you hated when you were younger, or the reverse? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

Friday Feeling [21] – the couple that dresses together…

Are you in a couple? Yes? Imagine for a minute if you suggested to your partner that you wear coordinating clothes? Or they suggested it to you?

One of you would be running for the hills, right?

Not so for cute couple Bon and Pon, who dress along the same theme daily and Instagram their sartorial goings on for all to see.

Just look!

Screenshot_2017-11-03-19-41-38-1

The couple have been married for 37 years, so they’re obviously doing something right, and they have over half a million followers on Instagram!

Read the full story, and follow them on Instagram here.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

 

Hotel Review: Ettington Park

I can’t believe it’s been a year since our lovely friends got married at Ettington Park – part of the HandPicked Hotels group – and I got to be bridesmaid <insert generic “where has this year gone” statement here>

I also can’t believe I never got round to reviewing and sharing pics of the hotel. I only realised when I was trying to free up some storage on my phone and came across them.

So, a year to the date after the event, here it is!

We arrived earlyish on Saturday afternoon to a very warm welcome. The building itself is very grand and gothic; approached by a long driveway and surrounded by acres of grounds.

We stayed in an executive room overlooking the hotel entrance.

Ettington Park room view

The room was a really good size, with a separate lounge area, traditional wooden furniture and fireplace, and a good size modern bathroom with that all important powerful hot shower!

 

The hotel is very opulent throughout, with intricate details like the ceiling in the library, where we had dinner the night before the wedding.

Ettington Park library ceiling

The staff were, without exception, incredibly friendly and helpful, going out of their way to make everything special. On the morning of the wedding, as we dined in the opulent dining room, we asked for a bloody mary to go with our food. The bar wasn’t open by that point (don’t judge us!) so the waiter went and found a member of staff to open it up and make our drinks! (mind you at around £10 per drink it was probably in their best interests – that’s a helluva mark up!)

As I mentioned, the hotel is set in acres of grounds – it’s so big that there are bikes available to hire to go and explore!

Ettington Park bikes for hire

Within the grounds are the ruins of a gothic abbey, which is where our friends tied the knot. So atmospheric.

The food at the wedding breakfast was incredible. Mass catering always comes with a risk, but everything was perfectly cooked, tasty and flavoursome. Again, the service couldn’t be faulted.

Want to see more pictures from the wedding day? The original wedding post is here.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

Friday Feeling [20] – there are lots of ways to help with mental health

There’s a lot of media coverage about mental health lately, and rightly so; it’s important for such a widespread issue to be out in the open and for people to understand more about it. We’re talking more openly than ever about anxiety, depression and personality disorders, and hopefully it’s becoming less of a stigma.

But mental health isn’t just manifested mentally. It can have a physical effect too, and that can be as important to treat as the root cause.

This story about a teenager who had neglected herself so much through her depression that her hair was matted and looked beyond repair is a great representation of that physical manifestation. She felt so worthless and so low that she couldn’t be bothered to wash or brush her hair, and had just left it to it’s own devices. It was in such a state that she asked the hairdresser to shave it off in time for her upcoming school photographs.

But the hairdresser refused, instead dedicating time and patience to grooming the girl’s hair; detangling it and styling it over a period of 13 hours. And, at the end of it, the teenager said that she felt she could actually smile for her school photograph.

Depressed girl and hairdresser

The power of kindness, the power of feeling like someone cares, and even the power of looking good (as fickle as some people seem to think that is) can all help someone with depression to recover. How lovely that the hairdresser recognised that, and made the decision to nurture the suffering girl, rather than just take the easy route.

Read the full story here.

Thanks ,as always, for reading! x