The Down Side of Down Sizing

What seemed like such a good idea last summer isn’t feeling so great in dreary January.  At the moment our home is a mish mash of clashing colours, horrible carpets and a sticky back plastic bathroom…..and it still smells musty!

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I have no patience you see.  I need those carpets up right now. I need that horrible plastic bathroom cladding ripped off today. I need a bedroom which is a sanctuary – not one with wonky second hand wardrobes and nowhere to put my stuff.

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We have been in for two months now and I seriously underestimated how hard it is to get the work off the ground.  We are not DIYers so need tradesmen for the big jobs and everyone is busy, booked up and with a waiting list.

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The good news is the central heating is booked in to be replaced in two weeks time.  This is the job on which everything else rests, as every room is affected.  The current system works, but bangs so badly you would think it was going to explode so we have to turn it right down and rely on a fan heater for the most part to keep us warm.

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The bathroom suite has been purchased and should be fitted next.  I am desperate to be rid of the ‘comfort’ toilet and the plastic walls.  We have chosen some beautiful tiles and just need to find the right person to fit them for us.

We also have fitted wardrobes on order for March so I will have some space to hang my clothes, most of which are in suitcases.

New sofas are coming next month – way too soon, but I spotted them in the Laura Ashley sale and as they were perfect, they just had to be ordered.

The kitchen/dining room should be started in April when the hacienda style arch will hopefully be no more!  I’ve dithered over kitchen colours – should I have trendy grey, or maybe a classic cream.  Still undecided.

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The garden is still looking pretty ugly, although some snowdrops are peeking through.

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There have been many times when I’ve thought why the hell have we done this…but here we are and I know it will be beautiful a year from now.

I’ll keep you posted!

 

 

Church Lodge Birdham: Review

We had the most relaxing winter seaside break last month in Birdham, West Sussex, staying at the delightful five star B&B Church Lodge.

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Birdham is about a ten minute drive from the beaches of The Witterings and as it was December, they were almost deserted, save for these amazing starfish we found washed up on the beach.

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Just a short stroll away from Birdham, you can reach Chichester Harbour, which on the day we visited, was still frozen and looked all the more beautiful for it.

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Our accommodation at Church Lodge was this Scandi style cabin, kitted out with a huge bed, flat screen TV, shabby chic furniture and sheepskin rugs to warm your toes as you get out of bed.

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The bathroom was tastefully decorated and Nicky, the owner, had provided lots of thoughtful beauty products to make our stay more enjoyable, plus a stash of magazines for reading in the bath!

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Breakfast at Church Lodge is huge and one of the best I’ve had at a B&B.  Everything was great quality, from the home made muesli, the fresh fruit and of course the very filling fry up!

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One of the highlights for me was meeting the resident husky, Roxy, who is absolutely adorable and amenable to a cuddle too!

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Nothing was too much trouble for our hosts Nicky and Martin.  As soon as we arrived we were offered tea and fruit cake in the conservatory while they gave us the low down on where to go and what to see.

We were even invited to Nicky’s Pilates class, although a drink at the local Lamb Inn put paid to that!

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What makes this place special is the hospitality and the feeling that you really are away from it all.  It was the perfect antidote to the crazy run up to Christmas.

 

 

 

 

Our Seventies Bungalow: Before Pictures

We’ve taken on the job of updating this sad little seventies bungalow and making it into a home.  We picked it for its location – in a quiet little close, and for me, its generous sized garden which is south facing and not shaded – completely the opposite to my old shade garden.  I have massive plans for the garden, but that’s another blog post.

So, here we have it: the before photos.  We’ve actually already moved on from here, with a lick of white paint just to neutralise the yucky paint colours.  But brace yourselves!  It is not pretty!

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I can assure you that the nets were the first thing to bite the dust!

 

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We’ve already removed the gates and posts so that we can get the car on.

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The bathroom had a few disability aids which have been removed – we’re planning to remove the airing cupboard and have a walk in shower.

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The main bedroom is big so we’re having fitted wardrobes and getting rid of this flowery carpet.

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This is the dining room with its peculiarly placed boiler – all this is coming out to make a kitchen diner.

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The kitchen is in an extension at the back of the property and is OK to live with for a few months until we get the heating and bathroom done.  It will hopefully be replaced in the summer.

Structurally, the place is OK and it’s a reasonable size, so in 12 months time we could have ourselves a nice little home.

I’ll keep you posted on the refurb!

 

 

 

 

Cosy Cashmere from Damart

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I’ve been growing my cashmere collection for years.  It’s a great way to buy knitwear because your early investment pays off many fold if you look after it well.  I’ve lost count of the cheap sweaters that have lasted one season and ended up in the bin, so now, it’s cashmere whenever possible (with the exception of the occasional sparkly Xmas jumper).

I’m always on the lookout for great cashmere basics and until recently, didn’t know that Damart has a great range of purse friendly cashmere.  They sent me this fabulous edge to edge long length cardigan to review and I have to say it is a (Christmas) cracker!  Warm and cosy, yet light and very wearable, I just know it’s going to be a wardrobe staple, not just this year, but for a few years to come.  What I like best of all is that it has pockets!  Who doesn’t love a cardi with pockets.

My oldest cashmere piece is seven years old and I’ve kept it soft and bobble free by hand washing and using a cashmere comb.  I aim to increase my stock by one piece a year and usually buy in the sales as it can be pricey.  Good cashmere tends to keep its shape so no baggy sleeves or shapeless garments.

I chose grey because it literally goes with everything in my wardrobe.  As we have just moved house and most of my stuff is in suitcases, I’m working on a capsule wadrobe (for the first time in my life!) of black and grey with the odd splash of red and gold.

PS: I know some of you have been asking for photos of our new home.  Well BT only got our internet started yesterday (a three week wait in this day and age!) so I’ve not been blogging.  However, I will soon be posting pictures of our stuck in the seventies home for your amusement!

 

 

 

 

 

A Dream Holiday Win: A Week In Crete

Thanks to the very generous people at Silver Travel Advisor and Simpson Travel, we’ve just spent an amazing week in Western Crete at the GK Beach Hotel.  As you know, I’m a keen comper and I always have my suitcase packed for my next trip, so I was able to combine my travel experience with my comping hobby by adding several reviews onto the Silver Trip Advisor website and I ended up bagging this wonderful prize.

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First thing first.  Let me tell you about the first class pre-departure service we received from Simpson Travel.  A personal booking service, the offer of car hire or private transfer to our hotel, a generous 20kg luggage allowance each, proper luggage labels and meet and greet at Chania airport on arrival with a cool bottle of water.

On arrival at GK Beach we were met by Chris and Sev, our Simpson Travel reps who showed us personally to our junior suite (room 1A) and gave us a run down of the facilities.  It was fabulous to have such a personal touch.  Simpson Travel also provided us with a gift of Cretan honey, lavender oil and some oregano (handy for those Greek salads).  As we were on a B&B basis, they also provided a very generous 50 euro voucher towards dinner and drinks at the hotel.

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The hotel is small and friendly.  All the communal space is outdoor and is, in the main, shared with the general public (with the exception of the pool and certain designated sitting areas and sunbeds for Simpson Travel guests only).

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Our room was bright and spacious with a mini kitchen area so we were able to knock up a quick lunch…..well, until, that is we discovered the village bakery at Kalyves, then it was pies all the way (spinach, feta, potato and burger!).

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Breakfast was an absolute delight and included Greek yoghurt, thyme honey from the owner’s hives, feta cheese, a selection of fruit and veg, a cooked selection (eggs, bacon etc), pastries, excellent quality coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, PG Tips, and the yummiest sourdough bread.

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The location of GK Beach couldn’t be better.  It is right on the beach, five minutes to the local supermarket and 20 minutes walk to the centre of Kalyves with its many tavernas and shops (oh and the aforementioned bakery).

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We dined at GK a couple of evenings. The food is fresh and made to order.  We both had this very tasty sea bream.

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We spent our days walking into the town which has a lovely little harbour, mooching about and generally doing nothing.  There is of course much to see in and around the Souda Bay area, but as we are in the process of moving house, we just wanted to chill out.

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The evenings we didn’t spend at the hotel, we tried some of the local tavernas.  In Provlita, right on the seafront, I had the most delicious lamb chops I have ever tasted in my life. The Greek salad served there was a jewelled masterpiece too!

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My favourite thing to do the whole week, was to sit under this tree in the main square in Kalyves, reading my book, and drinking coffee.

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We had a fabulous break!  Thanks so much to Silver Travel Adviser and Simpson Travel for such a wonderful experience.  Crete has worked its magic on us.  We submitted to the gentle pace of life and have come home refreshed and ready to move house!

 

 

 

Don’t Stop Me Now (I’m Having Such A Good Time)

I think it’s fair to say that this year I’ve had quite a new experiences and taken on quite a few new challenges.

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  • First time at the ballet (The Nutcracker)
  • Took up cycling
  • Went horse riding
  • Levada walking in Madeira
  • Haggling in Marrakech
  • Moving house!
  • Salsa dancing
  • Visited Tenerife, Morocco, Madeira, Malta, Crete, Menorca and Mallorca
  • Performed Vivaldi’s Gloria with Caldy Valley Voices at Chester Cathedral

I don’t think being in my fifties is holding me back! In fact, a recent survey by TENA Lady showed that when asked, 55% of women said that the best thing about getting older was that they would have more time to embark on new hobbies.  Many however, say they are deterred from doing as they wish by bladder weakness.

One of the most unwelcome things about being past menopause and in your mid fifties, is the occasional ‘oops’ moment, when a trickle of urine escapes when you sneeze or cough too hard.  This has been a taboo subject for years, but goodness knows why.  Most of us experience it at some stage, whether we have given birth or not.

Depending on how it affects you, urinary incontinence can be just the teeniest trickle, to a couple of teaspoons, and how you deal with it can vary too.

TENA Lady have a range of products to protect you against leaks; from the lightest panty liner, to a more secure pair of knickers (called Pants Plus which are breathable, discreet and comfortable enough for everyday use) should you need the extra protection.  All TENA products offer triple protection from leaks, odour and moisture, helping you stay dry, secure and confident

I’m hoping that yoga and Pilates classes have strengthened my pelvic floor to the extent that I will never have a significant problem.  However, as one in three of women experience bladder weakness at some stage in their life, it’s good to know there is something you can do about it and there is absolutely no way it should stop you exercising – even dancing, running or aerobics shouldn’t be out of bounds.

I’m lucky that my yoga and Pilates teacher, Helen at Bodywork Pilates is 100% committed to teaching us the importance of working our pelvic floor.  We don’t just go through the motions in our classes – we learn how each move benefits the body.  Strength and stability is key to keeping yourself if tip top condition as you age, and this applies just as much to the muscles that hold you together internally as it does to the skeleton that keeps you upright.

I’m loving being 56.  My mantra in life is to keep learning, keep doing and be excited about new adventures.  I’m always planning my next trip!  Coming up in the next three months (apart from the HUGE moving house adventure) is a rail tour of Andalucia, a trip to see Swan Lake and seeing Queen with Adam Lambert in concert.

Happy days.

*this post is sponsored

 

 

 

 

 

Wine Tasting at Veeno Chester

Veeno, just opposite Chester’s cathedral, is an Italian wine cafe and a foodie heaven, offering a great selection of fine wines and gorgeous Italian food.

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Based on the concept of Italian Aperitivo, the ritual of drinking, nibbling and relaxing after work, Veeno was established in Manchester by two Italian guys Nino Caruso and Andrea Zecchino.

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We were invited along to experience the Selezione Wine Tasting: a two hour feast for the senses which involved tasting six fabulous wines from the family’s own vineyard in Sicily, accompanied by a platter of meat, cheeses and appetisers, all from exceptional quality Italian producers.

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We were guided through each wine selection by Anna, the restaurant manager, who explained the provenance of the wine, tasting notes, and guidance on which of the foods to sample with each of the wines.

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I’m no wine expert so I won’t presume to give you my thoughts on each (after all you can taste them all yourself for £26.90) but in summary this is how it went:

We started with a classic Sicilian Grillo: a slightly oaky dry white to match with the light and fluffy buffalo mozzarella.  Next up was a more floral and fruity Zibibbo which perfectly matched the sharp Pecorino cheese.

At no time did we feel under pressure to move onto the next wine too quickly.  Anna was attentive and came back to our table with the next selection when she could see that we were ready.  This made for a very relaxed experience.

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Alongside the meats and cheeses, we had several breads – great for dipping in the excellent quality olive oil and balsamic.

The third wine was a Syrah rose.  Light and fruity with notes of cherry, strawberry and pomegranate, this accompanied the speck (smoked ham).  Speck is quite a spicy ham but it didn’t overpower the wine.

Moving along the spectrum, we then got to the reds.  The first red, a Perricone had a definite taste of red fruits and was robust enough to live with the strong tasting Bresaola.  The second red, my favourite of all, was a deep and rich Nero d’Avola Riserva  with notes of cocoa.  This was matched with a rich and creamy Gorgonzola with walnuts.

Of course, no Italian feast would be complete without tiramisu, which was served with a shot of Limoncello and a sweet and soft dessert wine, Tagos.

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This made for a pretty perfect Friday night out.  It works as a couples experience, but Veeno also offers group wine tasting sessions which would be great for after work, or a Saturday afternoon treat.   They do gift cards too – just in case you are stuck for ideas for Christmas, birthdays or an anniversary treat.

Of course, it’s not just wine on offer here.  There are oodles of cocktails to choose from and coffees too.  While we were there, people were just popping in for a glass of wine and being just opposite Storyhouse I can see it as a great venue for a pre or post theatre drink and nibbles.

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*I was invited to experience the Selezione Wine Tasting in exchange for my honest review.  It was fabulous!