Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Essential Expenditure and Pet Insurance

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love her floppy ear - it only perks up when treats or walks are mentioned
Andrew, as the Financial Controller of our household, has been reviewing our outgoings and interrogating me asking about the importance of some of our regular expenses. If I don’t start using the gym, for example, that particular membership is history. (Apparently, popping there to have my eyebrows done and buy Costa coffee doesn’t count.) We have had these conversations before when Andrew has conducted one of his little household expense reviews and our pet insurance has previously come under the spotlight. I heard him joking on the phone the other day that when he first met me the dog was insured for more than him! (No comment. Ha!) 

snuggling on the sofa with us (needing a haircut)
I bought Lizzie as a puppy, a while before I met Andrew.  She is my first dog and although I was excited to bring her home I was also very aware of the commitment and responsibility of having a pet.  I desperately wanted to do my best to look after her.  Our family has kept dogs for as long as I can remember and it was my Mum who advised that I set up an insurance policy.  I arranged for it immediately - the monthly premium was a relatively small amount of money and I figured it was the grown-up and responsible thing to do.  

After her first season (yuck) Lizzie became very ill. She was only about six months old and had been completely healthy up until then.  I was scared.  I whisked her to the vet where she had an emergency operation to remove her reproductive organs - she had developed a serious infection and, I am told, could have died.  It was a horrible time for me and would have been made even worse if I had been forced to find the £800 for the vet bill.  I told Andrew this story the first time he queried whether we really needed pet insurance - Lizzie seems quite healthy after all, he said.  I haven't needed to explain it again - he gets it and the insurance remains firmly on our essentials list.  I cannot recommend it enough.

keeping me company in our home office
I am not sure I can come up with quite such a compelling reason as to why I need to keep my £45 gym membership, however. I’m going to have to dust off my trainers. My thighs will thank me, I’m sure! 



Sunday, 26 February 2012

Weekly round-up and a giveaway winner

My first ever giveaway has now closed.  Rather than using the random number generator I went for the old-fashioned approach:

Names were all written down and put into my pretty vintage glass dish.   I did a little drum roll (in my head) and the winner is....

It's Ann from Vintage At The Corner House.  Well done Ann - if you let me have your address I'll pop the parcel in the post!  I said that I would pop in a few surprise treats and I already know what I'm going to include.  Such fun. :-)


I've done a bit of shopping this week and was thrilled to find these Ruby & Ed slippers in the sale.  £12.50 instead of £35.  A bargain and I'm keeping these for holidays and overnight stays.  A bit of posh on hols is always good.

There has also been lots of snuggling under the eiderdown.  This little beauty was a purchase from Peony & Sage just after Christmas. 
I'd been wanting a nice eiderdown but could never find a vintage one that I felt comfortable with.  I love the fabrics at Peony & Sage and I am so glad I bought this.  It wasn't cheap (which at least encouraged me to sell some clutter on ebay) but it was worth every penny.  It is thick, heavy and warm, the fabric is beautiful and it is the perfect size to drag around the house.  We regularly snuggle under it on the sofa to watch TV and when I sit on the bed to crochet, watch iPlayer or read I pull it up over myself.  Lovely - makes me feel so relaxed and cosy.
I've been wanting to show you these cute little charms for a while.  They make fab crochet stitch markers.  I do have a few stitch markers but they are quite ordinary - this little shoe is currently saving my place on the giant granny square (I have so nearly finished it but my attentions have been focused on my cross-stitch cushion kit).  

Finally,  I've set myself a challenge to indulge my creative side.  I work full-time as a PA in the finance industry and, as you can imagine, rarely have the opportunity to be creative.  

The challenge is to take more photographs.  I had a new camera for Christmas, which I love, but bought a fancy new lens for it and the automatic settings no longer cut the mustard.  I am not getting the shots I am after - the bokeh effect kicks in too often and parts of the image are blurred when I don't want them to be.  It is frustrating me.  Practice (and lessons, I think) will be the way forward.

The biggest obstacle I face is my confidence (always the way with me).  I am self-conscious taking photographs in public.  There are so many snaps I'd like to take and I would love to have my proper camera with me all of the time, just in case, but I feel foolish taking photos of what other people consider to be ordinary things.  I ate out with my family last weekend for my grandma's birthday and my family laughed at me for taking photos.  It was an absolutely stunning building and there were so many gorgeous things I wanted to capture.  I took two photographs of a couple of [beautiful] lamps and gave up.  When I got home I was disappointed in myself.  So I'm going to take one photo, at least,  a day.  I hope it will break down any mental blocks I have about photographing in public.  Lots of people do it and I'm jumping on the bandwagon.

I've started small, just using my iphone, but I'll work up to taking my DSLR out and about with me.  I'm saving up for a gorgeous Kelly Moore camera bag as we speak.

Have a great week!  And thanks, as always, for stopping by.



PS Big news - I'm not dreading Monday so much!  Yay!  I have joined a knit and natter group which gets together every other Monday - it's my first night tomorrow.  So excited!  Hope I get on OK. :-)  Cheering my Monday right up.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Countdown to the weekend

Countdown to the weekend begins now.  Woo hoo!   

Am practically body popping as I type this.  Do you ever do excited little body pops?  A lot of people I know do fast little claps when they're excited (a bit like seals/Graham Norton).  I do that too, sometimes, but my 'default' excited reaction is to body pop.  I am a big fan of expressive dance! :-)  It horrifies my stepson which, obviously, encourages me.

It has been a busy week again.  That's why I don't get round to everyone's blogs as much as I would like.   I catch up via google reader and read every post but just don't have time to comment.  This is partly because I use my iPad a lot these days (and I find commenting with an iPad soo frustrating) but mostly because my world just got crazy busy, in a 'scream if you wanna go faster' kind of way.  Except I didn't scream.

(Also, I have to admit, the word verification/spambot identifier on blogger is starting to annoy me - have they added another word to the process or is it just my bad luck?  The letters seem to be super-hard to read, too, and it can take me a couple of tries before I get it right.)

Suddenly, emails at work have trebled in number.  Demands on me have increased.  My phone has been ringing like a bonkers thing and instant messages have been popping up left, right and centre.  I've had five family birthdays in the last four weeks.  The sixth, and final, one is on Sunday (happy birthday Mum!).  I've made two birthday cakes and had lots of meals out to celebrate said birthdays.  I've also spent a fortune on birthday presents.  Our weekends have been spent running errands.

I caught up on a lot of work today - got things straight.  Admitted defeat with some things and asked for help.  There are no more birthday cakes to be decorated for a while now and we got paid (*little body pop*) so my cash flow troubles have eased.

There are so many things I want to chat about but I'll save them for another day - I think I am going to start doing a weekly round up on a Friday to capture the best, and the worst, of my week.  I'm going to try a more structured approach to blogging in the hope it forces me to carve out time to spend here.

In the meantime I'll leave you with a photo of the rocking chair I bought from a charity shop over Christmas.  I've been pimping it up (although I think it's pretty handsome here anyhow) and will do my big reveal next week!

The cable in this photo drives me potty.  Wish I'd seen it before I took the photo.  I hate untidy cables!

Let me tell you, I love this chair.  It's a big seat to fit my [ever expanding] bum comfortably.  I can pull it right up to the fire and get properly warm.  When I sit here with my sherry and my crochet by the fire I am a happy girl! :-)

Thanks so much to everyone who has joined my giveaway.  I'm so happy that I've chosen some goodies that appeal to you and really chuffed to find that I've got some new followers which means more blogs for me to read and people for me to meet!  It isn't too late to join - it closes on Sunday morning - so visit here if you fancy putting your name in the hat.  Everyone is welcome so do spread the word - there must be loads of blogs/bloggers out there who I have yet to meet.




Monday, 20 February 2012

A Blog Anniversary Giveaway

To celebrate a year of blogging, I am holding a little giveaway.

At this point I could let you know that my blog friend Ashley is holding a fab giveaway over at Country Rose, but if I send you over that way you might never come back. ;-)

Baking is one of my favourite things to do.  It helps me to relax, I use it as a way to show people that I care and I especially like to pretty up my bakes whenever I have time.  So I thought a baking-themed giveaway would be appropriate.

Included in the giveaway is: 

*  A copy of Annie Rigg 'Decorated Gingerbread'

*  A Tala icing bag set

*  Ninjabread Men cookie cutters

*  A set of Russian doll measuring spoons

*  Divine Deli Decorate! mini chocolate beans and white chocolate drops

It has taken almost all of my willpower to give away these fun Ninjabread Men cookie cutters and the Russian Doll measuring spoons that have been kindly donated by  I love them!

I've also included this retro style Tala icing bag set.  I have one of these myself and love it so I bought one for you.  The tins, obviously, are nice but it's good to have a proper little container in which to store all of my piping nozzles.  There are a few shapes and sizes here which will get you started if you haven't tried piping before.  There's also a little instruction booklet.

The Divine Deli Decorate! cake decorations are my very favourite.  I don't think there are any stockists near me so I stock up online buying several jars at a time.  They are fab quality, there's a good choice and I like the packaging too.  I use these mini beans a lot and can also recommend the strawberry buttons, caramel curls, sticky toffee crunch and chocolate coffee beans.  All of these things are lovely with ice cream or yogurt too.

I'll add a couple of surprise treats specifically picked for the winner when the giveaway closes.

So, to enter all you need to do is:  

* become a follower of my blog if you aren't already


* comment here to say you'd like to win.

Easy peasy! 

If you link to me on your blog and/or tweet it please pop back and let me know for a second entry. The winner will be selected via the random number generator thingy.  

I will close down the comments on Sunday morning (26th February) and everyone is welcome to join - I will happily post the package overseas. 

Good luck and have a fab week! 



26/2/12:  Comments for this post are now closed.  Thank you to everyone who entered! 

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Loved up

 Instagram photo of the beautiful roses I had delivered today.  So chuffed with them.  

I know a lot of people don't 'do' Valentines Day but WE DO!  Chocs and Prosecco instead of dinner tonight?  Film in front of the fire?  The perfect excuse to shower my husband in kisses?  Gotta love it.

Love to you all on this special, cheesy, day.   
And if you're missing someone you love today, have a big hug from me.  



PS And Mum, I'm OK so don't worry about me.  Love you and will ring you later. 

Saturday, 11 February 2012

When the winter blues kick in...

We all write our blogs for different reasons and I like my blog to be a happy place.  It isn't a diary for me but a space to record favourite things, special memories and experiences.  It is a way for me to share stuff that makes me happy and provides the opportunity for me to slow down and notice the small things that might otherwise be lost in the noise of everyday life.

Generally, I am quite a lively person.  I manage to keep my chipper up most of the time and I'm pretty good at cheering up other people too.  I think I'm a fairly positive person to hang out with and I find pleasure in the smallest things.   Yay me.

If I used my blog as an outlet for all the frustrations and disappointments in my life then today I'd be writing about a favourite lamp that the cleaners secretly broke, my complete lack of money (27p in my personal current account right now - another personal best) and the fact that my forthcoming [hideous] dental treatment is going to cost a small fortune.  I'd probably grumble that I'm freezing cold most of the time and I would whinge for a while that my hair desperately needs colouring, my eyebrows need taming and I rather fancy a whole new look.  On top of that, I might mutter under my breath that I can't shift this jeffing muffin top and I still can't find my gorgeous Russell & Bromley platform brogues.


But I refuse to dwell on that stuff - none of it is really important. (Although I do have to prioritise my finances to pay for my dental treatment.  Might have to sell a kidney.  Or my gran.)

It's the weekend!   

We have no specific demands on us so early tomorrow morning we're going to make a huge flask of milky hot chocolate, wrap up a substantial wedge of fruit cake and head into the snowy fields with the pooch for a long winter walk.

When we get back I will take a cup of tea and a book up to the bathroom and have a long, leisurely soak in the bath using my favourite Ren rose oil whilst the husband watches the football.   Isn't it a luxury to bathe mid-afternoon.

I will paint my nails, slather myself in thick body cream and put on my cosy cashmere trousers.

Who knows how I will spend the afternoon.  Perhaps I'll potter around the kitchen, do some baking, catch up on a bit of TV (Desperate Housewives, New Girl and Call the Midwife) or even watch an old movie with Drew.

I am determined to finish my giant granny square blanket this weekend and may even start the [beginner's] cross-stitch cushion kit I've recently picked up.

Sunday will begin with a Zumba class followed by a healthy relaxed brunch.  I will paint my beloved rocking chair and then the husband and I are off to the cinema.

(Did you notice how I glossed over the fact that I will also have a huge pile of ironing to get through, a very messy wardrobe to sort out and one or two items to list on eBay... boring.  See, it's all about focusing on the positives around here!)

Whatever you are doing, have a good one.  

Be sure to do one thing to treat yourself this weekend - let's beat those winter blues! 



PS Hello to my new followers! *waves like a loon*  Thank you so much for visiting and commenting on my posts.  It really means such a lot and if I haven't already I will swing by yours soon.  Put the kettle on!  :-)

Oooh, and I've been chuffed to receive a few awards lately from some of my favourite bloggers.  I haven't forgotten about them and I will properly accept them in separate post.  Thank you for thinking of me.  How I love this friendly crafty blogging community.  Sigh.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

The new polka dot bag and other happy stories

Sickeningly happy at the moment.  On-top-of-the-world, want-to-hug-myself and smile-at-strangers happy.  I might be a little bit irritating - sorry about that.

Completely in ♥♥♥ with my new polka dot satchel:

I am 100% chuffed as nuts with it.  I went for the largest size traditional satchel because I plan to use it for my laptop when I go into the office.  It's roomy without being bulky and fits my laptop, cables and notebook perfectly.  It's genuine leather and lush quality - even came with a little signed certificate by the ladies who made it.  This baby will last me a lifetime.  I am crazy for polka dots at the moment and red is my new favourite colour - this bag makes my heart do little skips.  I can't stop looking at it!  

For work I wear either black, grey or beige - my winter coat is plain grey and very sensible so this little beauty will give my outfits a little blast of colour.  It's from Zatchels and they are available in all kinds of sizes, styles and colours.  I quite fancy a neon pink number too.  Love.  Love.  Love.


Remember the pretty tea set and spoons that my MIL gave me a while back?  Well she emailed me last weekend to say that she'd picked up some little glasses because she thought I'd like them....

Like them?  I LOVE them!  There are six and all are in tip-top condition.  Apparently they were in a box on the floor ready to be put up for sale - I never have such luck in charity shops to catch things that early.  So lovely of her to think of me and she wouldn't accept the money for them either.

Perfect for sherry o'clock!


I missed my yoga class yesterday morning.  I was up bright and early, wearing plenty of layers to deal with early morning stretching in the cold.  As soon as I stepped outside I knew I wouldn't be going to yoga.  The sun was shining brightly and a thick frost was sparkling on every surface.  It was, quite simply, the most beautiful winter morning.  I did an about-turn back up the drive and into the house.  Dumped my yoga bag, called the dog and was out the door again.  It was crispy cold outside and as I tramped through the fields with the dog trotting and sniffing by my feet I had an overwhelming sense of wellbeing.  I actually stood at the entrance of one field, stretched my arms high over my head (trying to make up for missing the yoga class - felt a bit guilty) and it occurred to me that I had an enormous smile on my face.  What a hippy! 

I stayed out for an hour and a half, all by myself.  I am so happy I made that spontaneous decision to ditch the yoga and enjoy the morning.  At lunchtime it turned grey and misty - by 4pm we had the first sprinkling of snow.

We made a quick trip to Brackley Antique Cellar (it's my new favourite place) where I picked up a gorgeous chunky old candlestick, a couple of other knick-knacks and some Annie Sloan paint.  I bought an old rocking chair over Christmas which I am going to have a bash at painting.  

It is my Great Auntie's 70th Birthday on Tuesday and the whole family met for lunch today.  There were 24 of us in total with about eight children, it was very noisy and I'm sure everyone else in the pub was delighted when we left!  

Bunting that my cousin's wife made for my niece.  Isn't it lush!
As we were leaving we all gathered together for a group photo and roped an innocent passerby into taking the snap.  There was a huge beer garden at the pub which proved the perfect place for the children to have a snowball fight. Before long, we adults had all joined in!  I love my extended family - we are all quite close and they are all really good fun.  I'm a lucky girl to have such great people in my life.  

(Told you I was sickeningly happy.)

So a bit of a long post I'm afraid.  I wait until I have a sufficient amount of time to blog and then I have too much to say! I've discovered the addiction that is Twitter - if you have an account, please say hello! I'm @xxnickifxx.  

I really like taking little shots of my day on Instagram to post via twitter. Here are some recent ones:

Mini Malteser bunny
Stopping for a quick cuppa
Baked mini sponges with my new pan
Swapped sides with the husband to keep away from the cold window. It's weird but I love my new little space!
Manic Monday tomorrow.  I intend to get through my least favourite day by moving my home office temporarily to the dining room where I'll work by the fire and stay snug.  

Have a great week everyone!