03.09

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Do you know what I’ve always admired most about my Mum? Hands down, it’s her joie de vivre.

She has this incredible, unending appetite for life that seems never to diminish, but instead to grow as the years go by.

I’m sure I’ve told you before about how the dynamic between us has always been the total opposite of that of the typical Mother-Daughter relationship, in that my Mum is by far in a way the more adventurous and outgoing of the two of us.

She spent her younger years travelling the world on the QEII (the biggest cruise liner in existence, at the time!), booked herself onto a trip to Ghana a couple of years after hitting the big Five-Oh, and barely a week goes by where she’s not signing up for some new short course at the local adult education centre, or zipping off to visit friends in far flung corners of the UK.

Meanwhile, I’m more likely to be found researching recipes for the perfect winter chutney, or rereading my favourite books (Little Women, anyone?), or telling anyone who’ll listen how elated I am that I’ve managed to keep my tubs of herbs growing happily for almost an entire season now.

I mean, if you ever want advice on how to grow older with style and grace and exuberance, you’ll just have to ask my Mum!

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A couple of weeks ago, Vauxhall dropped me an email asking if I knew of anyone over the age of 50 who happened to embody the spirit of their ‘#ThisGranCan’ campaign. The campaign, as I was to find out, is a celebration of the adventurous spirit and ‘can-do’ mindset that many women over the age of 50 have, and is coinciding with the launch of the VIVA, their newest and nippiest little car (the first model launched over 50 years ago!) And you know, as it happens, I *did* know someone who fit the bill just beautifully!

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Which is how it came to be that, a couple of Fridays ago, my Mum and I were seated comfortably in the smart leather seats of a shiny grey Vauxhall VIVA, shooting down the M3 singing loudly and poorly along to my wedding playlist! And I’ll tell you for starters, that car won major bonus points with me for its swish USB connector alone…looking at you Fiat 500 with your stupid non-functioning media system.

We left bright and early for Brighton that morning, keeping our fingers crossed for a day of good weather to go along with the adventures we had planned. I’d been given strict instructions by Vauxhall to let my Mum take the reigns when it came to selecting our activities for the day, and given that my usual idea of a good time pretty much just involves eating, pottering, and taking photos, it was probably a sensible plan to put our Day Of Fun in the hands of one Ms Dianne B! ;)

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First on the agenda? Why, a trip to the pier, of course!

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^^ Oh Brighton and your beautiful pastel paintwork. You stole my heart! ^^

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If you can believe it, despite living a mere hour or so’s drive from Brighton almost my entire life, I’d never actually been before. Sacrilege, right?

We decided that our first port of call should be a visit to one of the vendors of hot sugary carbs that are scattered at handy intervals along the pier. Mum went classy (-ish, this is Brighton pier we’re talking about!) with a crepe, whilst I bagged myself some doughnuts with Nutella dipping sauce (did you see that coming? I’m as predictable as there being rain on Bank Holidays in the UK). The crepe was good, but the doughnuts, if you ask me, were best. But then again, anything with Nutella was bound to be, wasn’t it?

Once we’d eaten our fill and left ourselves feeling a little sick from all that sugar (though I’m lying when I say ‘ourselves’ here, since really it was only me…), what better to do next than hit the rides?

To the carousel!

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N E V E R   T O O   O L D   F O R   T H E   C A R O U S E L . . .

Friends, the carousel is just as much fun at the ages of 20-something and 50-something as it was when you were a tot. The tinny music, the wind in your hair, the view from the brightly coloured horses that always zip round faster than it looked like they would from the sidelines- it felt like the clock had rolled back!

A little sidenote here, but I’ll treasure that snap of my Mum up there forever! I just love it so very much. (And for goodness SAKE please let me have inherited her beautiful skin!)

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What I wore :: Skirt || Top || Flipflops

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Our morning went by in several goes on the carousel, one trip down the Helter Skelter, and a myriad of turns taken on the arcade games right at the end the pier. My especial favourites were the basketball throwing and air hockey games, though no fluffy unicorns were won on any of our goes, which was maybe the biggest disappointment of my adult life to date…;)

What came next in the day though, after we’d paused for a little lunch at The Breakfast Club in the Lanes, turned out to be one of the most incredible experiences either of us had ever had in our lifetimes.

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But for those adventure stories? You’ll have to come back on Sunday…

~ This post, and our day down in Brighton, was sponsored by Vauxhall. Watch the ‘This Gran Can film here, & find out more about the VIVA here! ~

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Posted in BEACH, DAY TRIPS, FAMILY, MUM, Sponsored, SUMMER

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24.08

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‘Has everything gone back to normal now?’…

is the question I’m being asked most often these days. ‘How does it feel being a wife?’ is probably the next most frequently asked, with ‘has coming down from all the excitement been tricky?’  following in closely behind. And the answers to all three? Yes, yes, and oh my GOODNESS yes!

The return to normality has been a strange one, if I’m honest. I told you before that it feels as though everything and nothing has changed, and over a month in it remains true. I look at Jason and still see the same constant, steady source of happiness and love and inspiration and joy that he’s been to me for the last six years. We still stay in and watch television or read books and cook dinner together most weekday evenings, and have friends and family over for wine and dinners cooked outside on the grill at the weekends. We still say hasty ‘hi and goodbyes!’ as he arrives home just as I’m heading out of the door to exercise classes, trade off who gets the dog most during one week or the next, and still bicker about really super important issues like ‘you forgot to hang out your towel to dry again’, and ‘for the love of God please put that damn electric drill up into the loft where it belongs’.

But normality has this new resonance now. It feels…deeper, maybe? More profound, more secure? I’m not sure there’s even a word capable of expressing it. I keep glancing over at Jason and catching sight of his wedding band, and the mental picture of placing that band on his finger in front of the people we love most in the world last month comes dancing into my mind, and then I’m beaming like a fool in the middle of Waitrose or sat in the meeting room at his offices or wherever we both happen to be at the time. It’s magic.

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True normality is coming back slowly, and though at first I was reluctant to say goodbye to the few weeks of fizzy excitement that surrounded the wedding, coming back to our regular routines now feels lovely in its own way.

Being back in London last week felt like the final step in returning to regular life. Running for trains, spotting mice in the Underground, lugging round bags full of cameras and spare batteries and memory cards and chargers, getting blisters on my feet from walking walking walking all day long- it felt cathartic, in its own funny, tiresome sort of way.

I’d headed over to Shoreditch for a day of working and brainstorming and taking photos, and just generally having a long awaited catch up with my love Tania. We’d not seen each other since the wedding, and had so very much to tell one another that the afternoon ended up being not quite as productive as we’d envisaged…

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What did get done though, in our characteristically diligent style, was the eating of some outstandingly good food. I’d picked up some bread and coffee on my way through to Tania’s, and was met by the sight of cookies being placed into a hot oven to bake, and the promise of courgette and potato rostis with poached eggs for lunch. What can I say- my friends are just the greatest! ;)

We sat about chatting whilst eating cookie batter off wooden spoons, then faffed about taking so many photos of our poached eggs and their runny yolks that they’d turned stone cold by the time we actually picked up our knives and forks.

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Since cookies and tea weren’t quite sweet enough for our sweet teeth, we decided to go for a  wander through Borough market in search of gelato. Despite not having the first idea where to find good gelato around Borough market, we happily stumbled upon 3BIS Gelateria, just next to Neal’s Yard Dairy. It was a little overpriced, as is to be expected of all food and drink at Borough market, but absolutely delicious and with plenty of special diet options, too. I chose the soy pistachio gelato (not because it was soy especially, but because you can never go wrong with pistachio), and it was so creamy you’d never for a second guess it was made from something other than cow’s milk.

Worth a visit, if you ever happen to be in the Borough market area and find yourself in need of a second lunchtime dessert…

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What I wore ::
Cardigan
Blouse
Jeans
Handbag
Shoes
Necklace

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Posted in DAY TRIPS, LONDON, WORN

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07.07

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And so the wedding celebrations begin! {p.s. The teapot contained ice for a picnic. I’ve not taken to carrying one around just on the off chance I might fancy a cuppa…}

I remember my early teenage years as being pretty much an endless series of sleepovers. My best friends and I would spend our weekends and holidays hopping between each other’s houses (or rather, being taxi-ed around by our long suffering parents), taking nothing with us but a toothbrush because we knew we’d all wind up raiding one another’s wardrobes anyway. We’d stay up into the early hours of the night talking about everything from boys to whatever gossip was hottest at school to our art GCSE projects, and our days were filled with nonsense like dressing up in the silliest outfits we could concoct (then taking 1001 photos, of course), eating ourselves stupid, and maybe (if we’d manage to wangle it with our parents), heading out to a party armed with a four pack of alcopops to share between us. It was bliss.

And so it turns out, when your best friend organises for you a three day hen weekend sleepover (a bachelorette, for my American readers!) that encompasses everything you loved most about those carefree teenage days, you’re in for a pretty special time!

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All I knew about my hen party was that we were heading down to Chichester on Friday evening, and that we’d spend two nights staying in a little country cottage before heading up to my Mum’s for afternoon tea on the Sunday. My cousin Sophie picked me up a little before 7 after work on Friday, and after getting ourselves so badly lost on the drive that we actually went through the Hindhead tunnel twice and made a brief accidental detour into a caravan park, we finally arrived at Flintstones cottage! We (my sisters-in-law-to-be Nat and Clare, maid of honour Jo, cousin Sophie, and soul sisters Tania and Freya) polished off a few rounds of fajitas, and then got to the main event of the evening. Tequila!

Now, you’ll know that I’m not the biggest fan of alcohol. Sure, I’m happy to indulge in the odd glass of wine or cocktail, but anything beyond that? I’m out. In fact, I’m such a notorious lightweight that Jo came armed with ample suppliers of painkillers (for headaches) and lemonade (for watering down my drinks!)! But do you know what? I’ve finally found my calling- I can handle tequila like a trooper! Salt – tequila – lemon…and not even a shudder! I hope you’re suitably impressed ;)

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We woke up on Saturday morning feeling surprisingly sprightly (after such a late evening of games and silliness the night before!), and even managed to sneak down to visit the ponies and have a wander around the wheat fields before settling in to breakfast.

After a few rounds of toast and croissants, the girls and I suited up in workout gear (Jo requested we all bring with us ‘something we could move in’- intriguing!) and then proceeded to spend the rest of the morning in a state of hysteria. You see, Jo had arranged for a dance teacher called Sarah to come and teach us a routine to ‘Work It’ (a song I once choreographed a dance to for an assembly at our very-Catholic-indeed senior school, not realising that the lyrics are out of this world inappropriate!;), and it was seriously the most brilliantly fun way to spend a morning! Sarah was the sweetest, and we wound up with aching bellies from laughing so hard! Since there’s not a single person on earth who looks attractive whilst photographed midway through performing the running man I’ll save you from the photos, but just know that making up dance routines is most definitely just as fun at 24 as it was at 14!

After giving the performance of our lives for the various people who pottered past our cottage whilst we did one last rendition of our dance routine (they loved it, I could tell), we made a quick change from leggings to dresses, armed ourselves with picnic hampers, and headed off to Priory Park in Chichester.

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Priory Park was beautiful- I’d never visited Chichester before this weekend, and now can’t think why not! After demolishing our picnic (roast chicken, salads, quiche…champagne. You know, the usual Saturday afternoon picnic routine!) we went for a potter around the town centre, and into a vintage and antique fair that tested every ounce of will power I have not to walk away with armfuls of vintage dresses and recovered Scandinavian enamelware. Be still my heart.

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^^ Next stop- cocktail o’clock back at the cottage! ^^

Strawberry daiquiris and mojitos were on the menu for the afternoon, so we set about crushing ice and muddling limes with mint and sugar and adding liberal amounts of rum to strawberries. And we made some good’uns!

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The final surprise of the day was to come via Jo’s laptop. We settled round the dining table to play the Mr and Mrs game, but instead of it being just a regular set of Qs and As, Jo had asked Jason to record himself asking me the questions and then sharing the correct answer instead! It wound up being a pretty emotional afternoon- the ‘what did I say when I asked you to marry me’ question resulted in all 7 of us getting just a *touch* teary-eyed! And when I say a ‘touch’, I mean that *some* of us had to leave the table to go and get supplies of tissues…Clare ;) Can you even imagine how we’ll all be at the wedding?!

The evenings were maybe my favourite part of the weekend. We stayed up late both nights, but on the Saturday evening we stayed bundled up on the sofa talking until almost 3am. Spending quality time with some of my favourite people in the whole world, laughing and drinking tea and snaffling biscuits and putting the world to rights- it did my heart good! In fact, I honestly can’t remember when I last laughed as much as I did this weekend!

Final stop on the hen weekend adventures to come tomorrow- a summer garden tea party!

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Posted in DAY TRIPS, FAMILY, FRIENDS, SUMMER, TRAVEL, WEDDING, WEEKEND BREAK

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31.05

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Since our route back home from Yorkshire last weekend skirted us round the outside of York, we decided to take the opportunity to head into the city. When we arrived I asked for recommendations on Twitter for where we should go to eat, drink, and sightsee, and immediately started making an agenda based on all the suggestions. A tour of the cathedral! Lunch at The Star! And Betty’s Betty’s Betty’s!

Turns out though, my plans were to be thwarted by time. We couldn’t really spend any longer than two or three hours in the city without getting caught in the mad end of Bank Holiday traffic, and also only had enough change on us to feed the meter to the tune of a couple of short hours.

With our time restraints in mind, we got moving…

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York turned out to be even more adorable than I’d imagined- full of narrow, cobbled lanes and leaning buildings and tiny, beautifully-dressed shopfronts. The cathedral above doesn’t even look real, does it?

We wandered through the Shambles, quickly gave up trying to compete for photo-taking space with every other tourist in York that day, and then headed out in the direction of Betty’s. Betty’s is, as it turns out, the most famous tearoom and bakery in the North of England. I’d only heard of it once before via my lovely friend Kat, but when we said we’d be in York for the day, countless people recommended we go! Sara (another Y.shire-based blogger friend!) had mentioned that the queue for Betty’s might be long, and I’ll admit scoffed at the idea initially. A queue? To get into a bakery? Do me a favour, was precisely what I thought to myself.

HA. How wrong I was! By the time we got there, the queue was right out of the door and wrapped round the first corner of the building! It must be *seriously* good cake! With such a short time in the city, we decided to pass up the experience and turned to Twitter for a recommendation of where else to go instead.

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To the rescue came Becky, blogger behind the beautiful Poppy and Pickle! She recommended that we head to a cafe called Brew + Brownie, promising that they serve really great coffee and cake. And you know what? She couldn’t have been more right!

Brew + Brownie was a total photographer’s dream- beautiful filament lightbulbs and natural wood surfaces everywhere, with the counter covered in rows of the most tempting cakes imaginable. It was pretty busy, but we managed to nab a couple of seats at the bar. Good job too, because the hanger was setting in *fast* ;) The menu was pretty simple (whopper sandwiches, toasties, all-day pancakes, and just one lone salad thrown in for good measure), and everything looked so tempting we easily could’ve ordered one of everything and been done with it. In the end though, Jason chose the pulled pork ciabatta, whilst I went for a toasted brie and bacon sandwich that turned out to be the very best decision I’d made all weekend.
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I mean, just *look* at it. Have you ever seen a more beautiful sandwich in all your life? The brie was toasted to perfection (soft and oozy!), the bacon was thick cut and delicious, and the bread? Oh, that bread. Sourdough, crisp on the outside and soft within, with plenty of little golden cheesy crunchy bits clinging to the crust. As a rule I try not to eat wheat too often (meaning that I’ll pass up heavy, twice-weekly bowls of pasta in favour of a once a fortnight burger or pizza blow out ;), and so having a toasted sandwich like that was a total treat.

If picking out that sandwich from the menu was the best decision I made all weekend, the next best was only eating 2/3rds of it, so that I could save space for a slice of the toffee apple cake. Because I’m being serious now, that cake might be the best of its kind I’ve ever had. Rich and cinnamony, peppered with slices of soft cooked apple, and a layer of sticky, treacly toffee sauce on top. I ate it halfway down the M1 during our drive home back down to Surrey, with my feet up on the dashboard and an expression of total bliss on my face. I did share the slice with Jason and am not at all ashamed to say that the sharing was somewhat begrudging, because a cake that good is bound to bring out someone’s selfish side. Right?

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So really, with cake that divine, who needs Betty’s? Okay okay, I do, but I’m determined to head back North sometime soon and stick it out in the queue for a table!

And that, as they say, was that! Whistlestop three-day tour of Yorkshire? Done!

P.s. I just shared a video from our trip on my YouTube channel! Click through to have a nosy! It contains the words ‘oh my god the wedding’s off’, just FYI ;)

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Posted in CITY, DAY TRIPS, FOOD, JASON, RESTAURANT, TRAVEL, WEEKEND BREAK

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