Thursday, 29 September 2016

Those Darn Ducks

When you want to take pictures of the ducks by the canal but your westie chases them into the water #fail

Monday, 26 September 2016

Happy Harvest Festival

We had Harvest Thanksgiving at our Church last week and I took down some of the unsold goodies from our WI stall at the town market the day before to set up. 
Daisy duly helped us out just because she’s good like that. Whilst we tried to put our things on the table, she ran around and sniffed the artfully displayed vegetables. 
However I really don't think we messed the d├ęcor too much.  Just helped it along really. 

Thursday, 22 September 2016

18 Months In

At school I was quite good at science and got the pick of the biology, chemistry or physics.  I opted for biology and for a little while wanted to be a midwife but then I remembered it wasn’t all squishy babies and I hate blood.  From there I went down the english/arts/social subject’s route, so it came as a surprise when I had to write essays on the science of history and then did a MSc in librarianship.
I'm not a scientist but I thought I would use this blog post as an opportunity to do a little study…
18 months ago we moved to Devon, and 18 months before that we moved to Singapore.  I have now lived in Devon for as long as we were in Singapore, and that feels weird.  So here’s a little summary of life in Aberdeenshire, Singapore and Devon.
  • My home and I knew my way around easily
  • My house was a cottage in a valley with only one other house (until 1 month before the move when we stayed in 2 hotels and half a dozen different apartments!)
  • I knew and spoke Doric, could understand Scots, and knew a little Gaelic
  • I shopped at Aldi or co-op
  • I worked and met up monthly with a friend or had lunch with work colleagues
  • We rarely explored Aberdeenshire and took the majesty of the hills and glens for granted.  When we went on holiday we aimed for a hot location that was relaxing.
  • My understanding of the culture, history, law, most prominent religion and education system was very good. 
  • When we left I felt excited and was very ready for a new adventure.
the first snow of 2011

playing at the harbour in Cruden Bay
  • I knew each of the districts of Singapore and had visited them all
  • My house was a giant (by Singapore standards) black and white house with a manicured lawn in a expat area with a local celebrity down the road
  • I knew quite a lot of Singlish and Hokkien
  • I shopped at the CEX, local markets, fairprice and cold storage
  • I attended a monthly book group with the ANZA, weekly walking groups with the Dutch Association, helped with RDA every week, went to the markets or supermarkets, and out for drinks with friends.  I was a foster carer and volunteered with an animal charity too.  I also then became exceptionally good friends with someone (whilst Mark hit it off with her husband too) and we’d all hang out practically daily, going to craft shops, out for brunch, exploring and even on a cruise together.  From this list it’s pretty obvious I did not work!
  • I explored almost every day and had a list of holiday destinations I wanted to see further afield.  I slowly started to take Singapore for granted
  • My understanding of law was that there were lots of rules but I didn’t even bother to try to understand about government.  I knew a bit of history and chose to listen to audio sermon instead of attend a local Chinese Presbyterian church.  I knew what the expats did to send their kids to school.  I pretty much did nothing to integrate myself into society
  • Once we arrived I was so homesick for Aberdeen and constantly looked at house prices and jobs back there, but then I also felt devastated to leave Singapore and our great friends and life there.
Marina Bay

at the best seats in the house for the Grand Prix
  • I know my way around most of Tiverton, a little bit of Exeter, Honiton and Exmouth and still don’t know most towns around where we live.
  • My house is near a country park and looks out over neighbouring houses and rolling fields.
  • Not as many people speak in a ‘west country accent’ here as the amount of people that spoke Doric in Aberdeen, so that’s much easier.  However, if I do speak to someone who speaks like this I really have to listen.  I also love the advert for Cornwall ice cream that speaks Cornish throughout with no subtitles, but I do think local things should be celebrated.
  • I shop at Tesco and try to shop more at local markets and the butcher
  • Mark and I are active in our Church, and I'm also a member of the WI as well as its committee and all of its sub groups (meaning I'm out at least once a week with them), I fit this in around work.
  • We explore Devon at least twice a month (in the weekends) and visit new places every week.  We don’t take anywhere for granted and I’ve got a list of cities and villages I want to visit while in the south west.
  • I know general UK history but don’t really get the fascination with Stonehenge or the Romans.  I don’t even know if there are castles here, but there are certainly lots of ‘big houses’ we can visit with our national trust membership.  We go to a Methodist/Reformed church but its not the same (as Presbyterian obviously!) although everyone’s really nice.  I miss the ‘right of way’ I had in Scotland and I don’t understand the schooling system which is constantly in the news.  I try to integrate and want to settle here but there's no much that I don’t quite get or understand (however I do think I only feel this way because I am trying).
  • When we arrived in Exeter I started a job in less than a week, but I felt homesick for Aberdeen and Singapore.  I now feel Singapore would have changed so much if I went back and I don’t feel like I could go and visit anyone as everyone constantly moves on from there.  I’d not go back to visit to see any sights we missed (a couple of tiny islands close by), but I would spend a night there if I needed to whilst flying or cruising on to somewhere else.  I now love having the seasons again and feel that this is home.
the local market
mobile groceries

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

I am Divergent

I Am Divergent….actually, I'm not, I'm abnegation – thanks buzz feed. 

But the reason I took the quiz was because I’ve fallen for a new heroine.  Since The Hunger Games I’ve been looking for something else to fill the YA gap and although I can’t say that this trilogy does, it’s still really good. 

What I do love about this book is Tris, who’s point of view the books is taken from.  I'm nothing like the best parts of Tris, who is brave and strong.  (Sideways glance at a picture from Kota Kinabalu where I needed to get off the Jet Ski as I couldn’t stop screaming that I was going to lose grip of Mark).  She is the type of hero I wished I read about when I was a teenager and I think it’s great that so many girls (and boys) can read about her ‘journey’ and witness a strong female.

This is taken directly from Good Reads description of the first book in the series, Divergent:

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

I think I'm still looking for something to really sink my teeth into which leads me to my next point that seeing as next month is October, and October means reading Dracula, I'm not rushing to pinterest and good reads for ideas just yet.

Another small problem I have with finding something great to read is that I have been banned from adopting new books seeing as our last set of movers made that 50 meters of books is not really the average.  Therefore I need to get books from our local library and wait in great big long queues or try to find something I want to read there.  But, you know, I'm abnegation, so I wont complain…..

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Waggy Tails

I need to admit something….Daisy dog is spoiled.  Ok, it’s worst that than, if I see a dog, I'm going to speak to them.  If they look friendly, I'm petting them.  If there's a dog charity, it’s getting my money.  And if I see a stray, I'm taking them home.

From collecting lost dogs in Singapore and getting them delivered back to their owners, or catching stray dogs to take home and feed, there's not a dog that can walk past me looking sorrowful without them being given care.

I can be selfish and stubborn, so I'm not saying that I'm fantastic.  I just hope there's a dog that can vouch for me when I try to get in to Heaven….because if they’re chasing their tail instead, I'm done for.   
On Saturday I had big plans to make full use of the heritage day open doors events taking place up and down the country.   Mark was busy with harvest festival things so I took Daisy out quite early to get her exhausted and sleepy so that I could walk into town and go up the church tower or see the halls in town.

Unfortunately just as I was heading home having made good time I saw my kryptonite sniffing around the road, an old, golden Labrador with little white tufts and big dreamy eyes plodding over the junction.  I called over to some neighbours to keep an eye on him whilst I ran home with Daisy to drop her off and use her lead to catch my foundling (who I’ll now call Fred - just because I feel like it).  In doing so I shouted out to Mark who promptly shouted back down from the den to not bring another dog home (pft, like he knows me?).

Fred was so sweet that he let me put the lead on him right away and after knocking on a few doors I decided the local shop might know who he belonged to.  Sadly he wasn’t familiar to them so I went home again to ask Mark to phone the dog warden whilst I took the dog up to the canal in case he was being looked for their.  Mark had better luck than me, so I fed Fred and tried to wipe him down as best as I could (as he had a fair bit of mud on him). 

I was starting to feel really sad for him and worried he had been thrown out when a little boy knocked on the door to say that he was looking for a dog and had been directed our way.  Luckily Fred’s owner, an elderly gent who lived just up the road, had asked the boys playing football in the park to keep an eye out for Fred and in just an hour about 50 kids were combing the streets (I love my town).

This was all great news that we got Fred back to his owner but I am a bit concerned that Daisy dog (or come to think of it, Fred) didn’t alert me to strangers snooping over the fence in our back garden. I now totally forgive Mark for making all that noise when putting in the expensive burglar alarm.  My spoiled little Daisy might not be up to the job!

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Reverse Bucket List

Sometimes I'm downright grumpy, I can be negative and super inflexible, and for most of these occasions Mark will call me out on it.  I'm glad he’s not just some boyfriend who has to put up with my Princess Moods, but my husband who wants the best for me, which includes making sure I don’t pout my way through life.
Ok, that’s the negative; some great things about me are that I'm helpful, courteous and patient.  I love pottering about the house and want to make nice meals for my family, I want Daisy to be given long walks and I want my house to be homely and welcoming.  This means that I get up relatively early each morning to get our dinner sorted for the evening and take Daisy out for a pleasant and peaceful long stroll.
 Recently, I’ve really started to notice the dark mornings and evenings which is seriously cutting into my ‘out and about’ time and its starting to get harder to drag myself out of bed.  The duvet and blankets are pleasantly heavy and the pillows are deliciously soft, so when Daisy is sitting on my chest staring into my sleepy eyes it’s pure love that gets me out of my cosy nest.  Its dark and I'm used to getting 20+ hours of sunlight over summer from my Aberdeen days, if I haven’t had that I'm not ready for 12 hours of darkness from autumn.  This, quite frankly, is a recipe for Princess Moods.  So in the spirit of growth and learning (and so my weary husband doesn’t need to give me a figurative shake) I’ve written up a reverse bucket list.  If I had a seen it, done it list this would be it.

Sheila’s list of great achievements to remember when feeling gloomy or negative a.k.a. The Reverse Bucket List:
  • Graduating from University (….twice)
  • Getting married to my very best friend
  • Buying a home I love and having a comfortable lifestyle
  • Travelling throughout Europe and Asia with my husband
  • Travelling throughout Europe and North America as a child/teenager
  • Living abroad
  • Scuba diving and snorkelling all over the world (and meeting a real life Nemo!)
  • Living next to the beach and listening to the waves every night
  • Living very rurally so I see more stars than I thought possible every night
  • Going on holiday with my very best (girly) friend
  • Being brave enough to make new friends when I knew absolutely no one (for a classic introvert this is massive!)
I'm sure there are many more reasons to be thankful and make me shake off 'the gloom', but I think what I've written down so far is already so much, and I just need to keep reminding myself of that.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Facts About Me

So I’ve realised even though I kept a blog before from the site traffic I see there's a few new people on here too so I thought I would do a ‘5 facts about me’ post so I could let you know a little bit more about me.

Favourite food?

My favourite food hands down is and always has been lasagne.  When I was little we used to pick our favourite meal for our Birthday Tea (seeing as Birthdays don’t always fall on party days) and I always said “lasagne, wedges and garlic bread”.  It’s what I still say…

Earliest memory?

Ok, Mark doesn’t believe me and I feel like I should google this to prove I'm right and I can remember this far back, but my earliest memories are from when I was 3 or possibly earlier.

I distinctly remember sitting on my Mums knee in the flat we used to live in, I know exactly where the tv, fireplace and table was.  I remember in great detail how the living room was decorated and I distinctly remember watching a cartoon about a helicopter (but I know it wasn’t budgie) when my brother and his friend came in and chatted at me.  My other memory is standing up in a cot and looking out into the hallway and being frustrated that my Mum wasn’t coming to get me.  I saw my Mum walk past in the hallway in her dressing gown aaaand that’s it. 

Mark is pretty sure I can’t remember this far back, but I know I do and those are such boring memories it’s not like I’d know them from someone else reminiscing.

Favourite holiday or trip?
I’ve been really lucky that my Mum loved to travel and obviously took me with her on lots of trips and holidays when I was little and I'm sure this must be where I got my love of travel from.  I’ve been to Borneo twice and would go back in a heartbeat, I also love Cyprus where I’d love to buy an apartment, I’ve been to Canada and Madeira before knowing Mark and want him to see how beautiful it is, but I think my favourite holiday was in Tioman, a small island off of Malaysia. 
our 'home' for the fortnight
I think its extra bittersweet because part of the amazing time we had was the people we met there and also how quiet and secluded it is.  We know that now they’ve built a great big hotel right next to our beautiful beach huts and also if we went back we wouldn’t have the same group.  So my favourite holiday ever is Tioman.
Proudest achievement?

I grew up in quite a strict house (as well as a Calvinist house) so we don’t really do achievements.  However, although I enjoyed doing my MA I did find it hard at times and was proud I did well in my degree.  I did this while going through a lot of family turmoil/fallout and even moved house and planned a wedding whilst writing my dissertation. 

I also know how tough times were in the past, so am really grateful for everything I have now and do recognise that the life I do have is so far from where I was heading when I was younger.  So I do have to say that exactly where I am now is a pretty big achievement i.e. education, happy marriage, good friends and support network, house, job and disposable income / ability to travel as it’s absolutely not where I could have ended up.

Where you most want to visit?

My wish list is exhaustive but includes, Peru (for Machu Picchu), Mexico (for scuba diving), Vermont, West Canada, cruise and train in Alaska/Canada, San Francisco, New England (as a leaf peeper), Moscow and St Petersburg, Bavaria, Switzerland, leisurely train ride through Italy (mostly to see Venice, Rome and Pisa but lots of stops in between), Iceland, Lapland, and possibly New Zealand….so just a small list then.
This is something Mark and I have actually been talking a lot about as it’s our 10 year wedding anniversary the year after next and we want to take a special holiday for it.  I still don’t know what on my list my favourite is but it looks like, as our anniversary is in late October, we’re leaning towards Australia (for spring weather), South America (as it’s the end of the rainy season) or somewhere to see the leaves in North America.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

New Term Resolution

Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the Fall
The Great Gatsby

This is one of my favourite quotes (along with all the FIRE and positivity quotes you’ll find on my pinterest) from one of my favourite and most frustrating books I have ever read.

I spent about 20 years in some sort of education or another, taking me from a small rural primary school to a giant business school, and so invariably feel that life does indeed start over again in autumn. 

Therefor I'm now going to share my new term resolutions with you, and as another pinterest quote goes, it’s not a goal until it’s written down.

I used to love writing stories when I was little and loved my old blog I kept after Mark and I tied the knot.  I love looking back through old posts and pictures and missed not writing when we moved back from Singapore.  I am therefor going to aim to keep writing here and my resolution is to do at least 3 posts a week as a reminder of everything we get up to whilst out and about.

I don’t read nearly as much as I should so to ease me back into it my resolution is to read 2 books a month.

Organised Meal Planning
I love being in the kitchen and cooking, so when I fail to plan or organise myself I just take away some time that I would love.  So my new resolution is to have at least 1 thought out/pinterest dinner a week.  

Right now off to get pinning and planning!

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Sunday Lunch at The Hartnoll Hotel

Sunday was a rainy, muggy, down right damp sort of day.  After non-stop sunshine I’m sure the ground needed it, but I'm certainly not completely ready to say goodbye to summer and am still expecting a bit of an Indian summer to be honest.
On top of this we’ve had trouble with our washing machine and dishwasher (I’m seriously rethinking this whole being a property owner thing…hmmm).
However, the weekend took a significant turn for the better when after church Mark suggested heading out for Sunday Lunch.  At first we were going to look into a local garden centre and the pub next door to it, but when we accidently took a wrong turn I remembered The Hartnoll Hotel in Bolham and their delicious looking lunches.
Bolham is a cute little village at the bottom of the road from Knightshayes, it has sweet little cottages and a red telephone box which is now used for book swaps.  That road out of town leads you north through a green valley and through the countryside along a road that’s never too busy when we’ve been on it. 
I wasn’t all together hopeful as the Hartnoll has an atmosphere of somewhere you absolutely should be on a damp, rainy day as it’s so cosy, homely and welcoming.  I love the countryside on this part of town and although just off the road, the Hartnoll has large gardens where you can get afternoon tea.    

When we drove into the car park I was telling my optimistic husband to lower his expectations….this place was bound to be booked up.  As we went into the bar area we could see the large conservatory had a few people in it but besides another couple, who looked like residents, we were the only people in the bar.  When we asked they said they could seat us there and showed us to a freshly made table.

The linens were white and crisp, the chairs were plump, cushioned and covered in tartan and it was a lovely cosy atmosphere.  We were given the Sunday Lunch menu which was exactly what we wanted anyway and I picked winter vegetable soup with croutons, roast beef, roast beef and sticky toffee pudding with ice cream.  Mark picked a fancy prawn cocktail, roasted pork loin and rhubarb an apple crumble.  Apart from my Yorkshire pudding and our potatoes the vegetables and sauces were on the table to share, although apart from a couple of carrots I didn’t take anything. 
I would definitely go here again and even looked up the cost of having our Christmas dinner here but it is a whopping £90pp, although I'm sure the service and food is great, we can order all our food from M&S for that price so it fell at the first hurdle. 

We meant to have a productive day and go to the laundrette, get to the supermarket before it closed, and take Daisy out for a long walk.  However we were as lazy as could be and ended up having a nap which stretched into watching Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone (revision for our trip to Leavesdon) before having tea and toast for dinner. 
Daisy got her walk, but because it was raining she huffed, puffed, sighed and tugged until we went her way.  This meant we only went on a short circuit and we were back home to watch Roald Dahls Marvellous Book, X Factor and Victoria after just 45 minutes.  This is a perfect recipe for a very lazy Sunday.