Monday, 27 February 2017

The story of our home

For years Josh and I would walk past houses and beautiful new streets and comment on how nice it all looked, hoping that one day we'd be living somewhere similar. There was one particular estate in the village Josh lived in that always got us talking, although we never walked up the street we would often walk along the path that ran parralell to the estate and notice the mixture of brick and stone houses, which at the time Josh and I got together, were only a couple of years old. There was one house in particular that would always have us uttering the words "That looks a nice house". It was a beautiful stone, semi detached house at the end of the street and tucked away in a quiet corner.
 8 years passed and each time we walked up that path one of us would utter the same words we had the first time we'd walked past it. 

Then we started house hunting ourselves  and it quickly became clear we wanted to live in Josh's village. I'd scroll through Right Move daily looking for houses to view, during one of my daily scrolls a house popped up, semi-detached, corner plot, made from stone. I loved it! However at that point there were no internal images of the house to view. Then I read the description, the house didn't have a combi boiler but a seperate boiler and water tank. I'd grown up with that system and knew it was a bit of a ball ache not having instant hot water. I dismissed the house on the grounds that we didn't have a budget that would stretch to replacing the boiler as well as furnishing and decorating. I told Josh about the house that evening and he agreed as lovely as it was we couldn't afford a new boiler.

 A few days passed and each time I looked on Right Move, that house was there staring back at me, then our local weekly paper was released and my Dad showed me the housing supplement and pointed out the very same house I'd seen, the same day Josh's Mum also sent us a photo of the that house. That's when we realised where the house actually was, on the same estate we'd spent 8 years commenting on, what's more it was the same house we'd loved from the path, having only ever seen half of the house and only from the side neither of us had known it was the house we'd loved for so long. A couple of days later the internal photo's were uploaded on Right Move, and the rest, as they say, is history. Here we are living in our dream home and yes we did get the boiler replaced! 

We actually put the offer in for our house a year ago today and we've been here 6 months now and I still have to pinch myself to check that it's real. Sometimes I find my mind wandering during the day and I get a burst of happiness that at the end of the working day I get to go home to Josh, to our beautiful home and of course to our two fur babies. Each morning I walk up the same path Josh and I walked up and I see the view of the house that we spent years looking at only this time the house is ours! I feel so incredibly proud of what we've achieved annd I know any house Josh and I would have moved into would have been lovely, but this one feels extra special, it already had a story and memories before we even moved in and for that I feel especially grateful. I hope the sense of pride, achievement and the great love I have for our home never ends.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Amsterdam Mini Cruise

I've wanted to visit Amsterdam for years, in fact it even featured on my travel bucket list, so when I found out that my Dad and stepmum had booked for Josh and I to go on an Amsterdam mini cruise as a Christmas present, I was beyond excited. Unfortunately we didn't get many photo's as it rained quite bad whilst we were there but that didn't put us off the city at all, I for one fell in love with it and we've both said we'll return but in the summer months. I thought I'd share with you a little bit about the mini cruise and what we got up to in Amsterdam.

The cruise
We sailed with P&O ferries from Hull to Rotterdam, as we went on holiday with a coach firm we traveled into Amsterdam on a coach so I can't comment on the ease of getting to Amsterdam if you went on the ferry as a foot passenger. 

The ferry doesn't actually set sail until around 8.15pm so you're onboard a good couple of hours before setting off. There are various bars, a coffee shop, duty free shops and a cinema onboard but some of the things don't open until a little later on. On the first night of crossing over to Amsterdam we had tea on the ship as we'd booked a meal deal for breakfast and dinner at the buffet restaurant then headed for a drink. Keep in mind it's a cheap and cheerful way of traveling so 5 star entertainment isn't to be expected but the band that played were fairly decent.

 I actually felt fine when the ferry set off, I could tell we were moving because of the vibration but in terms of rocking and swaying it was pretty calm, I'd also loaded up on motion sickness tablets! However when we headed to bed I had a really rough night, the vibration of the boat kept me awake and then around 4am the sea got very rough and from that moment on I didn't sleep at all so the next morning I was very tired and felt extremely sick. Coming back however was very different, it was much calmer and I barely felt any movement when I went to bed, I slept like a log and was nausea free the next morning. It hasn't put me off mini cruises as I think our crossing to Rotterdam was a lot rougher than usual but it is something to keep in mind if you suffer with motion sickness. 

If you have a basic cabin you'll get bunk beds and a wet room and that's it but to be honest it's just a room to sleep in and get clean so you really don't need anything else. You can upgrade to single twin beds though. 

We had 5 hours in Amsterdam in total, we got taken to the centre from Europort and picked back up again late afternoon to head back to the ferry. Was it enough time? Well yes and no. It was great to get a taste for the city and see the sights but we spent ages trying to navigate our way around the city having never been before so not knowing where anything was. The heavy rain also played a part in restricting what we could do. 

Whilst we were there we explored around the canal area near the Anne Frank house museum, ate pancakes at Pancakes Amsterdam, visited the Anne Frank museum, explored a few of the back streets and took a little walk around the Red Light District. I should have probably started by saying the attitude and culture around drugs and sex is completely different to what it is in the UK, you don't need to go down a seedy backstreet to find any of this stuff it's all out there in the open for everyone to see. From 'coffee shops' selling more than your average latte to shops openly advertising cannabis, magic mushrooms, space cakes etc, sex toy shops, condom shops (yes we went in one, yes it was hilarious and no I didn't buy anything), erotic museums and the infamous sex workers in the windows of the Red Light District. Nothing and I mean nothing is hidden away, it's such an open and liberated city, it's amazing!

Of course the Red Light District has become a tourist attraction in it's own right now so really you have to visit and trust me when I say it's not scummy or dirty, no one is standing and gawping because it's all so out in the open that you don't need to! We went to the Old Sailor bar whilst there for a quick drink, it's right in the heart of the RLD but I'd really recommend a visit. 

We'd pre-booked tickets to visit the Anne Frank house museum, I'd recommend pre-booking as the queue can get pretty long. I'm really glad we visited, I'm a massive history nerd anyway but the whole experience was quite moving for me, to be walking around the same house that Anne and her family hid in and seeing magazine cuttings she'd stuck to the wall and her height marked out as she grew over the years was a very touching and haunting experience. This really should be at the top of your list of things to do if you visit Amsterdam.

We stumbled upon Pancakes Amsterdam by accident, the rain was getting quite heavy and we'd arrived at the Anne Frank museum a little early so we tried taking shelter in a courtyard which we realised was the entrance to the restaurant and trust me pancakes are a lot more appealing than pouring rain! The restaurant is situated just a couple of minutes from the museum but it is worth noting that it's a card only restaurant. We both opted for the Dutch Pancakes, Josh went plain with a sprinkling of sugar and I went for chocolate sauce and whipped cream, the pancake is huge and fills the plate, I couldn't even finish mine but they are soooo good. I also had one of the best hot chocolates I've ever had here. We found it to be reasonably priced coming in at just short of 19 euros (so around £16) for our order. There's two other Pancakes Amsterdam outlets around the city so you should definitely seek one out!

Our time in Amsterdam may have been brief but it was enough to know we want to return and explore more of what the beautiful city has to offer.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Book Review: We Were Liars

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

The blurb for this novel doesn't seem to give too much away but I love a book with a twist and this sounded just like it would have a great twist which is why I picked to read it. 

We Were Liars focuses around the Sinclair family, a rich and privileged family who holiday together each year on their private island. Away from their beautiful exterior though lies a family being torn apart by greed, envy, lust, hate and in the heart of it all is the patriarch of the family, Harris Sinclair who seems to be the source of all the trouble and enjoys adding fuel to the fire. 

The novel follows Cadence as here cousins through the years as they meet up each Summer until Cadence has an accident that she can't remember. Two years pass by before she returns to the island and is once again reunited with her cousins but she's plagued with migraines as a result of her accident which impacts on the time she can spend with them. Being back on the island and around her cousins seems to trigger more memories for her until finally she can piece together what happened during the summer of her accident and reveals what is really happening. 

I absolutely loved this book, it's actually a young adult novel but I'd definitely say it's for the older end of that category. I couldn't put it down and from the start I knew something wasn't quite right but I didn't guess the twist at all, which by the way left me feeling a variety of emotions, the sign of a great piece of writing surely? I've actually seen quite a few negative reviews of this book despite its critical acclaim and although I can see where some of the reviewers are coming from, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It's a fairly short book given that it slots into the YA category so I'd definitely recommend giving it a read.

Rating: ★★

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Happy List: January 2017

The Happy List is back! For those of you who are unaware of what the Happy List is, it was the first series I ever did on my blog, it started back in 2011 and ran consistently until 2015. It started off as a weekly than a monthly list of positivity. All the little things that had made me happy. Then it stopped, I don't have any real explanation as to why they stopped other than last year my blog took a bit of a backseat with buying a house then moving. Once we'd moved in I struggled to find a routine that allowed me to blog without taking all my spare time up. It's something I'm working on though so I've decided to bring the Happy List back as a monthly feature and see how it goes. If you'd like to see what the Happy List is all about you can look at all my previous posts here.
  So without further ado, here is the January 2017 edition of the Happy List.

  1. Tidying - anyone that knows me well will know I'm not a tidy person. I like the house the be clean but I think there's a big difference between cleaning and tidying and the latter is something I'm not good at. However this month I have taken great pleasure in tidying. After Christmas our spare room was a real mess so that was first on the list to get blitzed, shortly followed by my wardrobe and drawers then the kitchen cupboards. It feels so good to have got rid of stuff I no longer need and I love how everything looks now it's tidy.
  2. Making a start on our home projects - we have a new lantern and coffee tables in the living room. It feels to good to have ticked things off the list already. I think we've made a great start.
  3. Our new living room layout - during Christmas we had to move the chair in the living room to fit our tree in. It turned out we loved the chair in its new position so it's stayed like that. The space feels like it's being better used and it's meant we have room for the above mentioned coffee table which I'm completely in love with. 
  4. Slow cooker meals - this is really sad but one thing I was really looking forwards to when we moved was cooking some beautiful slow cooker meals. I'm currently on the look out for a slow cooker recipe book but so far I've made chilli, stew and slow cooked a gammon joint which was amazing. The best thing is you can cook a big batch then freeze what's left over making weekday meal times super quick!