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2010

3 Feb

Inspired by the lovely Livy, I have decided to complete this little quiz for 2010!

1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?

Got married; bought a puppy; visited California. An eventful year!

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I can’t remember making any! I think we were just so smug at not having to pledge to quit smoking, because we had done so in 2009. I am definitely making them for 2011. There’s much to do!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

My neighbour, who has become a good friend, gave birth just before Christmas. Mostly people just fell pregnant, so 2011 will be the year of the baby.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, thankfully. There have been too many in recent years.

5. What countries did you visit?

UK and US. We weren’t travelling due to wedding and honeymoon saving, so that was 11 months without a break! Painful…

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?

Job satisfaction. A well-behaved puppy.

7. What dates from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

7 August, our wedding day.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Bringing home the perfect puppy. Signing off the practising certificate and enabling job freedom. Ack, it’s hard to count getting married and falling pregnant as an achievement. We make such a huge thing of it, and most people do it, so it’s relatively mundane!

9. What was your biggest failure?

Lack of pre-wedding weight loss. Lack of post-conception weight gain. My body is fighting me!

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nope! I had plenty in 2009.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Meg

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

Amazing friends who made me feel so loved – Ciara, Elly, Manuela, and baby sister Ellie. My husband, who never fails to surprise me with his awesomeness.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and anyone else who encourages hatred or seeks to restrict the rights of others. Parents who laugh when their children bully others. People who twist their religion to use it as a weapon of hate and judgement. Anyone who will burn a book they have never read.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Honeymoon, then wedding.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Getting married. Getting Meg. Getting pregnant.

16. What song will always remind you of 2010?

One Night in Bangkok.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

(a) happier or sadder? happier

(b) thinner or fatter? same

(c) richer or poorer? poorer

Whoa. That was a life lesson, wasn’t it?

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Working, travelling

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Stressing, spending, drinking

20. How did you spend Christmas?

At Dad’s with the family.

21. Did you fall in love in 2010?

Yes, with my beautiful pup.

22. What was your favourite TV programme?

I couldn’t pick one. Buffy will always remain my desert island DVD!

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

No. Hating people is far too tiring.

24. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Taylor Swift. I joined the party very late.

25. What did you want and get?

A lovely wedding, and a fun honeymoon. Meg.

26. What did you want and not get?

People to put aside their differences and share in the excitement.

27. What was your favorite film of this year?

I have actually seen so few films this year. Alice in Wonderland was a bitter disappointment due to the unspeakably weak story, Alice’s complete lack of character, and their bizarre idea to completely ignore the Opium Wars in her amazing plans. I’ll have to go with Toy Story 3, because it was funny and sweet and made me cry.

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I went to work, then drove to Milton Keynes for my hen weekend. I was 28.

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Exercising financial restraint.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?

I’m sorry, what? I gave up magazines for Lent a few years back. Life is significantly better without them.

31. What kept you sane?

My boy.

32. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I know I’ll never have a chance with  him, but NPH gives me butterflies. Charlie Hunnam, until I realised that he was the annoying one in Green Street.

33. What political issue stirred you the most?

Welfare dependency. Nobody should be undernourished, homeless, in danger, idle or without adequate healthcare. I believe that is the responsibility of the taxpayer. Anything beyond that is 100% the responsibility of the individual or charities.

34. Who did you miss?

Grandad. He would have been so excited to add “Great” to his title officially.

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010:

Little yellow dogs are good luck charms.

Please feel free to post again and let me know so I can come and read!

Honeymoon – San Francisco

20 Oct

Day One

The morning after the wedding, we were up at 6am to leave for the airport, for our horribly long flight to San Francisco.

This was our first time flying Premium Economy with Virgin, and it was worth every penny. Patrick’s great height means that the length of his thighs is equal to the distance between the back of the seat in front to the furthest back point that you can sit. If the person in front keeps their seat upright, it’s uncomfortable; if they lay it back, it’s unbearable. Politely ask someone not to put their seat back, you say? Yeah, we tried that once… It turns out that people are extremely rude! Who knew? Anyway, seeing as my beloved is deemed some kind of space-waster by the powers-that-be, the only answer is to splurge.

The first leg of our Californian Extravaganza was a two night stay in San Francisco – city of love, cable cars and serious hills. I’m a big Charmed fan, so I was really looking forward to experiencing this picturesque and eclectic city. We landed at around 2pm local time, which was actually 10pm back in the UK, so were fairly knackered. The plan for our first afternoon was to check into the Sheraton at Fisherman’s Wharf before heading out to Chinatown for an early supper.

The hotel was very pleasant – a bit business-oriented, but with spacious, clean rooms and excellent facilities. Navigating the city was tricky and it was significantly colder than we had imagined. After some serious sleep-deprivation, we were just about ready to jump into the first restaurant we saw – not the greatest start! After some pretty horrific all-you-can-eat dim sum – just thinking about the non-specific mince makes me a little queasy – we decided we’d be best off getting an early night.

Heading back to the hotel, we seemed to attract every crazy, rambling, homeless person. Having lived in London and Birmingham – the latter in some very dodgy areas – I can honestly say that I had never felt unsafe walking around a city until we were in San Francisco. An attempt at using the cable car was disastrous – the queues were about three cars’ worth long. Once you’re on, it’s a bit of a crazy ride – I was too busy trying to cling on for dear life to really make the most of the scenery.

Day one written off due to excessive tiredness, we were in bed by 8pm!

Day Two

Today, we planned to visit Alcatraz, to do some general exploring, and dinner at the Stinking Rose. Our body clocks were still a little crazy, so we were up super early and decided to make the most of it by hitting the gym! The hotel’s gym was lovely, and we worked hard to earn a proper American buffet breakfast of waffles, bacon and sausage.

We decided to carry on the activity kick and walk to Lombard Street, San Francisco’s unique zig-zagged private road. It was very cool to see how the city formed around the crazy landscape. Despite having packed for what we had imagined to be a typical Californian August, we managed to scrape together enough warm layers – as well as a hot coffee – to make the day’s sightseeing a bit more comfortable.

A quick stop at the world-famous Ghirardelli’s and then we headed down to the docks to catch the boat to Alcatraz.

The Alcatraz tour was a really amazing experience. The atmosphere on the island is so eerie, and learning about the varied history was fascinating. We all know about its role as a high-security prison, housing some of the most dangerous criminals of its time, but I didn’t know about the island’s importance in the fight for Native American rights.

The cells were absolutely tiny, and it’s amazing to think of the difference between what we consider to be basic human rights now and then. One particularly interesting fact was that Alcatraz was one of the only prisons of its time to use hot water, because they didn’t want the inmates to become so acclimatised to cold water that they could swim away with any ease.

The island is a nature reserve now, and the plants were really beautiful. It also offered some spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline and the Bay Bridge , which seemed to be half-swallowed by the cloud.

Back on the mainland, we decided to find a City Tour bus to soak up as many of the sights as possible in our last afternoon. Unfortunately, we had no luck finding the always-reliable and sensibly-priced City Sightseeing bus, so we gave the first one we saw a try. How much? Try twice the price of a City Sightseeing bus!

The cold weather was starting to cause some serious sense of humour failure, especially when the only words you could actually understand over the speaker were “you think it’s cold now? Just wait til we get to the bridge!” Ha, frickin’ ha. We abandoned the bus at the Golden Gate Bride, and bought coffee to warm our hands. It turns out that public transport in San Francisco isn’t half bad (considering I live in Wiltshire!) and so we got a proper, fully-closed bus back to have dinner at the Stinking Rose.

The Stinking Rose was one of the things I was most looking forward to about our trip. The whole restaurant is a shrine to garlic – every dish contains the stuff! The food was spectacular – they start you off with a bowl of garlic and parsley in oil, with a tonne of bread. Patrick had meat loaf, and I ordered pork chop, as it’s one of the things that American restaurants do spectacularly well.

Pork chop is just a run-of-the-mill Thursday night dinner type of thing here, but our cousins across the pond manage to make it juicy, succulent and the size of your head! Both dishes were delicious, and despite the piles of amazing, garlicky bread, we managed to save some room for the garlic vanilla ice cream! It was very strange, but tasty nonetheless.

The only let-down at this restaurant was the service – I was always led to believe that service in American restaurants is excellent, because serving staff are so dependent on tips. In San Francisco, this didn’t appear to be the case. I don’t know if it’s because we Brits have a bad reputation when it comes to tipping, and so they decide not to bother trying to earn any, but seriously, I’ve had friendlier service in France!

Day Three

The next morning, the barely-Anglophone Eastern European waitress at Bourdain’s Bakery was even worse. I’m a huge believer that the location of your mother’s uterus on your date of birth should not affect how your life works out – I’d campaign for completely open borders if anyone would listen! But I won’t go into how much I feel it’d make the world a better place right here. It just drives me crazy when business owners appoint those who cannot speak English in service positions, just to save a buck.

One of the things I absolutely adore about Californian cuisine is their propensity to put all kinds of foods into bread bowls! I tried a scrummy bacon, mushroom and pepper scramble for breakfast, but the best thing has to be the more liquid things – clam chowder; chilli; soup.

After breakfast, we got a cab to the airport to pick up the hire car and start the road trip. I’m hoping that it was a combination of jet lag and a comedown from the adrenaline of the wedding, but we were so disappointed in San Francisco, and desperately excited to move on to sunnier climes! So many friends and family absolutely adore the city that we are determined to give it another try some day, not least because we would love to take our future children to Alcatraz. If we’d had more time, we would have made sure to visit the Walt Disney Family Museum, and if we’d had more money, we’d have stayed in a more intimate boutique hotel. Our recent travels to the same safe places have dulled our exploration skills, and I think those are essential in a city like San Francisco.

I’m aware that the first instalment of our honeymoon write-up may make me sound like a misery-guts, but I promise there are happier times to come!

Coming up – Napa

Back to Earth

15 Oct

I had always been a bit concerned about the so-called post-nuptial depression. The wedding day is a big high, especially when you’ve been gearing up for it for so long. I’m particularly prone to the blues upon returning from holiday, and with the honeymoon (report coming soon!) being such a biggie, I knew that I had to be careful to keep my spirits high when I got home.

A few weeks before the wedding, my full-time contract with an accountancy firm came to an end, with only a few weeks notice. It was a scary position to be in, as between us we have more debt to repay that either of us had really faced up to. The return from honeymoon was going to present us with a number of new lifestyle resolutions.

As it turned out, we got back to reality with the promise of a bump. I had felt a little strange at times on honeymoon, but had just put it down to jet lag and too much rich food, but a pregnancy test confirmed it. We were heading to London that same day for Patrick’s mum’s birthday, so we excitedly shared the news with our respective families.

Despite my determination, I gave in to the pee-on-a-stick obsession, just to be sure that I hadn’t been mistaken. All sources I discovered stated that it’s virtually impossible to get a false positive, but still, I tested again, and got a negative. I felt so silly – we’d rushed to tell everybody and now we were going to have to go “um… sorry.” Consultation with my motherliest of friends told me to ditch the Tesco Value tests (don’t judge me – I’m broke) and splurge on one of the special ones that tells you how many weeks. Since then I have learnt that it’s not really a quality or reliability thing, but simply the sensitivity of the test. If you were to use a cheap one while at basketball-under-jumper stage, you’d definitely get a clear positive, but in the early stages, it’s a bit hit-or-miss.

After forking out for the test, and deciding to actually follow the directions and only test first pee of the morning, I got a positive result, but it said 1-2 weeks, when by my calculations, it should have been much later. This was my first clue that things weren’t going well. Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse and over the course of the next week, the pregnancy was no more.

It’s a strange position to be in – to lose an unplanned pregnancy. We were so excited – the second we got a positive, we were delighted about our future – but from our perspective, it wasn’t the tragedy that miscarriage so often means. For one thing, it helped us to realise that now is absolutely the right time for us. It confirmed that should we choose to try again, neither of us faced any of the fertility issues that can be so trying for some couples.

I’m not saying that the experience hasn’t been difficult – I feel like everyone I know, from friends and neighbours to the writers of the wedding blogs I used to read, is pregnant. I’m working hard not to feel envious, but it’s not easy. Then there’s the blame game – at the early stage I was, they insist that it’s “one of those things”, but when you think of rollercoasters, margaritas and all the fun-yet-forbidden things you did before you were aware that you were pregnant, it’s difficult not to question. We’ve resolved to pick up, dust off and try again.

Think the week couldn’t get much worse? Well, I don’t know if it was down to the week we were having already, but somehow we managed to oversleep and miss our flights to Romania for my dear friend’s wedding, and – financial situation raising its ugly head once again – there was no way we could afford to take another flight. I was so gutted – she means the world to me and I hate that I missed it.

We decided that it was time to lift ourselves out from under the raincloud. Patrick’s dad and step-mum had very kindly agreed to buy us a puppy as a wedding present. As I would now be working from home, it was the perfect time to go and find our new furbaby.

I’d like to introduce you all to the newest addition to our family – Meg. She is a 12-and-a-half-week old yellow labrador-cum-foot-warmer, and both the highlight and bane of my existence! We picked her up five weeks ago from a lovely family in Corsham, and she has turned our household upside down.

I have become one of those people – the ones who talk about their pets as if they are children. Don’t write me off as the crazy cat lady just yet, but this really does feel like a practice run for when we manage to fall pregnant again. Don’t believe me?

1. Our lives revolve around the whims of her teeny tiny bladder. The rule of thumb we’ve been given is that up to 6 months of age, they can go one hour per month, plus an additional hour. We’re increasing intervals by fifteen minutes a week, but it means that even now, we take one shift each during the night!

2. We haven’t had a night out since we got her. We’ve met with friends briefly, but she can only spend a few hours in her cage, and with the cold weather setting in, we don’t want to leave her outside. The internet is full of shouty, angry people who will tear your head off if you ask any questions on the subject. Be warned.

3. We post about her on Facebook incessantly. Actually, it’s Patrick more than me, but that’s because I’m so aware of not being the incessant Facebook posting person!

4. Sometimes, we just sit and look at her, and that’s enough.

5. It’s impossible to go to the loo alone any more.

There’s a difference; I know. But just having her here definitely makes us feel like more than just a couple: a family.

A Break, and What Next?

11 Sep

Wow, I’ve been off for a while! I must give sincerest thanks to those who are still checking in here – I’ve barely even had time to keep up with my favourite blogs lately, so I appreciate those who continue to read very much.I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the direction this blog is going to take. I don’t have a niche, or a particularly strong idea. I do, however, know that I’m really not a naturally happy-clappy person. Any efforts I may have made to emulate the feeling some of my favourite lifestyle blogs just haven’t felt like my real voice, and the best responses I’ve received have been when I’ve been, well, a little bit rant-y.So, instead of lifestyle, I’m going to just do *my* life – what I’m thinking about; what’s happening here; what really gets me enthused, good or bad. There will also be full wedding and honeymoon reports – I have to share my extensive photo collection with someone and my disastrously slow laptop just isn’t up to the challenge right now!Massive thanks to Fliss at AnyOtherWedding for giving me that kick… And watch this space!The picture? I’m a bit of an Americana-geek. Having my first Twinkie from a convenience tour in a small California town excited me more than it would most people.

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