Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Sunrise, Sunset

As I made my way to the kitchen this morning, I splashed through puddles of sunlight in my entrance hall. The soft golden glow greeted me through the kitchen window as I switched on the kettle for my first cup of tea of the day.

As I waited for the kettle to boil I was transfixed by the scene that lay outside my kitchen window. The autumn mist shrouded the countryside making the barns and farmhouse across the way seem surreal. 

Dew lay thick on the grass and for a few moments, all was still. The stillness was soon broken as a tractor drove past just at the bottom of my garden and I reflected on what a wonderful place the English countryside is.

We have been in our new home for a week now and I keep thanking the Lord for the blessing of this home and its location. I am a true country girl at heart. I love the stillness at night and the busyness of farm life during the day. It reminds me of my childhood where holidays were spent on my aunt's farm in the Eastern Cape. 

The move went really well and by lunchtime on day two, I had unpacked the last box. The only things left to do as it stands now is to hang pictures and sort out the garage. Those things might take a few weeks as the next few weekends are booked up with visiting university open days for the girls. But I'm not too fussed. We generally feel settled and everything has a place that works. I've even managed to get my autumn decorations up but I'll leave that for another post.

On Friday, two days after moving into our home, we collected our kitties from the cattery. They were so happy to be home and with us after 5 weeks of cattery living! Poor things, I felt so sorry for them but they were healthy and still fat so they couldn't have been too unhappy. Right now they are housebound for at least two weeks, preferably three while they get a true sense of home before being allowed to go outside to explore and meet the farm animals. Heart-stoppingly, one of them got out yesterday but we managed to coax her back inside. She was pretty chilled when she was in the garden but I certainly was not!

Meet our curious neighbours. They are all too sweet. These young bulls sleep in the barn that runs along our drive. We love to visit them each day. They seem to enjoy our company and are ever so curious when we arrive. They spend a bit of time staring at us before all crowding round sniffing and licking our hands. Cow 893 (standing staring at the camera) is super friendly and enjoys a good head scratch. So sweet!! I just love these little fellows.

This morning I dug my bird feeder out of the garage. We have a little-hedged garden (well it will be a garden, right now it's a hedge and a square patch of bare earth) outside our bedroom window. The birds absolutely love it there, so far I've spotted our resident friendly robin, some cheeky blackbirds and a small flock of sparrows that frequent this little patch throughout each day. I thought I would see how the bird feeder fares here. I'm hoping to be able to lie in bed in the mornings and watch the birds visit. 

As I type up this post I glanced out of the window and saw this such a beautiful sunset! I dashed outside to capture the moment noticing how quickly the sun slips away once it's decided that it's bed time. I just caught the tiniest slip of the sleepy sun before it tucked itself up for the night.

We have two horses that live in the field and this one was curious as to what I was doing. He came on over to investigate further. They are quite friendly and come over to say hi when we are on the patio. Occasionally we treat them to a carrot which probably makes us slightly more 'interesting' then if we didn't 😁...the way to a horses heart!

I have to say that I am inspired by my surrounds, I always have been inspired by the English countryside. I have a bucket list of things I want to do, ideas, blog posts, crafts, stitchery's but frustratingly, I feel like I have a million things I want to do but not enough time to do it all. I think that must be a common problem that most creatives face.

Anyhoo, I am going to love and leave you for today. Wishing you all a lovely evening.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Simply Life

5 Days. 5 DAYS! Not long to go now before we are in our own space with our own things around us and settling into our familiar routines. I keep trying to tell myself that I should enjoy not having to do the laundry or cook meals but I quite enjoy doing those things. I'm a homemaker at heart and have always enjoyed keeping home and finding beauty in those ordinary, everyday tasks. So roll on next week!

I've been thinking a lot lately about how Social Media seems to put pressures on people from all walks of life and all ages to 'look' a certain way. I'm not just talking about physical looks like hair, make-up and clothes etc, but things like the life others perceive we live which is given out by carefully staged photographs shared on Social Media platforms. So in the spirit of 'getting real', I'm sharing a very unstaged, make-up free, hair-needs-a-wash photo of me working on something yesterday.

I'm seriously considering just chucking IG because although I absolutely love aesthetically pleasing photographs and find them inspirational to a degree, I can't help feeling that these days there seems to be a lack of authenticity with it all. I mean really, we don't all go about our daily lives stage-managing every part of our lives and we should be able to have a meal without posting a picture of it for all to see 😂. Then there are all those 'bots' that seem to find and follow you. Daily I am deleting various military fellows that follow my account. They are 'bots' for sure but it gets tiresome to have to constantly be weeding out these irritations, I'm not sure it's worth it. But then again, there are some lovely 'real' accounts and it is a great tool when you run your own small home business.

What are your thoughts? Are you happy to just keep deleting fake accounts that follow you or ignoring those who are playing the 'follow for follow' game? Somehow I'm thinking that it's just not worth the aggro.

Now, there are two things, big things that I tackled this year. I have not mentioned them here at all because they are things that required a bit of time to work out and see what the outcome was. But after 10 months the outcome is now clear and I thought I would share them with you.

The first thing is this... in February I decided to apply for the voluntary position of a Magistrate. For those that don't know the English legal system, a Magistrate or Justice of the Peace is a judge. All criminal cases in the UK start off in the Magistrates court. Less serious crimes are decided and sentenced here and more serious ones where the sentencing powers are beyond those of a magistrate are sent to the Crown Court. Anyone can apply for this position, cases are heard before a panel of three magistrates and there is a legal adviser in each courtroom to advise the magistrates on points of law. Sentencing Guidelines are used by the magistrates just as the same sentencing guidelines are used by judges at all levels of our legal system by judges from the Magistrate Court right up to the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court.

It's a gruelling process. The application form itself is rigorous. If you are successful you then have to attend two interviews before a panel of magistrates judges and one lay person for impartiality. The first interview really looks at you and your motives. If you make it through that you attend a 2nd interview which tests your judicial intelligence through a serious of case scenarios. You need to rank them in order of seriousness and then defend your decisions.

Anyway...yesterday I received a letter from the Lord Chancellors Advisory Committee to say that I have been successful through the interview process and that my name was being put forward for appointment as a Magistrate! This is a huge achievement for me and one that will treasure always. However, I have had to turn it down as we no longer live in Devon. Each county has it's own Advisory committee and Magisterial needs so it's not quite as simple as just transferring to another district. But still, to know that I made it is good enough for me right now.

The second thing that is now all official and that will be going ahead is that I am officially a law student!

You see, this whole law thing all came about when I decided to upgrade my skills in preparation for re-entering the workforce once our homeschooling is done by taking a Legal Secretarial course. I found the subject matter fascinating, discovered that I LOVE studying and qualified my legal secretarial course with a distinction which got me to thinking... why not just go for it? 

I've never been to university but have always wanted to study a degree so why not? I've spent months agonising over whether I should or shouldn't and finally decided to grab life by the horns and just do it. So I signed up to do an LLB with the Open University in August. My course officially starts on October 6th but being distance learning, I already have access to my modules so have started already.

I'm not sure what it means career wise but that's not why I'm doing it. I'm doing it because I find law interesting and I want to fulfil an ambition of getting a degree.

So exciting times. Life is what you make of it. So often we talk ourselves out of doing something we really want to do telling ourselves that we are not good enough. I have thought that way my whole life. Thinking I'm not good enough/clever enough/worthy enough. But my husband has always been my cheerleader. He always tells me that I am good enough/capable enough/ valuable enough and that companies/businesses/whatever would be lucky to have me. It's because of his support that I have stepped out this year and taken on things and put myself forward for things that I never thought I would be able to and achieve things I thought were beyond me.

Is there something that you really want to do and you are talking your way out of just going for it? Have faith in your worth and just do it!

Blessings to you all today...

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Hope of Things to Come

Two weeks from today and we will be moving into our new home. I can't wait! I keep reminding everyone that next week is the last full week of living in the hotel and to just hang in there. Fortunately, we are getting out most days and seeing friends we haven't seen in a long time which has been just lovely. Today, however, of us woke up with a sore, scratchy throat - the promise of a head cold to come. DD2 has a double whammy as she was diagnosed with a painful cyst yesterday so is on a course of antibiotics. Needless to say, that today is not one of those days where my positivity coaching is being taken very well 😁

I thought that today I would drop in and show you some pictures of our new home. There is a LOT of work that I have ahead of me in the garden. It is a skeleton really but it has a lovely green lawn and ample of space to put in a small fruit orchard, a lovely kitchen garden and plenty of space for an English Cottage favourite. 

All our friends and family who have seen these pictures remark on how similar this house is to the beloved home we had in Chesterfield. We were so, SO happy there. The moment I saw this house I fell in love with it and I think that it is because of the similarities. We are set to move in on Tuesday the 2nd of October. On the first following Saturday, I intend on finding my nearest garden centre and buying my annual autumn pots of chrysanthemums. 

Would you look at that front entrance above... below was the front entrance to my Chesterfield home...

You can see the full posts on my autumn decor for 2014 HERE and HERE. I still have that chalkboard and plan on doing something very similar this year. I have to say that I am itching to get decorating. This is my favourite time of the year and I have these deep ingrained seasonal rituals that I absolutely delight in so being unable to decorate or bake or pootle about my home while I see the signs of autumn all around me is so hard! Still...the equinox is not until later on this week so autumn has not officially arrived, makes me feel a little better thinking that anyway.

Above you will see a HUGE back patio, honestly, I can see this being a little oasis with our garden furniture and then lots of beautiful terracotta posts full of pretty flowering things. I'd quite like to put one of those large fire bowls out here for atmospheric evening entertaining. That field that you see has horses living in it. That room to the right is the living room. It has a sliding door onto the patio as you can see and a big picture window overlooking the horse field so plenty of light which is what I love during winter months. A conservatory would have been perfect but there is always a compromise to be made. Nothing is perfect.

Now above is the front garden. As I mentioned it has a really lovely lawn and what you cannot see to the right is the perfect spot for my small orchard. We have sweeping country views out this side and that shed you see on the left is a cowshed. When we viewed the property there were baby cows living there that had been weaned from their mothers. They are too cute and ever so curious as to who we were and what we were doing.

Being in the middle of farmland the road that lies just on the other side of the hedge often has tractors buzzing about which I love. I like being surrounded by farm life. Our home in Devon was the same and I loved to just stop and watch the farmer buzzing about his fields ploughing or making hay. My kitchen window has this view too, a lovely big picture window and a double kitchen sink so washing dishes is going to be a pleasure. I like a kitchen sink with a view, don't you?

As we get to know our landlord I'm hoping that he will be amenable to us adding a few chickens to our family in the spring. We used to have a small flock of chickens when we lived in South Africa. The girls absolutely loved them and would love to have some more. Ahhh, the plans and dreams! Isn't that one of the things that makes life so exciting? A simple life well lived and seasoned with love and kindness is what we all need.

So lovelies, I will love and leave you until next time. I hope that you are having a lovely week and I'll see you back here very soon.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Natures Healing Effect

After breakfast this morning before lessons I went for a walk along the quay. I was feeling a little out of sorts and perhaps a little stifled at living in a hotel. I may even have been a little grumpy 😄so there was no doubt that I needed to just get out and let the cool fresh air work its magic.

Getting out when we get a little grumpy is always a sure way to get rid of the cobwebs. I've blogged about it before and it still holds true in our family. 

Today I was the one who needed the therapeutic fresh air. Living in a hotel might sound like a dream but it's heavy going. We are basically living where my husband works so you need to watch little things all the time as you are pretty much under a microscope. The staff watch you, fuss a little too much, they see your living quarters, I'm always making sure that our rooms are neat, tidy and orderly before housekeeping pops by. We are all already sick of hotel food and craving home-cooked meals. When your discussions turn to what the meal plan will be once we move into our home you know that 'eating out' has lost its appeal big time! I don't think we will be rushing to eat out for a 'treat' any time soon after we are in our new home.

So as the girls went upstairs to get ready to meet a friend in the city, I pulled on my trainers, grabbed my camera, and set off for some much-needed space. The air has been crisp today which is marvellously refreshing. It has felt truly autumnal all day and I delighted in each berry, turning leaf and bird that I encountered on my walk.

Walking along beside the water I spotted this swan. I stood for quite some time watching it gently glide gracefully along. As I watched it, I found my mind settling down and peace once again returning. 

I stopped focusing on the irritants that faced me today and started to focus first on the wonders of Gods creation evident in the middle of a busy city which then led me to ponder on Gods immense goodness and His amazing provision in every area and in each season of our lives.

How blessed we are to be back in the north. I am a different person here, a happier person. I'm more me if that makes sense. A shadow that has cloaked me for three years seems to have lifted and I am marvelling once again at the small things. I am inspired to create. Each day I remember something that's packed away in a box sitting in storage and think, "When we move into our new home I really want to...finish that quilt/spend a day filling my freezer with home cooked meals/dying up yarn/knitting a new cuddly blanket"...and so on. A million ideas and projects running through my mind that add comfort and warmth to a home.

Our new garden is skeletal compared to the ones we had in Devon and I find that inspiring because I have ideas scrambling over themselves in my head for that. Spring bulbs, a small orchard, a kitchen garden, chickens perhaps. My husband is dreaming too, he can't wait to build a lovely fish pond and has the perfect place all picked out.

Although I have admired and appreciated the established gardens in our Devon homes, I haven't had a connection with them for they were someone else's. 

I returned to the hotel with a spring in my step, hope in my heart and joy in my soul. Even in the middle of a busy city, God used nature, His creation, to work its magic. How easy it can be to walk through your day and miss the blessings that God has in store for you if you would only take a moment to pause and notice.

As I finish typing up the post I've just had a call from the estate agents to say that our application for our new home has been approved and we can now start planning our move in date! Thrills!!! I will be back to share how God has provided -yet again - a home that is just perfect for our family. Until then, have a blessed day and look for those small things that God wants to use to bless you.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A Little City Living

We have been in Manchester for a little over a week now so I thought it might be a good time to pop in and give you an update.

View from the end of the Quay where our hotel is situated.
We are currently living in the hotel that my husband is GM of. We get to stay here for a month while we look for a new home...which we think we have found! It's a lovely home just out of Chester (CHESTER! Just one of the most beautiful places to visit!). It's out in the country, as is our preference. It's actually on a farm which is about as close as we are ever going to get to live out our farm dreams LOL. 

We are currently in the application process so it should all be confirmed by the end of the week. We hope to move in during the last week of September.

View from my hotel room. 
In the meantime, we are enjoying our city adventure. My husband's hotel is situated on one of Manchester's many quays and surprisingly, there is a lot of wildlife around. Swans, ducks, Canada Geese, cormorants etc. We really have been enjoying watching the cormorants dive for (and catch) fish and the geese noisily fly in noisily each evening.

Walking along the Quay after dinner.
Even in the city, I can see signs of autumn all around. The trees are all beginning to put on their autumn splendour and the urge to decorate my home to reflect the seasons' glory is strong...except I can't. Still, October is the month where autumn is at it's best so I am consoling myself that I still have plenty of time to pootle about in this regard. I've bought a pumpkin spice candle already which is sitting in my hotel room right now. I can't burn it for fear of setting off the smoke alarms so instead, I open the top and have a sniff every so often 😄.

We are currently 'hotel schooling' rather than homeschooling. Once the restaurant has emptied out after breakfast we find a comfortable spot and begin the days' lessons. My eldest joins us to work on her illustrations or goes into the city to visit a gallery or museum. Tomorrow she is meeting up with a friend while we get on with lessons. I think she is feeling a little at a loss at what to do. We knew that living in the hotel was going to be a little heavy going so we are all trying to make the best of it.

Victoria-Leigh's bee illustration she was working on.
Manchester as a city is beautiful. The buildings! So much history and the most beautiful architecture. Just look at these walkways linking the Town Hall to the extension. It looks like it should be at Hogwarts. The Town Hall itself is just gorgeous. This is usually where the Christmas Market is held which is quite magical to visit, a must-do if you are in the city over the festive season. This year they have an ice village coming to the market - I can't wait to visit!

Since we last lived here, Manchester has undergone such regeneration! It's much nicer than it used to be. Very metropolitan and exciting. It has a very similar vibe to London actually. After having lived in a city that was pretty much bombed to pieces in the 2nd world war and lost just about all of its historical buildings, it is lovely to be back in a city that has hundreds of years of architecture everywhere you look.

I will be sure to share more of our city adventures with you over the next few weeks. Now that the house-hunting stress is over I can focus on taking advantage of the art and culture that this city has to offer. I look forward to seeing you back here soon.