Blog Every Day In May


I love blogging.

I love the chance to collect my thoughts and burble along here quire happily.

I so enjoy reading other blogs and learning so much.

I love the sweet people that I meet and chat with because of this blog.

So, when the lovely Emily mentioned that the lovely Rosalilium was running a 'Blog Every Day In May' challenge, I leapt at the chance to take part.  Granted I already blog every day (more or less), but I love the idea Rosalilium has of daily prompts and themes to write on, and a cute new way to meet new folk!

Hurrah!

Do you fancy joining in?

PS 
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Project Life Tuesday: Confessions Edition

The Mom Creative

Linking up (after far too long!) with the lovely Jessica.

You guys, I've been bad.  What with work and school and holidays and getting engaged (which still makes me grin like a loon to think of!), I've fallen wildly off the PL wagon.  I've been snapping away and collecting some memories, but have not sat down with my book in a month.

That makes me a little sad.

I love that Project Life lets you document everything, no matter how small, but lately the bigger stuff has got in the way.

I want to make time for it, though, so I can savour moments like this.....














Project Life has also shown me that sometimes it's about the 'tell' as well as the 'show', and I'm hoping to cook up some creative ways to recall girly brunches, dinners, dates with Matthew, and events.  Because it's nice sometimes to *not* take pictures.

Back onto it I shall go.

How are you getting on?  Am I alone in my need to catch up?
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Five Minute Friday: Friend

Five Minute Friday 

Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.

After a hiatus of sorts, I'm linking up again with Lisa-Jo for Five Minute Friday.  Love the chance to write and read and think and share!

This week's prompt?  Is friend.

Writing about my friends?  Is nothing but a pleasure :)

GO.

Of the many, many blessings in my life - family, health, home, talents, job, kitties, adorable fiancé - my wonderful friends often stick out as one that I must appreciate and take joy in.  Every single day.  If you had told me back in childhood how full to the brim my life would be with inspirational, loving, giving, hilarious people who I adore and who love me just as I am, I'm not sure I would have believed you.

These are the people who make me me.  Who have listened to my ridiculous songs, my stories, my problems; dried my tears of sorrow, pain or frustration; supported me; whooped with joy when I've announced a new job, a new home, an engagement; hugged me when I need the warmth and comfort of a dear friend; set me straight when I've needed to woman up; and made me laugh, time and time and time again.

The love and joy and wonder they pour into my life is amazing.  It's the late night text message, the singalong in the car, the facebook post when I'm feeling a little low, the insistent belief that I'm pretty / clever / worthwhile (even when my own disloyal heart cries out otherwise!).  I'm so lucky to walk through life with such an awesome cast of characters.

My friends teach me something daily and never fail to inspire.  In their own, very different ways, these men and women show me how to live well, and make me want to be a better person because of how brilliant they are.  Their talent, intelligence and kindness frequently leaves me agape and I am so blessed by their generosity, warmth and love.  Like almost everyone, I've had poor friends too in the past - the unkind, the gossipy, the manipulative - but now I'm even grateful for them and for those tricky times.  Having dealt with those people makes me all the more aware how lucky I am in my friends now.

If I'm half the friend to them my friends are to me, I would happily consider myself a success.  I give thanks for the people I call 'friend' every day, and I truly hope that everyone reading this has people in their life that make them feel just as happy.

STOP.

Happy Friday, all!
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Book Review: What The Most Successful People Do On The Weekend


Image found here 

I have read a couple of Laura Vanderkam's books and I really like her approach - she writes in a fun, chatty yet journalistic voice which for me makes her very easy to read!  These little Penguin Specials are the kind of book you can pick up and read in an hour but still take something away from - always a good thing.

I've long been thinking that I'd like to make more of my weekends - after a busy week I can be guilty of collapsing in a heap in front of the TV or taking too much work home to do!  However, when I do make an effort to wring the best from my weekends instead of just splodging around I tend to arrive back to work feeling better for it on a Monday.

Vanderkam has interviewed a lot of impressive, successful people form all walks of life to see what a decent weekend looks like, and as you might imagine, it's a little different for everyone.  There are some takeaways I found really useful though - scheduling in a few things, paring down things like take-home work tasks or housework to smaller amounts of time (I wholly agree with Vanderkam - these are exactly the tasks which I find 'expand to fill the time allowed'!).  I'm going to be working to schedule three to five things in each weekend in the coming months (and making sure these encompass a range of activities too) to make my free time even more enjoyable!


My next book?



To finish, a weekend-based question:  What are your favourite things to do at the weekend?
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End of the holiday....

....and what a holiday it has been.

We've been to Cornwall with my family, away to Gran Canaria, done all sorts of stuff around the house (and celebrated living here for a whole year!), and got engaged.  Pretty productive for three and a half weeks!

Easter break has long been my favourite break from school.  I adore Christmas, of course, but it's a busy old time and coming right after the longest term means it can be a little tiring and hectic.  Summer is grand, but as it's so long I often end up scheduling a lot of work/study/planning/writing for then, which is lovely and an utter blessing, but makes it feel a little less holiday-ish.  Plus at summer you're bracing yourself for September and new classes, and the challenges and joys they will bring!  Easter is perfect.  Three weeks, spring, lots of other folk taking breaks and a great time to relax ahead of the madness of the summer term.

The boys are back to school on Wednesday, which means that tomorrow and Tuesday are prep days.  I was really pleased to get a text last week saying we're having one day of training (Tuesday) as that means I can pop in for a few hours tomorrow to tidy up my form room, collect my planner, send a few emails, pop a new display or two up, etc..  I love hitting the ground running!

The summer term is always fun at our school, and busy too - exams, activities, events - and there's always that bittersweet moment when people move on.  The Year 8s that leave in July will be the first Year 8 to leave at this school that I have actually taught (some of them were in my Year 5 English and Year 6 History classes) and I think I'll probably get a little weepy when they leave.  I love the family atmosphere at our school and am always sorry to see the boys leave....but so proud of them for all they achieve and the super schools they go on to.  Teaching's a real privelege.

Lots of fun things socially as well - coffees and lunches and brunches and dinners and drinks, oh my!  There are some bigger things too...Matthew and I are having engagement drinks next month which will be lovely - I am so excited to celebrate our news with some of our favourite people!  Then at the end of May it's Eileen's hen do, and her and Rory's wedding at the start of June (so looking forward to bridesmaiding it up!).  Then later in June it's Dan and Brigitte's wedding, here in London.  And before we know it July will be here, and with it Matthew's 30th, the kits one-year anniversary of coming home, and the end of term.  What fun!

I am thoroughly enjoying wedding planning so far - for a girl and a boy who love spreadsheets and information and planning as much as Matthew and I do, it's a tonne of fun (and yes, I know there will be times I won't be saying that!).  I will mention the wedding here and there on the blog, but have also set up a separate wedding blog to contain the glee-filled crazy.  If that's your bag, the wedding blog is here. It should also come in handy when we start putting plans into stone!

Right, I must close - a girly lunch and some prep for the week call my name.  I'll close with a few pictures from a very happy holiday.  Happy Sunday, all!

This owl still cracks me up!

I think owls are starting to rival badgers as an obsession!

The view from our balcony in Mogán - little did I know that about 48 hours later I'd be getting engaged right here!

Musical bingo - such fun!

Loved time with the family in Cornwall.  Daniels is such a funny little dog!

Duck chat :)

Bright and beautiful colours in the Canaries.

Ha!  This present from my brother still cracks me up! I loathe 50 Shades and all it represents, so this was a genius gag gift!

Adventuring Matthew!

Awesome wallpaper at The Breakfast Club for Kaz's birthday brunch!

Doggies!

I love the blue of the Atlantic in this shot.  Beautiful!

Where's the wine?

Love that this is my view on the train home.

Happy sigh - love this view, love this place.



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A post from Miss Paws


The hoomans are coming home!

Far be it for me to be overly soppy, but I'm rather excited.  It has been lovely having Aunty Kaz, Aunty Vixie and Aunty Hannah looking after us, but it will be nice to have our very own humans back and ready to spoil us.  I have set out a timetable for the weekend for them including feeding the cats, fussing the cats, snuggling with the cats, adoring the cats, napping with the cats, feeding the cats again, watching Mad Men with the cats, and generally hanging out with the cats!

I also hear that they have some news for us.  I wonder what it could be?
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Things I Like (Holiday Edition)

1. Ceiling fans.

2. Mini golf.

3. Blue skies.


4. Matthew's chicken pasta.

5. The sound of the sea.


6. Evenings on the balcony.


7. Bakery fresh bread with butter and jam.

8. Cocktails which don't know if they are puddings or drinks.


9. Sleeping in.

10. Sunsets.

11. Being engaged :)
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We're getting married!

Placeholder ring - Matthew is designing one, but he needs my ring size!  Poor guy, the jeweller said "just go through her jewelry box and look for a ring she wears."

I don't usually wear rings.



We got engaged on Saturday, April 13th in beautiful Mogán, Gran Canaria!

Oh, I love this boy!

I've set up a separate blog for most of the wedding planning crazy (guess what it's called?), but I wanted to check in and share our happy news.  It will no doubt feature a fair bit as we're excited and fizzy and ready to plan up a storm.  More soon!


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Spring Cleaning

As I write this, I am sat on the balcony of our holiday apartment here in beautiful Puerto de Mogán, Gran Canaria.  It's one of my favourite places to be - it's about 23 degrees, but I'm in a shady space and there's a refeshing, cool breeze.  I love our yearly pilgrimage to the sun, to get away from London and the busy lives with have there (as awesome as they are!).  Then why am I blogging, you may ask?

Well, first things first, I love blogging, and having the chance to write while not also finding time to be writing exam papers / planning reports / cleaning house / doing one of the other hundred things I seem to always have on my to-do list is a real treat.  And Matthew is happily watching the Grand Prix (something he loves to do), so an hour or two writing and reading is my idea of fun.

Another thing I like to do on holiday (geek alert!) is plan, and get organised.  For me having time to do this is a real boon, and I find having an hour or two of 'work' actually makes me more relaxed while I'm away.  So I bring my diary and fill it in ready for the term to come.  I make lists.  I research upcoming projects for school, shop around for resources and display ideas.  I spend a little time connected to the real world, getting stuff done....and then I go find a cocktail, or go for a walk on the beach, or sit on the balcony with Matthew, chatting and giggling.

Oh, I am going to plan the heck out of this week! #geek


One of the things I'm working out is the spring cleaning I want to do at home this month and next.  I love our house but if we don't keep on top of things it can get a little overwhelming!  We've definitely got into a rhythm with day-to-day, week-to-week chores (I have mad laundry and ironing skillz, Matthew tends the garden and hoovers like a legend!), but other jobs need to be done as part of a spring clean.

The list, right now
There are so many things I'd like to do - sort out my study, invest in a steam cleaner for all those laminate floors (and the little paw prints that tend to adorn them all too often!), paint the kitteh house in our garden (a teeny tiny structure they have to cosy up in if we ever need to claim the dining room for the humans!), donate a bunch of clothes, rearrange a tonne of things - we've been in our house almost a year now and I'm itching to get a few things sorted!

How about you?  Has the spring cleaning bug hit yet?


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Musical Bingo

Here in London, quirky nights out are all the rage, and I love going out to do something a little different, whether its bowling, ping pong, a pub quiz or karaoke.  One of the big names on the scene is Musical Bingo, which is exactly what it sounds like - a good old fashioned game of bingo with a musical twist.  Anyone who knows of my insane love of games/board games/quizzes/card games and music in its many (and often very cheesy) forms would agree that this is a format destined to be right up my alley!

I'd been meaning to go with friends for ages, but just hadn't got it diarised (is that a word yet?).  So when the lovely Izabela reached out to me and said she was arranging tickets for London bloggers to attend a Musical Bingo evening, I decided to jump at the chance and give it a go.  Why not, right?

Mmmmmm, cocktails.
 The event was held at the deliciously hipster House of Wolf in Islington.  I love quirky places like this and hadn't yet checked it out, so that was another draw.  I met Izabela, her friend Elena and Adanma, another blogger who'd popped along and we headed off to find our seats.  The event was a sell-out and space was defintely at a premium - we were wedged onto the edge of a big table we shared with a team of seven, right next door to a couple who were there on a date!  At first the getting up and down when people went to the bar seemed like it could be a little annoying, but actually once the music was playing and the game was afoot, having extra company really added to the vibe (ha, I just typed vibe.  Who am I, 1990s-era R Kelly?).  Mad hat-tip to Leonie, Robin, Stuart et al. on our table who by round two were definitely my partners in crime when it came to singing along to old school pop and rock!

Round 1, eyes down!

There were three rounds - Kingz of Pop, Eighties and 90s.  All of these totally played to my gorgonzola-esque tastes and Elena in particular was one part impressed, one part utterly confused by my ability to recall the lyrics to....everything.  I do fear that my knowledge of lyrics leads to a Homer Simpson style situation...."Every time I learn something new it pushes some of the old stuff out of my brain!"  I'm sure I used to enjoy quadratic equations once.

All in all I had great fun (big thank you to Izabela for inviting me and to Costa Bingo for my ticket and delicious cocktail!), and the evening was an enjoyable one.  At points it was a little too Shoreditch for me but overall it was a great night out.  The game itself was awesome, the venue was fab, and the DJ was legendary - between games he spun tunes for dancing and his mixing and choices were superb.

I'd definitely recommend this as a fun night out.  Upcoming dates are here.  Siobhán, Emily, Eileen, Hannah, Kaz, Vixie, Jo et al. - when shall we go?

Our team.  We didn't win anything, but we danced our booties off!


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Book Review: The Art of Fielding

Image found at gq.com


My quest to read lots and lots of books this year continues.  While I may have abandoned '32 in 32', because lists that are 32 items long are just too craycray to keep track of over the course of months and months, certain items (dropping 30 pounds, reading 62-plus books, etc) are still very much happening and in process.  The 23rd book I read this year was Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding.

I get inspiration for books to read from all over - recommendations from friends (major hat-tips to Christy and Shan, both of whom have amazing taste in books!), prize lists, books my class are enjoying - but in the case on TAoF, it was none of these.  It was a tube advert.  Every day when I got off at Swiss Cottage I would see the advert for this book, plastered with platitudes (sidebar - don't you just love how anything can get a hyped up review quote now?), so I decided to kindle it up and see what I made of it.

The Art of Fielding follows the adventures (and misadventures) of a group of people at Westish College, a small school in the Midwest.  Some of the people involved play on the Harpooners baseball team, others are friends, relations and lovers of those involved.  It's a long read and a pretty heavy read, but Harbach has a neat way with a turn of phrase and doesn't shy away from describing the more shocking or visceral aspects of the story.  His characters are well-drawn and have real depth (when you find yourself wanting to slap a character silly I always think it's a good sign!), and the passages about the flow and play of baseball are poetic and lovingly rendered - I know next to nothing about the sport but found myself easily swept up in the rhythm of innings, foul balls and plays.

I enjoyed much of the book, and yet I wouldn't say I thoroughly enjoyed it - the tone is pensive and melancholic for much of the book which makes for an interesting read, but perhaps not one I'd rush to read again.  That said, I will look out for Harbach's next book - for a debut book this was confident, heady stuff.  If you're looking for a deep and thought-provoking book, this is a good one to try, but I'd steer clear if a holiday read or an uplifting tome is what you're after.

My next book?
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SUYL: Best workout/health tips

This week on 'Show Us Your Life', Kelly is having us write about our workout and health tips.  Those of you that know me or that have read here for a while know that this is something I often write about, and indeed health is a real interest/preoccupation of mine.  As a dieter who has tried and failed a gazillion times and who is far too heavy, I have lots of great tips and experiences to share - having succeeded and failed several times I know what does work and what doesn't.  Truly.

This year I'm approaching things a little differently.  I am far, far too good at planning and words and hopes and thinking ahead; and too poor at the nitty gritty day-to-day.  I'm very good at being horrible to myself, talking smack, denting my self esteem when it comes to my appearance....but not tough enough on myself in the workouts, or when I'm shopping for food.  This year I've been working on all of this, because deep down I know that I'm not happy looking and being this way.  I'm pretty healthy (thank heavens - this is such a blessing!), but I know realistically I need to drop at least 50 pounds.  Ideally, more than that.  I've written an awful lot on this theme in years gone by (seriously, check the tags - I'm a blatherer!), but this year there's been a change.

Because I'm rationing my posts.  I'm only allowed to write when I reach certain goals.  I've lost a stone (14 pounds) so far this year, and the next progress post will be at 20 pounds lost, then 25, 30.... I'm finding that spending less time obsessing over what I'm planning to do and more time in the moment, actually working out, making better decisions and trying to get this done is working for me.

Well, enough about me.  Here, from a girl who has been a size 14, 16, 18, 20, 22 (US 10-18, if I recall correctly), and who has swooped between walking marathons, dancing on stage in tap costumes and swimming miles per week and being an utter couch potato, is what I've found works.

It's pretty darn simple to write down - but the proof is in the (lack of) pudding!

Note: When I get these right, I am healthier, happier, fitter and lose weight at a good solid 1-2 pounds a week.  However, I feel I should stress that these tips are entirely anecdotal and based in my own experiences - I hope you find them useful!

My seven simple steps to being healthy and happy.

1. SLEEP.

This one I got wrong for SO long.  I would work out, cut portions, the whole shebang, but just not rest enough.  Modern life is the enemy of sleep - planning, distractions, work, fun, the internet all comspire to keep us up late and as a natural night owl it plays completely to my favour.  But I now know (through bitter, bitter experience) that I need to prioritise sleep (in my case, 6-9 hours a night) to get the best of my efforts.  Luckily, I love to sleep, but it can be hard to leave the party early, switch off the TV, or (my hardest test) put the internet down.  It has to be done though!

2. HYDRATE.

Water, water, water, people.  At my current size, I try to make sure I have about 2-3 litres of water a day - the more I work out the easier it becomes!  If I go for a long walk or do an hours cross-training I can drink a litre without even having to think about it.  As well as water I try to drink lots of green tea and fruit teas, and I avoid a lot of soda and cut back on alcohol when I'm trying to be more healthful.

3. PLAN.

For me, this is key.  I always tell my students, "Failure to prepare is preparing to fail," and when it comes to me and eating well, ain't that the truth.  I tend to it down on a Sunday evening with my diary and plan (roughly) what I'm going to eat and when.  I make sure I have at least 5 portions of fruit and veg, more likely 7, plenty of variety, and as little processed food as possible.  I also know what calories I'm aiming for and make sure I keep about three hundred 'spare' each day.  That way if I want half a birthday cupcake, or I'm starving after a workout, or an occasion calls for a glass of champagne, I can indulge happily without throwing the day at the wall.  I also let myself have a meal 'off' once in a while - the eating healthily thing is something I intend to do for the rest of my life, and a life without steak, fondue and red wine is not for me.

4. MOVE.

I am back into the zone, exercise wise, and it feels so good.  I do five 'proper' workouts a week (30 lengths swimming, 45 minutes cross-training, an hours class, a good long walk), and also try to put smaller workouts into the day - running up and down the stairs at school a couple of times at breaktime, a quick dance for a couple of songs on MTV, hoovering a floor of the house.  The thing is, I love being active, but when I couch potato I forget this.  I need not to!  I think it's also important to find exercise that works for you.  I love dancing, swimming, aerobics, cross-training, boxing, walking, but I find road cycling and step stressful.  So I play to my strengths.  And when I do, I do so much better!

5. SHOP SMART.

The easiest way to eat smart is to shop smart.  I do this by tending to shop the outside aisles of the store (or, when I'm shopping online, sticking to certain categories - fruits, vegetables, meat).  If I go to the junk food aisles, I'll buy that stuck, so instead I make it easier for myself by avoiding.  I also budget myself and let myself spend more on good quality fruits and veggies and meats as a trade off for nor buying cookies, ice cream and white bread.  I try to choose faster food and restaurants wisely too - Subway, sushi and places with good salad and veggie options make eating well and enjoying company easier!  I also aim for a happy plate - half full of veggies, sensible portion of meat, a little grain/carb action.

6. RECORD.

Keeping a food diary works for me.  Whether you just note things down, follow something like Weight Watchers, or use a tool like Sparkpeople, I find having a record helps immensely when it comes to recognising patterns and behaviours.

7. REWARD.

Being healthy and losing weight is hard work.  So rewards are a big part of it for me.  It might be a pyjama day, a lie-in, a new book, an evening's karaoke....whatever works for you, it's nice to have a treat to say 'well done'.  I also try to note down in my food diary all the little successes.  The number on the scale is but one little part of the puzzle - it's important to celebrate the looser fitting trousers, the quicker lap time, the increased energy level, the week of great eating too!

So those are my common sense, pretty simple steps.  When I do all the above, I do well - when I don't...I don't!  Looking forward to reading everyone elses' tips!

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A post from the desk of Fry


Well hello there, dear hearts.

How are you this fine and pleasant morning?

I realised this morning while taking my morning constitutional that it has been altogether far too long since last I took pause and sat down to write you all a missive.  So now I have snuck into Claire's study (for she is fast asleep, haha!) to write you all a short note.  I usually prefer to lie on the laptop - see picture above - but am growing ever more proficient at typing as well.

Life here in the glorious east goes well.  Matthew and Claire are overwhelmingly good company and whenever they go away they always sub in the most pretty, lovely ladies to catsit.  Last weekend it was the beautiful Kaz, and I hear tell that when they head to the Canaries Kaz, Vixie and Hannah will be sharing the duties.  Add in the belly fusses from Eileen earlier this week and you have a very content Fry-cat!

My new favourite thing has to be the sunshine, which after a six month absence is BACK.  After morning noms and fusses I like nothing better than leaping into the back garden (which gets lots of lovely sun) and lying on the table that's out there.  In the bright sunlight my jet black fur shimmers a reddish brown, making me even more handsome than ever; if I do say so myself!  I must remember to ask Claire to snap a picture of me in action.

It has been most lovely having Claire and Matthew home from work recently.  While I understand that humans must have jobs (unlike cats, who as a higher species, merely need to have delights, foods, and diversions presented to them), it is a little tedious when they are gone for long.  We have many cuddle and fuss needs, as do our humans.  My particular favourite is to leap onto desks and tables to give the humans a quick nose-kiss, head-doosh, or cuddle.  Just think what cuddly chaos I'll be able to wreak over the summer break!

So friends, all is well here - the sun is in the sky, there's food in the bowl, and I hear the stirrings of humans in the room along the corridor.  So now I must close and sneak back downstairs before Claire finds me writing.

Until next time, friends, I am as ever, your humble servant,

Fry Zanzibar R.
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Oh-so-many Owls

One of the highlights of our family holiday to Cornwall last week has to be our visit to the Screech Owl Sanctuary.  My sister is a wildlife nut and we are all quite country and outdoorsy, so when it came to choosing a day out this was a clear favourite.  If you're in the Wadebridge/Padstow/Newquay area for a family holiday, I'd heartily recommend it!

There are loads of owls (as well as alpacas, meerkats and goats), and you can see the owls doing flights and also stroke them and meet them in person at the 'close encounters' sessions.  They are such beautiful creatures!


This snowy owl was so sweet - he is just a wee one (not yet a year old!) so he had all kinds of fluffy feathers going on.


Some of the African and Eurasian owls were magnificent.


Love this owl's face. Whatchu doing?


Digger, the burrowing owl, was hilarious.  The lady in charge of the close encounters session was quite open about the fact that part of the imprinting process with owls is that not only will the owls imprint on humans as parents and friends, they will also choose the humans they like more or less.  And Digger was not the biggest fan of the lady handler - he kept giving her dirty looks, which was hilarious!  He's a little owl with a big character.

Some of the owls have been featured in Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole.  I haven't seen it (but am aware of it, both because my sister loves it and because it's the movie that's played on a loop when Liz Lemon gets stuck on Carol's plane in 30 Rock).  I'll definitely be looking out for it now though - I want to see which owls I recognise!


Sian making friends.

Such a beautiful Barn Owl.


Bob was one of the flying owls and he was so quirky and clever!  All of the handlers were wonderful and clearly knew all their owls well and were so involved and interested in their lives.


A quick snap of the Eagle Owl session.

A fun day out - despite the unseasonably cold weather it was a very jolly day out!  I'd also highly recommend the cream tea at the cafe.  Clotted cream, jam and scones....always a winner.
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