Sunday, July 28, 2013

Summer Summer Summer

So the summer break is whizzing along quite nicely, with plenty of fun, plenty of relaxation, and plenty to do. After the school year it's always nice to just break down a little and change the pace. It's a good time to catch up on sleep, reading, checking in with folk.  I also feel a bit like it's MOT time, so there are plenty of doctors visits, check ups, eye tests and the like to get done when I have good availability for appointments.  It's a different world from termtime.

It's also a great time to catch up with folk, and Matthew and I love to spend time seeing our favourite people.  We have already had lots of barbecues and drinks and dinners with friends, and this weekend we've been up in Newcastle visiting his family.  I had such fun!  We went for fish and chips (which always taste better by the sea), and took a lovely walk along the seafront at Whitley Bay before dropping in to see Nick and Elly and our gorgeous niecelet!  Then Matthew headed off to see Blyth play while I continued visiting - we had cake and went to see the ducks.

In the evening Matthew and I went out for Italian food with his parents, which was delicious, before heading home for chats and cups of tea.  I love chatting with Matthew's mum and dad, they are both so funny and clever.  Then Matt and I had a huge (ten hour!) sleep - there's something about being up north and at his parents or my parents that seems to demand an enormous sleep!  Then we went shopping this morning (I bought loads of cards for my stash!) before being joined by Nick, Elly and the niecelet for a barbecue.  Lovely.

And now we're tucked up on the train drinking many cups of tea and getting ready for another busy week - dinners, hospital visits, a meet up with Christy (woo!), wedding food tastings, working out, a steak and wine treat on August 1st to celebrate getting through Dry July*, brunch and garden fun.  Viva summer!

* For the past month (and until Wednesday), Matthew and I have been doing 'Dry July', forgoing any sort of alcoholic beverage for the month.  It's been a challenge - Matthew hasn't ever done a challenge like this, and while I have, not enjoying a chilled white wine in the sun or a glass of champagne at the end of term has been hard!  We have done this to raise money for Wildhearts, a micro-financing charity that helps people in the developing world.  If you have a few pounds/dollars to spare, your sponsorship would be hugely appreciated.  The site is here: http://www.wildheartsevents.com/dryjuly and sponsorship is also being collected for the '3 Peaks' challenge Matthew will be doing in September.  So proud of my boy!


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Wedding Ideas: First Dance Songs (11-20)


Following on from last week's post, here are a few more ideas for first dances.  I have to say, anything music based is proving a delight to ponder at the moment!  Such fun to go back and listen to old favourites, remember the weddings of loved ones, and all that jazz.  Do please get involved in the comments - what are your favourite wedding songs?

11. Crazy For You - Madonna

 One of my favourite 80s slow jams, this is a cute first dance number.  True fact, I had a recurring dream in my teens that this was, in fact, the first dance at my wedding, but I don't know if that's reason enough to choose it!

12. I Knew I Loved You - Savage Garden
Perhaps it's the soppy lyrics,  perhaps it's the nineties-ness of it all, perhaps it's the fact that Magic (one-oh-five-point-four!) play it daily, but this would be a sweet first number.

13. Always - Bon Jovi

Yes, it's hair-rock, and it's all about a spurned lover, but the eternity vibe is perfect for a wedding....maybe?  I get why people don't use it, because of the POV, but I love this song and think it's worth bearing in mind for its OTT fabulousness.

14. How Sweet It Is - Marvin Gaye

Uptempo and sweet, and a little bit left-field.  I've always got time for some Marvin.

15. Save The Last Dance For Me - Michael Bublé

Another less obvious choice, light and fun.

16. We Have All The Time In The World - Louis Armstrong

Adore this song and think it would be a lovely way to start off married life together.

17. God Only Knows - The Beach Boys

Whether you've always loved this song, or you've only loved it since Love Actually, it would be a cracking first dance!

18. First Day of My Life - Bright Eyes

I've loved Bright Eyes since my sweet friend Jamie included them on a mix CD in the noughties...this song is just the sweetest.  A perfect first dance. I love the video too! True fact - this song was my ringtone for about three years.

19. If I Didn't Have You - Tim Minchin

Something for the comedians amongst us. This would be one of the darkest first dance songs ever...

20. Amazed - Lonestar

A perrennial favourite - friends of mine used this a few years ago and it was simply lovely...

More to come!

Good to remember.


So glad to be surrounded by people who know this :)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Pinterest: Main Meals/SUYL: Freezer Meals!

I was in the midst of writing this post when Kelly announced the latest schedule for 'Show Us Your Life'.  Recycling is so in vogue I didn't think anyone would mind - today is Freezable meals and there are lots of options here I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone!  I love freezer cooking - I'll often spend a Saturday while Matt's busy watching football away making batches and batches of food to freeze and enjoy later on.  My slow cooker and our chest freezer are so useful!

One of the things I adore about the summer break (or any break, for that matter), is the chance to reset and put some time into things I enjoy.  One of these is cooking - I love trying new recipes, learning new tricks, and cooking up treats for Matthew and I, and our friends and loved ones.  Pinterest is chock full of inspiration.....tasty, tasty inspiration.  Here are some finds I'm in the process of trying out:


Source: recipe.com via Claire on Pinterest


Matthew adores calzones, and I've yet to find a recipe for the dough that rocks.  This one even freezes, so I'm excited to try it!


I love using my holidays to make loads of tasty sauces and foods to defrost and eat during term time - nothing better than having a smorgasbord of yumminess to enjoy during the crazy busy season of start-of-the-school-year!  Some of these recipes look delicious!

Source: joypng.com via Claire on Pinterest

This is supper tonight :)  I will *not* be using this much oil though!


Slow cooker + George Foreman grill + decent freezer = how our meals roll!


Matthew doesn't like eggs, cheese or broccoli.  So I guess I'll just have to enjoy these solo ;)


With a wedding next year, we are trying to eat more healthily - as well as taking more exercise.  Loads of great recipes here - all under 500 calories.  I'm enjoying trying some of them out.

Which recipes are you loving just now?  I'm always in the market for more ideas!

Five Minute Friday: Belong

Five Minute Friday

Linking up with Lisa-Jo and Ann, on belonging.

Five minutes, just writing, words on the page.

Real, vital, full of the tang of 'truthiness', as my class might call it.

A blessing.

GO.

For the first quarter century of my life, I always felt like I didn't belong.  The RAF brat, always moving.  The black sheep of my lovely family, mum and dad one unit, my doorstep siblings the other.  Boarding school and the 24/7 game of thrones that can sometimes be.  Neither Scottish nor English, a mutt.  New houses, new faces, new schools.  

Always having to find a new space in the pecking order.  Sometimes top dog....sometimes bottom of the heap.  University for undergrad was more of the same - while I picked up some lifelong friends during that time it was also a rollercoaster of emotions and there were some dark times.  And always, always, I felt like I was walking on the ice of a lake before the thaw.  Supported....for now.

After university came a gap year, then PGCE, then work.  My confidence grew a little as the months passed by and I started to feel a little more secure.  A little more like I belonged.

And then the loneliness hit.

Working sixty-five plus hours a week, hundreds of miles from friends, family, loved ones.  Single like it was my job.  The first two years of teaching taught me so much about belonging, because at my most alone physically, I realised that I did belong.  I was loved and needed and heard, even when I went for days or weeks with no-one to hang out with or talk to beyond the school days.

Phone calls, letters, emails, blogging - through these media, the lonely little girl who felt like she never fit in learned, as a woman, that she had a place.  A voice.  Something to give.  Those four years in my little flat in the country ended up being the making of me - not only did my first job set me up beautifully for the career I adore, but the being-on-my-own so much taught me that true belonging isn't just about being surrounded by people (a big learning moment for this boarding school brat!).  It isn't about geography.  It isn't about a daily call, or a weekly letter, a monthly meal....it's about all of us in our little orbits, making sure we cross paths where we can.

And now, I truly feel like I belong.  My family and friends and Matthew are so great at helping me when I forget this, and this blesses me every day.  My life may be quirky, but it's mine.  And here, in my little quirky place, is where I belong.

STOP.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wedding Ideas: First Dance Songs (1 -10)



As I wrote earlier this week, wedding planning is quite the hobby for Matthew and I at the moment.  While we are still a smidge over a year away from the big day, teaching having the Jekyll and Hyde schedule it does, we are keen to get lots of things sorted during this quieter season.

One of the funnest parts for us both is thinking about music - we are both proper music geeks so doing it ourselves was an easy choice to make, and I keep adding songs to our 'travel' (for the coaches betwixt church and reception), 'cocktails and mingling' and 'party' lists.  Heavy on the cheese, of course!

Another fun element is choosing a first dance song.  I have long known what I would hope my second dance at my wedding would be (bridesmaids, you ready?), but the first?  Now that's a whole other kettle of fish.  Matthew and I have been having great fun sending each other links and ideas, and that gave me the idea to do a series of blog posts about first dance songs - a mix of the traditional, the quirky, the fun and the unusual.  As a bride to be I am picking up so many cool ideas from the blogs, lists and websites of others - so I thought it was time I did some sharing of my own!  Herewith the first ten awesome first dance choices (with youtube links for your delectation!).

I'd love to hear in the comments what you chose as your first dance / what you'd like to use / any memorable first dance songs!

1. Better Together - Jack Johnson
 
I have been to three weddings where this has been used. So cute!

 2. Marry You - Bruno Mars
 
Such a sweet, silly song. The Glee version is super too, but it makes me a little teary now.

3. Big Casino - Jimmy
For those wishing to embrace the gamble of loving.

4. Something Changed - Pulp
One of my favourite songs, ever. Totally captures the 'what if...', and the lush strings are gorgeous.

5. Somewhere Over The Rainbow/What A Wonderful World - Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
Just one of the prettiest performances. Would be perfect for a chill, summer or beach wedding.

6. 1, 2, 3, 4 - Feist
Quirky and sweet - I've never been to a wedding where it's been used, but I think it's ripe for the picking!

7. Stand By Me - Ben E King
I was listening to the radio the other night when this came on. I think it would make a gorgeous first dance.

8. Have I Told You Lately - Van Morrison
And oldie and a goodie. There's even a Rod Stewart version....

9. No One's Gonna Love You - Band of Horses
"But no one is ever gonna love you more than I do..." The title sounds all kinds of dark, but the song and lyrics are actually wicked sweet.

10. I Only Wanna Be With You - Dusty Springfield
Short. Sweet. Uptempo. I would love to see this used as a first dance!

So that's part 1....part 2 to follow!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Wedding plans

Matthew and I have now been engaged for three months, and the plans for the wedding are coming together nicely.  I promised not to write too much about the wedding here, but I thought a little update might be okay!


We were lucky enough to get our venues booked pretty speedily.  We are getting married in a beautiful church in central London (more on that anon - it's the most stunning building!).  I must go get some good shots to share.  The reception will take place at the cricket pavilion/playing field of my school, the perfect venue for a lowkey, chilled party!  As we speak Matthew and I are researching transport and caterers.

We've invited our bridesmaids and best men, and will be lining up readers and ushers soon.

Save the dates are bought and ready to be labelled and mailed - as we're getting married slap bang in the middle of high summer we'll be letting people know sooner rather than later so they can plan - if they are able to attend!

I've bought my dress, and it's now nestled in a garment bag, rather like a caterpillar in a chrysalis.  I've also arranged our flowers (artificial, lovely), and as well as catering am hoping to have invitations, readings, favours, website, and the start of the playlist organised in the next couple of months.  School is so busy September-December and May-June, this holiday is the perfect time to get cracking.

Matthew and I are enjoying the planning so far, and have agreed on most things (or been happy with the other party deciding - for example, Matthew couldn't care less about flowers, I'm not a coach expert....but catering?  We both have opinions, ha!).  It's a fun journey, and a really exciting time.  Next year will be wedding-tacular - including our own we already have six scheduled for 2014!  What a fabulous season to be in!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Happy 1st Year Home, Katzen!

One year ago, we trooped over to Canning Town to pick up the newest additions to our home - Poppet, Leela and Fry.  They have added so much happiness to our lives with their sweet little faces and cute little ways.  Katzen rule!

A small Leela helping with the laundry.

Our two pretty girls!

Poppet on the very first day we brought the cats home.  She was so skinny and scared, poor little love.

Leela's first proper cuddle on the couch.

Such a pretty face.

Fry, the amateur hairdresser.

In their donut.

Naptime.

Poppet sleeping on the couch with me - her growing trust and comfort has been a delight to observe.

Fry helping out in my office.

Dinner time!

Such a photogenic kitten!

Fry loves the camera - he's a wee ham!

Poppet loves to be close to her 'hoomans'.

Cuddles galore!

Computers....you're doing it wrong.

Helping to pack.

Getting ready for Christmas entertaining.

Sweet boy - the camera doesn't do his sweet face justice!

Waiting for Matthew.

The kittens on their very first day.

Shoes!

Tiny Fry and Poppet in their box.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

School's out....

...and summer is here.  Time to read and relax and chill.

It's a lowkey summer here -

Catching up with friends and family.

Some blog based spring cleaning.

Walking.

Writing.

Catching up with neglected things like Project Life and my reading project.

Enjoying the city.

Getting rid of LOTS of clutter.

Cooking and baking.

Hanging out with my boy!

Looking over some schemes of work.

Spoiling the cats.

Getting my JLL on.

Exercising.

Doing little projects around the house.

Napping.

Clearing out my classroom ready for a refurbishment...and setting it up afterwards.

Wedding planning.

Reading some education books and reviewing practices.

Watching lots of movies.

Planting our garden.

The chance to embrace the lull is divine. :)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Present

Five Minute Friday

Linking up with the lovely Lisa-Jo like it's my job.

Grateful for a calming of pace, a time to loosen the grip on the reins a little and settle into a gentle trot instead of the full-kilter gallop of the end of term.

5 minutes to write, to think out loud, to let the words take you.

And today's word is....present.

GO.

It's a gift, this moment, this time, this present.  All too often we are called to worry, to fret, to nurse the wounds and hurts of the past; to hope and plan a little too hard for what tomorrow might bring.  We can spend so much time doing so that the present, this precious now, gets neglected.  And that would be a shame.

As much as I'm unhappy in my body right now, its lumps and bumps cumbersome and unattractive, I know I'm lucky in my present form - strong and healthy, smiley and rested.  As much as I can't wait for our wedding next year, our present is beautiful too - shared jokes, big dreams, cuddles with our kittens.  As much as I long for more of a voice at work, the chance to help more people, I know my present is special too - my little form of eighteen and I make big leaps together and our stories are woven together in a cool way.

The present is a blessing.

I'm learning, as I grow older, to appreciate the present more and more.  Where the younger me, impetuous thing that she could be, found only frustration or worry, I can now relish most moments and find the sweetness within.  I say 'most' purely because some things (some big, some small), alas, must be endured, not enjoyed!  But in most moments, in most 'presents', there's goodness to be had.  An hour long commute is a chance to read more of my book.  An evening along means writing and TV can move up the agenda.  There are many people on this planet who would give much for a present just like mine, sat here in my home, typing on a computer, safe, using words learned from years of education, before heading downstairs to cuddle my cats, have a drink of water, and decide what food to take from my amply stocked kitchen to make dinner for me and my fiancĂ©.

Truly I am blessed with this gift, this present.

I hope that you too have a present worth cherishing.

STOP.

Hi, I'm Claire...

Hi, I'm Claire...

About Me

I believe in 80s pop, 90s teen movies, and proper thank you notes. I just like smiling...smiling's my favourite.

I write here about London, food, books & travel, and a lot more besides. I'm never happier than when having adventures, cooking for friends, or lost in a good book.

If you'd like to work together, or if you'd just like to say hello, my email is: countrymouseclaire@gmail.com

Please note that on occasion affiliate links may be used in this blog. All items received for review or paid posts will always be disclosed.

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