Just Go

All pictures taken from Zeal and Heart's gorgeous archive.

There are words which conjure up a feeling.

Words which inspire.

Words which are a call to action.

For me, right now, in this season, the words 'Just Go' have a resonance and a depth I wasn't expecting. They are words that speak to adventure, to change, to new beginnings, to fresh starts. My mid-thirties, far to the calm and slightly dull era I was expecting, have turned out to be a time full of potential, of 'what ifs', of dreams, of exploring.


That these words are the ones that Bangarang chose for our collaboration with Zeal and Heart feels especially special (wow, that phrase is a pyramid of awesome, non?).

The Bangarang girls are some of the awesome women I love to navigate the joys of the blogosphere alongside, and we were delighted when Rebecca approached us for a motto to make into a necklace.

Many were suggested.

Many were rejected.

And 'Just Go' was crowned the winner.

It's a phrase that our wanderers' hearts felt was perfect for a pendant, and crafted in beautiful sterling silver it's an ideal gift to share, or treasure to cherish.


Do you love the thrill of the unknown? Does your heart sing for new horizons? Then the 'Just Go' pendant from Zeal & Heart is perfect for you. From £25, with all proceeds going to Headway, it's a beautiful way to remember the journeys you've had....and the journeys yet to come.
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Travel: Las Vegas Daydreaming


I don't have any holidays on the horizon at the moment, for the first time in a longtime. With various other areas of life demanding attention, it's not the time to be booking a holiday. Friends and family are off to Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, China, Mexico, Japan over the next few months, but I'll be living vicariously (thank heavens for social media!). I've been utterly spoiled with travel over the past twelve months, but it feels super odd not to be jetting off on the next few calendar pages!

Which is probably why my holiday daydreams are in hyperdrive. The most recent ones have all involved Las Vegas, one of my very favourite places. What I'd give to be going there again soon.


Landing after a fun flight, refreshed and ready for fun, getting picked up by a limo driver...



Checking into a suite and taking in the views, maybe hitting the pool....




Cocktails and some delicious dinner - Julian Serrano for tapas, perhaps?




And a show - Cirque, Le Reve, Mariah...



Before nightcaps, a flutter on the roulette wheel or the blackjack table, and then to bed.

Gosh I miss that town.

I'll get back before long, I'm sure, but for now there are displays to put up, books to label, and stationery to organise - my classroom isn't going to organise itself!

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The First Lines Game

In the interests of sheer good fun, let's play a game.

This is a meme that used to do the rounds on facebook and myspace (yes, myspace!) back in the day, as well as being featured on this here blog a few times and it's just good fun.  Who doesn't love a pub quiz moment where you get to show off your knowledge?


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The rules:

Step 1: Put your music player on shuffle.
Step 2: Post the first line (or a few ;)) from the first 30 songs that play, no matter how embarrassing.
Step 3: Italicise the lyrics and post the details when someone guesses both artist and track correctly*
Step 4: For those who are guessing -- looking the lyrics up on a search engine is CHEATING!
Step 5: If you like the game post your own



*I'll even add a YouTube link, because music is for sharing :)


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1. It’s okay, I’m good. Let’s go.

2. What an amazing time
    What a family
    How did the years go by?
    Now it's only me

What You Waiting For? - Gwen Stefani (Laura - way to go!)

3. Don't you know
    So many things they come and go?

4. I gotta take a little time
   A little time to think things over

5. She was a fast machine she kept her motor clean
    She was the best damn woman that I ever seen

6. I been livin for the weekend
    But no not anymore

7. The world was on fire and no one could save me but you.
     It's strange what desire will make foolish people do.

8. I ain't the kind you take home to mama 
    I ain't the kind to wear no ring 

9. Hello, hello, baby, you called?
    I can't hear a thing

Telephone - Lady Gaga and Beyoncé  (well done Jenny K!)

10. Oceans apart day after day
      And I slowly go insane

Right Here Waiting - Richard Marx (well done, Laura!)

11. It doesn't hurt me.
      Do you want to feel how it feels?

12. Don't be so quick to walk away
      Dance with me

13. People like you always want back the love they gave away
      And people like me wanna believe you when you say you've changed

14. Popping bottles in the ice, like a blizzard
      When we drink we do it right gettin slizzard

Like a G6 - Far East Movement (Laura)

15. I hopped off the plane at L.A.X.
     With a dream and my cardigan

Party in the USA - Miley Cyrus (Laura)

16. I would take the stars
     Out of the sky for you

17. Worn and haggard, weathered and torn
      Drug through the keyhole of that back door

Making Me Look Good Again - Drake White (Laura)

18. Oh, well, imagine,
      As I'm pacing the pews in a church corridor,

19. It was a theme she had
     On a scheme he had
     Told in a foreign land

20. I wanna walk that line a little crooked
      And live my life a little on the rocks

21. What if I told you about my little nothing town
       The two room house where I came from

If I Told You - Darius Rucker (Laura)

22. To the left, to the left
      To the left, to the left, 
      Everything you own in a box to the left

Irreplaceable - Beyoncé (Jenny K)

23. There's nothing like summer in the city
      Someone under stress meets someone looking pretty

24. Bet you think I'm sitting at home. No.
      Bet you think that I'm all alone. No.

Somewhere On A Beach - Dierks Bentley (Laura)

25. I'm busy throwing hints that he keeps missing 
      Don't have to think about it 

Push The Button - Sugababes (Jenny K)

26. Right now you are down and out and feeling really crappy
     And when I see how sad you are it sort of makes me...
     Happy!

27. On a boat, on a beach
      In the water, in the sand
      In the back of a bar
      Cold beer in your hand

You Look Good - Lady Antebellum (Laura)

28. Her hair is Harlow gold
      Her lips sweet surprise

29. Dry lightning cracks across the skies
      Those storm clouds gather in her eyes

Blown Away - Carrie Underwood (Laura)

30. There is freedom within
      There is freedom without
      Try to catch a deluge in a paper cup

Don't Dream It's Over - Crowded House (Laura)
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Good luck, quizzers!




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23 Things I Would Like to Do This Autumn


Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness...as soon as the calendar moves over to September I'm ready for all things autumn. One thing I like to do in each season is make a list of things I'll try to do - soem are basics for that season, others are personal favourites for this time of year, and still more are new things I fancied adding to proceedings. I'll keep you posted on progress as we move through the season!

1. Make flapjacks

2. Go for an autumn walk in each of my favourite London parks (Hampstead Heath, Regents Park/Primrose Hill, Hyde Park, Green Park, St James' Park, Victoria Park, and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park)

3. Unpack warm clothes

4. Buy a new bubble bath



5. Stock up on goodies at a farmer's market

6. Read Pride & Prejudice

7. Make some mulled cider

8. Bake a pie

9. Have corn on the cob with lashings of butter



10. Watch When Harry Met Sally

11. Write letters

12. Get up early for a walk and catch an autumn sunrise

13. Plan and serve an Oktoberfest inspired meal of beer and brats

14. Make granola

15. Celebrate Halloween (and actually dress up!)



16. Cook using apples & pumpkins & squash while they are in season

17. Watch Hocus Pocus

18. Decorate a pumpkin

19. Make veggie soup

20. Buy some candles with autumnal scents


21. Make chilli

22. Get out of London for a walk in the woods

23. Donate items to a Harvest festival


What things have you feeling super autumnal? Do you have any yearly traditions? Do you make a list of your own?
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Travel: Exploring Venice


On our Italian trip this spring, our final destination was Venice.

While I'd been excited to see Rome and was mad for Florence, I didn't really know what to expect of Venice. Perhaps I'd seen too many pictures, read too many posts...but I was a little worried that it might fall a little flat after so much hype.

I needn't have worried. Venice is a dream.

After catching the train from Florence to Venice and getting from the station to our hotel (which was a whole thing, involving trolleys and bridges and me almost getting lost when I got distracted by something shiny), we checked in and were soon out of the door to explore. These are just a few shots I took from the Vaporetto or while we traversed the back alleys and bridges on foot before supper, and these first glimpses had me falling in love with Venice, hard.



From well-known sights like the Rialto to simply taking in the views as we sailed along the canal, the whole city had an other-worldly feel. Even though it was busy (just look at the crush of tourists on the bridge!), the layout of the city and the water everywhere lent the whole place a feeling of peace and calm.



Outside every home and building there were moorings, with gondolas, rowboats, speedboats and water taxis tied up awaiting their next journey. The Vaporetto boats were so easy to use and as our hotel was right on the Grand Canal we were able to pop down to the stop speedily and get on our way whenever we needed to!



So many places had terraces and balconies overlooking the water, and as the sun went down these filled with people watching the boats go by. We had a balcony of our own and it was delightful to sit with a bottle of wine in the later evening and watch the people sailing past (and waving as required, of course).



So many of the homes and buildings had little flourishes and touches which made them stand out.



After our little journey on the Vaporetto we reached St Mark's Square, and I took this quick snap before we headed off for a walk around some of the backstreets and smaller canals (we had St Mark's and the Doge's Palace on our list for later in the trip).



Away from the crowds around St Mark's the city relaxed once more and as we made our way back across town for pizza and crisp Italian beer, I loved spotting glimpses of the city.



The gondoliers taking people to dinner, the tall buildings with their shutters, the higgledy-piggiledy back alleys... Our first few hours in Venice were a dream.


Have you visited Venice before? Have you taken a Vaporetto water-bus?
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Life: Topsy Turvy



This time of year always feels a little busy, a little dizzy, a little up-and-down. The start of a new school year always feels like the real new year, the new start of things, and the shift from summer to autumn is always a big change.

I'm excited for my favourite part of the year, autumn and early winter. It's a time of year where I'm always learning, growing, changing, and this year I'm sure will prove to be no exception. I've got big plans, big ideas, and lots of fun planned too.

I'm excited to meet my new class. I'm excited to learn what 2018 might bring. I'm excited to keep going on my weight loss quest*. I'm excited for cooler temperatures, madder schedules, and good times with good folks. I'm excited for our continued house renovation and reorganisation project.

It may be topsy turvy around here, but that's no bad thing!

Happy September, you beautiful folk.







* Speaking of the quest, a quick update. Turns out my old scales were wrong, and my actual start weight was 290 pounds.

Flipping heck.

In less stressful news, this morning I tipped the scales at 260 pounds. 30 pounds down and one-fifth of the way to my ultimate goal. Onwards!
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Food: Ole & Steen


Whenever I'm on a break from school I try to make it into town for lunches, coffees and drinks with my friends who work in the city. It always feels quite fun to be out in the city amongst the workers - as a teacher my (delicious and much appreciated!) lunch is eaten at school, so getting out and about for a bite is always fun. Matthew, who has to get lunch every day, always thinks I'm barking when I tell him this. I'm sure if my lunch usually was queueing/Pret-agogo/meal deal bonanza I'd feel differently, but the novelty always makes me happy.

One friend who I always adore catching up with is the lovely Katy, insta-princess (the skills, you guys). So when she said she was free for lunch and fancied trying out a Danish spot, I was naturally on board. We met up at Piccadilly Circus, managed to avoid most of the tourist crush, and were soon at our destination, Ole & Steen.


Ole & Steen is a sleek and pretty bakery/cafe, with lots of seating and a cool, laid-back vibe. As we walked in the mix of clientele was a pleasure to see - Soho creatives next to grandmothers across from yummy mummies with their mega-pushchairs. 

A quick aside on the mega-pushchairs - when did these contraptions get so enormous and tricky to handle? I used to babysit and nanny back in the day and buggies were, on the whole, delightfully manoeuvrable, easy to fold, and a godsend for stashing things in the bottom basket. I'm sure there are lots like that still but so many of them seem huge and difficult to use. I had to hold someone's baby in the supermarket car park the other day while she did battle with her beast of a buggy - it took a good thirty seconds to a minute, a few murmured curses and no doubt a prayer or two for the thing to click together. What happened to pushchairs? As someone without kids I'm utterly confused - I'm sure my mummy friends will have gallons of wisdom on this and shall await further education.

Back to Ole & Steen.

The space is light and airy, with a mix of low tables, stools at bars, and plenty of solo and duo spots. When you order you walk along the display area where you can see an array of pretty open sandwiches and baked delights should you fancy a sweeter bite. I selected a Danish Blue open sandwich on rye, and Katy had boiled egg and avo on toast. All washed down with some smooth, satisfyingly rich coffee.
  

Ole & Steen is a nice, calm spot in the city, perfect for a catch-up lunch, a cup of coffee and a baked good, or to while away an hour with a good book. I'm definitely heading back for some cake action!


Ole & Steen
2 St. James’s Market,
56 Haymarket,
St. James's,
London
SW1Y 4RP

Open Monday - Sunday 
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Summer's End...

...And what a summer it has been. It feels like a heartbeat away that we were toasting the end of the summer term with fizz and fun at school, and now September is knocking on the door and beckoning in my favourite months of the year. I'm ready for back to school, for cooler temperatures, for the cosiness of autumn, and the pre-Christmas rush, but am so grateful for our busy, fun summer.

It feels like my summer has had two distinct themes - travel, and home improvements.

Travel has been amazing, whether it's been exploring the fjords and mountains of Norway, getting to know new cities like Copenhagen and Stockholm, revisiting Germany, a country I'll always have a soft spot for, or spending time with friends and family in my homeland, Scotland.

Home has been busy - we have cleared out room after room after room (and the clearout goes on). We've switched several rooms around too (cue much moving of furniture and yelling 'Pivot! Pivot!' at one another). Our team of stoneworkers and brickies and render-destroyers have chipped away at the cracked off-white facade of our house to reveal the loveliest sandy bricks below - one more week of scaffolding and dust and noise and that will be completed. Shona has completed on her new home and started moving her stuff across town. And Smudge cat is all settled in and very much part of the family.

It's been a productive, busy, challenging and fun summer, and I cannot wait to see what fun autumn may hold.  There are many projects afoot, lots to plan, and some potential changes ahead - but hey, life is never dull, right?

I'm off to enjoy the Bank Holiday Monday with brunch, sunshine, cocktails and cats; I hope you have a similarly lovely day planned. I'll leave you with a few of my favourite shots from summer break.














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#MoreThanCat



I am a fully paid up crazy cat lady. With four felines in our household, we are outnumbered 2:1, cats:humans (well, the odds are a little better while Shona is staying with us, but after that we'll be into a full on two-against-one scenario). Luckily our fur-bubs are kind and loving masters / bosses, and Matthew and I are treated very well by our feline overlords.


Earlier this month I was invited by the RSPCA to take part in their #MoreThanCat campaign, a fun little drive around International Cat Day to talk about our cat-friends and to open the conversation about these quirky animals! It was also a lovely opportunity (or should that read op-purr-tunity?) to shine a light on the great work the RSPCA and other charities do in finding homes for cats without a family of their own. As our quartet are all adoptees (three from a shelter, one because he found us - I'll tell that story another day!) I'm always up for applauding the charities who help unite animals with loving homes.


I shared the images in this post on social earlier this month, along with dating profile/factfile style write ups for each cat. I'm quietly proud of them, they really do give you a good view of each cat and the unique and lovely characters they bring to our home. I cannot imagine life without our four little troublemakers and feel so lucky to get spoiled with purrs, kisses, chats and snuggles every day.

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Travel: Harvard & Cambridge Walking Tour


I'm loving having the chance to write up so many of our travels over this summer break. I've been so lucky with the sheer amount of places I've been able to visit in the past months and it's such fun to share about it all here!

On our US/Canada trip last fall we were mainly aiming to visit New York, Toronto and Las Vegas, but when the chance came for a couple of days in Boston too, we leapt at the chance. This city is such a big part of US history and we were excited to add it to the schedule.

After our Amtrak adventure we finally made it into the city and after checking in at our lovely hotel (more on which soon) we hightailed it to meet our group for a tour of Harvard and Cambridge. Being in Boston we couldn't skip the opportunity to visit one of the pillars of the Ivy League (and where Elle Woods went to law school ;)).


We arrived at the rendezvous point just in time for our train across the Charles River with our guide, where we also discovered that we were the group - no-one else had signed up for the evening tour so we had our guide all to ourselves!

First stop was the Longfellow House in Cambridge. So named as it was the home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow for several decades, it also served as the headquarters for George Washington between 1775 and 1776. The home was built in 1759 for John Vassall, who fled the Cambridge area at the beginning of the American Revolutionary War because of his loyalty to the king of England. Throughout Cambridge reminders of the War of Independence were everywhere and it was fascinating to learn more about this era of American history.


After touring Cambridge in the evening sunshine, as twilight drew in we toured some key parts of Harvard's campus. Having had a few friends attend the university it was so fun to get a glimpse of where they would have studied and spent their time.

Harvard is such an impressive school. According to Wikipedia (always good for a quick fact-check, right?), its alumni includes eight U.S. presidents, several foreign heads of state, 62 living billionaires, 359 Rhodes Scholars, and 242 Marshall Scholars. In addition to this, some 130 Nobel laureates, 18 Fields Medalists, and 13 Turing Award winners have been affiliated as students, faculty, or staff.


The buildings and campus were really lovely, and I was kicking myself that I had my proper camera back at the hotel charging (hence the iPhone pics in this post!). The red bricks, the columns on so many of the buildings, the greenery all added to the gravitas of the place.


I'll definitely be hoping to head back to Harvard for another visit and some further exploring. The Harvard Library (the world's largest academic and private library system) is somewhere I definitely need to get to, if only to marvel in wonder.

Have you visited Harvard? Do you like visiting universities or colleges? If you do, be sure to check out the University of Aberdeen at Old Aberdeen, where I spent my undergraduate years - such a pretty campus!

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