Wednesday, 16 November 2011

In, over, through, out - teaching Dotty to knit

I am so proud. I have taught my little girl to knit and she is sitting on the sofa - knitting. I have a pain in my heart as I remember my mammy teaching me to knit - in, over, through, out - we chanted to help me with the stitches, it became a mantra. All these years later and it is as natural for me to say it to Dot as it was then for her to say it to me. I could cry - if my mam could see her now. I miss her every day, that will never change.

Anyway, on a happier note, on succeeding with her first complete line of knitting, Dotty said: "I feel two emotions - that it's fun and that I'm turning into an old woman." Funny little thing.

She is still sitting there on the sofa, little dog Spice watching intently, wondering what she's doing; every now and then there's a cry of "Mam..." and off I go to help out or knit a few lines for her while she has a rest... my little girl.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Picking up where I left off...

I have decided that although it is absolutely ages since I posted, I am not going to feel guilty or try to fill in any gaps since July. Yes, lots has happened in the past few months but I don't have time to go back and recap - and anyway, I doubt many people would be that interested.

Yes, the good thing is that although the blog has fizzled out a bit, my work has fizzed up and I am very busy - fingers crossed this continues to be the case.

Anyway, who said you have to blog every day...

Blogging is supposed to be fun and I'm going to keep on enjoying it - so I'll post when I feel like it, when I have time, when I can - and not give myself a hard time when I end up putting other things (such as work) first.

And anyway, guilt isn't good for you - as I've got older that's something I've come to realise and thankfully I don't let it get to me the way it did when I was younger...

Friday, 30 September 2011

Drinking up life in London town

I am sitting outside a cafe opposite Liberty in London and it's a glorious day. The department store with its Elizabethan-style facade and leaded windows is an impressive sight to anybody viewing it for the first time. It's not bad for shopping either.

It has a character not often seen in retail buildings - Fenwicks in Newcastle had it at one time, but it has been modernised in the last few years and I'm not sure if they have killed off its individuality in the character stakes - which suits its location as it's just around the corner from 60s mecca Carnaby Street. That style icon is still one of the most fashionable places to shop in the capital and a must visit, if only to try and understand what everybody was going mad about in the Swinging Sixties.

Sitting here sipping my coke, I can see changes since I left London that have enhanced it - more pedestrianisation for a start, which makes walking around less of a battle (though you still take your life in your hands if you try to cross Regent Street against the lights).  There's also more dining and drinking opportunities outside, so you can soak up the atmosphere of the place and people watch - something that has been the norm in continental Europe for years but was sadly missing here for the most part. A welcome change as far as I'm concerned, especially on a warm, sunny day like today. And it's almost October!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Dancing in history in Covent Garden - Royal Opera House

Photographer Rob Moore

Oh my stars, I have just had the most fabulous visit to the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden! It was part of a launch for a new skincare collection (more about that on, which has as its face the beautiful and extremely bendy ballet dancer Olivia Cowley.

As part of the product presentation a group of us were taken on a tour of the to the Royal Opera House and shown around the magnificent building. It is a place of two distinct halves: you have the original hall, built in 1858 and once host to the nobility of London including Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, then you have the glass-dominated modern part, which was built at the end of the 1990s.

The original hall is the third Royal Opera House - the first two were destroyed by fire - and it is all opulence: rich dark wood, deep red silk lampshades and gold leaf. By contrast, the modern part of the building is light, airy and fantastically minimalist; both though are equally striking in their own way.

Photographer Rob Moore
I can't believe I have never visited this cultural landmark before (despite having lived in London for 17 years) and I totally loved the tour. Our guide was a scream, a genial chap who kept us all amused with his anecdotes and jokes. He led us from the huge horseshoe-shaped theatre to the ballet rehearsal room where the dancers were taking part in the first class of the day; from there we looked in at the costume department where a team of just six people create the thousands of costumes used by the company every year. Amazing.

To my surprise I also learned that tickets start from just £5 for the 'slips' - the highest part of the auditorium, in the gods and nearest the ceiling. Standing room only I think there! I don't know how much of the action on stage you'd see but it would be quite an experience - especially if you have a problem with heights. I do but I'm seriously thinking of booking up just to see what it feels like.

What I also didn't know is the two restaurants and cafe situated in the building are open to the public - next time I have a meeting in London I'm going to suggest meeting up there.

For culture vultures, history buffs, dance fans or never-do-anything-like-that novices, it's a spectacular location and I'd recommend a visit if you're in the capital.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Smooth operator – Burton Agnes Jazz & Blues Festival 2011

Well it wasn’t what I expected at all. Not having been to a music festival before (yes I was a festival virgin until this summer), I did my homework before leaving home.  Into the car went the wet wipes and antiseptic hand wash I had been told was vital in case of overcrowded and overflowing toilets, games and books to keep the children amused in the traffic queues and between acts on stage, and of course the wellies – four pairs – for the inevitable mud.

I didn’t need any of it.

Claire Martin wowed the crowd
The Burton Agnes Jazz & Blues Festival was the most civilised and enjoyable event – and I loved every minute of the time I spent there. To my dismay we were only able to attend on the final day, so we missed much of a great bill that included Jacqui Dankworth, Matt Smith and Oli Brown.

What we did see though was fab: singer Claire Martin was a revelation – her vocals were sublime and the music lush, while eight-piece East Yorkshire band Octopus played out a set of classic swing that transported me back to my childhood. (I grew up listening to my dad’s jazz and swing records). 

Swing out with Octopus

As the music rang out around the grounds of Burton Agnes Hall, several people started to dance; others watched from blankets or deck chairs, sipping wine or drinking freshly brewed tea. No shouting, no screaming, everybody had a great view and the hours slipped past quickly as we all chilled to the sounds from the stage.

With me were my daughter, my brother and my niece. The girls are aged 10 and 5 so they weren’t for sitting still too long, but it didn’t matter. The gardens surrounding the great hall led to a woodland walk where we had fun spotting carved wooden creatures in the trees and hedges. The vegetable gardens led to a maze that the girls mastered admirably, leaving me stranded trying to find my way to the middle as they ran off.  There were outdoor games – giant chess boards, drafts, hopscotch and snakes and ladders – to hold their attention and we played all of them. These were definitely a big attraction for the many young visitors at the festival, and the great thing was, even while playing, we could still hear the music clearly.

Spot the woodland creatures kept the kids amused
We had taken a picnic to eat while watching the performers on stage, but there was loads of food on sale for non-picnic lovers, including burgers (my daughter had one of those and gave it the thumbs up), salads, hot dishes and homemade cake. The beer tent sold soft drinks as well as alcohol and for shopaholics there were two gift shops, plants for sale from the hall’s gardens, and a display of work by local artists to buy.  Importantly, none of the queues were too long either.

Now for the venue itself – I cannot fault it. The beautiful manor house and grounds have been in the Cunliffe-Lister family for around 900 years, and the performances took place on a stage set on the  beautiful lawns in front of the hall, as well as inside the building itself. Camping facilities were located in a field next to the gardens and though we didn’t bring our tent, by all accounts they were fine.

Beautiful Burton Agnes Hall
Burton Agnes Hall is a tourist attraction in itself, so it is
well served with proper loos (no smelly plastic toilets). It is situated between York and Bridlington on the A614 and offers free parking. 

All in all we really enjoyed our day and are definitely going for the entire festival next year – tent and all. And I’ll take the wellies just in case, though the other stuff can stay at home.

Burton Agnes Jazz & Blues Festival
5-7 August 2011

This review was prepared for the Family Festivals website, check it out on

Friday, 23 September 2011

A Geordie Gem - North East England

If you've never visited the North East of England then you have missed out. It's where I hail from, but I'm not biased - some of the most beautiful scenery and historic buildings in the country are found in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, and County Durham.

Here the historic melds with the contemporary: Hadrian's Wall, built in the days of the Roman Empire and once the country's northern border is still visible (and walkable), while the massive metal statue, the Angel of the North, graces the entrance to Gateshead from the south; Bamburgh Castle on the Northumbrian coast guards against invasion from the sea, while the latest bridge over the River Tyne, the Millennium Bridge gives pedestrian access to Gateshead and the city of Newcastle.

Extensive redevelopment of both the north and south quaysides have attracted prestigious hotels, restaurants, cafes and bars to the area, providing a great base from which to explore town and country.

For me, I always know I'm home when I see the Angel of the North as I drive into Gateshead on the A1 and nothing makes me more proud than seeing the historic Tyne Bridge over the river.

I'm coming home Newcastle - The Tyne Bridge

The River Tyne's iconic bridges: the Tyne Bridge, Swing Bridge and High Level Bridge

Looking along the Newcastle quayside towards the bridges. The Sage art and music venue is on the left (Gateshead quayside)

Millennium Bridge (pedestrian) links Gateshead and Newcastle (The entire bridge seems to lift up to allow boats to pass, there is a name for it but I'm not sure what it is. It is an amazing sight though)

Grey Street, Newcastle, the architecture is beautiful and the shopping is out of this world

The Angel of the North guards the entrance to God's Own Country from the south

Bamburgh Castle was a strategic fort built to defend against attack from the sea. This is a lonely but beautiful part of the coast with some of the best beaches in England. The fishing port of Seahouses lies to the south while Lindisfarne (Holy Island) lies to the north. The Farne Islands, renowned as a bird and seal colony, is off the coast and accessed by boat from Seahouses.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Legoland Florida - new destination for themepark lovers

Exciting news for Lego fans, Legoland Florida opens its doors next month - and I have to say it sounds good.

I attended the press launch for the new park this week and the video presentation made it all look very exciting. Mind you, I haven't visited the park in the UK yet, even though it has been on my list of things to do for years (and my daughter keeps bending my ear about it), so I don't know how different Legoland Florida will be or if it will offer something the Windsor park doesn't.

A colleague at the same event who has been to Windsor several times couldn't see anything new in the film but we wait to find out.

So, a few facts about the new attraction and its surroundings...
** It is situated in Polk County, Central Florida, within easy drive of Oralndo (about 30minutes drive from Kissimmee), Tampa and the airport.

** Ideal for families and children aged from 2 - 12.

** More than 50 rides and attractions.

** Ten Lego lands are located on the 150-acre site.

** Attractions close by include Bok Tower Gardens, water skiing, airboat rides and rodeo.
If my past performance on visiting Legoland Windsor is anything to go by it will be a long, long time before I get to the Florida park so if anybody can add to what I've said - how the development is progressing, how it is being received by the local community, and of course what it's like once it opens, I'd love to hear it.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Festive thoughts in the summer sun

I have had a whirl of a month business-wise with the annual spectacular that is Christmas in July. It's the time of year when PRs and their clients wow us with their wares for the coming festive season. Some events have been truly wow, whiles others - meh, not so much.

Monday, 18 July 2011

What's in a name - Harper Seven Beckham

There's been a lot of talk on Twitter these past few days about the Beckham's baby daughter and their choice of name for her.

One of the many tweets I have seen snottily said the name sounded liks a brand of toilet cleaner. On the contrary Harper is a lovely name and not strange at all to those of us with pre-teens into the Wizards of Waverley Place (Harper being one of the main characters in the show).

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Hooray for sports day!

There's been a bit of a historical moment in our house this week - my little girl came third in her sports day obstacle race and she enjoyed it! To explain, I hated sports day when I was a school and Dot is no different, in fact the morning of the event she was praying for rain with her friends in the school playground. She definitely gets it from me as her dad used to play schoolboy rugby for Essex.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Falling off my horse leaves me with more than one headache...

I fell off my horse - how stupid am I? I now have concussion, which has lasted for several days and though I thought it was going yesterday it's back today with a vengeance.

Yay, I thought yesterday afternoon as I got back to work and tidied the mess that is my office (file that under miscellaneous on the floor untidy). I made my arrangements for meetings in London today, printed out addresses, packed the A-Z, sorted out meeting a friend for coffee and today...

Well today I'm back to jelly legs and jelly head; I have slept most of the day, I feel constantly nauseous and walk like I'm at sea on a very wave-battered ship.

I love my horse dearly but I cannot afford such mega falls too often. Is it time to hang up my hat (which now needs replacing) or should I continue to ride, which also I love dearly? What is life if there's no challenge or excitement? Has anybody been in the same or a similar position and if so, what did you do?

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Great advice on photographing your horse

I've just watched this short video on horse photography and thought I would share it with you. It's on the Horse & Country website and here it is, courtesy of H&C.

My photographs of John are rather hit and miss so I'm looking to improve. I will be dusting off my camera this weekend and popping down to the yard for a few action shots - just call me the David Bailey of Dedham.

I would love to hear more tips on taking great photographs so if you have any hints or good advice why not share them?

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Customer service - aargh!

I had rather a surreal experience the other day, perhaps surreal isn't the correct word but not sure what is.

I was in the process of returning a pair of pumps I'd bought for my daughter from a well known store. She had hardly worn them and within a fortnight of buying them one had started to fall apart (the shoe not me I hasten to add). Anyway, there I am at the customer service desk explaining the situation to a shop assistant. All I wanted to do was exchange the faulty shoes for another pair exactly the same - but her response rather took me by surprise.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Autumn winter in summer

I recently spent the day in London where I attended several autumn winter launches and met some very nice people. Because I no longer live in the Capital I try to fit in several meetings or events in one day to make it more worthwhile travelling in from the country.

So there I am walking through the sunny, hot city, off to see the Cath Kidston winter range, thinking how lovely summer is and how beautiful central London looks in the sunlight. I got in there and was greeted with the CK Christmas collection *gulp*. I should have been expecting it but I wasn't...

Anyway, there are some lovely pieces there and I'm sure this is only part of the range yet to come.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Horses and cars - king of the road?

Out riding a couple of weeks ago John and I were met by a 4x4 pulling a livestock trailer, one of those closed-in trailers with open slats along each side. My horse just doesn't like them and started to mess around. I wasn't worried and put my leg on to get him past, but he wouldn't go. The friend I was riding with moved her mare in front and we all went through fine.

I was completely shocked when the driver of the 4x4 - who admittedly had turned off his engine to avoid frightening the horses further - shouted to me 'they shouldn't be on the road, they are too dangerous'.

Now I've heard that some people believe such guff but I've never come across anyone like that before. Call me naive but I always thought, and still think, that people are pleased to see horses and riders; they're a reminder of a more peaceful time when life was lived at a slower pace and folk were not so stressed out and materialistic, when things other than possessions mattered.

The road we were riding along is not busy with traffic, it is close to Dedham village, it is rural. Our horses are educated and mature. John is not a youngster, shying away from the slightest object or noise, he is a school master in every sense of the word.

The livestock vehicle was noisy with metal jangling and creaking, and quite frankly it scared him. Obviously. If the driver had stopped earlier we might well have passed without problem, but he didn't. At no time did we present a danger to anybody.

Why do drivers think they own the roads? What represents the biggest danger - a horse quietly walking, enjoying a country hack or a large, heavy 4x4 towing a trailer, which was frankly going too fast? I know which one I would rather run into.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The value of blogging

I've been reading a lot in the past few days about what blogging means to different people, what should and shouldn't be said, whether you should allow ads or not and if you do, whether this makes you a good or bad blogger. I've also been reading about things I know nothing about such as 'linkys', which make me realise once again that I have so much to learn about the whole thing.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Post wedding thoughts...

Well as we all know William and Kate were married yesterday - and in other news, the residents of our little street got together for a 21st century street party aka a BBQ and we all got along wonderfully.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Chocolate overkill

Moving on from the fragrant eggs of my last post, we are now the other side of the Easter festival and the lure of the chocolate variety is wearing thin. Not that my daughter would agree with me, as she happily tucks into yet another sweet treat.

A bit of commercialism here...

In my day-to-day role as a freelance writer I'm often contacted by PRs who have new products to promote or services to try, and yes, I do take them up on their offers from time to time, usually when I'm writing relevant features. It hasn't happened to me in my capacity as a horse lover and equestrian blogger, sadly... until now.

I have recently been sent a product for dogs (dogs and horses often go together and I'm no exception, see the cute photos of Spice), which has an unusual purpose - to keep those brown pee spots off your green lawn.

It's a rock that sits in the dog's drinking water, and the minerals it contains are supposed to neutralise the effects of urine. It's harmless to your pet but it just stops your grass going brown and patchy.

Our dog is a tiny creature and has an equally tiny water bowl, so I've bought him a big one to try it out (it's so big he could probably bathe in it). It will be a while before I see results, good or otherwise, but I'll let you know how I get on.

Now I just need a friendly PR to send me samples of their spring/summer clothing ranges for horse and rider...

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Puppy love

In all the time I've been blogging over the past year I don't think I've mentioned our little dog Spice. He came to live with us last May as a birthday present for my daughter, who has wanted a puppy for years. Spice is a cross Jack Russell Chihuahua - a Jackahuahua - and is the most adorable, feisty little fellow that ever lived (and I'm not exaggerating).

As the smallest in the litter, little Spice didn't have too much to say for himself, he was quiet and the object of much rough and tumble when his brothers and sisters were playing. But when they all went to different homes and Spice came to us, well it became a different story. The shy little puppy found his voice and his character - and he hasn't stopped telling us all about it since.

He's a little man with a big attitude, he barks for England (unfortunately) and he will grrrrr you as soon as look at you but he's adorable and Anya loves him. We all do. Here's a few photos of him as a puppy last May/June, playing in the snow with Anya last winter and him as he is now...

Friday, 15 April 2011

Egg-citing treats

I love these Easter goodies from Lush. The cute chick would make a great present, while the bath bomb eggs are one way of enjoying sweet treats without the calories.

Hippy Chick bath ballistic (£1.90). Fragranced with bergamot, frankincense and grapefruit.

Candy Fluff Egg bath ballistic (£2.95). Jelly beans, candy floss and marshmallow mix in this heady bathing beauty.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Stress less - I wish

I think it's a constant in life that you are most stressed when it's the least convenient time to be so. Or should I say for me it's a constant. It doesn't matter how well I try and plan in advance, - work, time, weekly meals, meetings, visits - there's always something pops up to throw things out of kilter. And I make lists. I list tasks, pieces of work, things I need to do - and I feel satisfied afterwards, as though I've achieved something great. Then at the end of the day, when I look back at my list, I realise almost everything is still on it! How is that? How can you work all day and still not be able to tick off your list?

It's one of the mysteries of life, along with where do all the second socks go and what happens to the chocolate I buy that vanishes into thin air when I'm not looking...

Camping out... almost

The horses at our new yard live out during the summer and, thanks to the lovely weather we've had this month, some of them have been living out for a few weeks already. Now, I have never left John out all night and I have no idea if he lived out before he came to me, but one reason for moving yards was so that I could try it. Everybody I've spoken to about it says their horses love it and of course, living outside is natural for horses in the wild.

Nonetheless, for us it was another one of those big steps we seem to encounter regularly, and I was prepared for a night of camping out at the yard with a sleeping bag and flask of coffee to hand, to keep an eye on him.

Except my friends refused to stay with me and as I'm a bit of a baby when it comes to being outside in the dark, on my own, in the middle of nowhere, I bottled it. I went home and worried instead.

When I went to see him the next morning he was a picture - I have never seen a horse look so tired, his eyelids were drooping and his head hung down heavily as if he was about to drop. I guess he hadn't gotten much sleep the night before.

The second night was better - he still looked tired but seemed happier.

The third night I decided to bring him in for his supper and a hay net, and if he seemed content, to leave him in his stable for the night.

I had convinced myself he was unhappy out in the field and preferred the creature comforts of his own space, with soft shavings to sleep on. Well, he polished off his supper no problem, then he started to call for his field neighbours. His calling became more urgent and he began to pace around his stable. At that point I got the message. He didn't want to be in, he wanted to be out.

So I led him back to the field and since then I've stopped fretting about him. He spoke and I listened.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Royal contender

I'm rather taken with Sensiderma Renew & Refine by Queen. The texture is creamy but it sinks into my skin easily and leaves a soft, non-sticky feel afterwards. It's supposed to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and lines - not that I have too many of them (ahem) - but I haven't been using it long enough to be able to comment on that yet. It is a lovely moisturiser nonetheless and it is also unfragranced, which is a bonus if you have a sensitive nose or sensitive skin. It also avoids irritating ingredients.

I tend to use it all over my face and neck as I would my regular moisturiser but you can just apply it to just those areas that need a little help if you prefer.

I will report back in few weeks on the cream's effectiveness at lightening lines and walloping wrinkles.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Cracking hacking!

My horse never hacked out, not with me, not for the first four or five years I knew him. Then we moved yards and gradually we started riding out. If you've read my blog over the past couple of years you will know how difficult that was for us and how proud I am that we came through and were able to enjoy the gorgeous countryside around Little Horkesley where he was stabled at the time.

Then I moved him to Dedham. As I said in my last post, he's settled brilliantly, but for me, the first ride at the new yard was something akin to riding Splash Mountain at Disney - something I was totally terrified of but something that had to be done.

So after John had been at the yard a week, I saddled up to ride out with a friend... he was a superstar. Why did I ever doubt him. He didn't put a hoof wrong and it was as if he knew where he was going. We enjoyed a lovely hack, he was chilled, laid back, didn't spook, it was as if he had walked those paths all his life.

Perhaps he has. I know nothing of his history but surely horses don't travel that far when they're traded? Perhaps John's life before I knew him centred on or around Dedham. Perhaps he grew up there, spent the first 17 years of his life there, before his owner decided she/ he didn't want him anymore. Oh my, their loss is my gain.

Since then we have been riding out regularly. He has become even closer to his field neighbour Libby, who is also his hacking companion, and we are loving the country lanes and tracks of Dedham!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Settling in

I worry too much. John travelled well, he was a little stressed for the first couple of days, calling and walking around the stable, but other than that he's settled beautifully. I think it helps that he already knows a couple of the horses there - friends who moved from my last yard to this one before I did. He has also fallen for the flirty chestnut filly in the next paddock - though she doesn't return his affection, more like turns and kicks out at him. Poor love, he always falls for the girls and they always reject his advances, usually with a bite on his nose.

Anyway, back to the matter in hand. You would think he'd been here for years (and the filly is actually an 18-year-old mare, but she doesn't know that, still thinks she's a baby - after all, you are as old as you feel and she (Libby) obviously still feels good as she has been known to act like a four-year-old). He has a large paddock and a very large stable; it's peaceful, surrounded by fields, and you can't hear the traffic. Dedham is also a very beautiful place and I'm so happy to be spending time there (the artist Constable thought it was okay too).

The petrol prices are crippling but hey ho, what can you do. I'm still glad I moved.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Sisters are doing it for themselves

Lets not forget that it's International Women's Day today and all that it stands for. Time to take a moment and think about the sacrifices of our sisters in the past and the sacrifices women still make around the world today. Together we are stronger.

Pancake prowess II

It's Shrove Tuesday today so it was time to have another go with the electric pancake maker. To be honest my efforts with a frying pan every year are dismal so I was very hopeful for the results. I thought my technique/ method/ skill might have improved since last time, but I'm afraid no, I'm not a very good cook. On the plus side it was better than my first attempt, but I think I need a lot more practice.

If you don't mind your pancakes squidgy and squiggly, in lots of little bits rather than one big circle, then I'm your pancake woman. Fortunately my daughter absolutely loved them so I'm a hero in her eyes (helped I'm sure by the chocolate topping I covered them with).

Monday, 7 March 2011

Body boost?

I attended a launch last Friday for the new E45 body lotion Endless Moisture Derma Restore. Held in a hotel that doesn't display its name outside, (cue lots of pointless walking up and down the street searching for the venue - what's that about?) the presentation was both interesting and illuminating.

Formulated for the more mature skin this body lotion claims to 'return skin's youthful glow' (yay),and nourish skin so that it feels more supple and softer in just three weeks.

A clinical study conducted by the company found that 100% of users experienced long lasting hydration and around three-quarters of users said their skin was softer and more supple to the touch after three weeks of applying the product.

Active ingredients include Poly Hydroxy Acid (PHA), a type of AHA, nicotinamide (said to boost collagen production), and glycerine (that holds in moisture).

I've just started using it and will continue to do so for three weeks before reporting back.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Moving day

I'm moving John to a new yard today - and I'm soooo nervous. It's a big deal moving your horse and not something you undertake lightly. Will he like it, will he settle, will he pine for his friends, would it be better to leave him where he is - these are all questions that went round and round in my mind and I'm sure it's the same for everyone in the same situation. Trying to work out the pros and the cons is a nightmare, but after weeks of deliberation, sleepless nights and asking him (not that he ever replied) I have decided to go ahead and move him to Dedham...

... which is much further away from where I live unfortunately, but the reasons that swayed me are:

He will have year-round turnout, unless I decide to keep him in because the weather's bad. At his current yard the horses were kept in rather a lot this past winter, even those days that other horses elsewhere were out, which I didn't like.

One reason for this is the paddocks suffer from bad drainage and become waterlogged, so he was knee-deep in mud when he was out - which I didn't like either.

At his new yard he will be able to live out 24/7 during the summer. Now I don't know if he will take to that as I've never left him out before (never been at a yard where it was allowed), but I'm going to try it and see. You never know, he might love it.

The final reason - and an important one - finances. The new yard will cost me a lot less and even though I will spend more in petrol, it should work out cheaper. And I'm afraid that is a big consideration for me at the moment, as it is for so many horse owners. I have heard that many people can no longer afford to keep their horses, which is tragic. I hope never to be in that situation and I'm doing all I can to make sure John and I continue in our happy relationship, unaffected by the horrors of recession. If it means a longer journey for me then so be it.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Neck lines

I am a moisturising addict - I confess, I've been applying cream to my face and neck since I was about 15 years old. As I get older, the need to introduce more moisture into my skin becomes ever more important, so I'm always happy to try out creams, lotions, serums, any product that holds out the hope of better looking skin, fewer wrinkles (laugh lines), or staving off that dreaded turkey neck.

My neck is one of my sore points - in that it is the place that bluntly demonstrates in the mirror that I'm getting older. Looking at the skin on my neck sometimes makes me want to weep - you see in my head, I'm still 18. So I'm big, big, big on neck creams.

Therefore I was very happy indeed to try the Q10 moisturising milk and Q10 neck cream by DHC.

I was impressed with the look and feel of the milk as it has the texture and lightness of a serum. Unfortunately for me, it isn't rich enough and doesn't seem to have any effect on my skin at all. I reckon it would be great for somebody in their 20s, but sadly that's no longer me.

The neck cream however I like. I'm not too keen on the fragrance (perhaps that's because it doesn't have a fragrance) but the cream seems to improve the texture of the skin on my neck, even taking away a few lines temporarily. It's light, non-greasy (despite the face it contains olive oil) and it sinks in fast. A keeper I think.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Playing together and staying together?

I've just read a news release from Lego that reveals people who play board games generally tend to fall out. I could have told them that, you only have to watch a game of Monopoly in our house to see usually well-adjusted people turn into shouting monsters. I now refuse to play Monopoly with my other half as it gets way too heated - he takes it all too seriously.

Last time he played Monopoly with our daughter I could hear the arguments from the other side of the house and Anya was as vocal as he was. Thankfully they did forget their row as soon as the game was put back in the box - unlike some people. According to Lego their poll revealed "one in twelve adults have got so outraged with other players that have never spoken to them again".

Laura Di Bonaventura senior brand manager at LEGO said: "The best advice is to probably stick to playing games with the children - hopefully this should avoid any competition with good friends." She has obviously never met my little girl - a more canny and forthright Monopoly player you'd be hard pressed to find.

The poll also found that dads are the worst culprits when it comes to cheating, while nana and aunty are the most honest. Enough said.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Pancake prowess I

Recently I received a pancake maker from a kind PR who must have known my pancake-making skills are somewhat lacking. With much excitement and dancing around from Anya, I gave it a go. First of all, it gets really hot so beware if you use one that you don't burn your fingers (I did). Second, it's not as easy as it looks. I've watched crepe makers in France creating delicious concoctions in seconds, they make it look so simple. But it's not. Instead of swirling elegantly around the hotplate the mixture clung to one place, stuck there stubbornly. Eventually it came away - in bits - and it in no way resembled a perfect circle (which is what I'd been aiming for). Alas, I need much more practice. Not that it mattered to Anya who happily ate up all the misshapen results and even asked for more.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Bring me sunshine II

Clinique has launched a yummy light version of its Happy fragrance. Happy in Bloom is a lighter, floral version of the bestselling scent and could be just the thing to boost your mood in time for spring. It also comes in a pretty funky bottle.

Bring me sunshine

Brrrr another cold day today, frost everywhere this morning. It's losing its appeal now, so it was good to see these summery cushions. For me, they conjure up images of past seaside holidays, egg and tomato sand-wiches, sandcastles on the beach and family fun. And while balmy, warm weather may be several months away they certainly cheered me up! Roll on summer.

Faux suede cushions by Martin Wiscombe, from Rustic Angels

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Rosy cheeks rescue

This cold weather is taking its toll on my skin, particularly when I'm out a couple of hours a day, every day, mucking out and caring for my horse. Runny noses and icy feet are par for the course but I've received information about a product that could turn out to be a favourite - it helps prevent chapped lips and red cheeks.

Calendula Weather Protection Cream by Weleda is actually formulated for babies but works just as well on adults apparently. It is quickly absorbed, gel-like, full of natural ingredients including organic sweet almond oil and of course calendula. It is also suitable for vegetarians and is free from synthetic perfumes, colours and ingredients.

I haven't tried it yet but if it's anything like Weleda's calendula nappy cream then it promises to be great. I can speak with authority about that product - when my daughter was little it was the only cream that worked for her, as a barrier cream and for preventing nappy rash. The fact it contains only natural ingredients was another great attraction for me and we got through tubes of the stuff. Loved it.

Family trees

The hunt was out in our area today so of course John had to stay in otherwise he might well have joined them when they went past. A couple of the others who knew what it was all about, having hunted before, got a little excited (the hunt was meeting just down the road) but in fact I don't think John, happily tucking in to hay and carrots in his stable, realised anything was up, which seems to suggest he has not.

I wish I knew more about his past. According to his owner before me, he was an eventer in his younger days - and the state of his legs would seem to back that up - but she got him from a dealer and didn't know anymore than that. He does have a freeze mark but again, according to his last owner, she tried to trace it and discovered the company responsible had gone out of business.

Is there any way to trace a horse's history without putting a pleading ad in the back of horse magazines?

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Skin saviours

This is my first find of the new year and something that's very exciting in that I'm sure it's making me look younger - it's certainly making my skin softer and smoother, (I know, I know, it can't really make me younger). It's having an effect though and one I like. I haven't tried the other products in the range, just the serum, and as it costs around £33 on one website I've seen, I don't know when I will be using it again. While I have it though I'm going to enjoy it.

Just thought, I wonder how many people use a serum under their moisturiser or instead of it? I fall into the latter group at the moment and it hasn't had a negative effect that I can see or feel, but does it reduce the efficacy of the products? One to ponder and research further perhaps.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Ring in the new

It's 2011 - Happy New Year! This is one of the few occasions an exclamation mark is allowed. I think everybody is glad to see the start of a new year, with its promise of good things ahead and a delicious anticipation of the unknown. Especially true perhaps if the one you've just seen the back of wasn't one to remember for any good reason.

For me, 2010 was a mixture, good and bad, but nothing too awful, though I'm left at the beginning of 2011 with much the same questions as at the beginning of 2010. This year though I am going to deal with them differently and so see a different outcome in the realms of work, family, love and finances.

My stars for 2011:

"This will be your year. Though you may feel you have been treading water for a while now, 2011 will bring forward movement and positive change. Just stay optimistic, look for new challenges and embrace them fearlessly. Make more time for family and friends, they are your support network and the rock that keeps you up when the stuff hits the fan. Enjoy your family more, laugh more with them and share special moments. Don't let fear stop you advancing and do not be content with lack of energy, fight it and win, arriving at goals you thought previously were too difficult to reach with cheerfulness, positivity and a belief in yourself, your qualities and your abilities."

Right, lets get to it then.

Happy - horsey - new year!

Who can believe it, it's 2011 already and that means John is now 23 years young. As with people, I think age with horses has a lot to do with the mind - if you act like you're old, tired and worn out then you will be old, tired and worn out; but if you act like a youngster then you will be a youngster - in outlook and deed. That's certainly true of my boy, watching him canter up the field you would never believe he has seen as many summers as he has. Hacking out too, he can still throw a surprise or three at me, and while he casts a disdainful eye at his younger field companions spooking at a tractor, he can still outshine them in the nonsense stakes when he wishes.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

The snow has now gone and the horses are at last out, yet turning him out after a week stuck in the stable was a joy, no pulling, no barging, no being Mr Tall Horsey, he behaved with the utmost grace and decorum, let me lead him to the field with no spooking or shying. What a star.

I'm looking forward to getting back in the saddle, I can't even remember when we last rode out, but... I always get nervous when I don't ride and so not having ridden in a while means more nerves than normal. I know it's no big deal, I face this every time, but still, I'm looking forward to getting that first ride out of the way so we can move on - weather permitting of course, I'm told we are in for snow again...