Saving energy, saving money…

analytics-3265840_1920.jpgWhen we moved into our current house, we got ourselves a smart metre to monitor our gas and electricity use. If you ignore the fact that I can’t help nervously glancing at it every time I go past to see how big a bill I’m racking up with the current weather, it was one of the best things we could have done.  Since we’ve installed it, we have been watching how much energy we use and, so far, have reduced our bill by about £10 a month without significantly impacting our lifestyle. Here’s what we’ve done so far… Continue reading

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What I learnt about the cocoa bean (when I decided to make craft chocolate)

With Easter days away, it’s impossible to not see chocolate everywhere I turn. I’m not complaining, I love chocolate and think it should be its own food group but, recently, I’ve started to look for something different in my chocolates beyond your standard name-brand hollow egg.  I’ve even been thinking that I might make my own.

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Craft Chocolate UK has a great blog post that told me everything I needed to know about making my own chocolates.  It also told me things I didn’t know or didn’t expect – like I might want to think about roasting my own beans. I’m not sure what I thought I would be doing when I made my own chocolates, but it definitely wasn’t that.  Continue reading

Places to Visit: Kenilworth Castle

Continuing my trek through last years photos, I came across a rather cold day we spent at Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire, one of our favourite places as we used to live just over half an hour away.  Despite the weather and the muddy wellies, it was still a great day.  photo

Kenilworth began life as a Norman Keep in the time of Henry I (1120 or so) and became a royal castle under Henry II. Over time, it was built up into an island stronghold able to protect Henry III (though it is no longer surrounded by a mere or lake). With each monarch, it changed. This can be seen in the Tudor Stables (which now house a rather tasty tea room) and the Elizabethan Gatehouse. The Gatehouse was built by Robert Dudley as a place for Elizabeth I when she visited. Walking around, it’s interesting to see the changes and imagine what it was like during so many key periods in my country’s history.  Continue reading

Cheats veggie chilli recipe

seeds-2908636_1920Most days, I try and be good and cook my meals from scratch. I don’t always succeed and, the further through the week I get, the harder it is to stay motivated. It’s the same when I have lots on, fresh food goes by the wayside.

In the warm weather, it’s not too bad – salads are always a quick and easy option – but on cold, dark, nights, it’s harder to not resort to soup or heat ‘n’ eats. This chilli is quick, simple, and veggie so stops me feeling too guilty about not slaving over a hot stove. It takes about 10 minutes to get everything in the pan and another 15 to cook and will easily serve 4 people.  The photo took doesn’t do it justice but I was in a bit of a rush…. Continue reading

Learning to Say No

One of the things I was looking forward to when I finished work last September and started working for myself was the control I thought I would have. No more having to get up at five in the morning because my manager needed me to go to a meeting at the other end of the country that lasted all of an hour (what’s wrong with a phone call I ask you?), no more working weekends because I was given something to do at 4:55 on a Friday afternoon that was needed by 9:05 on a Monday morning, and no more having to smile and say “yes, of course,” when I really wanted to say the complete opposite and turn the air blue.

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For the most part, I am pleased to say my move into self-employment has been pretty successful. There’s been no more early, early mornings and only a few late, late nights. Where I am struggling, though, is the not saying yes part. I am just no good at it and, after a recent conversation where my brain was screaming at me to say no but I still said yes, I’ve decided I need to do something about it. And not just when it comes to work but in life in general, where I am just as bad if I’m honest. Continue reading

Simple websites (and why I need one)

Back in January, I wrote about my plan to set-up a website for my new life as a freelancer. I’m not going to lie, it hasn’t been easy – nowhere near as easy as setting up my blog, and definitely not as easy as I thought it would be. It’s there, but it’s not great and I haven’t been sharing it with many people as a result.

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Recently, I attended a networking event with people doing exactly what I do and the need for a website couldn’t have been brought home to me more; each of the twenty-odd people round the table said most of their work comes through their websites, which is a huge benefit for them as small business owners and sole traders, and would be a huge benefit for me. Continue reading

Places to Visit: Brodsworth Hall & Gardens

A few years ago, we joined English Heritage.  It was one of the best things we could every have done.  Every year, rain and shine, we find new places to visit and go back to ones we have had fun at before.  Going through old photos recently, I was reminded of Brodsworth Hall & Gardens, which we visited last summer on a slightly grey day.

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Brodsworth Hall is just outside Doncaster in North Yorkshire. It’s a Victorian country house built in the Italianate style and has barely changed since it was built the 1860s. When English Heritage took over the property in the late 80s, they decided to conserve rather than restore the furnishings, showing the house as it was, not what it had been. To see inside, you need to book a tour but it’s well worth it. To preserve the house, you can’t take photos but I can say it was fascinating to walk around, like going back in time.

After the tour, we spent the afternoon in the gardens, which have been fully restored as grand gardens in miniature and were full of colour.
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