Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas Eve

It's fair to say that Christmas Eve this year has been a lot better than last year- no hospitals in sight! Today we've watched 3 Die Hard films, the Grinch and Fiddler on the Roof whilst preparing everything for the big day. All food has been bought, the table is set and presents have been wrapped and left by the tree. We watched the children next door put out their magical reindeer food for Santa and it made me think of Christmas Eve traditions in the past.

There were the years of going to a Christingle Service followed by a small party with my close friends. I remember my Dad phoning us from work whilst we were refusing to go home from a party to tell us he'd just seen Santas sleigh in a nearby field so we were to go to bed straight away. It actually worked. There were also the years where we'd go to the cinema to watch a Christmas film, sometimes with a trip to McDonald's or KFC on the way home when I'd proudly announce that I hadn't actually got my sister a present yet. Tracking Santas journey across the world was something I did every year- though I'm not sure if it was the Christmas lover or the Geography geek in me that liked the extended map studying of the day more. More recently the evenings have been spent with friends at the pub or relaxing at home with a glass of wine or a Baileys Hot Chocolate.

Every year seemed to always end the same way- leaving the tray of beer, mince pies and carrots out for Santa next to our stockings (photo above from Christmas 1998). Waking up the next morning to a demolished tray of food and empty alcohol glasses plus full stockings always resulted in two happy girls on Christmas Morning!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

O Christmas Tree

Isn't it beautiful?

We decided to use the artificial tree again this year but have it in a position it's never been in before. 

Nan and Grandad came round to help us decorate it and I think it looks fabulous. Nan also made the new Christmas themed bunting that is currently hanging proudly around the conservatory. Not a day goes by without someone in the family saying how much they like the decorations, even when they see it every day.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Getting Creative

I've been truly terrible at blogging over the last month or so, but guess what? My laptop has died again so this is a quick catch up post from my iPad. 

My nan has her birthday coming up and instead of braving a card shop this close to Christmas (which I'm pretty sure is a death wish right now) I decided to get out the crafting supplies and get creative. I found the design on Pinterest when I was looking for ideas for Sara's 21st card and adapted it slightly to fit the size of the cards that I have. It's fairly simple and not too time consuming once you can find colours and patterns that work together. I was fairly happy with how Sara's turned out, but I'm yet to be convinced that I really like the one I made for my nan. 

Monday, 10 November 2014

Happy 21st Sara!

2014 has been a big year for our family with a number of 'big' birthdays and anniversarys all taking place this year- 3 21sts, an 18th, an 85th, a 30th wedding anniversary. Our trip to Florida was our combined celebration of all these occasions, but it hasn't stopped us celebrating each event closer to the date!

The most recent celebration was for my cousin Sara's 21st Birthday. We travelled over to Wales on the morning of her Birthday to spend the day with her, and it was lovely to see so many family members visiting and having a good time together. She was deservedly spoiled on her special day as her boyfriend treated her with tickets to Paris next Spring!

In the evening, there was a big party for all family and friends. Lots of fun was had and now we don't get to celebrate another family 21st Birthday for another 3 years! Sadly, the photos of the night weren't that good because guess which idiot forgot her camera so had to rely on her phone?

The Birthday girl and her mum.

Stopping for a quick selfie as we demolished the buffet!

A nice photo of the 4 (5!) of us.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Sweet Little Smudger

It's taken me a while to actually feel like writing this post but here goes. My sweet little rabbit Smudger died last Saturday, just 2 weeks short of his 6th birthday. He was the cutest, most funniest little thing and I'm so thankful for the nearly 6 years of love and happiness he gave us and allowed us to give him.                                          

As he was a house rabbit from the age of 9 weeks old, he has left quite the mark on the house and it's impossible to go through a day without doing something he would usually be involved in. We counted that over the last few years he has been responsible for a broken phone, broken laptop, a broken wire for expensive headphones, the need to re wallpaper the living room and the need to re carpet the conservatory.

On the day after he died, I couldn't bring myself to go downstairs because there are too many things that remind me of him. It's horrible driving home from work at night and not having his little brown eyes coming running over to you. It's weird to be able to leave a plate of food on the floor without it being investigated by him. It's odd to be able to light a candle and leave it on the harth without worrying that he'll singe his whiskers (trust me, it happened more than once- he never learnt!). I can now hear the dog next door barking without worrying about where Smudge is and if it's scaring him. I don't have to worry about how warm the conservatory is for him and how many windows need to be opened. And I'll have to take a lot less allergy tablets!

 He was such a beautiful boy and we have so many photos and videos to remember him by. Thanks little bright eyes, for all the happiness you gave us. There's definitely a hole in the family now.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Kids say the funniest things

At the moment, I'm coaching gymnastics for 16 hours a week and I'm having some absolute gems of conversations with the kids. Some are too good/cute to be forgotten, so here are some of the best I've had in my first two weeks of coaching. I seem to notice a theme with some of them (and I think I like it).

6 year old child- 'I'm not in a happy mood today. I'm just in one of those moods where I'll do what I want'.
Me (thinking to myself)- 'I can tell. You haven't listened to me for the last 20 minutes'.

7 year old- 'The new coach is so strict. She makes us do really hard stuff'
Other 7 year old- 'No. Well she is a bit strict. But she's being nice by being strict. I mean, she wants us to be the best gymnasts we can be so she's being hard on us'
Me (thinking to myself again)- 'Well, at least one of them gets it'.

8 year old- 'Hollie, how old are your grandkids?'
Me- 'How old do you think I am?'

Coach- 'Hollie, I've blocked your car in the car park, I'll move it later'
12 year old gymnast- 'What? Hollie drives? I didn't think she was old enough to drive!'

8 year old- 'Why don't you want to have kids?'
Me- 'Huh? I do want to have kids'
8 year old- 'So why don't you have any? I mean, you're like 18 aren't you?'*
Me- 'I'm 21, and I do want kids in the future I'm just not ready in any way for them yet'.
*You have to wonder if its a sign of the times if a kid thinks no kids at the age of 18 is a negative thing :(

9 year old boy- 'I don't like football, football is for girls'
Me (thinking to myself)- 'Well that's the first time I've heard it that way round'

Sunday, 21 September 2014

A Touch of Autumn

Back in the summer of 2012, we helped to plan a Hen Party for my lovely cousin Sophie, and we ended up doing a wonderful garden party for her (I'm sure I said I'd blog about it, but I never did). At the same time, my mum was off work for a while after a surgery so she kept herself busy by making summer themed bunting for the hen party with the assistance of my nan. Since the hen party, the bunting has been bought out for a number of parties, and gained a permanent place in the conservatory after we took the Christmas decorations down at the start of the year. We loved how the bright colours made us look forward to Spring and Summer and stopped the house feeling 'empty' when the Christmas decorations were packed away.

Fast forward to now and Autumn is starting to arrive here in the UK. We figured that we couldn't get away with having the brightly coloured bunting up any longer so guess what? My nan came to the rescue and made us Autumn coloured bunting to brighten up the house. I love it!

I think we need to start picking out material for the Christmas themed bunting that we're going to need now!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Spot the Difference

I thought this picture was fun. Same place, same person, just 5 years difference!

Watching the dolphins in Seaworld Orlando. Top picture from 2009, bottom from 2014.

I'm going to have to look through more old pictures now to see if we have more any comparison shots from various years! Can you tell that I'm going through the phase that I like to call 'post-Disney depression'?

Friday, 29 August 2014

General Impressions of Florida

Despite this being my fifth trip to Florida, it had been five years since my last visit. I was no longer that little 16 year old who had just completed her GCSE's, hence I noticed a lot more things whist we were there.

- Driving. The driving in the Orlando area is awful. I've never seen so many people on their phones in the car (this is actually legal in the US, but almost every near incident we saw involved the driver on their phone) In the end, I put it down to it being a touristy area where there are a lot of international drivers, or tourists that quite frankly aren't used to the roads. However, no matter what country/state you are from and whether you are driving manual or automatic, surely you can see a large 15 seater van behind you as you are about to pull out of a parking space?

- The Disney Difference. I just love how Disney go the extra mile for their guests and it's definitely more noticeable when you are doing other Orlando parks during the trip. Just little things like not having to constantly be putting bags into lockers and having the people at bag checks (among other places) call you 'Princess', to bigger things like catchy music around the parks that you sing along to and more captivating theming within the parks, as well as the amusements during the ride queues- the Disney difference is just noticeable and I lost count of the amount of times I said 'And that's the Disney difference'. One of my favourite things from this trip was my uncle taking a loom band with him that a friend's daughter had made him, and all the Disney cast members were more than happy to have photos taken with the loom band. The result= a happy little girl back at home regularly asking to see where the loom band had been today!

-Illuminations. I still can't get through Illuminations at Epcot without crying. I lasted about halfway through this year then the tears came and they wouldn't stop. I really wish we had watched Illuminations twice while we were there- one so I could get good photos and video and another to fully enjoy it.

-Magic Bands. As we stayed off site, we didn't automatically get Magic Bands. 7 out of our group of 11 bought Magic Bands, and I thought it was worth it to not be worrying about losing park tickets park tickets and always having to rummage around for tickets whenever we fastpassed anything. We would generally book our fastpasses the night before the park and didn't have too much trouble getting what we needed. We did have one issue where the fastpasses from people who had their own MyDisneyExperience account were all wiped (about half of our group) so we spent an hour in guest relations in Hollywood Studios getting it sorted out.

-Discovering New Restaurants. We've always tended to go to the same few restaurants in Orlando, simply because they work for our family- things like Golden Corral, Sizzlers, Ponderosa, Ihop etc. This time we rediscovered Bob Evans, a restaurant we had eaten at 12 years ago on our first visit but never gone back to, and we had a two great meals there. The 3 course meal for $10 offer was brilliant and the service we had there was even better! We also discovered Applebee's and had two good experiences there, but we had to wait 45 mins to be seated. They also had a 2 main courses and a starter for $20 offer which we took advantage of, and the portion sizes were so large that the majority of my pasta was put in a box to be taken home. I ended up eating it for tea the next day and for breakfast the next morning! (yes, I had pasta for breakfast). Steak n Shake was also an amazing find as we looked for somewhere to grab some food before picking people up at Downtown Disney. It's amazing value for money and good quality food. The milkshakes are the best milkshakes I've ever had. They take a while to make and be served, but they are truly worth it!

There's a lot more I want to write about but I'll save that for another post!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Getting back into the swing of things

We've been home from Florida for almost two weeks now and I've been wanting to blog all about it but quite frankly, I don't know where to begin. It was amazing and I loved every minute. I didn't think I'd taken many pictures this holiday but upon coming home I discovered that I had over 600 photos and 25 minutes worth of video- I guess that's not too bad for 18 days considering I took 1000 photos in 5 days in New York a few years ago. I'll eventually get some photos and general impressions blog posts up.

Since we got back, it took a while to finally get back into the swing of things. Jet lag kicked my butt, despite sleeping on a plane for pretty much the first time ever. I did the first day of my gymnastics coaching course on the Sunday after we got back which was a very long day after an early start. I've been waiting to do the course for so long so it feels great to finally get the ball rolling towards becoming a fully qualified gymnastics coach. I've also been spending lots of time looking for jobs, but this process is becoming more disheartening by the day as each application is rejected or not responded to. The job centre was about as much use as a chocolate fire guard when I went and enquired there- just telling me to sign up to a website and walking off when I told them I already had! Oh well, back to square one.

My little sister was amazing and again proved that she has stolen the entire families brainpower by getting A*AA in her A Levels, and is now going to her first choice university in September.We went out for lunch to celebrate her success, though thanks to jet lag it felt like I was eating a large pizza for breakfast (not that I'm complaning). The next few weeks will be crazy packing her up and dropping her off in her new accommodation. I've already told her when to expect my visits!

Me and my mum made a quick 24 hour visit to the family in Wales this weekend. We had a lovely walk along the beach with an ice cream and the weather was beautiful.  It was the first game of the football season this weekend and since I'm coaching on Saturday mornings this year, I'm not going to be able to get to many games this season so we made the effort to get to the season opener. Unfortunately the beautiful weather from earlier in the day didn't last and even though I was wearing three layers of clothes, I was still cold. It honestly felt like a game in the middle of December, not an August night! Thankfully the team didn't disappoint and a deserved three points were picked up to get us off to a positive start. Let's hope it carries on and we get a little more luck this year.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

1 Day to Go

It's finally here. Tomorrow we fly out to Florida for the first time in five years. The house feels weird since we dropped off the rabbit at my Grandparents house for three weeks yesterday. Don't you just love the day before you go away? Excitement levels through the roof, last minute packing, the frantic searching around the house for the things that haven't seen the light of day in years yet are desperately needed. One of my favourite parts has to be having to eat all the fresh food in the house. Well, we wouldn't want it to go to waste would we?

My suitcase is nearly packed and my electrical stuff is all getting charged up. I've just discovered that I can't locate one of my camera lenses so I need to investigate that once I've finished this post. My dad's drivers license has gone missing and my mum can't locate her iPod that we used just yesterday. Both me and my sister are out the house til 9pm tonight at various places so I anticipate that it will be a very crazy couple of hours after that sorting out all the stuff we can't do until the last minute (showers, hair, nails, hand luggage etc).

One sleep to go. Oh, who am I kidding? Sleeping tonight will be harder than holding back the tears during IllumiNations at Epcot.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Officially a Graduate!

Earlier this week, I became a graduate! It was an exciting day if not a little stressful. I had travelled up to uni at the start of the week to watch some of my friends graduate, but my family were travelling up in two cars on the morning of the ceremony. Unfortunately, there was awful traffic on the motorway and what is usually a journey that takes 1 hour took close to 2 hours. They arrived just in time to watch the ceremony; only my parents were allowed in, but my grandparents, sister and her boyfriend watched on the live video links around campus. I was pretty happy to not fall over whilst walking up to the Chancellor- 6 months ago I couldn't walk, but this week I graduated whilst wearing 4 inch heels (New Look, my dress was from H&M).
My fantastic shoes which I bought whilst I was on crutches as in incentive to get walking again soon!

After the ceremony, there were the obligatory photos with every combination of family members that was possible, as well as all the friends that I could pick out of the crowd of people all wearing the same hats! We attended the drinks reception at the Geography Building then headed off to a local restaurant for a meal. It was our first time visiting the restaurant but all 7 of us were pleased with our meal :) 
Selfie time with the parents.

It was a very exhausting day for all of us, but I can now officially call myself a graduate and I couldn't be prouder.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Party Time

Over this past weekend, we travelled over to Wales to celebrate my Uncle's upcoming retirement. As soon as my mum finished work on Friday, we hit the road and thankfully the rush hour traffic wasn't too bad and we were in Wales with an hour to spare to get ready for the party. It was nice to have so many of the family together for such a happy celebration (sadly my sister couldn't make it as she was in Bournemouth at a cheerleading competition). It was lovely to see how many people of different ages came to the party; I guess you can say he's a well-respected man! 

Me and Sophie.

Me and mum.

With the newly retired man. He couldn't make a normal face for a photo all night.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

1 Month to Go!

As I was reading blogs the other day, I noticed a few people sharing their favourite holiday destinations and their future holiday plans. Well, we go on holiday in a month's time and we have plans. Big plans.

11 people + 18 nights + 7 bedroom villa + minivan + the happiest place on earth= Chaos and fun!

Epcot during my last trip in 2009.
That's right, there's a group of 11 of us travelling to Florida in a month's time. All of us have been to Florida before- some only once, but some have been at least 7 times so are Florida veterans. The majority of the arrangements are in place although we are waiting for new passports to arrive and we need to work out which rides we are going to get fastpasses for. It's shaping up to be amazing.

Me and my little sister on our first trip back in 2002.

The idea for this holiday came around a few years ago when we realised that there were a number of 'big' family Birthday's happening in the same year. We booked the villa last August after searching through thousands of villas, then the flights were booked in February this year. Car hire has been sorted, park tickets acquired, ESTA's completed, new suitcases bought and money has been saved.

My cousins Sophie and Sara, myself and my little sister in 2004.

With only one month to go, everyone is getting super excited. We've been using a really helpful Disney website and forum to help us with the planning. Many people would be daunted at travelling in such a large group but we all get along so well it's never been a problem before. Also, I've never gone in a group of less than 8 so it's all I'm used to. I'll do my best to blog the trip while we're there but with all the fun we have planned, I doubt I'll have much spare time to sit down and write. Exciting times.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

I Did It!

Degree results were posted on Friday and I'm proud and relieved to say that I did it! I got a 2:1 degree with Honours! I honestly could not be happier and it took all the willpower I have to not run up and down the street shouting about it and letting everyone know.

Sadly I couldn't start the celebrations straight away as I had a dance show rehearsal (I haven't mentioned my dancing on here yet- I'll post about it later) so I put a bottle of wine that I'd saved from my 21st Birthday in the fridge to chill.  I stopped off at the shops on the way home to buy some treats for myself (aka lots of Cadbury's chocolate) and by the time I got home my Mum had the wine poured and celebrations began. We ended up walking over to my Grandparent's house where they were all too happy to get another bottle or two out to celebrate- though the majority of that wine ended up all over the kitchen walls and ceiling thanks to a flying cork and the ensuing explosions of wine! After we got home again we Facetimed with the family in Wales where they were also drinking wine in celebration.

We ended up staying up fairly late considering everyone had to be up early the next morning for various commitments, but it was totally worth it- you only get your degree results once!

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

My Final Year as a Student- In Pictures!

I've blogged sporadically throughout my final year at uni, but I thought I'd round it off with a picture from each month of the academic year.

1) September- I moved back to uni at the end of September but didn't actually have lectures until the start of October. This is the pathway from my halls of residence to the rest of campus and I just love how the sun finds its way through the trees on an Autumn afternoon.

 2) October- The hard work kicked in. Quite often I'd find myself with the flat to myself on Sunday's so I'd move myself into the kitchen for the day and work there as a change of scenery. Being close to the kettle for unlimited amounts of caffeine was also a plus! A team trip to a buffet restaurant, a trip to Wales and fun with my housemates and ex-housemates made it a busy month.

 3) November- November was a busy month. I had two trampolining competitions and a lot of deadlines to fulfil. The month was topped off with the Ball for our Athletic Union. We have two Balls a year and this is my favourite dress yet!

4) December- Another trampolining competition (successfully competed a new level for the first time) then breaking my ankle 5 days later. Also mixed in December were uni deadlines, Christmas meals, hospital appointments and December was rounded out with surgery on New Year's Eve.

5) January- January was all about exams and recovering from surgery, all while I was on crutches. My friend Jazz sent me this card and it made me laugh so much. She knows me too well! (Jazz is my wine drinking buddy and we try to meet once a month or so for a wine and chocolate night).

6) February- I was so disappointed to miss my team trip to Edinburgh because of my ankle, but instead I spent the weekend at home celebrating my sister's 18th Birthday. A lot of February was spent writing my dissertation with my foot in a bucket of ice water and watching the Winter Olympics. This picture is taken at a social- it was the first time I left my flat without crutches in over 2 months! My team were doing a Cowboys and Indians pub golf but I knew I couldn't walk that far so agreed to join them at the bar closest to my flat.

7) March- March was largely focused upon finishing my dissertation and waking up with daily deadlines of how many words needed to be written. Life was made a lot easier by being able to walk again! I accompanied my team at a trampolining competition and it killed me being there but not being able to compete. I reached the magical 12 weeks post surgery status a few days before our varsity competition (also my dissertation deadline) so I competed basic routines for my team. Our university were the overall winners of varsity and at the end of the celebration party, I got my hands on the big trophy.


8) April- Most of April was spent at home revising for my last exam and working on my last few deadlines. My last exam was on the same day as the 10th Anniversary of Mean Girls being released, so I quite proudly wore a pink tshirt all day. This picture was taken on my last ever trampolining social where I was dressed as Hollie the Hawaiian. 

9) May- I handed in my last piece of uni work on 8th May, then this picture was taken on the celebration night for third years. My time in May was spent jointly between home and uni due to commitments in both places, but I enjoyed the guilt free feeling of having no work left to do- particularly getting to spend time with friends around our pretty campus.

10) June- I went back to uni one final time for our big end of year festival. I have access to my room until a few days after my graduation but I moved the majority of my stuff back home at the start of June. It was so sad to take down my decorations and pack everything up!

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Is it Thursday yet?

So the World Cup in Brazil starts on Thursday and as usual pubs across the country are smothered in England flags (and sometimes British flags, what's all that about? Britain don't even have a current football team. I digress...). The best/most standout attempt I've seen to get some excitement for the tournament going was hearing Brazilian Samba music playing in Tesco next to a bunch of England flags.

It's become a bit of a family tradition to do football sweepstakes for major football tournaments and this World Cup is no exception. As usual, I haven't really got my hopes up for winning but I've done remarkably better than usual in the four teams I picked out- I might actually have a team or two that gets out of the group stages! So is it Thursday yet?

Smudger joined in with picking the teams out, and was downright smug when he picked out Brazil (yes, the rabbit picked out his own teams- our family is not normal). 

Thursday, 5 June 2014

A Surprise Discovery

Who knew I had so many pairs of shoes? Not me. I can count 22 pairs in this picture and I found a couple of other pairs in my wardrobe after taking this picture. The sad thing is that some of my most worn shoes are at home and not even at uni with me. I think a clear out is due soon. Please tell me there's other people out there that have had the  'omg how many?' moment...

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

A New Trampoline!

After years of begging, my dad bought us energetic, then 8 and 11 year olds a garden trampoline in the summer of 2004. This trampoline has been used so much over the years; pretty much very social event we've ever had at our house has ended up with people on the trampoline. It also has a multitude of uses- it's the best sunbathing spot in the garden too! Needless to say, we got our money's worth out of it. Sadly, the springs were breaking and rusting, the trampoline had lost it's bounce and was no longer safe to use so dad dismantled it :( The garden looked so empty and not a day went by when a comment was made by either my sister or myself wanting to go on a trampoline.

Fast forward ten years from summer 2004 and there is a new trampoline in the back garden- this time a little smaller but with an added safety net. It took 5 of us half an hour to assemble the trampoline but a lot longer to sort out the safety net. It's so much bouncier! I haven't done much on it yet because my ankle is a little sore at the moment but I've had fun bouncing on my back (back bouncing is also a good ab workout).

Anyways, Sunday was a warmish day by British summer standards so the grandparents came round for a BBQ. Turns out my nan couldn't resist the temptation of the new trampoline! She didn't stand up on it but she loved doing teddy bear rolls with a bit of help! Hard to believe that less than a year ago she was fighting cancer. I can only wish that I'll be that energetic and full of life when I'm 73! 

And a bonus picture, Smudge isn't a huge fan of the new trampoline!