Dreaming of the Coast: Beach Days in Norfolk

I dream of living by the sea, the fresh salty air, the smell of the sea, sand between your toes. Even a pebble beach would do – I just love the beach atmosphere and the clarity you get at the edge of the country, looking out to the horizon and having nothing else to think about. It blows off the cobwebs, clears your head and invigorates your soul. Unfortunately, I live a good three hours away from our nearest beach. I’m pretty sure I’m about the most inland you could get here in the UK. It doesn’t stop me wishing for beach days and savouring the odd trip to the coast now and then.

A few weeks ago, we took a trip to one of our nearest beaches, Hunstanton. I have fond memories of visiting Hunstanton often as a child – I think everyone who lives local to us in Northamptonshire used to head to Hunstanton for every beach day, and I even had a few school trips there as it’s about the closest beach we have at about 3 hours away. Now I’m older, I realise how traditional and seasidey it is – plastic windmills, windbreakers on the beach, a gaudy fairground and arcades with flashing lights and thick fusty carpet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still pretty with it’s little bungalows and flower displays around the town, but it definitely hasn’t moved with the times and is exactly how I remember it 20+ years ago when I used to ride donkeys as a child and eat ice-cream on the sea front (although, to be honest, I’m still eating ice cream on the sea front!). It definitely has a old-world charm and nostalgia.

Having done all the family traditions (ice cream, the amusements, fish and chips, a cuppa in the sea life centre…), we headed off in search of golden sandy beaches that my dreams are made of. We stopped off at the stunning Norfolk Lavender garden and shop, which is a gorgeous place to browse and sniff (it smells amazing there!) before making our way to Brancaster beach. Although it was busy with summer holidaying families, it was just the place I needed to be – beachy grasses, seashells and soft mounds of sand. The only thing missing was the sea which was so far out, I had to enjoy from a distance.

Next time, we might have to spend a whole day at Brancaster, or even search for neighbouring beaches that are a little less busy. I’m totally in love with spending time on what seems like the edge of the world, I might have to find myself a beach house one day.

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Signs of Summer, countryside walks and the great outdoors

I am most definitely at my happiest in the summer months…warm weather, sunshine-filled days, long walks in the countryside. In Northamptonshire, we have a fair bit of countryside – not quite as rural as some places, but beautiful nonetheless. With the weather warming up, I didn’t take much persuading to spend my weekends outdoors recently.

We’re lucky enough to live in walking distance to some stunning countryside views. The dogs love their walks, and I love a relaxing walk on a warm day…nothing better in my opinion! I also love taking photos of the countryside as we venture on our walks – it’s amazing to look back in my photos and see the same views in different seasons. Of course, I think it’s at it’s most gorgeous in the summer, with blue skies and green leaves, but it’s hard to deny it looking beautiful at any time of the year.

Looking at the changing seasons, it makes me realise how precious time is, how quickly the world changes without you noticing and how cyclical nature is. It seems like only a few weeks ago I was sharing photos of this same view covered in snow – where has that time gone? It certainly makes me want to savour every moment of my favourite season, as I know that before I know it the days will be colder and darker and we’ll be saying goodbye to 2016. But not just being more aware of the changing seasons, but time in general. Sometimes I think that the years are rolling by, disappearing without me making a significant impact on the world around me or making any memories. Looking back at photos from the last year or so, I realise that’s not quite the case as I see all the good times that have been had. It’s still important to value our time and savour ever moment, as I’m sure we are all guilty of letting the days, weeks and months fly by. I’m definitely going to try and remember to enjoy every second of the summer months while they’re here!

Beach Trip – The dogs first dip in the sea

In February, we took a visit down south to stay with family, the pup’s first little holiday. We were lucky enough to see some amazingly sunny weather, and with summer just around the corner, I’m reminiscing about warm days, the sound of waves and the sun glistening on the water. I realised I never shared the photos, even though there are only a few (I spent the morning taking videos of the dogs reaction to seeing the sea for the first time), it’s enough to make me long for the sea.

Luckily, the beach was fairly empty and we could allow the dogs off their leads to enjoy the sea unrestricted, which they loved. There’s nothing better than seeing puppies leap into the waves and chase each other in the shallow water…especially when the sun is beating down and the wind isn’t too chilly. I wish we didn’t live so far inland – trips to the beach (at least 3 hours away from where we live) are few and far between, but much loved when they happen. Now we have the dogs, it’d be lovely to spend more time at dog friendly beaches so they can enjoy the seaside too.

Bring on the summer! I love being outdoors, especially in the summer when carefree afternoons can be spent appreciating nature and getting some well needed vitamin D.

(Wellies are Emma Bridgewater too, of course….any excuse to wear them!) 

  

Spring at the Emma Bridgewater Factory – April 2016

 I always enjoy visiting the Emma Bridgewater factory…the pottery displays changing with the seasons, the cosy rustic atmosphere, lovely gardens and oh, that cafe! It’s always great to see the new ranges and get a treasured piece for my kitchen, but I love taking photos for future reference so I can see what products were available once discontinued. It’s surprising to look back at recent photos and spot what is no longer available and now a sort after piece on the collector’s pages. 

Here’s what the factory looked like today…

  
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
 

Dogs first snow day

I was so excited for the first snow of the year, mainly because I wanted to see what Dolly and Maggie’s reaction was to it! One evening last week, I went to bed when the snow was just starting to lightly fall, and the next morning I jumped out of bed to see if any had settled! I was thrilled to see a few inches of thick, untouched snow on the ground – just enough to get the wellies out and crunch through the snow!

The dogs first reaction was of confusion, followed by excitement! It didn’t take long before they were rummaging around with their noses in the snow and bouncing on each other in the garden. Snow seems to make them both pretty hyper!

After a quick explore around the garden, followed by puppy breakfasts, we decided to go for a walk. Despite them both wanting to play in the snow instead of a well behaved, calm walk, they soon settled down and had a lovely stroll with me around the neighbourhood. We’re lucky to live so close to fields and countryside so we stopped to take in the snowy landscape and frosted trees.

I love snow, for maybe a day…I think it’s so pretty when it’s untouched and beautifully white, but as soon as we had our little adventure in the snow, we all came home to warm up and was glad to see the snow had melted by the end of the day. It was also a great excuse to wear my Emma Bridgewater wellies I was given for my birthday…I am in love with how cute they are and they are super at keeping my feet toasty in the rain and snow!

I’m sure it won’t be our last snow day of the year and I’ll enjoy looking at how pretty it is when it’s here…but bring on summer! I can’t wait for another summer of long walks in the parks and fields, sun beating down, sunglasses on, shorts and t-shirts, and clean, non-soggy doggies!


  
  

28th Birthday (and cake!)

It feels like I’ve been 28 for a while, as I think I’ve been rounding up for most the year, but at the end of November I officially turned 28. Turning 28 when you think you’re already 28 means it’s not too much of a shock when it actually happens!

My Birthday seems to always coincide with Black Friday so it’s mostly spent working. As Black Friday happens to be great fun (as well as exhaustion and stress…but mostly fun!) it’s not too much of a problem. I have all the excitement of being busy, Christmas festivities and Birthday cake – what more could I want?

As I’ve gotten older, as I’m sure most people will agree, Birthdays are more about spending it with the people I love and less about the presents (although my family also happen to be great gift buyers and I get spoilt regardless). Birthdays spent chatting over coffee, with a slice or two of cake and maybe an evening movie with your choice of dinner, that’s the spirit!

The first 25 years or so of my life were very stable, and the last few years it feels like everything’s changed. I’ve lost one of the most important people in my life, moved into my first house, gained two puppies…my life is very different to my life when I turned 25. And it goes to show how unpredictable life is! Birthdays seem to me to be a time of reflection and it makes me appreciate the fact that I’m alive, experiencing life, loved by and loving the people around me. I’ve spent the last few years making greeting cards that count days instead of years and despite seeing hundreds of these cards a week right in front of my eyes, sometimes I have to stop and remember how special each day is and why we should value it.

I think having a Birthday so close to Christmas and New Year, it’s a very reflective time – I’m definitely looking forward to what 2016 will bring, and my 29th year on planet earth. While this year was very much a transitional year for me, I’m hoping 2016 will be much more settled and I can relax a bit! And perhaps do better with the healthy eating instead of cake!? Maybe!?

  

  

Visiting Emma Bridgewater at Christmas

Nothing gets me feeling Christmassy more than going shopping in December – the busy shops, the Christmas music, the decorations! As you are all well aware by now, one of our favourite haunts is the Emma Bridgwater Factory in Stoke-on-Trent. Not only is it a lovely place to go shopping for pretty things for your home, but it’s just generally a really cosy, wonderful place for a visit. So, where better to spend a day Christmas shopping than ‘up North’ (well, it’s North to us!) in Stoke-on-Trent.

The first stop is always the Emma Bridgewater factory shop for a nose around all the lovely things in the First and Seconds shop. I spotted a polka dot whippet dog that I managed to resist (who knew I had such willpower?) and filled up on not one, but two pieces of cake in the cafe (that’s where my willpower fails!). Mum treated me to a Christmas Rose ‘old bowl’ which I intended to fill with Christmas chocolates and treats, but it looked so good holding my Nespresso capsules in the kitchen, that’s where it’s staying for now.

It was so festive seeing the big Christmas tree in the forecourt, and all the trees and wreaths dotted around the factory. Emma Bridgewater really goes all out with the Christmas decorations, and in true EB style, they’re all beautiful, fresh trees and plants courtesy of their gardener Arthur.

After refuelling on Christmas goodies (I had a lovely slice of Banana and Pecan loaf, with a piece of Christmas cake later for good measure), we headed off to Hanley town centre and spent the afternoon browsing Christmas decorations, sniffing candles at the Yankee shop, picking up the Christmas bath products from Lush and browsing books in Waterstones. Although I love the stress-free, convenience of online shopping, actually going into the ‘real’ shops to have a browse does wonders for your Christmas mood…I’m sure the cake helped too! 😉

  
  
  
  

  

Emma Bridgewater Shop and Factory Tour, October 2015

It seems I visit the Emma Bridgewater factory quite a bit, and perhaps it seems a bit strange to people who aren’t fans of pottery, however with the new Christmas products on display, we just had to go for a browse. To be honest, the cafe alone is reason enough to visit (I am always thinking about food!), but last week we decided to visit the shop in search of Christmas goodies and signed up for a factory tour while we were there (always nice to do some snooping around the factory in search of new products yet to be released!).

The tour, is something I’d recommend to anyone going to the EB factory. It gives a real appreciation of the work that goes into each piece and the handmade nature of the product. I’m a big believer in British made and handmade products, having a small handmade business myself (click here to see my ‘day job’). Sometimes, unfortunately, handmade products can have the misconception of being overpriced, especially when they are made on such a massive scale as the EB products (our tour guide said 35,000 items are made in the factory each week). But, going to see how each and every mug, plate and bowl is handmade and hand painted, it really makes you value the work that goes into each piece. There is just one man who makes all the flat items (plates, saucers, bowls etc), which is both amazing and shocking when you realise how many items he must make to fill the pottery shelves of all worldwide stockists!

Another thing I love about the factory, aside from topping up on my appreciation of handmade products, is how thoughtful (and cosy!) the whole place is – nestled in industrial Stoke-on-Trent, is this amazing place that is decorated with fresh seasonal flowers (courtesy of their on-site gardener) and creating dishes in their cafe from the homegrown, seasonal vegetables. I’m so passionate about eating local, seasonal food, I’m thrilled when companies share the same vision. For my October lunch, I ate a delicious spiced pumpkin soup (the cake, less healthy, but still homemade!).

I think I love the brand as much as the products themselves – the ethos, ethics and all-round good atmosphere of the company, is something that I have so much admiration for. Everytime I visit, it fills me with a desire to grow my business to be as successful while still retaining it’s handmade charm 🙂

                

Emma Bridgewater Collector’s Day and Christmas Preview, 21st July 2015

Today we were lucky enough to attend the first of two Collector’s Days the Emma Bridgwater Factory is hosting for members this summer. I’ve been to a Sample Sale before, but this was the first Collector’s Day I’d attended and it was pretty massive! There were twice the number of guests (I heard 200 people) and a Christmas preview, as well as the 1/2 Pint Figs jug collector’s piece and special products on offer. We finally got to put some faces to names as we met some of our EB friends from social media and we had a lovely day with our like-minded ‘potty’ people.

For recent events, the EB team have asked guests to pick a ticket from random to draw your place in the queue for special pieces. Unfortunately, the ticket I drew put me at the back of the 200 attendees and the room was only open to people when their number was called – I didn’t even get a look at the goodies on offer until most were gone, so I’m afraid I didn’t manage to get any photos of that part of the day. While I understand the drawing of numbers is fair and avoids a mad rush for pieces, I didn’t even see what the special one-off pieces were until I got home and saw everyone’s posts on Facebook. I did get one of the beautiful 1/2 pint fig jugs which were available for the event only, and a starry bowl from the specials table when I finally did get into the room, but I do hope that the EB team rethink how they control the sale of goodies at these events – perhaps the special products being spread over multiple rooms or tables, or with a ‘refresh’ of the table half way through so the choice isn’t limited to only the last few products for those of us not lucky enough to get first pick.

Lunch (anyone who knows me will know what an important part of the day this is for me!) was a lovely picnic-style event in one of the newly refurbished rooms upstairs in the factory. Being an old factory, the building is beautiful and full of original features – they’ve done an amazing job to create such a special place for events within the factory. We had pastries, wraps, mini-quiche bites and strawberry tarts, placed on Emma Bridgewater comports on top of flower adorned tables. Lunch was really pretty and team EB never fails to impress with their event hosting!

After lunch was the Christmas preview and this was one of the most exciting parts of the day for me. As I’d been a little disappointed with how the sale of the special pieces had be arranged in the morning, the Christmas preview really redeemed the day. Lots of Christmas Rose, including cats and terriers, new Joy pieces, mini mugs and jugs for Christmas decorations and even some sweet halloween pieces!

We also had a lovely stroll through the garden and met the chickens roaming through the flowers. Matthew and Emma mentioned at lunch that the new gardener, Arthur, had greatly improved on the already-beautiful garden, and they were right! Lots of garden inspiration was taken home to try to recreate in our own gardens.

I hope everyone who went had a lovely day and got something wonderful from the shop! Day two is tomorrow and I’m looking forward to seeing the photos on social media to see what goodies the second group of collectors bring back. I’m hoping that there are improvements to the way the special pieces are sold in the future as judging by the photos from collectors on Facebook and instagram today, there were so many really beautiful pieces the rest of us didn’t even get to see.

For anyone who’s considering going to an event in future, I’d definitely recommend it if you can go! You can find all the events listed in the member’s area on the Emma Bridgewater website if you’re a member of the collector’s club.


            
  
  
  
  
  
  
   

    
    
    
    
   
  

Puppy walks at Wicksteed Park

In an attempt to get out more and spend more time in nature, we’ve been going to our local park for a wander around the grounds. Wicksteed Park has gone through some massive changes over the last year or two and the redevelopment is amazing. While the park has it’s rollercoasters and rides, there is still so much of the park perfect for wandering around and discovering nature – the rides are only the other side of the lake, but it feels like we’re a different world away. I’m seriously impressed with what they’ve done with the place!

The new boardwalk over the lake is one of my favourite spots in the park, with lots of opportunities to admire the great views, watch the ducks and get some photos of the landscape.

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