Plant Killers Anonymous

“My name’s Charlotte and I’m a plant killer”

“Hi Charlotte”

If there was a ‘Plant Killers Anonymous’ I would be a fully fledged member. I have killed succulents (a desert dwelling plant that requires little to no attention), basil pots wilt on my windowsill and the planter that I was given full of my wedding flowers has certainly seen better days.

Seeking advice from my green fingered mother-in-law Amanda, I asked where I could be possibly going wrong….

“Well”, she asked me through suppressed giggles, “how often do you water it?!”

The guilt that wracked my face nearly had her spitting out her mouth full of tea. (note to self: waiting for the rain to look after your plants is apparently not enough)

Bolstered by this new found knowledge (watering is important…who knew!), and determined to leave the infamous PKA (Plant Killers Anonymous) I called upon one of the other gardenerning experts in my life.

My grandma is a marvel in the garden. No matter what she has been given and in no matter what state, she’ll produce a little oasis. She can tell you the Latin name for everything too. As well as giving you advice on how much it likes the sun and how deep to bury it!

So arm in arm we marched into the garden center and after a lot of advice and a bit of chopping and changing I had everything I needed to set up my very own balcony garden.

And I only bloody well did it! 

Believe it or not dear reader but I have (successfully!!) kept alive a herb pot containing mint, lemon thyme and sage, a bay tree/bush….who knows, salva and lavender and I’ve even tried my hand at some veg.

I have ACTUALLY NOT KILLED 2 courgette plants and a tomato plant.

The courgette plant has even grown little EDIBLE courgettes. It’s a flipping marvel! 

We’re even considering taking on an allotment….. Move over Monty Don!

That reminds me – I must get to watering!

– C XxX 

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#girlpower

I’ve just left the cinema feeling like I can do anything. Feeling optimistic, buoyed and honestly… pretty damn sassy. I’ve just seen ‘Wonder Woman’. 

I’ll level with you, I didn’t want to go see it really. The trailers didn’t excite me and I thought it would be another Hollywood demonstration of a beautiful woman kicking ass while showing hers. 

I was wrong. 

Well. I wasn’t wrong about a beautiful woman – Gal Gadot has to be one of the most sensational looking people I have ever seen – and she filmed a lot of it while she was 5 months pregnant, stunts and all. What I really love about ‘Wonder Woman’ though is how it is about so much more than how she looks. 

She’s fierce, passionate, kicks some serious ass, and doesn’t need a man to hold her hand while she does it. In fact most of the men around her marvel at her beauty but then are floored by her bravery. 

The film opens with a Diana (Wonder Woman) as a little girl running like mad smiling with a air of fierce determination about her. The phrase “run like a girl” comes to mind here. A little girl who isn’t delicate and waifish but a powerhouse, beautiful and strong. 
Hollywood are portraying women much more like this now and it gives me heart for the little girls I get the privilege to teach and to see grown up in this crazy world. 

Ray in Star Wars, “Stop Taking My HAND” and Moana with, “I won’t take no for an answer” are two examples that immediately spring to mind! 

Okay so Wonder Woman has flaws, (the film not the woman…and that’s the problem) she manages to cross no-mans-land on the front line in WW1 without smudging her eyeliner, her outfit of choice for her badassery is a corset and knee high leather heels, and after saving the world the hair is still smooth and the lip gloss is perfection. So it’s not perfect. But it’s a start and a huge step in the right direction. 
Go see it, let me know what you think! It certainly had me feeling inspired! 

#girlpower

– C XxX 

The lost art of letter writing 

This week two lovely things flopped through our letter box and onto the doormat. This week I received two hand written letters from two lovely friends. One was a surprise, the other planned & I can’t tell you the joy that those pieces of paper gave to me! 

As you know I am a hopeless romamtic, traditionalist, anti-kindle, pro-Royal Family kind of girl (in fact I actually had a dream last night that Princess Kate was my friend – and that’s not the first time). I love all things old and beautiful. I’m as sentimental as they come, and so document everything squirreling away photos, receipts, theatre tickets, order of services from friends weddings and yes…I do in fact still scrapbook our holiday adventures! 
A couple of weeks ago a dear friend text me and suggested we write letters to each other. I was so excited and immediately planned my next paperchase visit to buy some pretty new writing paper. My lovely friend Molly lives in Hastings and so sadly we don’t see each other as much as we might like, writing letters seemed the perfect antidote to that. My other letter sender was my lovely friend Heather who has moved to Vancouver for a bit – an envelope with a Canadian stamp threw me there for a moment! 
Writing a letter is so wonderful, I sat curled up in an armchair with a cup of tea at my elbow and really slowed down. Most of us can type pretty quickly and so the time it takes for us to get thought to paper is much speedier than writing it down. I felt like I’d hit a pause button as I sat there and wrote. Talking about my day, asking questions, enquiring after them. 

I got hand cramp as I wrote though. How bad is that?! I just don’t write for any length of time any more. That’s going to change – anyone else fancy being my pen-pall? I’ve got lovely writing paper now! 
Why dont you drop a letter to a friend as a surprise. I guarantee it’ll make their day. 

Happy writing 

– C XxX 

April Adventures

April has always been a really exciting month in this house. Our very first holiday as a couple was in April, and on the 4th of April 2015 Harvey and I became Mr and Mrs Wood. 

April means adventure! The clocks have changed and the evenings are lighter, spring is definitely here and with it a sense of hope. Easter is just around the corner and with it the biggest message of hope there is. 

We’ll be heading to Wales this weekend (but not before stopping in on Swindon and Bristol on the way – we’ve got some very important friends to visit) and we’re planning on being outside by the sea (or on it) for nearly 100% of our time there. 
This month can be about adventures, no matter if you’re staying at home or going a little further afield. Harvey and I have embraced the lighter evenings and have been trying to get outside more. One night last week we went to our local park for a walk, boots on, hip flask filled and adventured until the sun started to sink beneath the clouds. 

We’re also huge fans of the self titled ‘Adventure Breakfast’. Stuffing a backpack full of camping stove, frying pan, bacon (essential) beans and coffee we walk straight out of our front door and to a secluded spot for breakfast al-fresco! 

This month see if you can get outside more, turn your phone off; take a long walk on your lunch break, spend an evening reading in the park, or go to the beach on your day off. No matter where you live the great outdoors is begging to be adventured in. 

– C XxX 

Simplicity In Isolation

In our busy, hectic lives, so many of us strive for simplicity. Simplicity in our homes, meals, and schedules; but it’s often so challenging to find. No matter how hard we try to simplify our lives, somehow the unwelcome business manages to barge in again.

Striving for simplicity and adventure a few summers ago, we left our complicated and demanding lives behind and ventured north, very far north, to the Isle of Raasay. Raasay is a small Scottish island (only 14 miles long) and is part of the Inner Hebrides. It’s nestled between the Isle of Skye and the Scottish mainland, home to 170 people, is breath-taking in beauty…and is not at all easy to get to.

From London, we flew to Inverness, picking up a car and driving for a further 4 hours through breath-taking scenery; stopping briefly for a ginger beer, a packet of crisps and some stone skimming in a loch on mainland Scotland. Then over the Skye bridge, to the edge of Skye, and onto the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to Raasay.
Fans of the timeless “are we there yet” will be pleased to hear that this journey offers many opportunities of an encore. No, we were not there yet. Not quite.

Once on the Ferry, we caught our first glimpses of the island. Crossing on a perfectly still day, the sun sparkled off the surface of the water, the wind whipped past us, as we gasped in awe at the beautiful island seemingly floating on the water. Disembarking, we began our journey up the island. Raasay has lots of roads near the ferry port, but as you keep driving, the island the roads fall away and you are left with just one. Callum’s Road. So called because it was built by Raasay resident, Callum MacLeod who was so disgruntled by the lack of decent road on the island he set to building one. So, he did, single handed, every day for ten years, with only a shovel, pick and wheelbarrow. His efforts are commemorated with a signpost and beneath it an element battered, rusty wheelbarrow.

As Callum’s road twists and turns further north up the island, it offers everyone but the driver spectacular views. The drive is not for the feint hearted or the easily distracted, as passengers gasp and point in awe at the diverse beauty of the Island.

Finally, our cars could go no further and we parked up, (no house in sight! You guessed it, we still weren’t there yet!) and loaded our luggage into a quad bike trailer and walked a further 500 meters to our cottage.

 

No, Raasay isn’t easy to get to, it’s a real ‘trains, planes and automobiles’ trip but my word is it worth it! Our house for the week – which used to be the school house – was perched in the most beautiful location. Nothing in sight in front of us but Loch Arnish, nothing behind but steep hills and mossy woodland. Arriving we ran from room to room marvelling at the views each boasted. The original school room is the main living space and has a fire at each end. Even though we visited in August those were kept blazing the entire week we were there, and would prove perfect for steaming socks after a day’s adventuring!

Dumping our stuff we ran down to the water’s edge, the fractured black rock rising up out of the water to meet us, as we picked our way over the slippy seaweed, and dipped our toes in the cold water. From there all we could see was the Isle of Skye across the water and enormous sky above us. After making a pact that we would swim in that water before we left we headed back up to the house passing a well-placed hammock with the best view around.

 

So, to the business of island living; although the cottage was on the grid, water that came out of the tap was stained orange by draining through the peat before reaching the house. Drinking water had to come from a nearby spring. Donning our walking boots and picking up the bucket, we squelched through mossy woodland to find the spring. Covered by tarpaulin and stones, we revealed our water source and brushing off floating insects and leaves we lowered our bucket into the spring and filled it full, staggering back to the house with a fresh supply. Filling the bucket became such a favourite job that soon stealth trips were taken and playfights ensued to ensure that the winner got another chance to fill the bucket.

Simplicity is easy to find here. Without mobile reception, we were uncontactable (hurrah!) and spent our days in happy isolation – making bread from scratch on the old worn butchers block, chopping wood to feed those two hungry fires, reading about local history and wildlife and watching the stars.

So clear is the sky on Raasay that the milky way is clearly visible and shooting stars are a common occurrence. We often took to the outdoors after sundown, wrapping ourselves in scratchy tartan blankets and lying on the garden table staring heavenward. With only the sound of the sea, our breathing, the occasional owl and gasps of “I saw a shooting star”, punctuating the silence.

When we weren’t huddled up in our school house we were exploring. Walking boots essential, we packed supplies and set out for a day’s adventure. We found abandoned shepherd’s huts, seals bobbing in the water, and watched in awe as bright white gannets folded their wings and dove down into the water without a splash, only to bob above the surface proudly with a fish in their beak.

Leaving the island at the end of the week with a heavy heart I reflected on our journey; Raasay is a very special island, with its forests, beaches, a single shop, open fires, shooting stars and a week of wonderful memories; simplicity in isolation. Some people will always have Paris. We’ll always have Raasay.

– C XxX

A Night at the Theatre

Watching live performances of anything is always so special. If you know me, even a little bit, you’ll know that dance is such a part of me, that going to see a live dance performance is my idea of a real treat!

I had noticed recently though that apart from school trips (yes – my job is the best!) I’d not been to see anything live for a long time. I think I had justified it away that it was too expensive and that while we were saving for a house we couldn’t be so excessive as to spend upwards of £60 on a ticket to the theatre.

In reality though, if we grab a bottle of wine, or buy a new top, or a really good cut of meat for dinner, just because; then all those little things soon add up to £60. Isn’t it better to spend money on something that offers you real fulfilment?

So, I made a pact with myself to look out for stuff I really wanted to see – and buy a ticket! For no other reason than that it makes me really happy.

The other day Harvey and I schlepped over to Milton Keynes to see Matthew Bourne’s new production of ‘The Red Shoes’ – it was superb! We had fantastic seats and both of us gasped in awe and jabbed each other in the ribs over and over as if to say “did you see that?!”. The choreography and dancing is just incredible but it’s the sets and lighting that really blew us away.

Apart from watching the show, watching the people is another favourite past time of mine at the theatre. Looking at people’s posture and feet often are a dead giveaway for past ballet dancers and enthusiasts, and watching little girls proudly wearing their best sparkly party dresses always brings joy to my heart.

This was the first of three planned visits for the spring and it served as a fantastic beginning of my pact to myself.

The next two?

1. ‘Live at the Royal Albert Hall’ –  The Royal Albert hall screens films with fantastic soundtracks like ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Gladiator’ only to take the soundtracks out. The one we’re going to see is ‘Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone’ We’ve got amazing seats and we’re both so excited, we’ll make a date out of it – dinner and drinks on the town before watching Harry Potter, sounds like a dream to me!

2. ‘An American In Paris’ – the first ballet I ever took Harvey to was ‘Alice in Wonderland’ choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. I absolutely adore his choreography and Alice in Wonderland has been no exception. I follow him on Instagram and noticed that he had been in New York choreographing a musical. It’s now finished it’s run on Broadway and is coming to the West End! It’ll be Harvey’s first musical – fingers crossed he’ll love it too!

 

I’ll be keeping my ear to the ground for more nights at the theatre! I’m booked up until May now so I’m a happy camper!

– C XxX

March into Spring

March is here! Hurrah! With each day, new shoots of green poke their head out of the dark soil and little yellow buds open to reveal the trumpet smiling faces of daffodils. Spring is nearly here, and it’s flowers are my absolute favourite!

March also heralds in Lent. You all flipped your pancakes last night (hopefully no one has one stuck on the ceiling still!) so today it begins. Now, I’m all for giving something up for Lent. I think it can teach us really valuable lessons about what we really need in our lives, but last year I stumbled across ’40 Acts’ and my outlook on Lent has completely changed.

40 Acts is based on the idea that instead of giving something up during Lent you give something away instead. This could be your time, a meal, an offer of help, or taping £1 coin to a parking meter to save someone the hassle of rummaging in their purse.

Every day of Lent you get an email with an idea of a good deed of the day with three potential levels of generosity. Green is simple and doesn’t require much effort but some thought. Amber is usually on a bigger scale – either helping out more people or taking your generosity to another level. Red is the highest and usually looks at giving on a community level.
You also get sent a little thought for the day and a bible verse as inspiration. If that isn’t for you, scrub past it and just look at the suggestion for a good deed instead.

I signed up last year and I have again. It starts today!
Instead of giving up why don’t you give something away – you could enrich the lives of so many in such a simple way, and it’ll make you feel good in the process! You could call that a win – win.

Like my little Reception students sing to me sometimes, “love is something if you give it away, you end up having more” (INCREDIBLY cute!)

With love, C XxX

Sign up for 40 Acts Here