How is it Monday already?

Wow, I can’t believe it’s Monday already. How does it come round so fast?

It’s like Groundhog Day when the alarm goes off! While I try to wake myself up to take the dogs out for a walk with hubby, Fido is there jumping all over the bed in excitement! Lola is a bit like us. Actually no that’s wrong. We do get moving when the alarm goes off, whereas she lies there moaning, groaning and stretching! She really doesn’t do mornings !

At least now the mornings are lighter! Chilly but spring is definitely here!

The weekend was good. For a weekend with nothing planned it was fun.

Saturday morning was a leisurely start. An amazing brunch followed by a spring clean! I do love it when you give the house a good going over! Hubby was productive too in the garden. It’s the first time this year he has been able to really get out there! It looks so much nicer now with the spring bulbs coming through and the new shoots appearing. It’s amazing what a bit of sun can do!

Saturday evening hubby had offered to cook dinner! If you know me you will know that rarely happens! He had seen a recipe in the latest Tesco magazine for a Chinese soup! As long as I made sure he had all the right ingredients he would make it for me!

OMG, for a man that doesn’t cook very often it was amazing! I know he followed the recipe, but even his chopping and presentation skills were spot on! Restaurant quality.

You can see what we ate here on my YouTube channel.

We ended a perfect day by watching Bohemian Rhapsody. It was a great film don’t get me wrong, but I’m not sure I’d go and see it multiple times. Hubby thinks we feel that way because we already knew the story, and maybe he is right! I’d still recommend you watching it though.

As the days are brighter we decided on Sunday to take the dogs for a longer walk. We opted for Earlswood Lakes. I haven’t been there for years. I printed a walk off the internet and off we went!

Now, I have to point out that today it wasn’t our fault! I know whenever we go on long walks hubby and I will always take a wrong turn at some point, but today wasn’t down to us!

The route we picked didn’t include a map! The instructions looked clear when we started, but soon they didn’t make sense. We had to ask directions a couple of times. Well I did! Hubby wouldn’t ask lol!

Eventually we gave up on the route and did our own thing. We didn’t mind. It was nice just to get out!

As we headed back to the car it dawned on me! We went the wrong exit out of the car park at the beginning! No wonder it didn’t make sense!

At least it made us chuckle!

The afternoon was relaxing with a visit from my wonderful parents.

As with every Sunday in our house we had a lovely roast to finish off the weekend.

Next thing I know the alarm is going off and it’s Monday again.

As we arrive at the station the car park is more full than usual! I’m dreading the train now. I’m expecting to crush my way on!

As it pulls onto the platform I look through the windows. A few people are standing but there is still daylight! I’m shocked but pleased. What happens next shocked me even more ! I got a seat! Woo hoo! I can’t believe it! Maybe Monday isn’t going to be so bad after all!

Have a great week!

Date Weekend – Day 2

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So I can officially call it a ‘date weekend’ as hubby’s birthday is now officially over!

It was due to be raining this morning, but I am pleased to say that even at 7 am the sun was out.  Yesterday we ran out of time to visit Hardwick Hall, which wasn’t a bad thing as it also started raining around that time. The plan today was to do a 10 km walk however we decided to put this off to a time when we had the dogs with us.  Instead, we will get up, have breakfast and head off to Hardwick Hall.  If we have time later and the weather holds,  we will go for a walk.

Breakfast at the hotel is buffet style.  I always say you can tell the quality of the hotel by the breakfast especially the fruit salad.  If it’s tinned its lower quality, up to all fresh – top of the class!  Today its a bit of both which is about right for this hotel.  The hot buffet is full of variety including the usual suspects of bacon, sausages, beans and fried eggs, along with black pudding, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes and hash browns.  Great for my hubby but not for me though.  I was impressed to see gluten free bread.  This is not always readily available for anyone who needs this.  There is also a good mix of cereals with full fat and semi skimmed milk and even soya milk.  My friend Heather would be very happy with this breakfast selection.

I opt for the healthiest option of the fresh fruit salad with weetabix and semi skimmed milk, followed by baked beans, the better of the fried eggs, grilled tomatoes and a few mushrooms.  I don’t have any toast or bread as I had already had my HEB for a my weetabix.

We check out and head to Hardwick Hall.

Before I tell you about our day, let me give you my thoughts about the hotel.

Eastwood Hall Hotel

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The above is the photo you see on all the brochures.  It looks absolutely lovely doesn’t it, however this isn’t the part of the hotel you see!  The smaller building next to it is some ambulance depot or something, then you come to the main reception building.

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The hotel is very large with 150 bedrooms and 36 meeting rooms that can cater for anything from conferences to weddings.  Being a Saturday, there was a wedding on so the hotel and carpark was quite full.  There also seemed to be some rugby tournament for young boys on as there were hundreds of lads running around in their team rugby kits.  Because we had passed this ambulance buildings when we parked around the back of the hotel, my husband thought it looked like the back of a hospital so we were a little confused!

We checked in at reception and the staff were lovely and friendly.  Due to the shape of the building it was a long walk to our room.  This actually turned out to be a blessing as the room was very quiet.  It was clean and tidy and not a bad size. The only negative was the bathroom.  I always request a bath when we stay in a hotel and yes we did get one.  The only problem was you had to be about 4 foot tall to actually be able to relax in it.  The shower though was wonderful.  Very powerful.

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The hotel itself is set in beautiful grounds and if the weather had been better we might have seen more of them.

The restaurant was good with a good selection of food.  The service was excellent.

So how would I rate it?  Well lets break it down and score it out of 10!

Customer Service – 10

Cleanliness – 10

Bedroom – 8 – the bath let it down!

Restaurant – 9 – Fishcakes a bit dry!

Location – 9 – only 1.5 hours from home, good grounds

Value for money – 10 – I paid £110 for Dinner, bed and breakfast and a free bottle of wine with Great Little Break.

Overall – 9.3

So not a bad score.  Would we stay again – probably yes, especially if I can get the same deal again.

Hardwick Hall’s

This is 2 houses in 1 visit.  The first house is derelict and owned by English Heritage, while the other one just a few yards away is fully furnished and owned by the National Trust.  Both having amazing histories.  The sun is currently out so a fabulous day to start exploring the derelict one first!

Hardwick Old Hall

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This sadly is now a ruin but was originally the birth place of an Elizabethan lady called Bess of Hardwick.  One of the things I love about English Heritage sites is that you can choose to do a guided tour or an audio tour.  We always go for the latter as it allows us to wander at our own pace and take lots of photos.

Even though this home is now a ruin, you can still some of its original features.  As you listen to the history on the house and of Bess, you really start to feel like you know her.  By all accounts she really was a formidable women!  She had been married 4 times.  Her first husband died when she was only 16.   Her other marriages meant that she rose to the highest levels of English nobility and became extremely wealthy.  She was a shrewd business women with assets such as mines and glass making factories. In fact she was the richest women in England after Queen Elizabeth I!

Her fourth husband George Talbot really didn’t seem to like his wife very much and actually thought prison would have been a better sentence than being married to her!

It would seem that for Bess, showing off her wealth to everyone was important and that shows in both the halls.

Both homes have amazing views over the Derbyshire countyside.  It is strange then to wonder why Bess built the new Hardwick Hall a stones throw from her birth place.  I mean it wasn’t exactly small!  It was all about wealth I believe.  She didn’t abandon the old house when the new one was built as you would expect, she continued to live in both.  Unfortunately she didn’t continue to keep the old hall in good repair so it eventually became inhabitable and in the 18th century was opened to the pubic to visit it.  You can see though from the photos below what a stunning place it must have been in its time.

New Hardwick Hall

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Bess started building her new home in 1590 and moved in in 1957.    It remained in her family until the mid twentieth century.  The house was designed for her by Robert Smythson.  To show off her wealth, she filled it with the most beautiful of tapestries.  Many of which are still on show today.

The house apparently has more glass than walls!  It was the first English house to have the great hall built on an axis through the centre of the house rather than at a right angle to the entrance.

The gardens too are stunning.  They are filled with herbaceous borders, vegetable and herb gardens and an orchard.  We were there in spring so most plants were not out but the daffodils and tulips were beautiful.  I also had a little friend visit me in the garden, who brushed past my knees when I was bending down to take a picture.  He stopped for a while to make sure he got into the shot too!

If you want a day out I would certainly recommend both of these houses.  Each has its own character and charm.   The audio tour of the old house gives you a real insight into who Bess was.  I could talk more about her but then it would lose the surprise when you go and visit the house yourself.

After touring the gardens and houses, the plan was to take a walk around the extensive grounds.  Unfortunately just as we headed off the heavens opened, so we had to abandon that idea and headed home.

As we were driving out of the estate we noticed a carpark which had amazing views back across the houses.  The rain had eased off so we parked up to take some more photos.  We were down by the estate lakes so decided to have a quick walk around them before continuing home.  We are so glad we did as it gave us even more understanding of the vast land that Bess had owned in her day.

Getting out and exploring places like this is a wonderful way to get some exercise as well as to see some stunning landscapes and historical buildings.

We are members of both National Trust and English Heritage.  They cost around £80 each a year for a family ticket, however they are well worth it.  If you have children especially it is a great way to entertain them in the school holidays, teach them some history and also get a bit of exercise. In the last 2 days we have done over 35,000 steps which isn’t half bad!

To see more photos of our walk go to my YouTube channel https://youtu.be/JFgJ74hwPwg

The long grey winter months may finally be over!

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Is it me or does anyone else think the winter months have really dragged this year?    Yes we have had more snowy periods than the previous year, but its still been reasonable temperatures! I don’t think its been overly cold, just grey and wet.

I was fortunate as I went to South Africa in November but apart from that I don’t think  I have seen the sun since about September last year.   With the long dark nights, apart from walking my dogs, I really don’t have the enthusiasm to do anything.  The garden is neglected, the car needs a wash and those planned walks in the countryside just a pipe dream.  The food I’m cooking is warm and hearty, but I’m longing for the steak cooked on open coals, sitting on my bench with a nice cold glass of Slimline wine.  It seems such a long time since I did that!

You go outside, your neighbours are all tucked up indoors, people and more grumpy and hurrying to get back in the warm and dry!  Such a depressing time.

Then yesterday something magical happened!  The sun came out!  17 degrees was recorded on my car temperature gauge! Its like a switch has been pressed.   You wake up eager to get out of bed.  You want to walk the dogs a little further!  The garden suddenly looks so inviting.   You head for the garage and dust off all those tools that have been in the corner all winter.  You head out with excitement!   And there under the dead leaves, as you clear them away you see the new shoots of spring!  Bulbs coming into flower!  Plants that have died off starting to push their way back through the soil. You go out the front to weed the borders and you have neighbours coming out of hibernation too!  You all wave to each other and suddenly we all have time to stop and talk.  Its like time had stopped still for 6 months and you want to go out and celebrate this new found freedom!

How many of you also felt like this yesterday?  It is amazing how just a little bit of sunshine can make you feel so much better.    My husband and I like so many other people were so invigorated yesterday.  We were up early, took the dogs for a walk without wearing a coat.  It was just so exciting.  Our lawn mover had died last year and we hadn’t bothered getting a new one, but now it seemed really important that we hit the DIY shop and get one.  We had our usual cooked breakfast – for my hubby that is bacon, eggs and sausages, for me an omelette made with spinach and tomatoes with vegetarian sausages, all free.  We were then set up for the day.  Off we went to Homebase.

We walked in and immediately saw the lawn mower we wanted and put it straight into the trolley.  We should have just left, but the sun is out and we are feeling good so pop out to the garden centre section.  We start looking at all the plants and decide we must get another Acer to replace the one Lola ate the previous year.  Sadly they didn’t have any but we are so inspired to do some gardening, we buy some other plants!

We get back in the car and decide that we should maybe try another garden centre, so off we go to Charlecote Garden Centre.  We have a look around but still can’t find the Acer we are looking for, so the sun is still shining, it would be a waste not to go to another garden centre!   I mean – 3 in one day just for 1 plant!  Its like the sun has drugged you!  The 3rd one though does have what we want.  We are again just wandering around and start looking at things to attract birds into the garden.   We don’t see anything specifically but we do eye a big bag of bulbs to attract the bees.  Well it would be rude to not give the bees a reason to come into the garden.

Isn’t it funny how a week ago, we wouldn’t have dreamt that we would have a day out shopping for the garden.  It would be more clothes, shoes etc!

We decide that time is getting on and perhaps we should go home and start on the garden.

With a heavy heart I have to leave my husband to start the garden without me, as the house also needs cleaning!  I’m jealous that he gets to be outside while i’m inside!  I’ve got my shorts on though and at least it gives me a reason to get the housework done quickly!

After 2 hours of housework, I’m so excited to get outside and join him.

Last year I bought myself a little greenhouse.  It was only a cheap little thing as we weren’t sure if anything would grow in there.  It was a great success so this year I decided to plant more things.  This year I’m doing lettuce again – this was a great go to product last year, tomatoes, peppers, courgettes, peppers, beans and 3 different garden plants to bring a bit of colour to the borders!

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I bought myself 3 miniature fruit trees this year.  2 apple, 1 pear.  Its going to be a challenge keeping Lola way from them until they grow big enough!

Then I potter around in the borders.  I  had planted some bulbs when we first did the garden a couple of years ago,  along with some shrubs.  Looking around I find quite a few that were now overshadowed by shrubs, so I rescued them and moved them to other parts of the garden so they could grow and flower.

Then its checking out the damage Lola has done!  Our beautiful fuschia plant isn’t doing much.  It looks quite big until I realise that Lola has chewed most of the branches off lower down!  Thankfully she didn’t get to all the branches, so it has a chance!

I sit on my little bench soaking in the sun looking around at my garden.  I feel so happy today!  I’ve been working away all day without a care in the world.  I haven’t even felt like I’ve been exercising, but I have!  I’ve burnt off calories without even thinking about it.

I’m thinking about the week ahead which promises to be even warmer – up to 23 degrees!  Maybe that braai (BBQ) will be out this week.  Steaks, prawns, salmon are now the key ingredients for my meals.  I’m thinking of recipes that will go with them which are Slimming World friendly and tasty!    I’m no longer thinking of carbs and casseroles!  Its braai braai braai!

Welcome finally to spring and I’m so looking forward to summer!   Now to get my summer body ready, but I’m more motivated to get out and exercise.  Why because the sun is out!