2015 in review

As 2015 reaches its final days, I thought I would use this blog to wish you all a very Happy New Year from Paul, Stella and I…. and also to reflect on the year that we’ve had in our little world.  I’m sure I’ve forgot something really important but hopefully you’ll forgive me for that and enjoy reading this anyways.

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2015 Celebrations – Of course the biggest celebration of the year was when Emily and Simon got married. It was a fabulous day and I was so pleased to be part of it – they are a wonderful couple and we love spending time with them. Another big reason to celebrate was when our niece Ella got her Tae Kwon Do Black Belt. I’m still amazed at this achievement for someone so young.

2015 Hellos – Jayne, Paul and the kids welcomed two new fur balls, Charlie and Bailey, into their home. Stella tolerates them and they think she’s amazing and want to chase her, jump on her, lick her etc. etc.

2015 Good-byes – In 2015 we lost both my Aunty Audrey and Uncle Jean. They were married for more than 60 years and I guess it was a testament of their love that when Aunty Audrey died, Uncle Jean couldn’t really live without her… They were such a fun couple with a true zest for life.

2015 Visitors –A big highlight of the year for me was the visit we had from Steve, Tracy, Luke and Anna. They came over to the UK and I enjoyed the time we were able to spend together especially getting to know Luke and Anna. We also had another wonderful visit with Mum and Dad which included a trip for the three of us down to Devon.   Lauren and her Dad made a flying visit to London on their way to Europe so I took myself down there to spend the day with them. It was a well timed family get together – Aunty Audrey had died just before I saw them and a proper Lauren-style hug was just what I needed.

2015 Creativity – I think 2015 saw me move another step forward with my photography. I have graduated to a full frame camera and have done a few shoots with my studio lights including a band, a maternity shoot and a few families. I also have joined a photography group in Liverpool that does a lot of lighting and fashion stuff and Denis and I went to a wedding photography training course. I’m still learning all the time and love it when I get a good photograph.

2015 Projects – In 2015 we painted the house from top to bottom and Paul also replaced the driveway. Frank the van has had some major body work as well and is looking much better for it.

2015 Camping – As a result of the above mentioned body work, camping was a bit limited in 2015. In fact we only had one trip to Silverdale – on the Cumbria/Lancashire border. Thankfully, it was a lovely spot and we had reasonable weather.   Quality not quantity. However, the lack of availability of the van didn’t stop us getting away which is the reason for my next newly created category…

2015 Cottages – Jasmine Cottage in Chipping Campden is probably at the top of this list for me. We both enjoyed that long weekend exploring the Cotswolds from this very warm, comfortable and central base with parking, wifi and all the amenities you could ever need. We went to Stanley Barn in Tideswell for Bonfire weekend and we felt really lucky to find that place at such short notice. It was right in the centre of the village and perfect for us to walk out the door and start our walks from. We also stayed at Osbourne Cottage in North Yorkshire for a week in July where we were very thankful for the games room that morning when it just rained and rained. Freeland cottage in Manaton, Devon was a good place for Mum, Dad and I to explore Dartmoor from and the success of us travelling in this way has set the precedent for similar future trips. And finally, the grandest cottage of 2015 was Esk View in Boot where we stayed for Emily’s hen weekend. It was the perfect setting for the hen weekend that Emily had in mind so I was pleased to be able to use my knowledge of the area while we were there…

2015 Sights – The Alter Elbtunnel in Hamburg was really neat to see and I enjoyed taking pictures in there. We also went to Whitby Abbey, Rievaulx Abbey and Ripon Abbey when we were in North Yorkshire – Whitby Abbey was crowned our favourite. I had a lovely visit to Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire with Fred and Barbara which is the home of one of the inventors of photography William Fox Talbot. In Devon, St. Michael’s church in Brentnor in Devon really sticks out in my mind. It looked so dramatic perched up on the cliff top that windy morning we visited it. The Warner Brothers Studio Tour I did during the Godin’s visit was also really neat and gave me a chance to relive my love of Harry Potter.

2015 Walking – I think my favourite walk this year was the coastal walk between Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay returning along a disused railway line called the Cinder Trail. The weather was lovely and we sat outside and ate ice cream when we got to Robin Hood’s Bay. The walk from Chipping Campden to Broadway felt quintessentially English somehow and my love of Silverdale was re-confirmed with the walks we did that weekend. Going up Snowdon with Helen, Francis and Owen was fun too.

2015 Concerts – The Kaiser Chiefs were good early in the year – and so were their opening act who are called Public Service Broadcasting. We were disappointed, though, that the Maroon 5 concert we had booked was cancelled at the last minute due to Adam Levine having a sore throat…

2015 Food – Where to start. The ice cream that we had in Helmsley in North Yorkshire was ah-maze-ing. Paul was also quite partial to the pies that we got from Mainsgill Farm on the same trip. I tried making a few things from the Harry Biker’s cookbook (a Christmas present from Paul) which yielded a firm favourite in the Bastichio. And although I was sceptical about Robert and Andy’s promise of parsnip chips when I went to visit, I was quickly won over and have made them myself since. The 2015 afternoon teas are also worthy of note – so much so that I have given them a category in their own right!

2015 Afternoon Tea – By far the favourite of the bunch was the afternoon tea I had with some past colleagues from Capenhurst at Davenports Tea Room in Cheshire. This Christmas afternoon tea was just amazing. We had so much food and it was all beautiful. The staff were lovely and the atmosphere in the place was so perfectly cosy and Christmassy. In Devon, Mum, Dad and I enjoyed a traditional cream tea at a café in Widecombe on the Moor which got the thumbs up from Dad (and from all of us really). I also enjoyed a lovely afternoon tea at Panorama 34 which is a restaurant on the 34th floor of a building on the Liverpool waterfront. I had a girly afternoon there with Iwona who worked in Liverpool with me for a while on secondment from Poland. Perhaps the most unusual afternoon tea experience happened at the Woodlands Tea Room in Santon Bridge. While everyone was ordering their cooked breakfast, the staff very kindly made me an afternoon tea even though it was only 11am in the morning… I’m sure the others were slightly bemused (but definitely jealous) when it arrived. Denis and Lin were there for that – as they were for an afternoon tea to celebrate their 40th anniversary at Oakmere and another very acceptable tea we had recently at the Titanic Hotel in Liverpool.  (NB.  I think they are bad influences on me…)

2015 Weather – On reflection, it seems to have been a very wet year… There are floods all around us now in North Wales, Lancashire and Cumbria. There was also some more minor flooding on the Wirral earlier in the year. There were two noteable thunderstorms in 2015 including one mid-BBQ at Palm Hill and another while we were walking across a meadow at Dalby Forest in North Yorkshire… Although Mum, Dad and I did have the most amazing warm and sunny week in Devon at the end of September so I’m not complaining.