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A Winter Cocktail

Life changing magic

Life changing magic
The Life Changing Magic

A tale of hitch hiking in the south of France


Here's a story from the large 'dumb things I've done, but I'm glad I did' bank I store in my brain*. It's nearly as big as the 'dumb things I've done, but wish I hadn't' collection I have up there!

Many years ago, as a carefree teenager, I spent the summer of 2000 working in the south of France for PGL, in a village called Giens near Hyeres. I spent my summer sailing and drinking and playing on the beach. Getting a tan like no tan I’d ever had before and going blonde naturally.
There wasn’t much to do in Giens when we weren’t working besides go to the beach and sail or go to the local vineyard and buy gallons of wine or go to the Carrefour and buy beer. Once we week we might be able to jump on the trips to Cannes or St Tropez or the waterpark (I know, poor me), but adventures were mostly self made, and as none of us had a car, we were reliant on the terribly unreliable public transport.
And this is how I found myself, with another sailing instructor Dee, hitching a ride in to the local town, Hyeres. In reality there wasn’t much to do in Hyeres, but there were more shops than we had in our village and it was something to do on a day off. 

We'd set off to get the bus, and when it didn't turn up, we stuck out our thumbs and hitched a ride with the first car that came along. It wasn't unusual, we all hitched everywhere when the buses didn't turn up, the unwritten rules were that no-one hitch hiked alone, but it was just something we all did. And it worked out well, most of the time. We'd had lifts from authors spending their summer writing near by, and mums with their kids in the car, old couples heading to a market, farmers letting us sit in the flatbeds of their trucks. It was the south of France in summer, everyone was a friendly face!

So we're stood there, two 19 year old girls who, lets be honest, didn't speak much French, dressed in shorts and vests and flipflops waiting for a car to pull over to take them to town. And we didn't have much luck to start with, but we also didn't see a bus, but finally a little car with two guys a bit older than us, and who didn't speak any English, pulled over and told us in French to get in the back......in hindsight, you know, with my now infinate wisdom, getting in the back of a 2 door car, with some random guys in the south of France probably wasn't our greatest plan. But we did it. And it all seemed to be going pretty normally for a hitched ride. We told them we wanted to go to the MacDonalds (it was easy to drive to and we knew where it was) they said 'we', we had a chat in very broken French about what we were doing. It was all perfectly fine. Until one of them took a call and told the friends on the other end of the phone that they'd picked up too girls and were bringing us to meet them. What these guys might not have realised was that we understood far more French than we could speak, luckily. 

And now Dee and I are sat in the back of a of a 306, with two random guys who didn't speak English, were going in completely the opposite direction we wanted to go in on their way to meet two of their friends, with us.........and it's safe to say we were shitting ourselves a little bit. But it's lucky that they don't speak much English because we're sat back there planning our escape. Do we say we need a wee? Do we need to kick out and try and injure someone? Do we scream for help, and if so, what do we shout, what are the words we need in french? And we quickly realise we've not even got proper shoes on to aid our escape. All the while, we're still travelling further and further out of the area of town we know.

Eventually the car pulls over in a carpark on the other side of Hyere to where we wanted to be. We can see it's pretty built up, there are some bars and restaurants and a few supermarkets. The driver gets out to go greet his friends in another small car but the guy in the passenger seat is now grinning at us manically. So we took our chance and popped the drivers seat forward opened the door and ran. I don't think I've ever run so hard, not even when I am late for work and I can see the bus is almost leaving the station. 

Behind us we can here some (we assumed half hearted) running and shouting, telling us to come back, lots of laughing. But we didn't stop, we didn't turn round. We didn't even talk to each other until we ended up in a small supermarche round the corner. Where we burst out laughing. I know in my case was laughter out of shock and fear, but it was still uncontrollable laughter. 

I don't have many memories of what we did in Hyeres that afternoon, I do know we treated ourselves to an afternoon beer though, we had it right before we hitched a ride home. 

Yup. You read that right. We'd just made a run from a car and our brains honestly thought it would be a good idea to hitch hike home! But in our defence, we chose to get a ride with a woman, in a convertable. We figured we'd be able to get out easier if it all went wrong again! 

Now come on - before I spill more stories of the dumb things I have done, tell me some of yours! Please, it'll make me feel better! 

* I think it's really important to have these memories, and I have a lot of them, although many of them aren't safe for repeating in a public forum.
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The importance of appropriate glassware

One of the things we’re really passion about at our house is making cocktails, and sitting alongside this love of cocktails is a need for making sure we have the correct glasses for said drinks. It’s an important factor of every cocktail.

We’ve worked hard over the last few years to make sure that we have appropriate glassware for most situations and we’ve only curbed our collecting because we’ve now officially run out of space (until we get the kitchen re-done that is!)! Currently our collection houses coupe glasses, a couple of different sets of manhattan glasses, gin goblets, highballs glasses, tumblers of various sizes, tiki mugs, and the obvious champagne flutes and wine glasses.

If you're looking to create the perfect bar, then here are some of the important glass types you'll have to have at the start of your collection; 


1. Coupe glasses - We find these imperative for champagne cocktails and short cocktails 2. Martini glasses - are always used in our house for short cocktails and strutting about feeling fancy. 3. Wine glasses - we use these for wine obviously, and the occasional Aperol spritz. 4. Tumblers - preferably with a nice heavy bottom, used for amaretto sours and old fashioned's and other short cocktails. 5. We use Highball glasses  for long drinks like a gin and tonic or maybe a rum and ginger beer. And last but not least 6. The Tiki mug, which in our house are used exclusively for Zombies. We actually have two sets of zombie glasses and had to downsize as we found there was just too much booze in the big ones we bought.

So, there you have my essential starter kit for appropriate glassware. 
What's in your collection?
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My Favourite Netflix Binge-Watches

Normally the contents of my Netflix watching is a closely guarded secret as it's mostly full of some pretty terrible 90's films, but as I've been asking everyone I know for recommendations of what to binge watch next on Netflix, I thought it only polite to share some of my favourite shows, the ones I've not been able to stop watching.

"Liv was a rosy-cheeked, disciplined, over-achieving medical resident who had her life path completely mapped out, until the night she attended a party that unexpectedly turned into a zombie feeding frenzy. Afterward, she became part zombie. She works at a coroner's office to give her access to the brains she must eat to survive..."

This is a must watch. I popped it on on a whim as it kept popping up in my recommendation, not hoping for a lot really but thinking that as there were two series it'd keep me going for a while. And I totally fell in love with this show. I love the premise that the zombie in you can be kept at bay by the regular eating of brains, but in doing so you get the memories and thoughts of the person you've just eaten which throws up some interesting character traits and serves as the basis for that episodes
The characters are perfectly formed and you find yourself rooting for even the not so nice ones, there is comedy, there are a few love stories, some baddies to defeat. And as a zombie fan, it's so fun to see them as something other than brain dead marauders. 


"The series follows the lives of four teenage girls — Aria Montgomery, Emily Fields, Hanna Marin, and Spencer Hastings — whose clique falls apart after the disappearance of their leader, Alison DiLaurentis. Three years later, after the discovery of Ali's body, they begin receiving text messages from an anonymous source, "A," who threatens to expose their secrets — including long-hidden ones they thought only their close friend Alison knew."

If you've not seen PLL yet, then you have a treat in store. For one there are about 40,000 episodes to watch so it'll take you a long time to get through it all, and secondly, it's a great, somewhat farcical, but dark show! Yes, it follows the lives of teenage girls but it's not a show just for tweens. There are so many moments when you're left guessing which way is up, and just who has double crossed who this time. There are also times when you wonder where their parents are because I definately didn't have that much freedom at their age, but maybe that's just me being old......But the cast are really good at playing their characters (plus they have some amazing clothes to wonder how they afforded) and on Nexflix UK new episodes are shown in reatime their airing in the US.


Once Upon a Time
"The show is based on the theory that there is an alternate universe where every classic fairy tale character (new and old) exists—a world that has a loose connection to our world. On the night of her 28th birthday, bail bonds collector Emma Swan is reunited with Henry Mills - the son she gave up for adoption ten years ago—and takes him back to his hometown of Storybrooke, Maine, a place where nothing is what it seems."


I started watching OUAT after seeing Jessica blog about her love for it, a few times. It was also about the time we were catching up on The Walking Dead so I needed something light hearted to get into and thought a series about fairytales might be just the thing, and I am hooked. There are a good 5 series to get stuck into (although it gets a bit boring during the frozen period, but stick with it) and loads of characters to get to know. I love the fact there are so many fairytale characters they can explore, and how they’ve portrayed some of the people you think you know well. And again, on Nexflix UK the new episodes are shown just a few days after their airing in the US.


"Jeff Winger is disbarred and suspended from his law firm when it is discovered that he lied about possessing a bachelor's degree. This leaves him with no choice but to enroll at Greendale Community College to earn a legitimate degree. Jeff quickly becomes attracted to his activist classmate, Britta Perry, and pretends to run a study group in order to spend time with her.
However, his plans go awry when she invites Abed Nadir, a pop culture-loving nerd, who brings other classmates along: Shirley Bennett, a religious single mother, naïve over-achiever Annie Edison, former high school football star Troy Barnes, and elderly millionaire Pierce Hawthorne. Despite their differences, the group soon become close friends.

Community was another series I popped on after it came into my suggested feed one too many times without much thought to what it’s about and I am so glad I started watching, albeit a bit late. It took me a couple of episodes to get into it but it is such a funny series. I totally adored the relationship between Troy and Abed, I loved Shirley (maybe that’s because I love how much of a fan girl nerd  Yvette Nicole Brown is in real life) and after a while I even stopped thinking how much of a dick Jeff was. There is so much going on every episodes and so many farcical elements that it’s just such a fun show to watch! And again, there are loads of series so it'll keep you going for a long time!


Now, tell me what I should be watching next? 
As you can see I'm a fan of  'easy, don't have to think about this too much' stuff to have on whilst I am doing other stuff, but if you have any heavier suggestions, throw them my way too!


*I've not included the big must watches that are super hyped like Kimmie Schmit and Orange is the New Black because I am sure , if you've not watched them already, they're on your list....... 
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Dog Blog: Vets Kitchen Treats & Joint Supplements

Last month we had an email through for Flash and Melle from Vets Kitchen asking if we'd like to try some of their food for the pups. As we'd recently changed their food I wasn't comfortable in changing their dinner again so soon. But after a quick chat with the vets* at Vets Kitchen, we decided that we'd try some of their treats and, as Flash has a bit of a clicking paw, some of their Active Joints Supplement a go as well.
Well, we've had the treats and glucosamine for a month now, plenty of time to try them fully and report back, so here goes. 

Let’s start with the ActiveJoints glucosamine supplement. I wasn't sure what to expect of dog glucosamine as I take it for my shoddy knees and they are little gel capsules, but this doggy stuff comes as a gel in a squeezy tube, a bit like ketchup. For the last month I’ve been squeezing a teaspoon sized amount of it into Flash’s food once a day. I’ve said it before, but it should be noted that Flash is a bit fussy when it comes to food, so anything new can be a bit hit and miss. And honestly he was a bit unsure to start with but once it was mixed in with the kibble and wet food he normally has, he started wolfing it down.
We’ve only been using it for a month, and our vets have told me that it could take a while for us to notice any difference, and that we might not even notice anything at all, he’d just be healthier, so whilst we can’t see for sure what taking glucosamine is doing to his little clicky paw, I feel better that he is taking it and the gel is such an easy way to get the medicine into the body of a very suspicious dog!
And now, on to the treats. We received packets of the chicken and salmon treats for them to try. Both have their own unique qualities; the Salmon Active+ treats are enhanced with  glucosamine, healthy joints and Omega 3 and 6 for a healthy heart, skin and coat, and the Chicken Smart+ treats have added DHA to help brain development.
We’ve done extensive taste tests with Flash and Melle with both treats and Flash is huge fan of the salmon which is helpful as they are the Active + ones that are good for joints! Flash is not only a bit of a fussy eater, but he’s also a really delicate eater. He takes treats from your hand so carefully and eats his dinner so carefully. But when he’s hungry and he knows there are treats in the bag he’s the first to start demanding them – he’s even been known to go rifling through my bag for them, which he does when he knows I’ve got Vets Kitchen treats out with me.
Melle on the other hand will just eat both flavours without even stopping to notice which one he has. But to be fair this is a dog who loses it over ice cubes and cat poop so we can’t trust his culinary judgement can we? He’s far too excited that food is around to stop and notice things like flavour. Although he does come running the minute I shake one of the little grey bags in the air. For a puppy his recall has always been good, but when faced with a bag of treats, it’s perfect every time! I do try and push him towards the Chicken flavour, what with him being slightly cray cray and them having a brain power supplement – we can hope, right?  

For me, the great thing about them is that even though each bag has loads of treats in them, they come in handy handbag sized packets that are re-sealable. I hate having to wedge a huge bag of treats into an already full bag!
The only issue I’d have is that for small dogs they are seem a big to use as ‘all the time treats’. This might be my paranoia as I am so scared of the dogs becoming overweight (it’s the pug in them) and I know the pups are in no way fat but I like that they don’t need to diet. As they are 5calories a pop and quite hard to snap in half, I mixed up some kibble into the bags too to mean I had some smaller treats for them on walks but I don’t pretend to not be able to see their disappointment at a kibble treat and not a little star!
What are your dog’s favourite treats? Please tell me there are others who devour cat poop too!


(Just an FYI, the chat with the vets and the fact they were willing to change to plan with regards to their review strategy  made me feel super reassured that these are people who know their stuff and aren’t just after reviews no matter what!)

**We were sent both the treats and the joint supplement to try for free, but all opinions are ours. **
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On why having kids apparently makes you more important than me!

My favourite fur faces! 
I tried to find a picture of them looking cuter than babies but you'll have to make do with this one, where they are fighting over a stick!
A couple of weeks ago it was suggested to me, at a group meal, that my life was somewhat insignificant because I don't have kids, and, that my love for my dogs wasn't important because they didn't come from my womb.

Yes, that’s right the word womb was said at the dinner table. Who does that?


But, besides from that dinner table faux pas, the more pressing thing I took away from the situation was when did it become OK to believe someone wasn't as important because they don't have a child? Why does having kids make you better than me?


It's not a new thing I have encountered, I’m 35 and everyone around me seems to be having children, but it's the first time that it's been actually said out loud. I totally get that having children must be a game changer, but it's not something that I've been 'blessed' with (and I'm assured it is a blessing). This however doesn’t make me less of a person, or less of a woman than someone with kids. It just means my life is, right now, different to yours. And no, I don’t want to discuss the reasons why I don’t have any, especially not at dinner!


And I’ll be honest, it really pissed me off that someone had the audacity to tell me that my love for my furfaced boys isn’t valid because 1. they are dogs and 2. I didn’t give birth to them. Firstly, I’m not sure there is room to love anyone else in my heart. Flash takes up far too much space and Melle has his spot and Jim gets the rest that is left. And secondly. What if I adopted a child? Would they matter less than one I’d given birth to? I know this bit is just that one person’s point of view but it really riled me up.


Having kids, not having kids, not being able to have kids, not liking kids. Everyone is entitled to their opinion about the situation, but to tell me that my life is somehow not as important as someone else’s who has made a different decision to me. That’s when it it’s going to piss me off. And I am sure I’m not the only one who has faced this sort of judgment.


Tell me, how did you cope with it, because I’m still sat here somewhat annoyed that I didn’t have a witty retort on hand and I want to have yours to use next time I face the same sort of comments.
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Lust List - The Turquoise Edition


If there's a colour I'd like people to see and think of me, it's turquoise. I flit between wearing too much of it and not enough (mostly because I'm wearing hot pink) but I always come back to turquoise. And sunny spring time just makes me want to wear it more. Here are just a few of the turquoise-y bits I'm lusting after right now. 

1. I'm so pasty at the moment (all the time really) and a little bit of a tan is always needed, but I am a bit of a fake tan idiot, this stuff, I'm told is fool proof. 2. I'm so in love with these crocheted necklaces from Fickle Craftroom, the beads just make it more special! 3. Turquoise nails that look like mermaids. Yes please! 4. The comfiest flipflops I've ever owned (and I've had a lot of them) have all been Reef. They just make the squigiest soles and softest toe posts! 5. I have one turquoise ring, but I am a sucker for a stacking ring and this is stunning! 

What's the colour that sums you up best? And how do you best like to wear it?  
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A look back on April and May's goals


April was a 'try to save money' month. It didn't work awfully well but, post holiday, the intention was there so it was a month of cheap plans and staying in and a lot of dog walks. We did go to Manchester to see Brian Fallon, and I went to watch a friend run the Sheffield half marathon, i dug up the garden, I started scrapbooking our holiday, I did some reading, we discovered a wonderful sprialized salad. 


And now, on to May and May's goals. 
We're having the hallway, all 3 floors of it, and the spare room replastered. and then we're brining someone in at the end of the month to paint the hallway, well, the do the gloss at least, but the spare room needs re-glossing and painting, then it needs a new carpet and some decoration. 
In the last week Melle has started paddling with his brother, so now it's getting warmer, swimming is in the cards I think! 
We're having a swishing event at the WI and I have loads of clothes for it, I just have to dig them out. 
I need some new TV to watch. I've been binge watching iZombie lately and it is awesome, but I'll run out of them soon so I need something to take the place of it. Any suggestions will be welcomed!
With Jim being away and it getting warmer, we need to start using the garden more. I'm voting garden party! 

So, those are my plans, what are you up to this month? 
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Travel: 4 Days in Boston

We left Portland for the drive to Boston on a sunny March morning with weather reports that mirrored early June. Glorious sunshine and hot weather that called for another off the motorway roadtrip through a couple of outlet malls (hello new Nike Cortez, Adidas gear and Shamrock Shakes!) We found places called Bald Head and Manchester to visit and drove through Salem too!
Eventually we arrived in Boston to our Airbnb in Brookline and found the nearest Liquor store for a few local beers and snacks! 
Our first day in Boston was spent in a super warm rain storm. One that threw our wardrobe choices into chaos as we'd only got snowboard jackets and winter layers, so in wholy unsuitable clothing for rain we set off to explore Boston.

First up we went on a bit of a Fallout 4 tour with Jim regaling me with swing songs about nuclear war and telling me about how the locations looked in a post bomb world. This took in some city centre libraries, the Hatch Memorial Shell, the Charles River Esplanade, Boston Common and the State House!
General hookers entrance  - Boston, MA
I could not resist taking a photo of this. I mean, could you? But also, where do the high class hookers go in?
Then we caught T over to Fenway Park for a little look about the baseball park. That evening we took a walk to Deep Ellum, a restaurant Jim had seen on DDD and we both wanted to visit. And my god it was worth it. We had a series of starters including the root beer pork belly with was maybe the best thing we ate on the trip!  So, so good! 


Our next day was spent taking a late brunch locally, then we set off to take in the Freedom Trail in the sunshine. We bought a $3 map from the station on Boston Common and set off following the red line on the floor to do some historical sightseeing. Apparently the brass markers on the floor are part of Fallout too so we had lots of pictures taken of those too.



We made it as far as the Paul Revere house and then I twisted a nearly fixed ankle, I swore a LOT (apologies to any kids nearby) and we abandoned the walking tour for Oysters at Neptune. We went with a platter of 12 mostly local oysters and a beer rather than anything bigger because, honestly, after two weeks of being on holiday, we were getting conscious of how much we’d spent and it was not cheap in there! But the oysters were delicious and the beer was just what I needed after my trip! The oysters were followed by an evening seeing one of our favourite artists, Brian Fallon (lead singer of the Gaslight Anthem) at the Royale. The gig was in an awesome small venue with a balcony we could watch from (and space to rest my by now turning blue, swollen, ankle).

The next day we brunched at @Union on Harvard Ave where Jim had Lobster Eggs Beni. Yup – lobster breakfast. Then we picked up the Freedom Trail where we'd left off the day before. The second half of the trail took in the Copps Hill Burial Ground where we learnt about old fashioned headstones and found wifi, we made a stop at the Converse HQ for some custom trainers, Jim bought some more NHL tshirts, we walked to Charlestown and climbed the 294 steps to the top of the Bunker Hill Memorial. We saw some beautiful views up there and we learnt some history. Just do not get Jim started on the American Revolution. It’s now a looooooong topic of discussion!
That night we headed back to Allston for some pretty great taco's at Deep Ellum's sister restaurant, Lone Star. If you’re ever in Boston I would really suggest checking both these restaurants out as they are so good – busy, but really good! I wish Jim liked avocados because the guac looked amazing, but there was so much of it I was scared to order it alone!
Our final day in Boston, and the final day of our trip was spent in Harvard trying to soak up some smarts. Our flight was at 6pm so we caught an early-ish bus over to Cambridge to explore the university. Being a Sunday the museums were shut, which was disappointing as we saw a few things we’d have loved to have popped in to see, but it was really interesting to just wander round and see the buildings and read about the way the town was created! Lunch was sushi at a jazz and sushi restaurant, and we then made our way back to the apartment to pack and leave for the airport.
I hadn’t been sure what I’d think of Boston, I was excited to go but didn’t think I’d enjoy it as much as I did. Maybe it was the sunshine, but the city, whilst feeling really big, also felt really relaxed and friendly. I loved saying out in the suburbs so we got a feel for somewhere other than the city centre too!

 _________________________________________________
Travel Info – where we stayed, how we got about, that sort of stuff;

Accommodation - We stayed in Allston in this cute little Airbnb. It's a little bit out of the centre of Boston, but it was so close to the Harvard Ave stop on the T and in walking distance of some great restaurants.  
Getting there – We drove down from Portland on the 1 taking a little bit of a detour 
Getting about - We bought a 5 day Charlie card pass that we could use on the T, trains and buses. 
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