Riding into the sunset of my twenties…

I completed another item off my ’30 things before 30′ list. I went pony trekking! Those of you who don’t know me very well, do not realise what a great achievement that is… During my (almost) 30 years on this planet, I’ve barely been able to climb over a fence or gate – let alone climb on a horse, stay on it for an hour and then manage to get off! (Well it took 4 people and a lot of heave ho to get me off… and there is video evidence, so there is one friend who I have to be very nice to in fear of this video ending up on social media 😉 )

So I rode through the forest with the greatest of ease, my hair blowing in the wind whilst the horse’s mane swished from side to side….
OK, maybe not. In reality, I climbed up a plastic step, managed to get myself balanced on Skye – who was the loveliest, calmest horse , I’ve met (even though, to be fair, that isn’t many!) She started stepping towards the edge of the field straight away. I was moving! Argh! Turns out, whereas I was the one who could have easily pooed my pants, it was Skye who wanted to unload her waste… ahem! She has a regular spot and always does a poo before a trek apparently. I liked her organisation and preparation immediately!

Our lovely, calm ride didn’t extend to the rest of the group. The rest of my few friends were fine; the Japanese students from the local Grammar school were not. We were told that they’d been attending every week. At this point I thought, “Great, I’m bottom of the class!” But as they set off on the trek, a new horse from the field reared up at one of the horses carrying a Japanese student. His horse jumped up in reaction, consequently knocking him off! And another student next to him! I was horrified then, but there was no going back!

One thing that made me laugh in the trek, was how the instructors referred to us by the horses names. I heard one say to the other “have you been through trotting with Skye yet?” I was thinking, ” I’m pretty sure Skye knows how… It’s me who doesn’t and I don’t think I want to!” Skye was more interested in eating plants to be honest, but did have a little trot when encouraged verbally by the instructors. I then had no choice but to bounce and “trot” along too!

As I said, Skye took her gentle time. She completely backed off at one point and the instructor asked her why. She’d not seen what I’d seen: the horse in front doing a fart! Honesty, the tail wafted up and everything! That’s why Skye backed off and I didn’t blame her for a second!

I enjoyed my trek. The clippoty clop motion, the gorgeous autumnal leaves (the ones Skye didn’t eat!) and fresh air. We even saw a deer.. though I must admit my only thought there was “Oi Bambi, don’t scare the horses!” Yes, it was a great experience. Not sure I’ll become a regular rider or anything, it even go on a horse who makes it past the “trot” phase in all honesty. But I’m glad I did it.

I admire the outdoorsy people who bound about on these horses; no care in the world ; covered in mud. On the other hand, I screamed when we slightly brushed into a tree it fence. I guess I’ll always be happier tucked up with a book…or at the cinema alone 😉

But I’m a trot further to my 30s 🙂

XSXS

Learning like an intern

Recently, I’ve been ploughing my way through a hugely varied list named “30 things before 30″… And since the big 3-0 birthday is now a month away, there are still quite a few to tick off. I started the list, not because I think 30 is the age we can stop achieving our goals, but because I like to set myself challenges and I think we all, no matter what age, need to keep learning.

Now my list includes things like learning to knit, riding a roller coaster and eating caviar. I may have to admit defeat on some of these! And that’s okay. It’s my list of challenges and I’ve still learnt things about myself along the way. Like the fact that a certain Alton Towers accident has put me off even further… and what would I gain from doing this? I’m not an adrenaline junkie, so probably not much. But I could lose a limb!  I’ll also never make a knitter – after numerous attempts, I still can’t even ” cast on “. And caviar seems out of my reach to try… maybe I don’t go to the right places? I’ll add that one to my 40 list 😉

But I have been on a gondala, become a Mrs, cooked new meals from scratch, ordered a meal in Italian, baked an edible cake, done something amazing for charity, been tobogganing, had something waxed, read all of Jane Austen’s novels (almost!)… and horse riding is booked in for next weekend 🙂

Today’s challenge was to go to the cinema alone. I just feel it is important to go out on your own and have ” me” time. Today, I’ll admit was a little forced because I knew it was on the list. But in the future, if there is a film I want to see and nobody else wants to go, I’ll go alone. It felt invigorating to just turn up, buy your ticket, sit where you want… eat lots of chocolate and drink tea in my case. The only moment I felt awkward was when I had a little cry…. at the film, not because I was alone 😉 It also turns out we all need others, when you have toilet paper stuck to your boot in the toilets… Thank you to the lady who pointed that out to me!

‘The Intern’ was the perfect film to see alone. Completely coincidental too (I wanted to see Macbeth, but it wasn’t showing today). I love Anne Hathaway (still a bit of a Shakespeare link!) and Robert De Niro and it seemed like my kind of film. It was; it was brilliant.

I won’t give the plot away, but De Niro plays a 70 year old Intern. That was the first reason I loved it. It doesn’t matter what age you are, you can always take on a new challenge and learn new things. Naturally, it takes on the idea that he ends up teaching Hathaway’s character more than she teaches him.

Bringing us to the second reason I loved it. Hathaway plays a highly successful owner of an online fashion company. Trying to be the woman who has it all: a great business with happy staff; a loving marriage and family; a beautiful and functioning home. I love the themes of feminism, love and family relationships. How we’re all learning all the time. Within our relationships, in our work and learning to have the life we want.

So I will keep doing my challenges and happily be considered an Intern. 🙂 And I definitely will have another solo cinema trip. ‘Suffragette’ next maybe. But to fit with the tone of that film, maybe a group is more appropriate? 🙂

 Xsxs

Miss to Mrs!

Final Bride Blogger – the last time I’ll write as a Bride!

I’ve not written as many Bride blogs as I would have liked really. Wedmin has taken over …. but technically I have been writing. I’ve been writing my poem/speech for the big day. I’ve been writing the table plan. I’ve been writing messages to drag in those pesky RSVPs (the whole process of guests: writing your guest list to sending invites to getting in RSVPs to sorting where they’ll all sit  – is the hardest part by far! A wedding would be so simple without guests! 😉 ) I’ve also been writing jobs lists for the Wedding party and instructions for the venue.

It turns out a wedding isn’t just about marriage. Well it can be if you literally go the registry office to get that all-so-important piece of paper that boasts your status of husband and wife…. but as I’ve said on previous blogs, for me, it has always been about everyone we love in one room being there to celebrate the event. Our Best man said that the most important thing is that we are there are to say our vows. Even though I appreciate this sentiment (and of course it is true, if you pick one thing from the whole day that is the important bit!) we have chosen to spend thousands of pounds celebrating it how we wish, so the other stuff becomes important too.

The wedding is now in 2 days time (eeeeeeeek!) And it is an event. We are going to the venue the day before. We have boxes and boxes of stuff: favours, decorations, gifts, photo booth props etc etc. We have entertainment arriving.  We are throwing a social event – putting on a show if you will! I’ve been so finicky about typos on the ceremony reading…. particular about the decorations all being the same….funny about the photo collages being just right… and I then have to hand all this over to the venue and hope it all comes together.

I’m doing a speech, which I’m not nervous about at all. I figure if I can stand in front of a room of 15/16 year olds on a daily basis, then this crowd should be easy in comparison! People are there because they love us (or at least like us!) and I know I don’t have to win them over… so that’s all good. I am nervous about the walking down the aisle because I’m clumsy! Yes if I tripped over mid aisle, it would be funny…but I don’t really want the ceremony being remembered for that! I’m also nervous about the vows… at the minute I can’t listen to my entrance song without crying – how am I going to make it through saying all those vows aloud? Does it legally count if they can’t be heard through sobs and sniffles? Haha!

I’ll admit I’ve been a stress-head at times the last few weeks. But things have happened to cause this: guests not knowing the date, people being able to come/not come (oh and then come again!), different managers at the venue, family fall-outs, and I was also upset because a close family relative can now not make it because he has been called back to his submarine work (can’t be helped; just one of those things – but still sad)… things have cropped up, but we’ve dealt with them. (Hope it is all smooth from now on and I’ve not just jinxed it!) No matter what some friends and family say, I WILL be chilled on the day…. well maybe not calm and quiet, as that’s not my nature! I’ll be silly, excited and giddy. I won’t be stressed and worried. By that point, if things do go wrong, I won’t bother. I’m not daft – I do realise this day only comes once. I want to enjoy it! I do want the day to be “perfect” (whatever that means) and I know we have done (along with great friends and family) everything in our power to get us there… things may go wrong on the day, but it won’t matter. As I always say too, when things go wrong, it means I get a story out of it! 😉

Today is about visiting more family and having my nails done…maybe some honeymoon prep? Last few shades of Gray to paint 🙂 See you all when I’m a Mrs!

XSXS

Giving Notice of my Single Life

Bride Blogger Part 9

Today, we went to “give notice”. A phrase that a lot of people seem unfamiliar with, especially if they got married in a church. It’s basically the legal bit (the same as having your bands read I think) and to give people a chance to object in this notice period.

The whole idea kind of makes me laugh. The hoops you have to jump through to make sure we’re for real….I mean we’ve been together for ten years and lived together for 6! Surely the stage in our relationship we want to get to or show to society is up to us! We have to prove we are a real couple, yet people can get pregnant and become parents without so much a “you sure you’re ready to be a parent?” That’s where the real interviewing and questioning should come in my opinion. Just a thought!

Anyway, as we walked into the small, clinical registrar’s office, I felt like it was a mixture of a job interview blended with a quiz show. It was serious…but there were easy questions that I may not get right under pressure! And you can argue the prize was Kenny 😉 The job interview link is also like you are “giving notice” from a previous job. My job as a single lady is done: this is my notice.

The questions were easy… about Kenny’s full name. That one isn’t as easy for me as it is for others mind. Kenny changed his surname by deed poll when he was younger – but PING I knew the previous and new names! Ten points to me. I also knew his job title (he started a new job in Jan and I finally managed to memorise this title last night!) wahoo, ten points! I knew my Dad’s full name (two middle names – so surely I should have got extra points?!) and I kind of guessed at his job title… maybe lost ten points on that one? Then I got all ready to answer about my Mum – but didn’t need to! I was thinking “Come on, I know this  – ask me, ask me!”

We were asked if we’d lived together in our house for more than a month. I was like “yeah for almost 6 years actually!” Bonus points?! After that, I did want to get creative with my answers and have a bit of a laugh:

“Is there any chance you two could be related?”

“Well, we live in Swad, so we could be!”

But, no. I fought against this urge. It was serious and legal stuff…not a time for joke about webbed feet, incestuous Swad folk. Even though, it would have lightened the mood! She also asked me three times if I’d been married before! I knew I should have hidden that wedding ring 😉 (I’ve only ever been married to my books…and they’re starting to get fed-up of me!)

At the end of my interview, she lost the online form. It disappeared. I was thinking, “Great! If we have to do it again, I best make sure all of my answers are the same!” But, luckily she salvaged it. It then failed to print! I wanted to say, “Ah, Kenny is really good with computers, I’ll go get him! See, see, that’s something else I know about my husband-to-be!” 20 points?

Kenny’s interview went without a hitch: no repetitions, no issues. Says it all really! It now means we can get hitched!

I won the quiz…. and I got the job as a future Mrs Holmes…unless anyone contests it…shouldn’t joke really, as that’s something that would probably happen to me! Haha.

XSXS

It’ll be alright on the Wedding Day…

Bride Blogger Part 8

I’ve been absent from the Blogging world for a while. Wedmin, wedmin, wedmin! For those of you who aren’t all-consumed with wedding lingo, “Wedmin” is a very cleverly coined compound word for wedding admin, but you could probably figure that out 😉 I do wonder what I did with my time B.E (as in Before Engagement) – what did I do with those precious moments that are now spent making table confetti? Or cutting out inserts for the invitations? Or finding photographs to decorate the venue? Writing poems for nupitals? And when I get a break, I read wedding magazines in the bath!

Overall, it’s been an exciting time and I do enjoy all of the planning. We’ve had a few stressful things happen though that I’d thought I’d share with you fellow-brides or anyone else who wants a giggle:

Way back before Christmas, my Mum and I went to the florist to book flowers plus a glittery curtain back-drop for our venue. A glittery curtain? If you’d said to me years ago that we’d be forking out a small fortune to hire a glittery curtain for our wedding, I’d have laughed so hard, I would’ve spat wine in your face. But we have a massive window behind the top table in the venue room and it boasts a not so romantic looking view of the car-park. So, we need something to cover it. This one we wanted had been used at our venue loads and we thought “bugger it,” it saves anyone spending hours making something that may not look half as good. This is what weddings do to you – you spend on things you never thought you would want or need, but it is all about choosing what to spend your money on. Anyway, I digress. We went  to book this and with crossed fingers asked if the coveted curtain was available on our wedding day. She looked and said;

“Oh it’s already booked that day. At the Riverside hotel with a royal blue colour scheme!”

“What? But OUR wedding is on that date at that venue with that colour scheme!”

Wedding planning does make you a tad crazy. So after this had sunk in, I started to ponder if I had actually already booked it without remembering! But this booking had someone else’s name and they’d already picked flowers and paid their £50 deposit. I’m crazy, but not that crazy and think that even in my mad Wedmin mode, I would still remember giving a false name, choosing flowers and parting with 50 quid! So by this point, I couldn’t give a flying flip about the curtain, but was worried about our venue being double-booked! But a quick phone-call by our helpful florist solved the puzzle. It turns out this other couple had got engaged, gone straight into planning mode and ordered flowers and the curtain, paid the deposit before even booking a venue. They then hadn’t got as far as that because they broke up in the meanwhile. So the venue is ours; the curtain is ours (well for the day) and they are out £50 and don’t even have each other 😦 Sad –  but a lesson can be learnt. Don’t go booking and paying for things straight away before you even have a venue! You could break up…. or just give other future brides like myself, a heart attack!

Speaking of the venue, we still love it and are still very excited. It has caused us some stress also, however. Since booking our special day, they are now on their 3rd manager! Is it me and my incessant bridal questioning that has scared them off? Surprisingly, no! The first manager went on long-term sick – and I know this can’t be helped, but I was very disappointed because I felt like in addition to investing in the venue, we had invested in him also. I clung onto the hope he would be back in the New Year. He did get better but then left the hotel. We had dealt with a relief  manager in the meanwhile and then next time we had visited, there was another one. I know this shouldn’t matter. Our wedding will be great (the mantra I repeat with every single, piece of confetti I make!) but I just feel we have to keep going back to step one, telling the new manager everything!

Another annoying thing to bring us to the current wedding planning week, is the invitation making. I had this idealised idea that we would have a lovely evening printing off our invites to our nuptials. After the first click, the printer decided to chew up our envelopes. One by one. Turns out, in addition to our 80 guests, the printer wanted feeding too! So fingers crossed, we get those sorted this weekend! Things will go wrong, but as I say, I always get a story out of it!

As they say, it’ll be alright on the Wedding night day!

Keep posted for some Hen Do stories!

XSXS

Goodness, Actually

‘There is no such thing as a self-less good deed,’ said Joey on Friends. All good deeds are selfish because they make us feel good he believes- but so what? We need more of people feeling good. If you do a good deed and you make someone happy, it does in fact, make you happy in return – you can then spread this joy when you tell others about it. Which is what this blog post is all about.

Since starting my blog, I have done ‘A good, the bad, the ugly’ themed post at Christmas time to highlight how Christmas kind of exaggerates feelings. (links below) There are so many acts of kindness that seem even more generous during the festive period, yet people doing stupid things and selfish things becomes even worse at Christmas too.

This year – I want to forget negative stories. Not in a ‘head in the sand’ kind of way. There is no avoiding it really, especially with all the awful stories in the news. But for this post, it is going to be simple full of goodness. I’ve had a year of extreme high and lows and now, as the year draws to a close, I want to focus on the positive. And there is a lot of it in the world, even if we forget sometimes.

I was inspired when I watched Love Actually recently. Yes, its a bit cheesy (and no it wasn’t the first time I’d seen it 😉 ) but it does highlight all kinds of  ‘love’ in the world – in a variety of contexts. It ignores hate and all the bad in the world. And we need more of this… people need to focus on love and happiness. And goodness. There is always Goodness, actually 😉

As far as good deeds go, I think I have done my fair share so far this season. I was driving home from work one day and saw an elderly woman go flying – as in fallen over, not zooming in the sky!  She had another elderly woman with her, who couldn’t seem to help her up. I pulled over and attempted to help her up. When I couldn’t physically manage it, I ran for help and a man and myself helped her to her feet. She was very grateful, but insisted she was OK to walk home, after I’d offered to drive her home.

I also try to what I can for the elderly people I know. I’ve visited quite a few neighbours and friends at care homes or their houses – sometimes just a quick chat and some company is the best Christmas present they can have. I didn’t buy my friend Donald anything this year – I tend to find my gifts still wrapped in his room afterwards! So this year, I have just promised to take him out to Morrisons for lunch in the new year. He loves the place and will love that much more than a fancy box of biscuits.

Additionally, instead of giving out Christmas cards to colleagues this year, I have donated a bag of food to Hope charity food bank, which a colleague kindly organises, and also a donation of money to the charity Crisis to help the homeless this Christmas. Here are the links if you fancy doing the same:

http://www.hopecentrederby.co.uk/

http://community.crisis.org.uk/press?utm_source=insert&utm_medium=print&utm_campaign=menu

But lots of people do lovely things all the time, often unrecognised. I’m just going to blurt them all out into one big bubble of happiness – enjoy!

My friend lost her purse in town whilst shopping. Busy, festive time – she never expected to get it back. Luckily, she had no money in it and promptly cancelled her cards. She posted on Facebook and people shared it. A couple of days later, the purse had been posted through her letter box 🙂 Either the wonder or Facebook had helped this or good old-fashioned reading of the drivers licence  – but still, either way, highlighting that their are some decent people out there.

A similar story  – my Mother-in-law-to-be’s friend lost her handbag and it got handed in – fab ending once again Plus, my Mother-in-law-to-be went to a cash point recently and forgot to take her money. A lady behind her shouted after her to collect the money!

An ex-colleague of mine told me this next story via Facebook. She said that she noticed one day that her gate hinge had gone rusty and broke. The next day, she went out to the shops in order to buy a new hinge and noticed that her gate now boasted a brand-new, shiny hinge. It turns out her neighbour had done it for her – without being asked, or without want of any recognition.

Another story I read on Facebook was a lovely one (you see Facebook can be used for positivity spreading!) and made me feel very warm inside – and no, that wasn’t the wine 😉 A youth club went round to local elderly people giving them Christmas hampers. This is pure goodness in itself – but it gets better. They became very upset and disturbed by the condition one old man was living in: poor décor, messy, cold and a lack of carpets. They are now planning to do lots of activities to fund-raise money to carpet the man’s house 🙂 Wonderful.

A friend at work told me about a 26-year-old man (I think she said he was on TV about it) who chose to do a good deed every day for a year. He has managed all of the year so far and still keeping to it every single day. He does things like helping strangers when they are struggling with something, paying for someone’s lunch, doing chores for the elderly and unable. What an inspiration!  – Here’s the link if you want to read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2874858/Luke-Cameron-does-good-deed-day-12-months-people-hate-it.html

Another young lad, who is a true inspiration, is Matthew Humphreys. he completed to Rickshaw challenge this year for Children in Need. I worked with him a few years ago, which is a complete honour. It was my mate, plus then, another fantastic ex-colleague who had the daily delights of working with him one-to-one – and what an amazing job they have done to help to shape the person he has become (along with all other friends and family of course!)  With a physical disability, he found it harder than anyone else – and god knows it is a challenge anyway! I went to see him at my old school for  an awards’ ceremony last week. he also had speech difficulties, but had prepared a speech and was an absolute star of the show. It really does make you humble. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/2PkXCX63SZ1YMJ37j3xX9jS/matthew – for more info.

Please continue these stories in the comments below. There are many more to be told – in fact there are probably many more that I know, but have forgotten (especially if told to me after having wine! haha) Spread the joy. After watching It’s a Wonderful Life for the first time this Christmas, it made me realise what a profound effect each and every individual can have on another’s life. We all have a role to play and there is reason we are here.

Do what you can to help others – it will make them happy and yourself in return 🙂 To end on a quote:

‘Help others achieve their dreams and you will achieve yours.’ – but remember goodness is for life, not just for Christmas 🙂

Merry Christmas everyone – have one full of goodness!

XSXS

https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/christmas-the-generous-the-silly-and-the-damn-right-disgusting/

https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2012/12/23/christmas-the-good-the-bad-the-funny-and-the-damn-right-inhumane/

Bride Blogger Part 7: The One

Wahoo, I have found the one! Yes – I have found my – the – wedding dress! After discussing my wedding dress hunts in Bride Blogger part 6 (https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/hunt-for-the-perfect-wedding-dress-and-bridal-shop/), I did indeed return to the one good shop I had found. I had 3 appointments in total at Alison Evans Bridal Wear and it certainly was ‘3rd time lucky,’ as they say!

Funnily enough, the dress I chose was one of they very first dresses I tried on (possibly even the very first) and I didn’t like it! I preferred others, didn’t like the sleeves etc. But now I love it. I think I had to rule out all the others and realise that the sleeves can be altered/pinned down and can look great. So, yes the search is over.

Getting the dress home and it becoming officially mine, wasn’t the easiest of things though. I have joked to Kenny that finding ‘the one’ as in a husband was much easier than the wedding dress! He took slight offence until I explained there was no question of him being the one – but there were lots of questions involved with the dress 😉 Think I dug my way out of that one!

The dress I decided on was £875 originally and reduced to £600 when I tried it on. I knew, however, there was a sale on the week after and the lovely sales assistant informed us that the dress should go into the sale. I suggested we would be best to buy it now anyway – to ensure we got it – and still for a good price! She urged us to wait for the sale, claiming we could save another couple of hundred. Why would she say that? I hear you cry…….. well, as I said in the previous post, it seems good business and means they maintain excellent word-of-mouth. We were also told, there had been no particular interest in ‘my’ dress and most appointments were booked now leading up to the sale. So, we (yes I dragged the Mums and bridesmaids along again) decided to wait .

All week there was a nagging feeling. What if someone went in, loved it and bought it at £600? What if other people had tried it on and would be fighting for it in the sale? But there was nothing I could do. I didn’t even have control over queuing in the sale and fighting for my dress of honour! The sale began 10am on the Fri – well I was at school. So, it was all left up to my Mum and Dad to queue up, take the paperwork with dress info, hunt it down and pay. Simple?

We joked about them camping outside the shop in their camper van. I still think they should have – even if just for the comedy value. And it would have given Dad a great story for his wedding speech! We also heard about 7 women all coming in for the same,one dress. I never heard what happened with that – I never heard of a wedding dress shop scandal or fight in the newspaper, so assume it was OK! Anyway, Mum and Dad got there early enough and started queuing – whilst I was in a lesson at school going out of my mind! Mum text me at half 9 saying ( I’d just like to point out, I didn’t check my phone until I was out of lesson!):

‘There are about 8 people in front of us – but some are together. There is only one girl who looks the same size as you, but she looks a bit chavvy and won’t be after your dress! Alison just came out with chocolate biscuits!’

Lol, I love my Mum – cracks me up. She also questioned why the shop owner would give them chocolate biscuits when they were about to touch white dresses? Good point I guess! My Dad joked that they wanted to fatten people up so they would need alterations! 😉  haha. Within another ten minutes, I received another text:

‘Got it – just waiting to pay. £435!’

So that was it – wahoo! It is now hanging proudly in my old bedroom and my parents’. My dad even put up a hook for it 🙂

The one (husband-to-be and dress ticked off!)

XSXS

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