Wednesday, 31 December 2014

December Happiness

Five things which made me smile this month...
1. Watching Danny Elfman sing songs from 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' at the Royal Albert Hall.
Danny Elfman singing 'The Oogie Boogie Song' from The Nightmare Before Christmas
Somerset House Christmas tree bauble
3. Getting my craft on and making 24 little knitted stockings for an advent calendar (even if I did finish number 24 on Christmas Eve...)
Knitted advent calendar
4. Watching Swallows and Amazons at Bristol Old Vic complete with a pot of pic 'n' mix sweets.
Swallows and Amazons pic 'n' mix at Bristol Old Mix
5. And lastly has to be finally getting off the crutches and being able to walk again, not perfectly but good enough to feel like there's light at the end of the tunnel.
Duck not using crutches
Here's to a fabulous 2015 everyone!

Here Is The News #26

Here is the News

Blogland Brilliance

Sarah put together a list of ideas for the post-festive season with plenty of inspiration for January blogging.

Elise, Amy and Sharon all took part in Janet's Thrifty Christmas Swap; Elise got a package of goodies including some excellent dinosaur cutters, Amy got an excellent Christmas tree decoration and gorgeous bag and Sharon was the lovely lady who I sent my present to - you can see what she sent her Santa friend and what I sent her over on her blog.

Samantha's Christmas Day as snapped by her selfie stick is brilliant (plus how pretty does she look in her dotty dress?).

Cat talked about how she hopes blogging will change in 2015 - more lifestyle and more honesty are definitely the way forward.

Jen's compiled a very thorough list of what to do with your leftovers - that is, if you haven't munched them all yet!

And Sarah's on fire with blogging this week explaining perfectly why selfie sticks are a good idea, how to stick at your New Year's resolutions and I love, love, love her idea of listing things you're already good at, rather than knocking ourselves down with all the things we can't do.
I should also say that if you aren't already following Sarah, you really should be, she's had one hell of a year up and down but I think 2015 is going to be amazing for her.

Blogs I've followed this week...

Lizzie Dripping


Have a wonderful New Year's Eve everyone!

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Lucky Dip Club Boxes

Subscription boxes seem to be all the rage nowadays - over the last six months I've spotted boxes for food, craft, beauty, cookies, cheese, nail polish, chocolate, hair products, perfume, baby stuff, coffee, paper and stationery, books, wine, vitamins, toys, pet food, tea and even one for your periods.

Without sounding too much like I've jumped on the proverbial bandwagon (although clearly by writing this post I've managed to just sneak on the back, several months after everyone else), I paid up for a Lucky Dip Club box.

Lucky Dip Club Boxes

Lucky Dip Club is run by Leona with the aim of sending you a personalised package of fun every month on a different theme. Leona only produces a limited number of boxes and you have to get in pretty quick to sign up, with the shop opening at 7am on the 1st of each month (although if you have a subscription you can have a few more hours kip). The boxes are then sent out near the end of the month and January's theme is 'Valley of the Unicorns' (right up Katie's street methinks!).

I didn't sign up on a whim, I'd read about them for several months on other people's blogs and quite liked the idea of the items being handmade and themed each month. The week after I broke my ankle I thought 'what the hell' and signed up for a 6 month subscription reasoning that I deserved a present to myself after being in hospital.

I'm halfway through my six months now and this is what I've received so far...

October's box was Lucky Diner

In the box: a personalised pizza party magnet, a golden donut pendant, knickerbocker glory tea towel, paper straws, DIY paper burger kit and a Halloween black cat club badge.

Lucky Dip Club October 2014 Box

Lucky Dip Club October 2014 Box

Lucky Dip Club October 2014 Box

Lucky Dip Club October 2014 Box

Lucky Dip Club October 2014 Box

My favourite item? Definitely the tea towel (although it's far too nice to use wiping up dishes) but the donut necklace comes in a close second.

November's box was Circus

In the box: a personalised circus letter keyring, harlequin print notepad, pom pom DIY gift tag kit, circus animal postcards, happy motto washi tape, harlequin print paper and a balloon thank you card.

Lucky Dip Club November 2014 Box

Lucky Dip Club November 2014 Box

Lucky Dip Club November 2014 Box

Lucky Dip Club November 2014 Box

Lucky Dip Club November 2014 Box

My favourite item? Happy washi tape covered with phrases such as make magic, smile more and have fun.

December's box was Festival of Fun

In the box: a weekly desk planner, have fun card wallet, glitter heart brooch, good times banner, Merry Kitschmas bunting, bow belle decoration, gold glittery ribbon and a little sequin bow.

Lucky Dip Club December 2014 Box

Lucky Dip Club December 2014 Box

Lucky Dip Club December 2014 Box

Lucky Dip Club December 2014 Box

My favourite item? Hmm, this one's hard as I think it's the best box yet. I think it's the card wallet but the desk planner is also pretty cool. I also really like the heart badge and the sequin bow. Nope, definitely can't choose just one thing from this box.

 I love unwrapping each box and discovering what Leona has included but at the moment, I'm still undecided whether I'll carry on with my subscription at the end of the six months. The boxes themselves are £18 individually or £15 if you have a subscription (with a discount if you take out 6 months in one go).

The contents of the box are more than worth the money, but in the end it comes down to whether I think that £18 could be better spent (or saved) elsewhere. After all, a subscription box isn't an essential item like the mortgage or the utility bills but it does bring a smile to my face each month when I open all the prettily-wrapped gifts.

Is the smile worth the fee? I'm not sure one way or the other yet. I think I'll have to wait and see what else needs paying for in the New Year.

What do you think about subscription boxes? Do any of you have one?

Monday, 29 December 2014

This Weekend at the Duckpond

We have mostly been...


Celebrating - not just Christmas but also the in-law's golden wedding anniversary on Boxing Day. My parents visited them on Friday plus Andrew's auntie and uncle visited them on Saturday so they did lots talking and passing round the 1964 wedding photos. It did take us rather a long time to get a proper photo of them both though as pretty much every picture ever taken of father in law has him gurning like this and mother in law always looking decidedly unimpressed.

The in-law's golden wedding anniversary

Eating - too much food as always. Although it's acceptable this time of year isn't it?

Playing - games and quizzes with various family members. Andrew's sister produced a quiz all about Cornwall and Andrew's mum did a couple of general knowledge ones.
Does anyone else play a card game called Pit? Andrew's family love it and it always comes out at Christmas with cards often being flung all over the place during the game.

Cornish quiz

Winding - up my brother, which is very easy to do. We played catch with lots of balloons then Andrew got him on the floor in a huge tickling fight.

Playing with balloons
 Yep, that's a balloon...

Tickling my brother

Opening - more presents. Me and Andrew managed to get everyone else's presents wrapped in time for Christmas Day but neither of us got round to wrapping each other's stocking presents. We gave them to each other on Saturday morning instead which was actually quite nice because we had a lazy morning snacking on leftovers and throwing wrapping paper all round the living room, instead of rushing round trying to cook a Christmas dinner at the same time.

Christmas stocking presents

Visiting - an attraction in Somerset which we've never been to before, the Fleet Air Arm Museum. I've been to Yeovilton Air Show plenty of times but never actually visited the museum; we had some Tesco Clubcard vouchers due to expire and they take them so we popped down there on Sunday. It was very good and I'll do a proper review of the place in the New Year but the main news of the day was that I left my one crutch in the car and walked round the whole place on two legs! Admittedly I did sit down quite a few times and I felt pretty tired by the end but still, progress is progress (especially when I have to return to work next Monday...)

Fleet Airm Arm Museum
What did you get up to at the weekend?
Hope you all had a wonderful festive season!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Here Is The News #25

It's Christmas!

Merry Christmas from Duck in a Dress

I wish all of you lovely people a thoroughly wonderful Christmas and I'll see you all in a few days!

Monday, 22 December 2014

This Weekend at the Duckpond

We have mostly been...

Sending - Christmas cards to four other lovely bloggers as part of Jenny's Christmas Card Swap. Plus sending lots of cards to friends and family all over the UK, lots going to North Wales and even one to the Isle of Harris up north in the Outer Hebrides.

Christmas Card Swap letters

Receiving - Scout Post! A Christmas tradition locally where you go and buy scout stamps from shops in town, post your letters into special postboxes and then a week later you find some little boy scouts stood on your doorstep clutching a selection of cards. It always feels really exciting when they arrive, very festive and also very yokel.

Scout post

Celebrating - at two Christmas parties both on Saturday, one at 4pm and one at 8pm with two different sets of friends. We ended up eating food at both parties and felt pretty stuffed afterwards. This is Andrew's "as merry as we get" face.

Andrew doing his "as merry as we get" face

Attending - the carol service at our local church in the high street. It's the same one we were married in 7 years ago and even though neither of us are that religious now, it's still a lovely service with the church filled with candles. After the service they always serve mince pies in the church hall and you can chat to lots of people you don't see that often. The mince pies are the main reason Andrew goes really; I don't like them but I still take one (and two and three) when they're handed round and then Andrew gets even more.

Candlelit carol service at church
What did you get up to at the weekend? Everyone feeling pretty festive now?

Sunday, 21 December 2014

An A-Z of Me - N

A-Z of Me - N

Names - When I was a child, I found my parents list of possible names for me before I was born. Heather was a contender (which is kind of okay) but the really bad one on there (which was clearly my father's choice as he's Welsh) was Myfanwy. Not that it's a terrible name or anything but just imagine trying to spell it as a young child (and that's without even delving into the Little Britain connection!).

Nuts - I can't stand them. I'm not allergic and I can just about do tiny chopped up ones (Toblerone is okay), just weird instead.

New York - The first foreign holiday I did on my own, I flew there back in September 2002. I was 19 and the tickets were cheap. I loved it. When I was there, I said to myself the next time I come, I want to bring a husband or family and at the moment I'm badgering Andrew to go on holiday there for our 10th wedding anniversary in 2017.

What 'N' things sum you up?

For the rest of the alphabet click here!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

The Christmas Tag

 Yup, this one (and variations of it) have been doing the rounds over the last few weeks so when the always-lovely Danielle from over at Underland to Wonderland tagged me, I thought, 'what the heck', one more post thrown into the festive blogland mix won't hurt.

The Christmas Tag

What would be your dream place to visit for the holiday season?
 I quite like spending the actual big day with family but at some point in my life I'd love to visit New York in December and also do Edinburgh for Hogmanay.
Favourite Christmas movie?
 A three-way tie between The Nightmare Before Christmas, Arthur Christmas and The Muppet Christmas Carol (although if pushed, I think Nightmare would take it).
Are you on the naughty list or the nice list?
 After the year we've had in and out of hospitals I think we fully deserve to be on the nice list!
Have you ever had a white Christmas?
Yep, there's a few times I can remember, the last one being (I think) 2010 when it started snowing late on Christmas Eve and lasted quite a while - luckily we were staying at home that year. When I was a kid though we always spent Christmas at my grandparents house in Chester and would drive up from Wiltshire on Christmas Eve. I remember one year (probably in the late 1990s) on a dual-carriageway in Cheshire with the snow coming down thick and fast around us, my dad trying to navigate his way through the tracks left by other cars and several vehicles giving up and parking on the verge. I know we did make it to my grandparents house in the early hours of the morning but I have no idea how my dad did it!
Where do you usually spend your Christmas?
 It depends, sometimes it's at our house with both sets of parents, my brother and my sister-in-law and other times it's in Cornwall at my sister-in-law's house with my in-laws.
Do you open any presents on Christmas Eve?
 Nope, I haven't even opened my Blogger Secret Santa or Thrifty Christmas gifts yet!
Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?
I can't remember, are there 12 of them?
Dasher, Prancer, Blitzen (or is it Blitzer?), Donna, Rudolph, Thingummybob, Whatchamacallit, Oojamaflip, That One, The Other One, Whatsit and Doodah.
That's all of them, I'm sure.
What holiday tradition are you looking forward to most this year?
Every year I make up a quiz for Christmas Day, it gets handed round and while everyone else is racking their brains and filling them in, I can sit back for an hour or so and read a book. 
Is your Christmas tree real or fake?
 Fake. It cost me £2.50 from Woolworths in April 2002. At the time I thought I'd have that for the future and it's served us very well over the last 7 years.
Hands down, what's your all-time favourite Christmas food and Christmas sweet treat?
 That's difficult. I like turkey with bread sauce but roast potatoes cooked really well are tasty too. Plus I can make a mean sprout and bacon mixture that even makes them edible to people who don't like sprouts. For sweet treats, tunis cake (which not many places sell these days) is pretty good and if you want to win me over with edible gifts, New Berry Fruits, Lindor, Green & Blacks or any brand of violet creams will do me fine.
Be honest: do you like giving gifts or receiving gifts better?
 Definitely giving gifts. I'm the sort of annoying person who shops for gifts all year round and more often than not, we end up giving vouchers for local businesses or experiences as presents.
When it comes to receiving gifts, if I really want something I'm likely to have already bought it myself so I have to make an effort in the autumn to write things down and not buy them to let the rest of my family have a chance. I do try and include some more expensive or unusual things though, the sort of stuff I wouldn't buy for myself.
Does your family have a special Christmas recipe you like to help make?
 Not really. My mother didn't cook so all the cooking I do is self-taught. I have a Christmas Cake recipe that I try and do each year and I make my own stuffing plus I usually bake some kind of non-fruit cake for the people who aren't keen on Christmas Cake. This was 2012's cake - a Chocolate Orange Gateau-type thing.

Are you a pro-present wrapper or do you fail miserably?
 I'd in the middle I'd say. I'm a pro-wrapper when it comes to simply wrapping them up and making them look pretty in a basic paper/ribbon/bow sense. I fail miserably when trying to do anything a bit better along the lines of stamps/twine/greenery/or any other blogger cliché.
Most memorable Christmas moment?
 Well even though I said in an earlier answer my parents would always drive up north on Christmas Eve, that's putting a far too rosy and nostalgic tint on it because they were often late and ended up driving through the night or even on Christmas Day. One year my Christmas dinner was McCain Micro Chips from a petrol station at some random services on the M6.
What made you realise the truth about Santa?
 See above. Santa amazingly managed to know whether we were still at home in Wiltshire, up in Chester and sometimes even did an extra special trip on Boxing Day to deliver my presents if my parents were running really late. It probably sounds very sad but I can't actually remember a time when I really really believed in Santa.
Do you make New Year's resolutions? Do you stick to them?
 I'd like to say no. I mean, I don't really say "right that's it, no more xyz/whatever for the new year!" although I do kind of get swept up in the whole idea of a fresh start. It's difficult not to I think and anyway starting the new year with a positive and optimistic outlook is never a bad thing.
What makes Christmas special for you?
 Two weeks off work?
I think pretty much everyone has done this now but if you haven't feel free to give it a go!

Friday, 19 December 2014

32 Before 32 - How Did I Do?

 Well I think the answer to that would be probably be 'so-so' accompanied by one of those middling hand movements. 

32 before 32 - how did I do
If you look closely you can just see the slight copper/ginger-ish colour in my hair which sort of fulfils number 12 on my list. If you look even more closely, you can see the large bit in the middle which I missed with the hair dye...

Let's have a look at how I did on my 32 Before 32 list...

1. Go to a bloggers event and learn from other inspirational bloggers
I went to Rosalilium's Blognix event in June 2013 and learnt quite a lot of stuff (full review here) plus I've since been to a few other blogger events as well. Still yet to make it to one of Bristol's Blog Club events though!

 2. Swim in The Tunnels Beaches, Ilfracombe
Nope. Not even close. I'm keeping this one on the list.

 3. Make a really cool 1950's style Christmas dress
I bought the fabric to make a dress and I have a pattern thrifted from a charity shop but operating the pedal on my sewing machine is something I can't do with my dodgy ankle at the moment. I'm gonna keep this one on my list for next year.

 4. Discover a random show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Yep. We went to see 'This Is Your Trial' after spotting a poster at a bus stop during Edinburgh 2014.

 5. Learn to knit
Done. I used the time sat at home after I broke my ankle in September 2014 to get started and my first knitted project was some crutch decorations followed by a scarf, then a hat and I even made some knitted advent calendar bunting.

 6. Walk up Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh

 7. Go to a swishing event
Yep. Me and my friend M went to an event in Warminster in October 2013 where I managed to pick up quite a few items of clothing - pictures here and here.

 8.  Do some more work on my family history
Sort of. I ordered some war records for my grandfather and great-grandfather, they arrived and were really quite interesting. There's still lots more I could do but for the moment I'm counting that as one completed methinks.

 9. Have a bonfire night/fireworks party

 10. Visit Arnos Vale Cemetary
We visited once in 2013 when we were Gromit-hunting but we still haven't managed to find the time to go back. Next year hopefully we'll fit it in.

 11. Give my wardrobe an overhaul
We have the wardrobes, we bought them back at the start of the summer but they're still in their boxes waiting to be unpacked. Once we've assembled them, I'll be going through all my stuff and sorting it all out.

 12. Take the plunge and dye my hair a coppery colour
Kind of done; I dyed my hair for the first time ever in December 2014 with a light copper colour but it ended up being not quite as bright as I'd planned.

 13. Complete the NHS Couch to 5K programme
Well we started it (several times) and each time only got to about week three before either it got dark/rainy/busy (i.e. we just got lazy). I don't think running is something I'll be doing anytime soon either.

 14. Start digitalising our huge CD collection
I digitised quite a lot of our CDs and we bought a lovely new cabinet from Ikea to store the few ones we're keeping so I'm crossing this off as done.

 15. Practice driving Andrew's lorry
I did this a bit last year at one of the steam rallies we took Andrew's lorry to but haven't had much of a chance to do it this year.

 16. Have some summer BBQs with friends in our back garden
We had a BBQ with both our families and had some friends round, not for a BBQ but instead Andrew's 4 year old godson helped weed the garden which we thought was excellent.

 17. Make a Christmas pudding from scratch

 18.  Go to London and watch Matilda the Musical again
Yep, managed to complete this in the evening of my 32nd birthday last weekend.

 19. Plan an amazing party for my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary in December 2014
Well, their anniversary is on 26th December but they've decided they don't want a huge party. We did plan a big party for mother-in-law's 70th though back in July and even better, she didn't realise what was going on till she turned up at the hall so I'm claiming that as a win.

 20. Plan, package and post some pretty letters
I joined Miss Beatrix's Post Circle and sent off some bloggy gift swaps - a Summer Gift Swap, a Secret Santa Swap, a Thrifty Christmas Gift Swap and a couple of Blogger Book Swaps.

 21.Make some bunting for my conservatory
I have the bits and pieces for it, just haven't got round to making it.

 22. Finish all my half-started mending and sewing projects
I did quite a lot of darning and stitching while I've been off work and at the moment, I think my sewing basket only contains things which need mending on the sewing machine so I'm crossing this off as pretty much completed.

 23. Attend the second study school of my postgraduate degree
Done. I had a week studying and partying in Aberystwyth in September 2013. My top tips for distance learning can be found here.

 24. Make time to go on some dates with my amazing husband
Well, we've been on quite a lot of dates out to theatre shows and comedy gigs and also discovered lots of new places to eat (Bagel Boy (thanks Lily!) and also Grillstock). So I have kind of completed this one, I think the problem is just that after almost 8 years of marriage, both myself and Andrew don't tend to see them as dates!

 25. Explore the cycle paths around our area
Nope. And cycling a bike is something else I won't be able to do for a long time.

 26. Re-upholster my Great Aunt's wicker chair and wicker storage box
I started with this one; I bought the fabric and cleaned the chair and box thoroughly but haven't actually done the upholstery yet. A task for the quiet months in the New Year methinks.

 27. Carry on with my long-running 2002 Golden Jubilee cross stitch sampler
Now this probably needs a bit of an explanation. I have a large sampler celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II which I started cross-stitching in 2002. It's now 2014 (almost 2015) and she celebrated her Diamond Jubilee the other year. The sampler's about a third completed and I should probably write a blog post about it really. This one is staying on the list for the '33 before 33' post.

 28. Take a picnic to Chew Valley Lake and share an afternoon with the ducks
No, we didn't manage this one although we did spend several lunchtimes at work with the ducks there. The problem with Chew Valley Lake is that they charge for parking which puts us off going.

 29. Go to Library Camp Bristol and spend a day with fellow library enthusiasts
Yep, done back in July 2013 when I went to Library Camp South West - full review here.

 30. Raise money for a good cause by taking part in the Marie Curie Cancer Care Ladies Driving Challenge
This one wasn't to be unfortunately as I found out earlier this year that Marie Curie were no longer running the driving days. However, as well as driving weird and wonderful vehicles, it was also about raising money and I did raise £204.60 at work by wearing silly jumpers and selling cakes for Save the Children's Christmas Jumper Day back in December 2013. I'm crossing that off as completed as I reckon I made more money that way than I would've done by driving vehicles.

 31. Learn to ice skate properly (instead of hovering near the handrail)
No can do. The last time I went ice skating was at Somerset House in December 2012 (which was amazing) but I reckon my ankle won't ever be strong enough now to support my weight on the ice.

 32. Walk up to the Stone Circle at Glastonbury Festival for an spectacular view of the show
At Glastonbury Festival 2013 I did walk up to the Stone Circle, but unfortunately a large amount of the view was obscured by trees. Pictures of random trees can be found here.

So that makes 16 out of 32 completed and 4 others started or halfway there. That's a 50% success rate - pretty respectable methinks.  I'm about halfway through putting together a '33 Before 33' list which hopefully I'll be able to share on here next week.

Have you got a similar list? How are you doing with yours?

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Christmas Quacking Around London

So if you hadn't already guessed, last Saturday was my birthday, all of 32 years old.
Two years ago for my 30th we went to London, saw Midnight's Pumpkin at Battersea Arts Centre, saw Matilda the Musical at the Cambridge Theatre, did Winter Wonderland and went skating at Somerset House.
This year we stayed in the same place (Clapham Junction Travelodge if you're interested, excellently located within a stone's throw from the station and on all the major bus routes in and out of the city) and planned to do some tourist attractions instead. I took far too many photos to fit in one post so the Royal Albert Hall, the BBC Broadcasting House tour, HMS Belfast and Churchill's War Rooms will all have to wait till the New Year.
Instead this'll be mainly shots of too much food, Christmas lights, large baubles and me standing on one crutch.
Albert Memorial

Royal Albert Hall

Covent Garden Market baubles

Covent Garden Market lights

Russell Street Lights

Matilda poster

Matilda posters

BBC Broadcasting House tour pass

Big Ben

Birthday cake

Covent Garden Market reindeer
Birthday breakfast

Duck at Matilda

Somerset House tree baubles

Five Guys burger

Somerset House skating

Somerset House

Eggs Benedict breakfast 

Duck with Paddington Bear

Hays Galleria

Tower Bridge
Spinach and Bacon Omelette

Days left till Christmas

That last pic was taken on Monday. Now it's only 6 days!
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