Out of Office Off…

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Well dear friends, it has been a little while, almost a whole month since my last post. My husband and I ‘closed’ the business for nearly a month to really savour and enjoy our baby’s first Christmas, and so I’ve been away from the computer/iPad and really made the most of time with my family without any work. You’d have thought with less working, we’d be doing less travelling around but we had a lot of friends and family to see, not to mention a family holiday so within the last month we’ve spent a grand total of four nights in our own home! A fantastic first Christmas for Scarlett, but a rather rubbish show of a completed memoir for her! So I thought that now we’re back at work, I would do a little summary for prosperity.

Our 6 month old will not remember a single thing of the season, but for us, it was the most magical Christmas either of us had ever had. A sunny walk along the beach on Christmas Day, our baby’s first taste of solid food around the Christmas Day dinner table, nearly losing the ability to breathe over laughing so much when playing a humming game on Boxing Day, seeing all our immediate family over the three days, eating WAY too much cheese and drinking too much wine and prosecco; there are too many memories and even more photos, as well as a half hour compilation of videos! Scarlett may not remember first hand, but we’ve certainly got enough to make sure we never forget!

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As well as the main few days, we ticked off a fair few of the more expensive and more involved items of our 30 before 30 list over the months holiday. We ticked off numbers 7, 15, 16, 21 and 30. 

Firstly, number 7; we attended a ball. It was time to organise our company’s first annual christmas event, and as such we decided to go all out and bought a table at the Nutcracker Ball, which on the night we attended was in aid of Winstons Wish. We had a fantastic night and not only won a couple of things in the raffle between the eight of us but also won a silent auction item! A rugby ball signed by Matt Dawson along with tickets to a match in London. As well as that, we had lots of wine, dancing, fun in a photobooth and a delicious slap up meal! A huge amount raised for Winstons Wish whilst having a great night with some great colleagues and friends. Definitely something we’ll be doing again!

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Number 15 and 16 go together; a trip to Scotland and to try a deep fried Mars bar. Just before Christmas we headed to Edinburgh by train for four days and did a lot of walking, sightseeing and spent plenty of hours round the amazing Christmas markets drinking gluwein, eating seafood, seeing friends and spending some much appreciated quality time with each other. It turns out Scarlett is a huge fan of trains, she had most of the carriage laughing with her by her pure delight at the changing scenery and a 6 hour train journey turned from something we were dreading to something rather brilliant. We love Scotland, both of us had been in shows at the Edinburgh festival so we did quite a bit of reminiscing and visiting old haunts. Now, the other one – the deep fried Mars bar; I was dreading it, it’s a chocolate bar dipped in batter and deep fried for goodness sake, how could that possibly be remotely tasty, let alone something that won’t immediately clog up your arteries. We went to find a fish and chip shop that sold them and then realised we were in Scotland’s tourist capital and so you can’t really turn around without bumping into another one that provides the chocolatey battered treat! We chose one on the mile and went in to buy it. There it was, pale and crispy, and with more calories than your average weekly intake (well, in all honesty, not my average weekly intake but still pretty high!) we started recording a video, I waited to feel the bile rise in my throat….and then…

…well, crispy on the inside, creamy, warm, chocolatey goodness on the inside, what’s not to like! I’m somewhat ashamed to say that although I couldn’t finish the thing, the half that i had was actually pretty freaking tasty! It doesn’t take away from the fact that the Scots are a little bit out of control and there is literally nothing they won’t deep fry. In the same chippie there was deep fried burger, deep fried haggis, deep fried several different varieties of chocolate bar, they’re unstoppable. All in all, a fantastic trip away and a country we’ll definitely be returning to.

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But Christmas wasn’t over and we still had two more to tick off! Number 21 – watch some live music. So on December 28th, a group of us headed to the Birmingham Symphony Hall to watch the London Concert Orchestra play a few hours worth of all John Williams music. It was AMAZING! Both of us had watched an orchestra live before but not in a proper symphony hall, and not one of the standard we watched that night. Jaws, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, Schindlers List and ET amongst others. There’s something about hearing such iconic music played so that you can hear it all around you; the introductions alone filled the room and your whole surroundings with the feelings you got when you first watched the films in question.We spent most of the night squeezing each others hands and letting out little squeals as we recognised each intro. After the concert we grabbed some late night food and made the most of a child free evening. Again, this one is one we’ll definitely be doing again, and we have a list of Symphony Halls or Music Halls to visit!

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Lastly but by no means leastly (is leastly a word? I don’t think so, but I’m sticking with it) is number 30, so named secret number 30 on the list as I was planning it as my husband’s Christmas present. In the end my Dad actually got the tickets for him, with an extra one so he could take a friend and an under 4’s ticket, so he could choose a young child to take along. As luck would have it, he asked Scarlett and I to accompany him and once Scarlett re-arranged some things on her social calendar, the three of us were able to go along to the Harry Potter Studios tour in Watford! As you go in, there’s a sign that welcomes you to the ‘magical world of Harry Potter’, and that’s exactly what it is, absolutely magical! We got to walk around the sets, see most of the props used in the films as well as finding out plenty of exciting little facts and trivia along the way. The lights and colours absolutely fascinated and delighted our little girl and had a very similar effect on us. We also got to try butterbeer which was…wow, sugary! Some hours later and we found ourselves marvelling at the amount they can get away with charging in the shop! Don’t get me wrong, the jumpers are lovely but not £75 worth of lovely.

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There are still a fair few items on our list, but we’re well on our way to completing our challenge and have just over three weeks to do so! And with the finish line in sight, we’ve started creating a ’40 before 40’ list. For this list we had six months to complete which of course limited our options somewhat. With ten years however, we can be much more exotic and expansive with our list. As we started talking about it we realised that by the time we both turn 40, Scarlett will be turning 10. TEN! You hear me? We’ll have a ten year old. By then we may even be starting to know what we’re doing with this parenting lark. And Scarlett may have a sibling, or siblings (gulp!). This realisation prompted a discussion on what we thought an ideal age difference would be and therefore when we might think abut trying for another baby. I know, I know, quite the leap from a discussion that started with  ‘ooh it’s my birthday in three weeks’.

Anyway. As well as ticking off a few on our to do list, and enjoying a family Christmas, we visited as many friends as possible and welcomed in a New Year. We celebrated New Years Eve (and therefore Scarlett’s ‘half birthday’) staying in Burton Upon Trent in a beautiful country house complete with pool table, log fire and another dose of too much cheese and too much wine! Whilst there we visited the National Arboretum, went for a drink in a milkshakes and comic book cafe and stayed up into the early hours playing games. For the first time in years we also participated in ‘first footing’, a tradition which originates in Scotland where the men of the family come into the house after midnight with a log (for warmth), money (for prosperity) and some representation of food or drink (for good cheer and good health), in response the folks at home have a welcome drink for them on entering the house. There were six of us (plus the little one) and we had a glass of whisky waiting for the men, and raised our own glasses of champagne as they came in. I remember my Dad coming into the house with similar (I think we used a lump of coal for the occasion) when I was younger as it was a tradition that my Mum’s Northern roots taught her, so it was nice to recreate it, and considering Tom’s adopted heritage, it was nicely apt! 

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On coming home this weekend, we even managed to sneak in a family meal with those we hadn’t seen whilst away just before real life restarts!

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I usually try and end my entry on something i’ve learnt or try and come up with something profound that Scarlett can nod and get teary eyed with as she finishes each piece (I’m assuming of course she reads it and is filled with an awe inspired adoration for her hero, her Mother…HA, I am of course joking, she will be forced to read it and probably get fed up of me quoting it) but this time, it is in fact, more of a summary. Almost a creative interlude between seasons if you will, “last week on ‘insert latest programme here’”, so from that point of view it’s relatively apt that the season break came at the six month point. We’re halfway through our first year of being parents, we’re nearly at the end of our first year as a married couple (where the time went I have NO idea!) 2014 was a ridiculously filled, wonderful, crazy and important year and we have more landmarks to come in 2015. I learnt many ‘lessons’ over the past month or so, the biggest one of which has probably been just how important it is to sometimes switch off. As both my husband and I work freelance hours, it essentially means we’re always ‘open’ and so although we still see family a lot and catch up with friends; there’s always emails to respond to, we’re often late for things or miss events because we’re away with work. We’re lucky enough that we can often travel around as a three when either of us are working, and therefore we get plenty of family time, but when we officially ‘close’, it means we leave the out of office on, and really close. And in those times, nothing else matters. We’ve enjoyed it so much we’re making sure that every year, Christmas is sacred and we will also ensure that we get one completely ‘closed’ week around Summer time. That’s not to say we won’t go for weekends away when we can or go out and about; but for roughly four weeks of the year, as a family, we are completely closed to the world! We’ve got this Summer already sorted, there’s a private villa in Portugal with our names all over it, flights booked, car hired, and waterpark tickets researched! We won’t always be able to have such a luxurious week in the Summer but I hope that in the future, and perhaps when we’re nearing the end of our 40 before 40 challenge(!) Scarlett will always know how important that time is and that she is the reason we make that time sacred. Our baby was a surprise, but the best surprise either of us could have ever hoped for; she makes us better people, she makes us prioritise our lives and she meant that over the last month, we had the best time either of us has ever had over a Christmas and New Year season. 

Season break over with comrades, i’ve missed you! I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and New Year. We’re back in business and ready to see how the second half of the first year turns out! Onwards! 

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