Saturday 29 December 2012

Quiet Christmas

I hope you had a lovely, relaxing and family-filled Christmas.

Ours was particularly quiet and relaxing - you can tell by the number of times I've painted my nails!

I've also had time to get stuck into a jigsaw puzzle. It will (eventually) depict three zebras in the Savannah...

Those stripes are driving me mad! But then I guess that's what puzzles are for...

Next on my list of relaxing, non-work activities is to pick up my slightly-ignored crochet ripple blanket and get on with a few more stripes. I'm afraid it hasn't seen much love for the last couple of months.

Wishing you a fabulous New Year!

Thursday 20 December 2012

Festive in red, gold and... orange?

Christmas has finally spread from my socks to the rest of my outfit. Yesterday I teamed red, orange and bauble earrings:

And then I got carried away with my nails:

It's nearly here! :)

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Shivery December

Gosh, it's been super-cold recently! How have you been surviving?

This is my new purple fluffy hat. It's probably a little bit OTT, but rather fabulous. Of course, being almost six feet tall means that I really stand out wearing it!

And these are my fleecy booties - essential indoor-wear at the moment. Often coupled with Christmas socks (see previous post!).

I've also done my teeny bit to spread some Christmas cheer by taking part in a Christmas Card Swap organised by Zaneta @ Runner's Luck. My cards all have to zoom their way across the Atlantic Ocean so I'm guessing they'll arrive slightly later than hoped. It's the first time I've done something like this and I'm looking forward to receiving some exciting Christmas post in the next week or so.

No snow yet though. I know it's a right hassle (especially in the UK as apparently we never learn to cope with it!) but I do love it.

Monday 3 December 2012

A weekend in pictures

Dodgy iPhone pictures I'm afraid...

Is there anything better than Christmas socks?!

Monday 26 November 2012

The Royal Ballet experience

Saturday was Royal Opera House night!

One of my lovely new ballet/twitter friends from the Ballet Tweet-Up had a spare ticket, and it was a great one: Royal Ballet performing Swan Lake, last in the season, particularly good cast (so I'm told - I'm not really all-knowledged-up about these things).

I got all dressed up (I love getting dressed up for the theatre!), and headed over to Covent Garden. It was all Christmas-y:

The Royal Opera House was magical!

The orchestra was wonderful, the dancing was wonderful - it was all wonderful!

Favourite part? The swans. So many ballerinas all dancing together - sometimes in complete synchronisation, sometimes all moving in different directions at the same time. It was magical :)

I obviously don't have any pictures of the show, but here's a short Royal Opera House video about the swans performing in the Corps de Ballet:

Thursday 22 November 2012

Panda time

I haven't done much over the last week. And that feels alright.

One thing that has been putting a smile on the face (apart from remembering that I'm going to the Royal Opera House this weekend!), is the Chengu Pambassador facebook page.

They basically fill my timeline with cute panda pictures, which make me smile on a daily basis...

Sunday 18 November 2012

Fridge soup

A great friend introduced me to the concept of fridge soup, one of those make-it-up-as-you-go-along type meals.

Contents of my fridge that needed eating: half a butternut squash, a slightly sad looking sweet potato, a bag of new potatoes and half a bag of rather old carrot batons.

- roast the butternut squash and sweet potato
- boil the potatoes and carrots in stock
- mash it all together with a bit of pepper and a knob of butter
- eat

Friday 16 November 2012

How to stay healthy... ?

Generally I think of myself as pretty healthy; I eat quite a few vegetables (and some fruit), I exercise (usually at least twice a week), and I just about get enough sleep. Ok, so I have lazy days, I snack a bit and don't turn down pudding when eating out. But that doesn't sound too terrible, does it?!

What I'm discovering is that I don't think I'm as healthy as I think I am. As well as my hibernation issues last week, I'm now struggling with a touch of flu and feeling pretty rough. These things leave me wondering: Is my immune system low? Am I missing some important vitamins and minerals? How can I introduce more exercise into my routine?

So, changes to make:
  1. Multivitamins - I'm a bit lazy about taking multivits, but I think for the next few weeks I need to make this a priority.
  2. Fresh fruit every day - I tend to eat tinned, cooked or dried fruit, but not much fresh fruit. Time for a change!
  3. Fresh air every day - this sounds stupidly simple, but at the moment I don't spend much time outside. During the week, I barely get out at all (unless you count walking from my home to my car and from my car to work, which I don't think counts). Today I walked to the post box. It only took about ten minutes but it felt good. I need to be doing this every day!
  4. Drink more water - feeling under the weather has reminded me to stay hydrated.
What is your top tip to feeling healthier?

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Bonfire-y dreams

So I finally started to escape from hibernation's grip, and what did I do?! Work another firework show. I know - it sounds bad, but actually it was a very small show and was very relaxed:
     noon - collect van
     1pm - arrive on site
     2pm - stop for a lunch break (Really?! What's one of those?)
     3.30pm - all fireworks rigged and the system electrically tested. Rest for a while.
     6.15pm - light the bonfire
     7pm - fireworks
     7.15pm - eat a hot dog :)
     7.30pm - clear up
     8.30pm - leave site. I was in bed by 10.30pm!

It was nice to be trundling along rather than racing, but it was a little dull compared to the weekend before.

The best part was the bonfire. It wasn't expected to be - the social group who were organising the event had built the bonfire about a week before and it had rained a lot. We warned the client that it might not burn and it took a lot of cardboard and patience with a gas torch to get it going, but eventually we did...

It doesn't look that big without reference points, but it was at least six foot tall.
Bonfires are so warm and lovely :)

The amusement factor of the evening was the low-lying fog which crept in after dark. It didn't affect the show too much, but the clearing up was interesting. At one point I could barely see my own boots in the light of my headtorch!

However, back to real life now - tonight I'm off to my first ballet class in two weeks...

Friday 9 November 2012


I think I'm in full blown hibernation mode! I don't know if my body is complaining about all the firework-y busy-ness of last week, but I am sleepy!

This week I have slept 9-10 hours every night, eaten like a horse and still been yawning and tired. My brain has also fallen asleep and it is taking a lot of effort to organise myself each day. I didn't even go to either of my ballet lessons this week :(

I'm desperately hoping that it's just a reaction to the hard physical work and long hours I did. The other options are that I'm coming down with something or that I'm now hibernating for the winter. If that's the case then I guess I'll see you all again in April!

Thursday 8 November 2012

White van girl and blowing up a castle

Saturday started early. Very early.

My first job of the day was van driving! It wasn't anything huge (my licence doesn't cover anything bigger than a long wheel-based transit), but it was still a little bit daunting. I got right into my stride, although I have to admit to not being your typical white-van-girl: tea in the cup holder and radio 4 playing in the background (I'm so old before my years!).

Our convey arrived in rainy Kenilworth and proceded to the site - around the ancient walls of the castle to the front. This was where my new van-driving skills let me down - it was grassy, muddy and wet :( One of the French crew that were working with us had to take over so that my van made it across the slippery surface safely.

This was a big rig: 12 crew working pretty much flat out. Seven firing positions, plus a mini bonfire-lighting show and lights on the wall of the castle to synchonise with the main show.

Isn't it an amazing setting?
The Round Table folks were very kind - every hour they came round with tea and coffee, and in some cases sandwiches and biscuits!

At 6:30pm, I cued the bonfire show. It was only 12 cues, but it was my first time giving the GOs on the radio. Exciting...

Monday 5 November 2012

Fireworks on water

Unfortunately, my regular sailing trip clashed with the busiest fireworks weekend of the year so I was unable to meet up with my boating mates (the Pteraductyls). On the bright side, I did end up very close to them and on a boat (well, a barge) in the middle of Portsmouth harbour.

Friday started innocuously enough - I was at the fireworks yard (Rocket Park), ready to start my third day of loading vans, labelling ADR loads (for those vehicles carrying a large amount of explosives), charging radios and other essential prep tasks for the many crews heading out over the weekend.

Then came a change of plan - the team at Portsmouth were down a crew member. Off I trundled with my kit box, PPE (personal protective equipment) and plenty of warm/dry/waterproof layers of clothing.

The rig was very cool - a small show on the pontoon and then two barges full of fireworks. I had to roll up my sleeves and get stuck in, helping to organise the shells - those are the large fireworks that shoot high into the sky and then burst, usually into a sphere of colour. During the rigging, the barges were moored up to the pontoon which made everything much easier. As did the sunny weather!

The cakes (multi-shot fireworks) being laid out, before being secured.
A shot across the barge (including the crane), showing the famous Spinnaker Tower in the background.
These racks of tubes are secured firmly together for the shells, which are placed individually at the bottom of the tubes.

Sunday 4 November 2012

Sleepy firework girl

I am shattered.

First, there was two days of working in the yard. This mostly consisted of lifting and lugging to prepare all of the vans for the busy weekend.

Then, I ended up unexpectedly working the firework show at Gunwharf Quay, Portsmouth. The fireworks were rigged on a pontoon and two barges which were towed into the middle of the harbour by tug boats...
Apologies for a rubbish photo - I only had my phone with me. Trust me - it was fabulous!

And yesterday was a pretty big show at Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire. It was a pretty intense rig (and we hadn't had much rest time after the previous show), but we got everything done and it was a pretty cool display.
Huge crowd and lots of great fireworks infront of the castle :)

At some point, when I've had more sleep, have washed the black powder and mud out of my clothes and let my tired muscles recover, I'll write a bit more and share some better pictures.

PS - I managed to pack everything I needed for a whole week away, including various different activities! I don't think I've ever before been able to say that I have packed everything I needed :)

Monday 29 October 2012

Prepping for the "season"

Firework season is upon us! There are a few halloween shows over the next week and then the 5th of November looms large. It is going to be busy!

In preparation, I decided I better sort through my kit box and check that I have everything I need:
    emergency chocolate - check
    rigging gloves (formally sailing gloves) - check
    warm toasty gloves - check
    knife - check
    nips (wire cutters)  - check
    at least two warm hats  - check
    cheap sunglasses - check
    torch - check
    headtorch - erm... better get searching for that... especially as it took three before I found one I liked... finally found!

And I may have treated myself to a trip to Decathlon for some extra warm clothing to help me through the cold (and possibly wet) days ahead. And the best thing was how cheap it all was :)
My haul - a very soft fleecy buff, extra thermal top, fleecy layer and ski socks (long and toasty warm).
Bring on the fireworks :)

Saturday 27 October 2012

Autumnal walkies

In my imagination, I'm a dog owner. In fact, inside my own mind lives at least five dogs - they are all relatively large working dogs: Buzz (a dalmatian), Roary (a rhodesian ridgeback), Rocky (a rottweiler), etc...

Back in the real world, however, dog owning is a long way off. I work pretty long hours and am often away at weekends - my current life does not fit with dogs.

Whilst browsing the internet on a lazy day, I discovered that there is a dog rescue shelter very close to me, and they encourage volunteers to turn up and walk the dogs!  So today I did just that.

Seeing as it was my first visit, I was assigned one of their smaller, easier dogs. Meet Buffy the terrier:

He was adorable! We mostly went walking along a bridle path (where we saw a field full of alpacas):

And we also met a few other dogs on our troubles who Buffy behaved really well with. The same could not be said for cars - whenever a car went past, he would try to jump into the road to chase it. It was a lesson in keeping him on a very short lead!

Fresh air and exercise for both of us, a great way to spend part of a lazy weekend :)

"But why do you keep stopping?"
EDITED: I quite often have to edit grammar or spelling mistakes, but am quite embarrassed by this one - writing "bridal path" instead of "bridle path"! Oops...

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Celebrating and baking

After three and a bit weeks I finally have a working oven! I am so pleased - with all this colder more autumn-y weather I have been desperate to cook warming meals. Stews, casseroles, macaroni cheese, other pasta bakes, roast dinners,...

So this evening I am making the most of it by making toad in the hole. I had to make a special trip to the supermarket to buy sausages, but I don't care!

As a bonus qualification: it is a meal that is served with gravy - one of my favourite things ever! Yum...

Thursday 18 October 2012


I'm rather pleased with a completely unexpected benefit of my new found love of ballet classes - rediscovering clothing that had been condemned to the very back of the wardrobe.

Does everyone have this collection? The items that you bought but then decided you didn't like; or used to wear lots until your got completely fed up of; or maybe that don't fit quite right. I seem to have quite a few.

The good news is, dance is giving them a new lease of life! Especially tops - I can wear them to warm up in, and sometimes even over my leotard as "dancer fashion". This vastly expands my small ballet wardrobe, almost letting me feel like a "real" dancer.

Exhibit A:

I bought this about a year ago as a work top, but only wore it a couple of times as it wasn't quite long enough and had a habit of riding up. That's not a problem when worn over a leotard or vest top.

Sunday 14 October 2012

Autumnal weekend

Sometimes you have a day or a weekend that is wonderful. And for me, this weekend was just that.

My plans were very fluid - the only thing on the calendar was meeting up with some friends on Saturday evening, which is unusual. Some weekends I have as many as four (or sometimes even more) things planned.

Friday evening was very relaxed. I enjoyed a cupcake and played Zumba on the Wii (which I'm afraid I've only played a handful of times since I was given it last Christmas!), then developed a sudden craving for fish and chips. A short stroll to the chippie later and I was a happy bunny. And that was it - an early night and feeling of contentment.

Cupcake-y goodness

Saturday involved an impromptu trip to IKEA, which is always fun in my books. However, even I have to confess to eventually developing IKEA-fatigue - a common affliction affecting most people after an hour or two. (I think some people start to be infected as they walk in the door!)

My plans for the evening were to visit some friends who have recently moved house, so after a late lunch I decided to bake them a cake as a housewarming gift. Flicking through the cake cookbook was very exciting - I couldn't decide what to cook because all of the recipes sounded fabulous. There's at least ten other cakes, muffins, cookies and tray bakes that I want to try at some point!

Having wasted plenty of time oogling the book, I then had to rush the cake baking! I decided on a lemon yoghurt cake, which came out pretty well (even if I did have to run off to shower and get ready whilst it was in the oven and then hurriedly ice it just before leaving).

What a fabulous evening! We explored the mansion-like house that they've bought and trundled out to find food, eventually choosing a mediteranean restaurant. We had such a giggle! The food was lovely, I managed to navigate the wine list and choose one that I liked (always a bonus) and it was just great to catch up with great people. We mustn't leave it so long...

Our sharing starters - yum!

A slightly late night led to a lazy Sunday morning - two hours of catching up on Strictly Come Dancing! By about noon, the weather was looking too lovely not to enjoy and a walk was in order. It was sunny and a tad chilly - the perfect autumnal combination. The leaves are just starting to turn and the world looked golden...


I might have had a nap after the walk... :)

Tuesday 9 October 2012

A late catch up

What's been going on in the world of RainStorm? Well...

I've been trying out some new ballet classes and have been managing to get to two a week since term began. This has also involved some serious flexibility work as my inability to lift my leg high or bend my back is starting to be a real issue.

The ripple-y blanket is trundling along nicely - it's a great way of keeping my hands busy whilst watching TV and really helps me to relax after a long work day.

I have been enjoying cooking and baking. However these activities have suddenly found themselves unexpectedly curtailed as my oven has stopped working!

I even dragged myself out for a (very short) run one evening last week. That was a shock to the system!

Downton Abbey - over the summer, I watched the DVDs of seasons 1 and 2. I became totally hooked; and now series 3 is on and I am glued to it! Pure genius TV.

What has been keeping you busy?

Thursday 13 September 2012

A summer well spent

Summer has gone :( We had our traditionally beautiful weather for the first week of September, but now the forecasts are full of dropping temperatures, rainshowers and high winds.

It was a great summer - I managed to make the most of the nice weather and enjoyed a range of different activities. How did my summer ambitions go?

1) To get surfing again - achieved! On one of my favourite beaches in Hendaye.

2) Do 3 ballet classes in one week - achieved! And I'm now planning to make two classes a week my regular timetable - not easy to do around my other commitments.

3) Spend some quality time working on my Spanish - partly done. I did use every opportunity on holiday to use my Spanish, even when the locals spoke to me in English, only reverting when I was completely stuck. It didn't go completely smoothly (there was one dinner where I didn't exactly order food we enjoyed!), but I at least gave it a go. Still plenty of room for improvement though!

4) See some live music - partly done. With the exception of rigging fireworks behind the stage at Marvellous Festival, I didn't manage to organise this. I would love to see a band live, and did get as far as looking up gig lists, but that was it :(

5) Make sushi - still not got any further with this one (although I have eatten sushi on several occassions). Autumn/winter will have to be the time for sushi.

6) Make more pies - achieved! There was the chicken and ham cobbler, and the slightly disasterous but eventually recovered quiche. Almost pies :)

Additions to the list:
7) Get to work crocheting again - achieved! I have been rippling all over the place!

And now I enter autumn having visited more places, eaten more food and tried some more great activities...

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Ripple-y progress

A quiet blog is a sign of one of two things: either I'm away on holiday or I'm stupidly busy. Last week it was the busy one. I definitely went back to work with a bang. Hopefully things will calm a bit now...

Within the chaos, I've still been taking time to crochet - it's like having enforced relax time. I find that I don't sleep well if I've been busy working late, so no matter how late it is I have to make sure I do a quiet, calming activity before heading to bed.

Crochet is brilliant at this. I've been doing it everywhere...

In the car...

On a train...

Sat in my living room...

On another train...

Sat in the sunshine...

Monday 10 September 2012

Ballet Tweet-Up

Saturday was great - I travelled to a studio in London to meet up with a group of fellow ballet-obsessed tweeters!

It was all organised after an off-the-cuff tweet from someone suggesting that we should get together. A few months (and a whole load of organisation from Becca_Tweet) later, there we were...

We had an absolutely amazing class from Karis at EverybodyBallet - she had obviously put some time into choreographing exercises for us and was infectiously enthusiastic. The barre exercises were especially beautiful - very "dance-y" and performed to orchestral ballet scores. I was stretched, but in a good way, and only wish I could have done them to a higher standard...

balancing at the barre

Monday 3 September 2012

Tonight's dinner

What makes my macaroni cheese healthy (compared with shop-bought/restaurant versions):

  -  It's completely homemade, so I know every ingredient and there isn't any odd additives/flavourings/preservatives.

  -  I control the quantities of cheese and butter (and try to put a smaller amount in).

  -  I can measure the portion size accurately.

  -  I can serve it with plenty of salad.

What makes my macaroni cheese unhealthy:

  -  It's still macaroni cheese...