Happy Things, October 2016

Autumn Leaves - Emma's Picture Postcards

I always enjoy reading people’s collections of little positive things but it’s been ages since I last wrote one! Here are a few things making me smile:

  1. My new job, self-employment and my first big tax refund! Since quitting my last job I’ve been (and still am) looking for a new, traditional, 9-to-5 office job. Aberdeen is full of unemployed, overqualified people at the moment though and it’s a bit of a struggle. In the meantime, I’ve started working as a freelance audio typist, and I absolutely love it. The pay isn’t great (you get paid for each minute of audio you transcribe, rather than how long it takes you, so with practice I’ll start earning more per hour) but it’s enjoyable, gives me at least a little income, means I won’t have a big gap in my CV, and gives me another skill and experience which will hopefully be useful for future jobs. I also received a great big tax refund since my tax had been calculated on the assumption I’d continue in my old job for the rest of the financial year – I knew it would be coming, but it still felt like an amazing bonus when it did!
    Apple and Bramble Pie - Emma's Picture Postcards
  2. Baking and cooking! James is the one with the skills (enthusiasm, patience, imagination) in our kitchen, and normally does most (all) of the cooking. Recently I’ve been trying to give him a break and take a week off his plate (I can’t think of a less punny way to say that, haha) every 3-4 weeks. Usually I rustle up a few of his or my mum’s regulars and try one new thing that I’ve half dreamed up myself and then looked up on BBC Good Food for rough guidance on quantities and measurements. Last week I made what I’d imagined as a stew/casserole, but decided to turn into a really delicious pasta sauce, with tomatoes, sausage, chorizo and peppers, and my mouth is watering just at the thought of it. While it was simmering away, I made an apple and bramble pie as my October effort for Bumpkin Betty’s Baking Club. I used this Hairy Bikers’ recipe, but because we only have a teeny little flan tin, I halved the ingredients. This didn’t leave me enough pastry for the lid and I’d pretty much run out of flour, but with the help of the internet again (what on earth did we do before Google?) I found this open-top apple pie recipe, and covered mine with a half-lattice, half-crumble concoction. I popped it in the oven and proceeded to hover around, peeking through the door to see how it was getting on, because by this stage I had no idea how long I needed to bake it! And the result? *Drum roll*… it turned out perfect. Yay! To date, I am 3 for 3 and the world’s luckiest baker.
    Dornstetten, Germany - Emma's Picture Postcards
  3. A quick trip to the Black Forest, for the wedding of my favourite German! We started out as exchange students when we were 15, and were lucky enough to actually like each other and stay in regular contact afterwards! We’ve visited each other every couple of years since then, and really feel like family now. It was wonderful to be there for her wedding, to be back in her home village, to spend some quality time with her family and friends, and to introduce James to a place that’s been a big part of my life.
    Stranger Things Halloween Party - Emma's Picture Postcards
  4. A wonderful week in London. I’ll write a full post soon, but the original premise was for Dad and I to go to another NFL game. The friends I’d planned to stay with then invited me to a Stranger Things themed Halloween party the following weekend, so I decided to stay a week! I really enjoyed both events, the chance to catch up with London- and Nottingham-based friends, and the opportunity to spend a whole week with my Kiwi friends. There’s nothing like knowing your friends will eventually return to the literal opposite end of the Earth to make you appreciate their current, relatively convenient home!

Happy Halloween! Let me know your October highlights 🙂


Happiness Link Up

Daffodils - Emma's Picture Postcards

I’ve been feeling unusually frazzled lately, and have been dealing with some of my migraine symptoms. I get a variety of them: flashing vision / blind spots; sensitivity to light, noise, smell and/or touch; headaches, neck pain and general achyness; fluctuating body temperature; nausea and sickness… you get the picture. Thankfully (and weirdly) I’ve only been experiencing one symptom at a time, but unfortunately each one has lasted for a few days, including two days of blindness, which got pretty boring!

Anyway, that was a bit of a bleak intro, but my point is that as a result of feeling a bit off, my productivity is a bit low and although I have a few blog posts started, I can’t seem to get them finished. However I’ve just read Jasmin Charlotte’s Happiness Link Up post and thought I’d jump on the bandwagon to perk myself up a bit!

  1. Quality time with friends and family. James and I are off to my cousin’s tomorrow for a family bbq, and I popped to London (or at least that was the plan – see #2!) to celebrate a friend’s 30th birthday last week. I got to have a great catch-up with the birthday boy and his wife, who I haven’t seen since they came to visit last year, another few friends from the same group who I haven’t seen for a few years, and I also invited along my school friend who lives in London and I last saw in Edinburgh last year.
    Emma's Picture Postcards
  2. Sweet surprises. I had a classic Emma disastrous journey on the way back from London. I have the worst travel luck of anyone I’ve met – I might do a post at some point listing all my misadventures! Anyway it happens so regularly that after the initial upset I quickly get over it and get on with getting myself to my destination. However the friends I went to visit aren’t so accustomed to it, and I opened the door a couple of days later to a beautiful basket of flowers from them! It was such a lovely surprise and brought a wee tear to my eye!
    Dr Knox's Enigma - Emma's Picture Postcards
  3. Escape-the-room adventure. The Scotland-based contingent of my school friends met up in Edinburgh last month and had a go at Dr Knox’s Enigma. Escape games are popping up in most cities now and I really recommend you give one a try! It was so much fun and really got the adrenaline flowing, I honestly started to think towards the end that I might have a heart attack (drama queen), but we were a good team and worked out the clues, escaping the room with three minutes to spare!
  4. Avenue Q. I went to see Avenue Q and laughed SO much. Highly recommended.
    Emma's Picture Postcards
  5. Decorating! As I mentioned in my 2016 bucket list, my mum kindly agreed to come up to Aberdeen and help me do some decorating. We had a nice sunny week for it so we opened the windows, stuck the radio on and cracked on. We got two rooms done – the second bedroom / my study (above), which was previously peach with one blue wall, with a bare patch where there had been a naff vanity mirror, and James’s study, which had been the previous owners’ baby’s room, complete with bright yellow walls and an animal frieze! It’s now grey to suit his grim Northern Irish demeanour 😉 This week I used the last of the grey paint to put a couple of coats on the end wall of our bedroom, covering up the Polyfilla patches you can see in this photo – the previous owners had wave-shaped mirrors up there, which they took with them, leaving some nice holes for us to fill in! [On a tangent, I have to double-check every time I use the word Polyfilla, because I confuse it with Poligrip, haha!]
    Isle of Skye - Emma's Picture Postcards
  6. Celebrations with James. It was our 5-year anniversary last month, and we celebrated with a little trip to Skye (full post coming soon). This month it was his birthday, so we went for a meal at our favourite, Jewel in the Crown, and then he submitted his PhD thesis and booked our summer holiday – we’re off to Italy and I can. not. wait.
    Emma's Picture Postcards
  7. Spring! April has been a little bit of a let-down this year – it’s snowed and/or hailed pretty much every day in Aberdeen! But between the cold showers it has been nice and sunny, and the long hours of daylight and all the flowers make me happy 🙂
  8. I wasn’t sure how much travel I’d manage this year after my trip to the USA last year, and with trying to keep my spending low since I’m job hunting! However I’m actually getting in a fair amount of jet-setting – Skye, London (twice), Italy and finally Germany in October, for a dear friend’s wedding. We started out as penpals and did an exchange when we were 15, and have stayed in touch and visited each other every couple of years since. She’s like an extra sister now, and I’m so excited to be there for her wedding. Plus it’ll add another culture to the list of weddings I’ve attended – so far I’ve experienced Scottish, English, New Zealand (with a Bollywood dance for fun), US, Romanian and Finnish!

Make sure to take a look at Jasmin Charlotte’s post, and the widget at the bottom linking to a few other people’s cheery posts – sure to boost your mood ready for the weekend 🙂

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London, October 2014

Tower Bridge, London - Emma's Picture Postcards

My dad is a huge sports fan, and as sports were pretty much the only thing I ever saw on TV as a kid I’ve inherited this love, although I’ve narrowed down the addiction to just Formula 1 and the NFL (American Football). Last year I treated my dad to a visit to London for the Pittsburgh-Minnesota NFL game at Wembley stadium for his birthday/Christmas, and this year he decided to return the favour for the Detroit-Atlanta game. As he’s a little less organised/decisive than me, we ended up with a bit of a luxury package this time around – seats in the premier seating area and a stay at the Hilton London Kensington! I wasn’t complaining 😉

Houses of Parliament, London - Emma's Picture Postcards

Dad had a very early start on the Saturday as he was flying down from Scotland, whereas I’d been visiting friends in Cambridge and left there at a sociable hour after a leisurely breakfast of pancakes. Somehow though (I’ll blame it on winter sun and excitement), I was the one with a splitting headache by the time I made it to London! Thankfully it cleared up a fair amount after some lunch, water and painkillers, and we made it to Trafalgar Square in time for the fan rally, which was good fun, and got to briefly meet one of the main UK-based faces of NFL, Kevin Cadle.

Dad and Kevin Cadle - Emma's Picture Postcards
As you can see we were supporting the “home” team, the Atlanta Falcons – Dad’s #1 team is the New York Giants and I’m a “Cheesehead”, aka Green Bay Packers fan, but we have family in Atlanta so we’re fond of the Falcons too. They ended up losing to Detroit right at the last moment, but it was a really exciting game throughout and we really enjoyed it.

Westminster Abbey - Emma's Picture Postcards

When I go away I often try to spend as little on travel and accommodation as I can, because it’s the seeing new places that I love and I’d rather go on as many trips as possible than spend money on fancy hotels… but with that said, I still really appreciate quality, and the Hilton London Kensington definitely has that. The staff were not only attentive but seemed genuinely friendly, and we got chatting to a few other guests, some of whom were real regulars and wouldn’t really consider staying anywhere else because the service there is always spot-on.

Tower of London Poppies - Emma's Picture Postcards

We didn’t travel back to our respective homes until the Monday evening, so as well as our NFL fun we had time (and perfect weather!) for a little sightseeing. Despite my best intentions, I seem to always end up just loitering in Covent Garden and/or Hyde Park whenever I have free time in London – I find Covent Garden so unique and entertaining, and after a short amount of time amongst the hustle and bustle of London I need the tranquility of Hyde Park – I’m still a country girl at heart! But this time I was proud of myself for visiting some new places, although poor Dad did suffer a teeny tiny temper tantrum from me as they were so crowded! We went to Westminster to see the Houses of Parliament and the Abbey, and to the Tower of London to see the ceramic poppies which were gradually “growing” there in the run up to Remembrance Sunday. I’m glad we saw them, they were beautiful and thought-provoking, but I don’t think I’ve ever been in such a crowded place, and the Underground station was so busy I decided to walk to City airport from there, since it was such a lovely day and I had plenty time, and judging from the map it looked close by. After walking for an hour I realised my mistake and found another Tube station! 😉