In which there is a recipe for a great Sunday

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Take two slightly tired people. Marinate them in a delicious breakfast of huevos rancheros before putting in a car for ninety minutes. Remove once the car has arrived at the seaside.

Add one scoop of raspberry pavlova ice cream, one double caramel Magnum and a walk along the seafront with vividly turquoise water. Leave out in glorious sunshine for four hours until ever so slightly pink and fully refreshed.

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In which we discover we have a pink fireplace

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There’s currently a large hole in the side of our new house. And, as I’ve discovered, there’s nothing quite like missing a chunk of your external wall to cause you some stress, especially with the recent appalling weather we’ve been having. (We’re even more thankful now that that both our current and new house are 70m above sea level.) The reason we have this is also due to this bad weather: my parents came down last weekend to help us demolish an old coalhouse that’s attached to the kitchen, and help us brick up the subsequent hole we made, but the 30mph winds and torrential rain the West Country is currently enjoying meant we couldn’t finish it off before we lost the light on Sunday night. Cue a week of daily trips to the house to make sure the makeshift plastic and wood frame is keeping out the (still coming down in sheets) rain and no-one has discovered the walls are breachable. Luckily Dad is coming back tonight to help us finish it off, so please keep your fingers crossed that the weather is good enough this weekend for the mortar to set!

We also found out that our dining room fireplace is pink.

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What this photo doesn’t show is the absolutely massive soot shower that happened ten minutes later when I cautiously unscrewed the wooden top panel. You know that scene in the final Harry Potter film with the Peruvian instant darkness powder? Yeah, just like that. I was picking soot out of my hair and nails for the next two days, despite copious amounts of scrubbing in the shower.

After a couple of weeks which have been a bit frustratingly slow, we’ve managed to pick the pace up a bit and now have the balcony on order, planning permission lodged, plumbers and sparks lined up, all the wallpaper stripped and the garden cut back so it looks less like a jungle. Considering we only got the keys on 23rd December, we’ve made a lot of progress. And when things have got stressful (and when you’re doing a major renovation project, this is inevitable, even without factoring in the worst winter storms in years), I just close my eyes and imagine I’m sitting on our balcony, sipping wine and watching the sun set.

In which there is a cosy hotel, great views and pigs in a hot tub birthday cake

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After a somewhat stressful January, we said goodbye to it in fine style, by celebrating S’ birthday at the gorgeous Bath Arms in Horningsham. I’ve been saying we really ought to go back ever since visiting on a work trip five years ago, so this year I put my money where my mouth is and booked us a room for Friday night.

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Each of the bedrooms is decorated individually and exquisitely, and ours was no exception – we stayed in the Geisha room, which had lovely yellow wallpaper, a fluffy feather bed and a gorgeous tile-topped table in the bathroom that I was seriously tempted to steal.

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Dinner was ace; bucket-sized glasses of wine, venison with dauphinoise potatoes and teeny tiny honey thyme carrots, followed by cheesecake with a lush blackberry sorbet. We then decamped to the room and swiftly downed a bottle of fizz, the last of our booty from our trip to France last year. In the morning we enjoyed a delicious full English breakfast – well, it was a birthday after all – and then enjoyed the unexpectedly sunny weather with a walk through the village and up to Heaven’s Gate, a hill that has views across the Longleat estate. Sadly we didn’t see any lions, but the landscape made up for their lack.

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We then stopped off in Frome for a mooch, a coffee and a brownie.

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S’ actual birthday was on the Sunday, so to complete the weekend of gluttony I made him this chocolate cake (verdict: delicious) and then used my long-dormant cake decorating skills to turn it into this.

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The still-cold and gloomy days are easier to face when you know there’s a slice of this waiting for you at home!

In which both goodbyes and hellos are said

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2014 has not got off to the best start, as my grandma died on 7th January. Losing any loved one is harsh, losing two within seven months of each other was doubly so. Combine this with a busy freelance schedule on top of daily work, and it means that I’ve barely had time to register January before it’s nearly over.

Despite the rubbish beginning, there have been some January highlights, the best one being a four day trip to Germany to see close friend B and her new daughter. To make a sweet trip even sweeter, our mutual friend Steph came all the way from Ottawa – and let’s pause for a minute here to consider the cost and time implications of this – to hang out with us too. It put my two hour flight and 20 minute bus ride to the airport right into perspective. This amazing gesture meant that the three of us got to spend a lovely long weekend together, getting to know (and cuddle whenever the sleeping schedule permitted) the baba, drink coffee, enjoy long leisurely breakfasts, eat cake, drink wine, take a walk in the grounds of the Nymphenburg Schloss and generally set the worlds to rights. And after everything that had happened so far this month, seeing good friends with whom I can be completely myself was just what was needed.

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Gazebo in the grounds of the Nymphenburg Schloss

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Munich city centre in the winter sunshine

It might have been three years since the last time we were all together but it felt like five minutes. If 2011 was Paris, 2014 was Munich, where will 2017 be?

S and I also managed to make progress on our new house, which we became legal owners of on 23rd December. Since getting the keys we have gone on a wallpaper-stripping, Pinterest-pinning and balcony-research frenzy, made easier by the fact we don’t have to actually live in the house until everything is done, and we’re not on a strict timetable. Which is good, because after doing all this before, we’re way fussier this time around about everything!

So despite a shaky start, I have high hopes for 2014 – a new house to make our own, new work challenges to enjoy, no doubt more new babies to welcome (8 of my close friends gave birth to 9 babies last year!). I’ll keep you posted…