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Valentines Gifts For Men

I've always been fairly indifferent to Valentine's Day regardless of whether I've been single or in a relationship. However, for the last couple of years Tom and I have made an effort to have a bit of a date night and do something special, in fact we've done the same thing both years and bought a three course dinner from Marks and Spencers and had a DVD night in with wine.  This year is slightly different as Tom's away a fair amount doing training in February and March and period around Valentine's Day is one of the few where he's home.  We're going for an amazing sounding three course dinner at The Kings Hotel in Christchurch which will be a good excuse to dress up and spend some quality time together.  I've never really bought into the idea of buying expensive Valentine's Day gifts, especially so soon after Christmas but when I did have a quick nose around the internet I was a bit shocked at some of the vomit-inducing gift ideas they had for the men in our lives.  I know Tom well enough to know he would prefer a hip flask or a watch over a teddy bear or a balloon any day.  The engraved message seeds may be erring on the side of slushy but I couldn't resist them! And the second card really made me smile - if you're stumped for what to buy for that special someone you're only 'casually dating' then this is the one.

[Direct links to items are the first links]

1. Hip flask - £28 - Men's Society at Not on the High Street
2. Cufflinks - £25 - Wue at Not on the High Street
3. Valentine's Card - $4 - Echo Letter Press at Etsy
4. Valentine's Card - $4 - Emily McDowell Draws at Etsy
5. Mug - £8.50 - Bread & Jam at Not on the High Street
7. Voucher for Traditional Wet Shave - £42.50 - Murdock

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18

25 facts about me

I've seen a few people do these 'facts about me' posts recently and I haven't done one on here since I first started blogging so I thought it'd be a bit of fun to do another.  I was planning on doing 50 but it got a bit long so I'll do another 25 next week (unless people hate these kind of posts, in which case I might leave you hanging - let me know!)  Here goes...

1. Last FM says that my most played artists of all time are The Mountain Goats, City and Colour, Say Anything and Austin Lucas.

2. I did karate from when I was about 11 years old until I was 15.  I got to brown belt but left to focus on revising for my GCSEs.  I'd love to go back but I haven't plucked up the courage yet.  My Dad went too (but to the adult classes) and our Sensei once accidentally broke my his arm.

3. I find it really difficult to tell the time on an analogue watch. I wear my Michael Kors watch every day but when people ask me the time I have to check it on my phone.

4. An anagram of my name is 'Aspiring Poet'. Also 'Posing Pirate'.  I think I have been both of these at some stage in my life.

5. I am utterly repulsed by mushrooms.  I can't stand to watch people eat them or see them on people's plates - it makes me feel physically sick.

6. I was a total tomboy when I was younger and much preferred climbing trees, skateboarding and beating the boys at Street Fighter to doing anything girly.

7. I was born in Cornwall and lived there until I was 7 (my Dad was in the Navy so we moved around a little bit).

// Me being a Naval Officer in the garden with my Daddy
8. I once fell off my bike on the way to school and broke my ankle.  My brother and his friends laughed at me.  I also broke my arm falling off a rope swing.

9. I am a major fonts geek, I'm always downloading new fonts and use of Comic Sans or Times New Roman physically pains me.

10. I am definitely a 'cold person'.  I'm always trying to sneakily up the temperature on the central heating thermostat and the lounge is always freezing to me so if I'm in there I'll be found hiding under blankets and lots of layers on the sofa.

11. I've always been a major chocoholic.  When I was younger I used to save my lunch money to buy five bars of chocolate for a £1 at the corner shop and eat them in one sitting.

12. The sound of light aircraft engines when they're flying overhead makes me feel really sad and lonely.

13. As does when horses in horse races carry on even though the jockey has fallen off.

14. I have a quote from the film 'Me and You and Everyone we Know' tattooed across my calves.

15. When I about 13 I got a bit obsessed with Matthew Perry and wrote him a fan letter.  He didn't reply.

16. I have a little stuffed animal called 'Doggy' that I got the day after I was born.  He still sleeps in my bed every night.

17. When I was very young he had to have some emergency stitches as his stuffing was coming out.  I went and put on my nurse's uniform and oversaw the operation.

18. If I say the word hippopotamus without thinking I say it as hippotopamus.  I have to really concentrate to get it right.

19. One of my favourite books as a child was an Usborne book about ghosts and monsters.  I still have a real curiosity about the supernatural and can while away hours reading about mysterious sightings and stories on Wikipedia.

20. When I was in Infant's School my teacher wrote on my school report 'Rosie does not suffer fools gladly'.  This is probably still true.

21. A few years ago I spent ten days in hospital in Florida with an ulcerated oesophagus (worst holiday ever).

22. My favourite films are Amelie, Rushmore (well, pretty much anything by Wes Anderson), Goodfellas, Fargo, No Country For Old Men and Juno.

23. I met my boyfriend, Tom, when we were part of a team on a yacht at a sailing training event for the organisation we both work for.  One of my close friends originally had his place but he was drafted in to replace her when she became poorly (fate!) We worked at completely different locations so if it hadn't been for the event we'd never have met.

24. Tom and I have a matching set of freckles on our left arm and they both look like the Orion's Belt constellation.

25. My favourite number is 43.

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33

Weekly Bookmarked Wishlist 05

Having such a lovely, chilled out Sunday so far, hope you've all been enjoying the sunshine today (if you had some!) I'm spending this afternoon with a stack of magazines, my Kindle Fire for catching up on blog reading, lots of mugs of tea and a long soak with a Lush bubble bar.  I went for a run this morning and feeling the sun on my face really got me dreaming of Spring and of bright prints and floaty dresses.  So there are a few welcome flashes of colour in this week's wishlist (I will have to keep dreaming of them this week as there's a whole lot of rain forecast to try and wash away the memories of this weekend's sunshine!).



1. These Emma go ballerinas are the perfect shoes to get me excited about warmer weather again! I can see them being a great addition to a holiday suitcase - I think they'd be perfect as flat shoes for during the day with denim shorts and the glitter detail means they'd also work in the evening too. [Spartoo, £77]

2. After a bit of a coat-buying spree recently my coat hooks are definitely closed for business but this biker coat from Warehouse is a dream.  To be worn on a walk along the beach accompanied by the first ice cream of the year! [£75, Warehouse]

3. I own more Breton tees than is probably sensible so this colourful twist on the classic gives me a good excuse to add another to my wardobe! [£34.50, Jack Wills]

4. I spotted this on the WIWT Lust List and instantly added it to my own wishlist; it's a JW Anderson charity t-shirt for Matches and a bargain at £18. [£18, Matches]

I spent quite some time on Thursday evening nosing through the ASOS sale for a new dress for Friday night (thankyou ASOS Premier for making this possible!) I ended up with a long wishlist of beautiful but wholly unsuitable dresses for a night out in Christchurch (and the one on the top right, which I actually wore...)


1. This actually makes me weak at the knees.  Organza, chiffon and floral embroidery, not to mention that gorgeous raspberry-coral colour.  Can someone get married and invite me so I have a reason to buy this? Did I mention it's reduced to £30? [£30, ASOS]

2. As I mentioned above, this is what I wore out on Friday night. It's made from a gorgeous, thick, tweed material, with faux leather cuffs and collar.  I felt a bit like a Scottish Wednesday Addams.  [ASOS, £37.50]

3. Another swoonsome ASOS Salon number.  Makes me dream of garden parties and cucumber sandwiches. Also I kind of want the model's face and hair too please. [ASOS, £36]

I have to keep dreaming as payday is not until Thursday and my bank account is full of cobwebs and dust.  Sigh.

Ooh, one last thing - don't forget to enter my personalised planner giveaway, or my business cards giveaway (won't spam you much more, I promise!)

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20

Paisley and polka dots

I am not sure I particularly look my best in these photos but I thought I would post them anyway as I wanted to share a couple of new things I have. I won't anatomically annotate my flaws but I feel quite tired and a bit rundown at the moment.  I always had perfect skin in my adolescent years but since I started wearing make-up in my mid-20s I've noticed it go quite downhill and I'm not entirely sure how to fight its various imperfections! Also I've spent the last couple of weeks eating really healthily but on Thursday we went out for dinner and I had battered cod and chips and have been suffering with horrendous gripe-y stomach cramps ever since which have kept me up in the night the last couple of nights.  Sorry, this wasn't intended to be a whinge-fest! Just, if I look a bit tired and uncomfortable, well, that's why.

Call it shallow and superficial but I've always thought that the best way to combat feeling a bit rundown and glum is to get dressed up in clothes you feel nice in.  For me it definitely only exacerbates the problem if I slub around in jogging bottoms and a baggy t-shirt.  So today I decided to be a smart-bum and find an excuse to give a few new things their first outing.  Along with the majority of the blogging population I bought this Céline replica t-shirt from VIPXO's recent post and I wanted to try it tucked into some tailored trousers.  I bought these trousers in the Jack Wills sale, they were reduced from £98 to £29 which is a bit of a bargain as they're wool and fully lined.  They're really warm and a perfect addition to my workwear wardrobe whilst it's still so chilly.  The shoes are also new, bought from TK Maxx for £20 in their January sale (they're Dune).  I own loads of platform heels but I wanted to try some smaller heels and these are comfortable enough to wear during the day.

Jack Wills trousers outfit post
blazer: boohoo [old] - [similar, £12]
céline replica t-shirt - ebay - £7.99
jack wills trousers [out of stock]
court shoes: dune at tk maxx
clutch: vivienne westwood at spartoo
Boohoo blazer outfit post

We went out with some friends last night to a really cool restaurant/bar in Christchurch.  It was really nice to just sit around catching up (and drinking my favourite cider, Orchard Pig, yum).  Because it's a little town all the bars in Christchurch shut at 11 which meant a fairly early night for a night out and luckily I'm not suffering too much with a hangover today.  This afternoon Tom and I have a trial at a spa hotel fairly close to us.  If you follow me on Twitter you might have seen I'm desperate to find a gym nearby that isn't either wildly expensive or half an hour away. This one is potentially in the former category but if nothing else we'll get a free splash around in a pool and a loll in a jacuzzi, which sounds like exactly what I need!  How are you all spending your Saturdays?

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27

Personalised Planner and a giveaway

Well, well, well, it's all getting just a little bit 'personalised' over here on A Rosie Outlook isn't it? (Said no-one, ever). First your jazzy business cards and now a blog planner, who are you trying to be eh, eh? Well, 2013 is officially the year to be organised (okay it might not be, but it could be) and if you've entered to win a set of beautiful business cards you might also be interested in my lovely new blog planner and how you could win a personalised planner of your own.

Despite my business cards tucked in my handbag and my blog planner nestling nearby, I'm certainly not the professional blogger my personalised goods purport me to be, but I do like organisation, and I find that, when you work full time, along with having a dog to walk and a house to keep on top of a bit of careful planning is key.  Lately I've found myself scribbling blog related notes more and more in my personal diary to ensure I keep on top of things I want to write about, and I found myself wondering if there was space in my life for a little blog planner.

My current diary is from Personal Planner - I bought it last year after seeing a few bloggers blog about theirs.  The best thing about Personal Planner is that you can customise almost everything to do with the design; from the front and back cover, when the diary starts, formatting of the pages and extra boxes to keep track of to-do lists, hours at work, training etc.  You can even import your friends and families' birthdays from Facebook, how clever is that? (The front cover is a photo of mine that makes me smile).


So naturally I was over the moon when Personal Planner contacted me to ask if I wanted to receive a gift card to design a planner (well, another planner!).  As I already have my personal diary I thought it would be a great idea to design a blog planner that I can keep in my desk to make sure I keep on top of all things blog.  I designed it quickly on their website; adding graphics from my blog design for a bit of consistency and it was with despatched just over a week later.  I added boxes for 'to do lists' and 'ideas' and picked a pretty bird design.


I'm completely in love with it and can't wait to get planning and filling in the address book section and notes pages at the back.  I massively recommend Personal Planners and was as equally thrilled with the diary I bought last year as my new blog planner I was kindly gifted.  Personal Planner have kindly offered to give away a gift card to one of my readers so that you can design one of your own.  As usual I've used Rafflecopter to manage the giveaway, you can check out the options on the widget but the only mandatory requirement is that you give their lovely Facebook page a like.  Don't forget to enter to win some business cards (at time of writing there's still 5 days left until that one closes).  The giveaway will close on 4 February at midnight and I'll announce the winner on Twitter and let them know they've won.
a Rafflecopter giveaway


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27

Jerk turkey burgers - UK recipe

Before I start this recipe I owe to huge credits for it to the wonderful Sophie who suggested cooking it, and the Crumb blog, where this recipe originates.  The reason I'm reposting it here rather than providing a link to her Jerk Turkey Burgers recipe is because that's an American version, so I've tried to use UK measurements and descriptions (who knew that the Americans call coriander, cilantro?) I made these for dinner a couple of weeks ago and they were utterly divine, Tom was exclaiming how delicious they were after every mouthful! They're also perfect for my 'clean eating' diet; a healthy but extremely yummy dinner.

I've kept the cup measurements in for anyone who has a set of measuring cups (they are quite useful if you want to cook US recipes) but also used a converter to estimate the gram measurement in case you don't.

Ingredients

450g lean turkey mince
2-3 tbsp Jamaican-style jerk paste
1/4 cup/20g rolled oats/oatmeal
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup/30g finely chopped red onion (about 1/3 of an onion)
1/4 cup/30g finely chopped coriander
Pinch salt and lots of black pepper
2 teaspoons cooking oil

Extra notes:
I used extra lean turkey mince from Sainsbury's and Scottish rolled porridge oats for the oats.  It might seem weird adding oatmeal to a burger recipe but it makes the burger super juicy (and gives you a good dose of fibre!)

I also only put in around 1.5 tablespoons of jerk paste as I know I'm a wuss with spice; you can vary this depending on how much of a spice lover you are!

Instructions

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients.


(I think I rather pushed the boundaries of 'finely chopped' but never mind!

2. Using hands, mix together until the seasonings are evenly distributed, then divide into four equal parts and shape into 3/4" thick patties.  We used slightly smaller patties and I think we actually got five or six in the end.


3. We fried our burgers in olive oil in a frying pan on a medium heat, alternatively you could grill them.  They need about five minutes per side until browned and no longer pink inside.

4. Serve with mashed avocado, tomatoes and sweet potato chips.


(This is Tom's by the way, I had mine without the roll in case anyone points out that white bread is not clean/particularly healthy.  Also, I dust my sweet potato chips with cinnamon before they go in the oven if you're wondering what the brown powder is! One more thing... the Sainsbury's sweet potatoes are this strange beige-y colour rather than orange... curious!)

Hope you enjoy!

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12

Things I am grateful for...

I know that the title might seem a little cheesy but over the last week or so I've tried to take note of the things that make my day that little bit better; the little details I'm thankful for.  In the winter months I have to fight to not become overcome with malaise at the dreariness of the dark evenings, overcast skies, darker mornings and freezing temperatures.  When I feel bleak I find it helps to focus on the little things that make life more bearable and just noting and reflecting on the little pleasures in life helps them stay that little bit longer, I find.  Here is my current list;

What's making your Janaury that little bit more bearable?

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29

Weekly Bookmarked Wishlist 04

Happy Monday! Did anyone else feel decidedly glum today? I woke up feeling very maudlin, then I saw in the papers that today is apparently the 'most depressing day of the year' and cursed myself for being such a cliché.  One of the contributing factors is that everyone is poor after an expensive Christmas so maybe this wishlist is a little ill-timed but I must confess to having done quite a lot of online window shopping this weekend so I thought I'd share with you some of the things I've been eyeing up.

This is part wishlist and part 'bought list' in actuality as I'm going out next Friday and fancied something new to wear.  Confession time: I might have treated myself to not one, but three dresses (for trying on purposes of course) and I couldn't resist the cheetah shirt dress [1], ornamental print playsuit [2] or the monochrome striped dress [5] (all the links are under the montage).  I'm telling myself I'll send at least one of the unsuitable ones back! I will, I will!

Of course, no wishlist of mine is complete without a pair of shoes.  I actually bought a pair of Dr Martens boots this week (not the laced ones, just some plain knee-highs) but I've also been eyeing up this pair of flat shoes; they remind of some I might have worn to school a frightening amount of years ago but I also like the idea of wearing them to add a bit of clompiness (is that a word? I'll go with it) to a pretty dress...

1. Animal print shirt dress - Boohoo - £25
2. Ornamental print playsuit - Boohoo - £25
3. Metallic bodycon dress - Fashion Union - £26
4. Derby shoes - Spartoo - £67
5. Monochrome striped dress - Missguided - £18.99
6. Long sleeved skater dress - Missguided - £14.99

Have you got your eye on anything new this week?

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12

Instant Print Business Cards Giveaway

Being a stationery addict and a lover of all things personalised it's a bit of a no-brainer that I love business cards.  Is that a weird thing to say? I've been ordering business cards for a long old time; for a photography website I once had, to send with letters to penpals, to use as gift tags for birthday presents, to adorn homemade foodie presents and more recently, for my blog.  You might not see yourself as the networking type but if you're out and about photographing things I find it a useful thing to have in your bag for when a shop or restaurant owner raises an inquisitive eyebrow at you producing your SLR.  It gives you a bit of kudos and it's a great conversation starter, plus they can check out your post featuring their shop/stall/restaurant and spread the word about your little corner of the internet! Plus they're great for blogger meets or any other social schmoozing you might do!

I was recently contacted by Best British Bloggers on behalf of InstantPrint who kindly wanted to give me a set of 1000 business cards.  I jumped at the chance, used some graphics from my blog design to whip up a quick design and they arrived within two days of me sending it over! They are really thick and sturdy with a beautiful matt finish and I'm pleased as punch with them!


The exciting news is you can win one of four sets of 1000 business cards for yourself! They don't necessarily have to be for your blog, they can be for any project or venture you have, you just have to be able to submit a design and they'll wing their way to you.

How it works

If you win, you'll be given a template for design of the cards depending on what program you use (Publisher, Illustrator, Photoshop or In Design).

You'll also be given contact details of Instantprint where you'll email your design.

You can pick from matt or gloss finish.

How to enter

You can enter using the Rafflecopter widget below, and you can enter via whatever method you like, none are mandatory.  The competition closes at midnight on 31 January and I'll announce the four winners on Twitter as well as displaying them on this blog post.  Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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16

Winter wonderland

After the fleeting excitement of our morning dog walk in the snow yesterday I wanted to make sure I got to see a little bit more of it today before it all melts away and life goes back to normal.  I know, I know, we've all seen the snow and Twitter is bursting at the seams with snow humbugs cursing anyone who mentions it but we rarely get any snow down here in the tropical microclimate that is Dorset so stuff you snow humbugs, I'm celebrating the snow again!

I bought this shirt in the Urban Outfitters sale, it's nice and thick and I love the stitched crosses.  The shorts are vintage Levis that I cut off and stuck some studs in and the boots are yet again my favourite new Clarks boots kindly sent to me by Idealo which I spotted are in the Spartoo sale for £63 yesterday, which is a bargain as they're leather and so cosy with the furry lining.

Urban Outfitters shirt

Obviously with snow on the ground it was a bit cold for this ensemble so I donned my vintage army jacket.  I look a bit more like I'm going to a festival than out in the snow don't I? 


German camo jacket

In the end we decided to go out into the forest so I swapped my shoes for my Hunter boots and added an extra hat and hoodie.  Brrrrr!


Snow outfit

Bodhi absolutely loves the snow and spent lots of time leaping around like a little lamb, shovelling snow into his mouth and digging for hidden treasures.

Bodhi in the snow

Tom was even more sensible with his attire and wore his trapper hat and a snowboarding jacket, perfect for causing impromptu snow storms by shaking trees...

Snow avalanche


Bodhi got confused with snowballs and actual balls and decided to try and catch one...

Schnoodle catching a snowball


Probably one of my favourite photos of Bodhi and you can see from the wellies in the background that Tom took it rather than me.. (jealous!)

Schnoodle run


And then home, through a winter wonderland, with the van heaters blasting at the highest setting to try and melt our frozen toes...

Snowy road

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28

WestQuay dining and a snowy morning

At the end of November last year, West Quay shopping centre unveiled their new 'Dining at WestQuay' food court with a host of new restaurants added to the original repertoire.  I would have loved to go to the opening but frustratingly it was on a Thursday afternoon and we all know because of my persistent whinging at being a 9-5er that I was chained to my desk at that time.  Because I couldn't go I was sent a voucher to 'review the Dining at WestQuay experience' and the first time since then that I've been in Southampton and had some free time happened to be last night.  I actually had a Dentist's appointment (deep joy) and as my Dentist's is opposite West Quay I dragged Tom along with the promise of dinner afterwards.

There's several new restaurants that have been added to the food court now, including Wagamamas, Café Rouge, Ed's Diner, Pizza Express and Wagamama, adding to their original offering of eateries like Nando's, Pizza Hut and Toby Carvery Sandwich Express (carvery sandwiches? YES please!).  It's certainly the best selection of restaurants I've seen in one place and it's the first Ed's Diner I've seen and the funky interior really brightens up the area. Has anyone been to an Ed's Diner before? I've heard mixed reviews so I'd love to know whether it's worth a visit?


I know it sounds a bit stingy but as I was sent a £15 gift card I didn't want to go too over and above that cost; it's a bit of a tight month for us and I didn't want to leave us too out of pocket purely for a blog feature.  I quite fancied Wagamama or Café Rouge but you can barely get a main course and a drink there for £15 so instead we plumped for an old favourite, Nando's.  I don't need to review Nando's for you (although if you're interested they messed up bringing out our food and then overcharged us) so I'll leave references and photographs of chicken out of this post! All in all I think the addition of the new restaurants to West Quay is a great extra selling point and I'd definitely recommend a visit if you're in the area.

I've been super tired this week so when we arrived back home the only thing on the cards was my current two favourite ingredients of an evening; a blanket and Dexter.  We've just started Season Six of Dexter after rattling through four and five in the last month, and I'm totally hooked.  Any other Dexter fans out there? (If there is, how long did it take you to get over the Season Four finale? I'm still in shock...)

Because we're both big kids, Tom and I spent the latter half of the evening checking the weather forecast and peeking out of the window to see if any snow had arrived (we even invented a theme tune for our person 'Snow updates' - see, BIG KIDS).  Our anticipation was rewarded in the morning with the arrival of a good few inches of crisp, white snow.  Tom usually walks Bodhi in the morning whilst I get ready but I couldn't let him have all the fun so I layered up, pulled on my new mittens and Hunter wellington boots (it was that wet snow that looks pretty but also leaves you soaked so shoes weren't really an option!) and we both headed out into the snow.  The children next door were on a 'snow day' from school and were in the driveway, donned in animal onesies and wellies and ready to pelt Tom with some snowballs! (They threw one at Bodhi but he just ate it.  Sometimes I think his personal mantra in life is 'Whatever life throws at you, EAT IT).


Bodhi running in snow
Snowy field in Christchurch
In the snow
AxU Beanie

We had some fun in the snow before coming home and heading off to work (excuse the lack of make-up by the way, it was early!).  In an example of excellent timing, Adrian from Apparel Uncut kindly sent me the red beanie (£12) I'm wearing yesterday which was urgently needed this morning! It's a proper thick knit and kept my head cosy and dry on our morning walk.  Sadly our offices are on the seafront so the sea air means the snow isn't really settling here and we're well and truly open for business.  No chance of a snow day for us! Hope it isn't being too much of a pain where you are; jealous of any of you who have been given a bonus day at home and are currently drinking mugs of tea by some sort of fire - that's what I'd be doing!

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18

A Grand Adventure | Driving to Montenegro

You may remember a recent post, January Blues, in which I lamented the loss of adventure in my life.  A fully fledged 9-5er, my ability to 'seize the day' is hampered by the modern (wo)man's necessary evils - e-mails, meetings, bills, finances, appointments.  It's frightening how quickly we get used to these ingredients of our life without questioning them.  We commit our sense of adventure to the realms of childhood, and even our escapes from the doldrums of life seem bittersweet, brief and fleeting and within the confines of our 'annual leave allowance' - a two-week holiday and then back to reality; whisked through customs and back to our desks.

I don't believe it has to be that way and I've tried to use my annual leave to allow me to retain a sense of adventure and exploration despite my other commitments.  A couple of years ago I took five weeks' of it at once and explored Thailand.  Since then I've been to America twice, France, Greece, Spain, Jersey and many trips within Britain - Cornwall, the Lake District, the Cotswolds, the Wye Valley and so on.

My trip to Thailand really was what one might describe as a 'trip of a lifetime' - backpacking through jungles, sleeping on night trains, visiting ancient temples, bartering in the night markets, swimming in waterfalls and exploring archipelagos with iridescent seas - snorkelling coral reefs and sleeping in sleeping bags on the beach.  It gave me my first proper taste of freedom and a snapshot of a simpler life; clothes folded into a backpack with a camera, a book and a wallet rather than vast wardrobes of clothes and shoes and material possessions.

Island tour from Krabi, Thailand
this was taken in krabi - part of our islands tour 
This year we've booked two weeks in France and also hope to enjoy four days in Marrakech.  Nonetheless, when Money Supermarket recently contacted me about their 'A Grand Adventure' competition, neither of those trips seemed to quite fit.  The challenge was to plan an epic adventure with a £1000 budget - detailing where I would go and what I would do.  I immediately thought of 'Montenegro 2014' - next year's travel project.  Ticking off number one in my 'to visit' list - my favourite Google Maps planned route  Nothing short of a 3000 mile round trip.  You might be slightly confused by the last two, but the intention is to undertake this as a *only to be said in a shout-y American accent* ROAD TRIIIIIP.

We are lucky enough to own Scarlett, a VW T5 Transporter.  Kitted out with a full width double bed, lots of cupboards and drawers, a portable gas cooker and (thanks to Tom's Mum and Dad for a very practical Christmas present), a portable toilet! We spent three weeks touring France in it in 2010 and it was an absolute dream.  We had barbecues by the road side, drank wine from mugs whilst watching the sun set, visited countless beaches and little towns and drove through beautiful countryside (and up mountains in the Pyrenees!) with Fleetwood Mac blaring out. (And of course we started every day with a bacon and egg sandwich!)



Montenegro has long been at the top of my 'to visit' list - after seeing it in films and hearing of other people who've visited (my friend worked on cruise ships for several years and says that the Dalmatian Coast is her favourite of all of the places in the world she has been).  Montenegro has it all - beaches, lakes, mountains, forests and rivers, and a lot of history and culture too.  It looks breathtaking.  Of course we're not planning on solely driving there and coming back (not sure Tom would fancy the 26 hour drive!) - here are some other stops on our journey.


And then, of course...


And what would we do? We'd treasure every moment; we'd soak up culture - padding around museums, and exploring new cities, we'd eat and drink - trying out new cuisine, finding little backstreet restauarants, eating market food, we'd get lost and enjoy every second of it, take hundreds of photos, wash our clothes in laundrettes and watch them dry in the wind, dip our toes in rivers and oceans, learn new words that sound different on our tongues, climb mountains, read maps, meet new people and immerse ourselves in adventure.

Of course, staying in the van  means we can do this trip on a fairly frugal budget.  If we had £1000 for the trip we'd use it to add a few more luxurious touches to our shoestring holiday. We could space out some of the van stays with some hotels; perhaps a spa hotel in Dubrovnik to soothe our weary feet, or a funky B&B in Frankfurt.  We could add some extra activities - cycling in Instria or visiting Roman remains in Split, sailing in Hvar or hiking Mount Biokovo (all Croatia).  We could push the boat out and enjoy some more expensive restaurants and take time cooking and eating different foods as we travelled through new countries (remember our little gas cooker?).

All in all it truly would be a grand adventure, and even though I'd eventually return to my desk job I'd have the memories (and photographs) from driving to Montenegro to treasure for the rest of my life.  What would your grand adventure be? 


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