A good start to the year

January is normally a bit miserable. Cold, dark and we have less money than usual as my husband's job is quite weather-related. But I'm glad to report 2014 has got off to a great start! *looks round nervously in case she's jinxed it.*

workman in hole

In food news it was my turn to host the Come Dine With Me style event I take part in with a group of friends who are always up for an excuse to eat, drink and be merry.

The night was almost ruined when 24 hours before the guests were due we smelled burning in our hallway and found the main electricity cable into the house was smouldering and melting! Cue a swift evacuation, 18 hours of no electricity and hoards of workmen trampling mud in and out and the creation of a big hole in front of the house! 

Luckily the problem was sorted, I whizzed to the supermarket, and despite having to scale down the planned dinner somewhat the Drag Queen themed night was a great success!

I found it hard to enjoy the meal - I don't think you ever enjoy it so much if you've cooked it but luckily just a week late my friend Jane threw her own dinner party and cooked a fabulous restaurant-quality meal which still makes my mouth water when I think about it.  And there was more lovely food at my book club's January meeting. I'd tell you about the book but I didn't get chance to read it but the chicken risotto and pancakes with fruit we ate at the meeting were awesome! Oh - and mush;t forget to mention Burns Night - haggis and heaps of fun!

holiday chalet Bacton Norfolk https://www.facebook.com/SimplyCoastal/photos_streamOn the work front I started the year with not one but two lovely sponsors for Britmum's Live 2014 which is being held in London in June.

 I have to give them a shoutout as blogging was a new concept for both companies and they have both been very enthusiastic and positive about the media in all my dealings with them. Plus thanks to them I can now stay in a nearby budget hotel instead of getting the late train back like I did from Britmums Live 2013 on Friday night which meant I missed all the post-conference fun, most of my meal and was stuck with the drunk, sad lady who told me all about her love life on the train all the way home! And had to be back on the train at 6am to hear the morning keynote speech!

 So - thanks to Simply Coastal  offers three cute holiday properties, each sleeping four people in one double and one twin room.
The chalets are just a stones throw from the sea near Bacton in Norfolk and have recently been lovingly refurbished to be stylish and cosy.  Simply Coastal offer off peak discounts if you book two or more cottages- why not take both sets of Grandparents or go with friends?

day old chicks https://www.facebook.com/WoodsideAnimalFarm And thanks to Woodside Animal Farm in Slip End Near Luton which is an absolute gem- ideal for children of all ages who can meet lots of lovely animals, play on the exciting indoor play frame while parents relax in the adjacent cafe and run off lots of energy in the play areas. And if you have ever fancied keeping chickens I'm told that Woodside has just had a delivery of chicks - they can advise you on the best varieties of chicken for you and help you choose beddings, food, healthcare and equipment which they stock on site too!

In other work news you would have to have been locked up in a dungeon not to know about my new job as a radio presenter at Radio Dacorum. I'm on air every Monday between 10-12 and absolutely love it!!!

And the best news of all for me this year - when I started this blog a year ago I hoped eventually it would make a bit of money so I could feel like I was contributing without compromising my desire to be at home for the children. So far in January 2014 I have managed to land at least one paid job every week. Making me feel like I have a proper job which doesn't feel like a proper job - everyone's dream!

This in turn has meant that this month I have managed to pay all my bills on time. A rare event for this time of year in my house! We don't have any money left over but as long as the bills are paid I can sleep easy.

Another reason I can sleep easy is that I managed to file DH's tax return on time! It was a close thing - we've never done one before but thanks to some lovely friends who allowed me to ask stupid questions and helped us with some adding up we did it and even had a good time doing it - though that might be more because of the wine and lovely dinner and a fair bit of cackling more than the spreadsheet fun. Thankfully my friend Ruth loves spreadsheets so at least one of us was having fun with the actual figures. I've already booked her for next year (when I have to do one for madmumof7 too!) Hopefully we will submit it a bit earlier than 48 hours before the deadline!

Can't wait to go back to Cyprus!
What else? Well I launched a new "craft and chat" church house group, signed up for #teamhonk bloggers relay and will be cycling with other bloggers to St Albans next week, dyed my hair, finally saw a doc about a niggling medical problem which turned out to be inconvenient but not life-threatening (phew!) and booked flights (using Tesco Clubcard points so no cash involved) to go and see my mum in May.

I'll have ten days in the sun - I'll be turning 45 while I'm out there but a Brandy Sour and giant pork chop n chips at Yiannis (Klimataria Taverna) or a Bailey's Frappe at the Bona Mare cafe bar overlooking the sea should soften the blow!

Hopefully your year so far is going well - leave a comment below if you want to share your positive achievements so far! Come on February - I'm ready for you!

Disclaimer: I am paid to promote Simply Coastal and Woodside Animal Farm but all other people, venues and companies in this post have not sponsored or rewarded me in any way. Views and opinions as always remain honest and my own.

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