This was my 2014 (Part 1)

Well last January almost seems a lifetime ago, I've done so much and made so many changes this year. It's been fun to look back over the year and see what goals I planned and how they've worked out. Looking back at that list, there's two I haven't managed at all, one's still in progress but I've managed the others which I'm happy about. And let's just say the 5:2 diet is no longer on my radar and I still have that second fridge freezer too!

I did better with my word of the year which was Active and chosen when I anticipated the change in my lifestyle, the one where after thirty years I stopped commuting into the City and took some time out. I also started my #52Cookbooks challenge and hopefully you'll have read that I completed that and cooked 52 new recipes in 2014.

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February was pretty dreary weather-wise but I was keen to get myself out and about.  I started by going off to a Lino printing class in Islington and by the middle of the month I decided to set myself a challenge to walk 500 miles by the end of July.  That was the start of my Exploring London trips, and where better to start than the V&A?   

When I wasn't relishing in the lie ins and pottering about in those early weeks at home I was trying to get the storm damage (caused by the storm the previous Christmas Eve) resolved. Our new garden fence went up, yeap just before the next storm but thankfully it stayed put and we didn't have any further damage.  I celebrated by making some pumpkin marmalade!

In March I was able to declare our new kitchen finished - there'd been a few niggles outstanding, but those were finally resolved and I paid the amount I'd retained.  And we sorted out some storage for our wedding present wine glasses by adding some bar-style racks to our new unit - I'm still inordinately proud of those little metal racks!

We grabbed some time away in Norfolk too where we visited the National Trust's Blickling estate and Oxburgh Hall, walked around Castle Rising and MOH experienced his first Spa break (thankfully it was a success). 

Clockwise: Staying at Congham Hall, Oxburgh Hall and the Orangery at Blickling Estate

Clockwise: Staying at Congham Hall, Oxburgh Hall and the Orangery at Blickling Estate

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By April I'd clocked up 136 of my 500 miles and there were yet more new things; I started Pilates and enjoyed it so much I was even there at 9am on Good Friday after an evening out with friends. I also posted my first Word of the Week - I chose Pollution, do you remember that Saharan sandstorm that left everything covered in dust?

And I got brave and shared my What Stephanie did next post on my personal Facebook page, with people I knew and everything. And I can't not share that photo of a sixteen year old me again...

It was time for a holiday, so we headed off to a cottage in Beeley, Derbyshire for more walking and eating and general relaxing. And lots of sheep!

We visited more National Trust properties and land, ticking Biddulph Grange and its magnificent Stumpery, Little Moreton Hall and Dovedale off our list. We also spent a day at Chatsworth - it's a fabulous place and despite having already been twice, I'd still go again. 

Clockwise: Biddulph Grange, Little Moreton Hall, Dovedale and Chatsworth

Clockwise: Biddulph Grange, Little Moreton Hall, Dovedale and Chatsworth

Back home and it was the start of the Alphabet Photography Project, which was great fun but some letters were more challenging than others, and I cheated a bit with X! I discovered that Greenwich Park was one of my happy places and there was progress and some falling branches in our garden too. 

At the end of May it was my birthday and we celebrated with a huge steak at Gaucho.  And another holiday - well, it had been a while - a whole month! We spent a week in the Alentejo region of Portugal and had a great time. I still haven't shared the photos yet, but I plan to in a new series of posts under the banner of Sun On Saturday, so watch out for those. 

Back home and the weather was warming up again, I spent an afternoon scrubbing and had a lovely clean patio table and then we spent the longest day sealing our patio. The day finished with cocktails though, so it wasn't all bad.  

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I was still getting out and about too and spent a day at the Wimbledon qualifying tournament and watched some great tennis. It was a lovely sunny day so I may just have topped up my tan (again). We drove over to Essex and had a wander around Marks Hall Arboretum and their fabulous walled garden, I went to a couple of local gardens as part of the Open Garden Scheme, and these were great because they were real gardens. The added bonus was I discovered the name of a plant - Cistus - we'd seen a lot of in Portugal and had also spotted at Marks Hall. I tell you I'm easily pleased!

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Well, that takes us to the end of June - I told you it'd been a busy year. And I'm going to pause there and bring you July onwards in another post, so until then I'm off to put the kettle on...

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