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HSGS Does Half Term

HSGS Does Half Term - Hello Sam Goodbye SamanthaHSGS in the Garden - Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha Sam in the Garden - Hello Sam Goodbye SamanthaHSGS In the Garden 2 - Hello Sam Goodbye SamanthaHSGS In the Garden 3 - Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

On Friday afternoon I skipped out the door of work and said a jaunty ‘HELLO’ to a whole week off.  I say a week, but in fact today I headed back in to prepare for next term and write about 3,000 school reports. But that fact paled into insignificance in the face of what is officially known as ‘Half Term Holiday’ in the HSGS household.

Mr Hello also booked a week off, and we kicked off the break by getting into the garden. BIG TIME. I’m talking allotment, I’m talking back garden and then we headed to the Kent Garden Show to pick up a few treasures.

Over the weekend we had a few friends over who brought their little girl over. This meant a couple of hours of delicious food, great conversation and an excellent round of the game ‘Off The Pudd’, for which no-one seemed to know the rules apart from a three year old. What a delight.

Mr H and I then journeyed forth to Suffolk, to hang out with his sister and her delightful son, and the only thing to somewhat spoil the day was that our clutch failed on the motorway as we headed home, so instead of an evening on the couch we spent an evening sitting in the carpark of a motorway hotel scoffing chocolate while we waited for a tow!

With a couple of days left before TERM 6 (I repeat TERM 6)  starts,  I plan on pottering around the house a little bit, finishing off some report writing and faffing around with my camera settings! I’ve also got some more seeds to plant out, and am looking forward to seeing all my new plants in the garden.

How’s your week been, pals?

This Week I am Grateful For #8

Loki Gratitude - Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

Well my Gratitude Series has undoubtedly proven itself to be a huge success, with a grand total of 7 posts so far. Still, I remain determined to continue on, despite the growing sensation that no one actually remotely cares. Never stopped me before!

This week has verged slightly on the ‘Oh my god, HOW is it only TUESDAY’ side of things. Work has been insane, with a variety of disruptions that have cause my class to become shouty and unfocussed. Myself even more so.

And yet. This week I have become even more grateful for my relatively tranquil home life. Mr Hello and I have managed to carve out a delightfully hum-drum routine of quiet Friday nights and long days at our allotment. We’re clearing the wood from our garden and having the odd bonfire.

Quiet home life seems to be just what I need right now. And I am thankful for it.

The Last Five Years :: Life as an Expat

LAST 5 YRS - Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha
10 points to the Norbert Leo Butz fans

Very soon I shall have lived in the UK for 5 years. FIVE WHOLE YEARS. 6, really, if you count 2014 where I flew back and forth while studying, but generally I don’t.

When you live away from family I think it’s ridiculously easy to become used to living life at a relentless pace.  The years tend to be remembered by the immigration paperwork that was filled out in them.

  • 2010 was The Year I Arrived, with my Youth Mobility Scheme visa stuck neatly in.
  • 2012, The Year of the Returned Unmarried Spouse Visa (I’d used an old form that had been changed the day before I sent it), before getting the actual visa ID card.
  • 2013 was The Year of Figuring Out How to Stay in the UK, and more to the point, did I want to?
  • 2014 was The Year of Finding Mysterious Paperwork To See If I Can Get Polish Citizenship.
  • 2015 was The Year of Day Trips to Calais to Re-Enter on an EU Passport.

What immigration delights will 2016 bring? It may well have something to do with an upcoming Referendum. (Please dear God let them stay in the GD EU – I spent an awful lot of money on this).

I feel as though I can spot an expat at 50 paces these days. We all have the same characteristics:

  • You have an intimate knowledge of visa applications.
  • You irrationally fear the Border Control at any airport, even when you’re not flying!
  • You laugh in the face of people who think they deal with a lot of ‘paperwork’ – they don’t know the meaning of the word until they’ve tried to decipher what in the world the Home Office is actually asking you to prove.
  • You smile and nod blandly when friends start reminiscing about a TV program they grew up watching. Absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.
  • You still think you’re quite good at a quiz but in fact have no clue about 75% of the questions.
  • You’re not quite sure if you’re allowed to vote in any of the many  elections, but turn up anyway, just in case.
  • When you meet another expat, your first 5 minutes of conversation involved working out by which convoluted means have each of you managed to emigrate.
  • You’ve forgotten which friends know each other, only to be reminded when you’re greeted with a blank look from your partner.
  • You get the guilts from booking any holiday that isn’t back to your country of origin.
  • You’re not even annoyed when Skype automatically opens each time you start your computer.
  • You never go to School Reunions, choosing instead just to stalk Facebook photos.
  • At least once every six months you have a weird few days when you’re pissed off at everyone because they’re not your family and it’s their fault.

There is something quite unique about living in a foreign country that you just don’t experience when you’re travelling through. You end up seeing such a lot of the mundanity of life that you thought you’d escaped when you left home. But somehow it’s different, because you have just a tiny bit more distance – it becomes more quaint mundanity.

You have a marked card as an expat which can sometimes feel awful. Other times it’s a bit of insurance – I can always go home if I want to.

But, all things considered, I don’t want to. 5 years in and my relationship with Ol’ Blighty is stronger than ever. At this point, going home would mean starting all over again, and to be perfectly frank, I can’t really be bothered. I feel settled and while I’m sure the next 5 years will bring plenty of events that make me feel less so, I want to enjoy this feeling while it lasts.

Baby It’s Cold Outside…

Baby Its Cold Outside - Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

I dread to say it, but I think perhaps the Winter Kentish folks have so far been avoiding has begun – the crisps mornings we’ve come to expect this year have turned to relentless drizzle and biting cold.

This time of year is notoriously difficult, with dark mornings and dark evenings the motivation to do anything other than curl up (like my darling cat Margot above) and sleep is non-existent.

The Hello Household has been magically transformed – while our house has always leant towards the dark side, the appearance of several more snuggly throws has elevated it into maximum cosy den status.

A recent trip to TK Maxx resulted in the accidental purchase of a new, Orla Kiely duvet cover for our bedroom, and in one fell swoop, the chances of me getting out of bed, let alone leaving the house, have plummeted. I can’t say I’m sad about it. I’m currently on school holidays, and the compulsion to eat, sleep, repeat has been incredibly good for me.

orla-kiely-bedding-wallflower-yellow
Image: orlakiely.com

But all things come to an end, and on Monday I have to go back to the real world and start bringing home some bacon once again. I can’t say I’m too sorry about it though, as one thing I did  achieve in these dark days was to get my driving license! After 10 years of being hassled about it, I can finally drive! WOOT. A car will join our little family in the next two weeks.

Before I start jetting around, looking swaggy in my new wheels, I’m going to spend just one or two more nights, curled up on the sofa under a blanket, with a cuppa, my husband and my two cats.

(Don’t) Get a Life

(Don't) Get a Life - Hello Sam Goodbye SamanthaToday I found myself hanging out some washing, and doing a tiny happy dance that a stain had come out of my Orla Kiely linen. I mean, it is Orla Kiely and it cost me a pretty penny, but come on girl. It violates my street cred to get excited about stain removal.

What followed was an engaging debate between two voices inside my head about the relative merits and disadvantages of taking pleasure in such a small, mundane thing. I won’t bore you with the intricate details of the discussion, but I am unashamed to admit that the ‘enjoy the little things’ voice won, and resoundingly so.

This morning I read A Rosie Outlook’s new post about happiness sometimes being difficult, and it set me off on a spot of reflection. I think happiness is spontaneous and often easy, but contentment is harder to come by.

Taking stock of the mundane pleasures in life is a step on the road to contentment in my book, whether that’s a load of laundry done well, an omelette perfectly cooked, a new coin design in your change or the sun on your face as you walk to work. It’s these little things that when appreciated, make the humdrum of life less….well, humdrum. Don’t you think?

I’ve changed my ways. Don’t ‘get a life’. Enjoy these little things.

Jump Forward, Spring Back

Spring in Rochester Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

The sun is shining most days now, here in Rochester, and it’s good for my soul. I’m still rugged up with my slippers on inside, but there’s sunlight streaming through the blinds in our bay window, warming my face as I write.

A lot of English people like Autumn the most, probably for the sublime colours of the season, and the permission we grant ourselves to rug up before walking outside. Whereas with Spring, we’re all pretending Summer is on her merry way, so the unwritten, unmentioned rule is that coats are banished to the back of the cupboard.

There’s something about the in-between seasons, Spring and Autumn, that are really quite special.

It’s an in-between season for me too, professionally. I’m about to start teaching tomorrow, and although I have some last minute preparation to finalise, today is a pause, a breath before the madness of returning to regular, outside-the-home work.

I’ve enjoyed being at home. I’ve enjoyed the way Loki, the slightly more ferocious of our two cats, jumps on my lap and naps with me while I work in the study. I like to hear the cheekily hopeful bell attached to the collar of next door’s cat, as he comes into our house for food, only to quickly escape once he sees me here. I’ve enjoyed being able to take my time with things, and to see there’s a rhythm to each day, even when there’s no plan.

Life changes with the seasons, and the seasons seem to change with life.

Adventures at Home

Nautical Front Door Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha
A little seaside at home

It’s the penultimate evening of my 2015 Easter break and I’m feeling a little reflective. A short summary is in order I feel, so in that vein, chocks away!

Going Up

  • Quality time with the chap. An oldie but a goodie. We have been really busy for the last couple of weeks, and so spending some lazy time together, followed by some terribly productive house-organising time together has been wonderful. We’re kind of taking on a lot this year, you know, what with getting married and renovating our house, so it’s important we take the opportunities we can to get bored of each other 🙂
  • Having food in the house. There’s nothing like a couple of bank holidays to give you the fear of running out of food, so late last week I made the effort to do a big shop in person rather than online. I also had the guilts after reading How We Eat on Love Audrey, and while I in no respect met Franky’s lofty culinary heights, I mixed things up this week and did NOT have takeaway when I had the opportunity to.
  • IKEA trips. On good Friday we joined Mr H’s family on a spontaneous IKEA jaunt, and we picked up a couple of wedding bits and bobs, plus a totally wonderful and cheaty table plan. When we’ve figured out how to do it, I am definitely sharing a tutorial so do not despair!
  • New front door planning. As you may have seen on Instagram, I’ve had some front door angst, but after finally getting my lovely Victorian front door over three weeks after ordering it, I am really loving imagining it in all its finished glory.

Going Down

  • For some unknown reason (although I will blame it on the supply teaching I’ve been doing) last week I was in the grips of a terrible stomach bug. Half heartburn, half sleep destroying cramps, but without any other graphic displays of illness, it was absolute hell. Very few things destroy a childless adult’s ability to form rational thoughts than illness and sleep deprivation. Bloody school kids.
  • DIY dust. The fun part of DIY wears off pretty quickly, hey? Spent twice as long clearing the freakin’ mess up.
  • Discovering that I still don’t enjoy weeding the garden. I had my suspicions, but it was good to have some solid data.
  • Repeatedly missing FaceTime calls with my Dad. The clock’s have gone back here but I doubt that is significantly responsible. A combination of bad timing on both our parts, but dang it if I don’t miss the bugger!
  • New job nerves. I’m currently writing a post about some out of the ordinary anxiety I’ve been feeling about starting my new job, but am yet to find all the right words. I’m getting through by taking lots of deep breaths and reminding myself that almost everything comes good in the fullness of time.

Consider yourself updated. I’d love to hear your news if you’re willing to share below!

Lastly, some of my favourite bloggers have given birth this last week, so I want to say particular congratulations to both Belle du Brighton and Spillerena, and welcome to your new offspring!

Beef Stew and Crunchy Onion Dumplings: Because I Can, That’s Why

Stew 1 Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

Stew 2 Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

Stew 3 Hello Sam Goodbye SamanthaYep, you read that right.

I love stew because I totally adore stodgy food, and because I like feeling more full after having eaten than is probably healthy. Mr H had had one helluva week, and so to de-stress, the weekend before last he asked me for a special food-related favour: stew.

While he was out for a few hours, I seized my chance. I’m all for a bit of experimental food now and again, but this time I wanted the traditional – so straight to Delia it was. I’m not going to reprint the recipe here, because it’s already actually from the Sainsbury’s magazine! Only the best in this household. But you can find Delia’s Beef Stew with Crusted Onion Dumplings recipe here. The only criticism I have, and it’s a poor one at that, is that it’s a very pale stew – it’s not as hearty looking as stews that use tomatoes look. I like mine really dark and rustic, but that is purely visual preference. The flavour was divine.

Some Hot Tips

  • If you don’t have a hob/oven appropriate casserole dish (with a lid), a stainless steel saucepan will do. The glass is tempered, so the lid shouldn’t crack in the oven. Just please make sure the handle is stainless steel too!
  • 4.5 hours is ideal cooking time, but we couldn’t wait, so out it came after 3.5. It was still delicious, and still tender.
  • Cider definitely works in stew. Just sayin’.
  • Dumplings are the best, so dumpling haters get outtathaway.
  • NO TEATOWELS. USE AN OVEN GLOVE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.
  • Portion off your leftovers straight away, and leave to cool, otherwise you will find yourself with no leftovers at all, and feeling ashamed of yourself. So very ashamed.

Sam 4 Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

Gratuitous picture of myself in a pinny. Quite the Domestic Goddess, no?

If you love stew, hit me up in the comments – I’m always on the hunt for a good recipe or two!

Change of Direction, Change of Heart

A NEW DIRECTION - Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

I’ve been feeling guilty.

Sadly this is not a new phenomenon, I feel guilty about something all the time, as a rule. 

If you had asked me a year or two ago what I felt most guilty about, my answer would have included things like: not Skyping my family enough; not responding emails fast enough; that I was spending too much time in my regular day job and not being creative enough. If only I could get my act together, everything would just be…perfect…

The guilts are strong in this one.

Because I can’t work in England until I pick up some paperwork, I’ve been a temporary housewife for a couple of months. It’s been problematic for several reasons, not least because I feel guilty for not contributing financially to my household for a few months more. What it’s been great for is getting me focused on the renovation work we need to do here. I say need, the truth is we already have a wonderful home and I am so unbelievably lucky to live here, but there are some cosmetic elements we want to change to make it more ‘us’. Cue several weeks of tradespeople traipsing through the corridors measuring and delivering upsetting quotes that have commas after the £ sign.

I’ve spent an unmentionable amount of time on eBay, searching various combinations of ‘Victorian front door’ or ‘reclaimed Georgian door’ or even ‘Victorian/Edwardian front door with glass’. For a task that seems so boring straightforward, deciding to replace one’s front door means deciding to offer up weeks of your life to the Gods of Time Wasting, who’s powers seem to miraculously focus on fast-forwarding the clock to 16:30. Another day gone. Another attempt at vanquishing guilty feelings before I can sleep.

On the one hand, I find myself excited by the work and recognise it as part of a recent spell of nesting, which I think is symptomatic of my impending wife-dom. I want our home to be finished, because then it becomes our home, not just the one Mr Hello bought (he’s kinda great like that). I feel like it is valid to be excited about this.

On the other, more insidious hand I feel guilty about spending my life in this way. I’m focussed on my home at the moment, and by default that means I’m not focussed on becoming an amazing teacher or creative businessperson, or writer of great repute. I feel frustrated because I don’t feel like I am achieving at a pace I expect of myself, and then I feel more frustrated because I can’t cut myself some slack. My attendance at local events has dwindled, and I’m not sure who I am if I am not that person who is at every arts event. That’s the core of it. If I’m not a creative ‘face’ around Kent, then who am I? Am I just like the colleagues I used to turn my nose up at, who came to work and then went back to their own lives without engaging in myriad extra curricular exploits? Or does nothing change at all? Am I still Sam, just the Sam who’s priorities have changed?

Our lives change directions so suddenly it seems, so why is it so hard for our expectations to keep up?

Planning 2015: Where is the Time Going?

OPERATION 2015

Behold! An image of no particular greatness, but which nevertheless sums up this stage in my life quite well. You see, this year is turning out to be quite the undertaking, encompassing a new job, house renovations (note the paint sample on the wall) and….what else…oh yeah I’m GETTING MARRIED. Did I mention that before?

I spent last year living with my Dad and away from my partner, but instead of regressing, I was determined to do a spot of growing up in 2014. As a result have totally overhauled the way I live my life. I’m aware that sounds terribly dramatic (I’m a drama teacher…sue me!) but I have changed a couple of fundamental things in my life, which means my life genuinely looks and feels different. I have a lovely home that I am so proud of, and a life that I am determined to make the most of. So I’m tidy now (shocked gasps) and I am genuinely, genuinely organised.

Or beginning to be. I’ve been on about 800 time management courses, and after all of them the one thing I have taken away is that keeping on top of things is a constant project. I’ve decided to make the most of what is left of this year, and begin Operation Smash 2015 In The Guts right now.