20 January 2016

My Ring

January 20th is a very special day for me. It's the date I boarded a plane to Canada, unaware that my future fiancé was sitting not too far away. In only a matter of hours we would speak for the very first time, smiling and joking with each other. Little did I know that one day, this guy I randomly spoke to would ask me to marry him.

You all know Our Anniversary Story, so I figured it would be good to write about something else... my ring.
I decided to ask Jim to put together a little piece on why he chose this ring. I thought it would be interesting to read about it from his point of view. You never really see how intricate the process of engagement ring shopping can be until you start to focus on the possibility of one sitting on your hand forever. I have to applaud the men and women who brave the task of buying an engagement ring for their significant other. It can't be an easy task, especially if you're planing on surprising your partner.
Jim being Jim, he happily obliged and wrote a little piece for you guys:

When Aoife asked me write a little something about the ring, I admit, it was tough to condense all that went into its eventual purchase and use into a couple of short paragraphs… but nevertheless, I have managed it.

From pretty early on, I’d known that Aoife and I were going to spend the rest of our lives together, so the ring had to reflect what I thought we’d end up spending our lives doing: adventure-y, travel-y, experience-y stuff. My research (and I did a fair amount!) led me to look at suitable metals for the ring.
I knew that I’d want to get something durable and difficult to tarnish or scratch. After all, adventures can get rough sometimes and I didn’t want her to have to ever take the ring off.  That ruled out gold and silver, leaving two realistic options of platinum, or palladium. I liked that palladium took scratches well; in fact, I found out that the scratches it takes can improve the look of the ring! It therefore seemed the obvious choice and was one box ticked in ‘Jim’s big ring hunt’.
The diamond was next on the list. I knew that Aoife loved simple, elegant jewellery (something I also liked), so I started looking at simpler cuts of diamond, settling on ‘round brilliant’. I still wanted something of higher clarity, but size was not something that had ever mattered; we could have used a Haribo ring and been happy (temptation to consume it notwithstanding).
Although I had found the perfect ring, there was only one thing I had left to do: ask Aoife’s mum’s permission. I think she knew it was coming and wasn’t about to say ‘no’, but it was still a huge relief when she agreed to the hard task of being my future mother-in-law. With that settled, I raced back to the jeweller’s and bought the ring. For the following 3 months (!) I hid it under my winter clothing… and hoped that Aoife wouldn’t have any reason to borrow that particular scarf in June!
The end result was a ring that was simple, but hard-wearing, and said exactly what I needed it to say on a beach at sunset in Lanzarote.

17 January 2016

Our Christmas Holidays

The Christmas holidays are officially over for us. Jim is back to work and I'm now on the job hunt. We're begrudgingly accepting reality and responsibilities back into our lives. But it's been so wonderful!
This was the first Christmas in a long time where I wasn't working retail. I decided to take a little time off before looking for a new job so myself and Jim could have some decent time together. I'm so glad I did. Retail is extremely demanding, time consuming and utterly exhausting over the holidays. It's not uncommon to work Christmas eve, Boxing Day, New Year's eve and the day after New Years. I knew if I was thrown back into a retail role I would yet again have to say no to things we were invited to and lots of things we wanted to do ourselves.

Our Christmas kicked off with us attending some very snazzy black tie events. The first of which was held in Jim's new school. We got to have drinks in the manor and dined with the boys who boarded there in a different wing of the school (I'll unashamedly admit I pretended I was tottering around Hogwarts).
The second was held in a private club (whose membership fee is more than most people's houses!). This was attended by parents of the pupils and a few of the school staff. It was a charity auction and it was superb! We got to attend because one of the families kindly sponsored us to be there. "Aoife, let me introduce you to our benefactress" has to be one of the poshest things ever spoken to me!
I was a little lost when it came to quite a lot of the etiquette. Greetings were beyond me! Important looking men in dapper tuxedos would swoop in and kiss your cheeks several times, women dripping in elegance would embrace you, kiss your cheek or take you by the forearm and lead you away for a chat. I was completely out of my depth! Thankfully, everyone I met was very kind and used to this sort of thing so they would simply take the lead. I even informally joked back and forth with a man I presumed was a teacher from the school. It turned out he was a Father of one of the boys and I was inwardly shocked at myself for joking the way I had, but it turned out he was just as bad as me and was an utterly hilarious and chilled guy.
I won't even begin to tell you how we struggled with the cutlery! I felt like Leo in that dinner scene in Titanic. Let me tell you, the whole "start outwards and work your way in" does not cover everything!

We now live much closer to London. We're a very quick, cheap train ride away. One of the things we've talked about doing since moving here was visit the Natural History Museum in London.
I particularly wanted to see the National Geographic's Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition (Brilliant! Go see it if you can!) and the amazing dinosaur fossils.
When we arrived there was an ice rink set up outside. Would you have resisted?

We also got to venture into central London to do some shopping. Jim's Christmas gift to me this year was art supplies as I'm trying to get back into oil painting. We visited a few gorgeous art shops but I still haven't managed to fill my budget or find all the right supplies yet.
One of the places we went to was Fortnum and Mason. I put a little thing up on Snapchat about Jim getting a gift from one of the parents that was purchased there and people went nuts over it! I've never even heard of the place but once I visited I was blown away and could totally understand their reaction.
I got sort of a Home Alone 2 vibe from the place. The staff were dressed in red coat tails, everything was sparkling and decorated beautifully. There was even crackers there for £1000!

We got to explore around Eton quite a bit too and go ice skating in Windsor.
I love that this is the kind of place where you can say something like "fancy going to the castle? I need to pick up a few bits and bobs."

We spent Christmas day with Jim's family hosted at my future Sister-in-law's place in London (and was casually informed that David Tennant lived only a few houses away. Yes, I totally creeped the house briefly!).
It was such a lovely day and the food was amazing! Jim's family is very considerate when it comes to my dairy allergy and they made the entire Christmas dinner dairy free. That was a very big thing as I know how much his sister loves potatoes roasted in butter. I greatly appreciated her sacrifice in preparing the spuds with oil instead.

We then got dolled up and whisked away to see a ballet in central London on boxing day with the family. I forgot my phone (never in my life have I ever forgotten my phone!) so I couldn't get any photos. Jim signed into my snapchat on his phone and kindly took some quick shots. One of the only usable ones is us here in the car in Boxing Day traffic in London. We made it on time and got to enjoy a very beautiful gothic retelling of Sleeping Beauty.

Like most people, New Year's eve is a time when we try to figure out what we're going to avoid rather than attend. Crowded clubs and tourist spots are just not our thing. But we still wanted to do something.
We came across an event in Kew Gardens in London (again, only a very short train ride away). It was an illumination walk that they put on around the holidays. It sounded perfect and it was!
They decorated the outside gardens with various lights, fires and even singing bushes (they were my favourite!). They had pits where you could roast marshmallows, served roasted chestnuts and lots of warm apple/mulled/spiced drinks. It was glorious! It was the perfect mix of something different to do but it was chilled with very little crowds. It was just easy and relaxed but still magical.
We got to kiss under the mistletoe, stroll along under the twinkling lights and eat and drink some very festive treats. It was just perfect!

New Year's day was spent in pyjamas eating lots of pie! We found the Windsor Farm Shop early on after moving here and we've become obsessed with the place. It's meat and produce farmed on the castle grounds and the stock is part of the royal herd.
It's amazingly high quality food and the prices are actually very reasonable. Some of which are cheaper than our local chain supermarket.
One of the best things about this place is they display their allergens, and a high number of their pies are made without milk. Jim was especially delighted that their chicken, ham and leek pie was dairy free. It's one of his favourites and he was thrilled to be able to share the experience with me (I would have totally made him get it if it did have milk but he prefers to have food I can have too. So sweet!).
We stocked up on these a few days before and then just gorged on New Year's day. Amazing!

Like I've said already, I'm so glad I took the time out to have a decent Christmas. It was just so wonderful. We made a lot of amazing memories here at our first Christmas in Eton.

Hope everyone had a brilliant holiday too?

Aoife x