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Family visit and a trip to Kedleston Hall

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I can’t believe it’s March already.  Where did January and February go? I’ve only just got over Christmas…

One of the best things about Christmas 2011 was that my folks and sister came down for a few days. It had been several years prior to that since we’d last had a full family Christmas get-together. And, since that was almost a quarter of a year ago, Paula and I decided to visit my parents this past weekend to say “hello” and to wish my dad a happy birthday. It would also give us a chance to catch up with my sister and to meet her Mexican friend who was staying with her for a short time.

After an enjoyable evening meal with my parents on Friday, Paula and I decided to make the most of our annual National Trust membership and took the short (30 minute) drive from my parents home to Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire. Despite being fairly close to where I was born and raised, I’d never been before. In fact, I didn’t really no much about it at all. That, as it transpired, turned out to be a very good thing as I was very impressed with what I saw once I got there.

After a brief wander around the exhibits on the lower floor, we assembled in the main lobby area with other visitors in readiness for our guided tour around the hall. The tour was conducted by a very knowledgeable gentleman by the name of Selwyn and he was assisted by an equally knowledgeable lady by the name of Heather. Seeing the camera slung around my neck Selwyn stated that I should feel free to take as many photos as I liked during the tour and – hanging back from the main crowd – I was able to grab a few half-good photos of the state rooms within Kedleston Hall. In doing this, Heather kindly provided Paula and I with additional information and history about the house, it’s exhibits and the lives of those who lived (and still do live) there.

A selection of my photos can be seen below.

Sunday was very much a relaxed day and saw Paula, my parents and myself all heading over towards Nottingham to meet my sister. An earlier phone call had given us the opportunity to arrange a Sunday meal together before Paula and I made our way home back to South Wales. It was a long wait until we ate (it was very busy at the pub) but it was worth it in the end. The meal eaten and farewells offered, we went our separate ways as the evening drew in. Until the next time…

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Bristol Zoo

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Both Paula and I have been busy with work recently hence we decided to make the most of our weekend together (well, Sunday at least!) We were hoping for good weather so that we could actually get out of the house (as opposed to being inside and sheltering from the elements). And as it turned out, the weather was fabulous; a crisp and fresh spring-like day with blue skies and sunshine.

We had spoken before about visiting Bristol Zoo but never actually got around to making the short journey over the River Severn. But Sunday was the day we’d make it happen and within an hour we had arrived. But… it was absolutely packed full of visitors all looking to make the most of the glorious weather! As a result we were unable to park the car in any of the car parks (they were all full) and ended up parking outside a church some distance away. That was no bad thing, however; it was good to be able to take a walk and we both could do with the exercise! :D

The trip to the zoo was also the first time I’d used my camera for a while. I literally had to blow the dust off it but it was good to be snapping away again. Sadly, as is often the case at places like this, a lot of the animals were behind glass or wire cages and this made photographing them all the more tricky. Add to that the fact that I was well out of practice and it didn’t bode well. Thankfully, a handful of photos came out fairly well and you can see them below.

The images are a bit noisy and a bit out of focus but I’m not too worried. If nothing else it has raised my interest in digital photography once again. I just need to persuade my friend to let me borrow some of his lenses…

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Wedding stationery design

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Last year I was approached by a couple of good friends (who are to be wed later this year) and asked if I’d be interested in designing their wedding stationery. Having been provided with a colour scheme and theme I agreed to give it a go…

The good news is that they liked the designs I created. :D Even better news is that they still like the revised designs as we currently decide on the final versions that will go to print! I don’t think I see a change of career any time soon but it’s been fun all the same.

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It’s good to know that there still exists a little creativeness and artistic ability somewhere deep down. :D

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FF v2 redesign – slow going!

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I have been wanting to update the FullyFuelled.com website (the home pages) for some time now. I envisaged a complete ‘ground-up’ redesign that would necessitate the creation of a new HTML and CSS-based layout (without tables) and a new set of graphics and icons to drape over that underlying framework.

But as anyone who dabbles in website design will know… sometimes these things take longer than expected. And that’s why I hadn’t really made any real focused efforts to redesign and update the FullyFuelled.com site. However, I recently found myself with an evening or two spare and decided to make a start on the new design. The bad news was that the creative juices weren’t really flowing so it took ages until I came across a colour scheme and design I actually liked. For some reason, despite being a performance car site, I was thinking in terms of butterflies and wedding bells. I think that was due to the fact that I’ve recently been designing the wedding stationery for a couple of good friends of mine who are getting wed later this year. :D

Anyways, I eventually got a very basic page or two up and running last night; these using the new design and colour scheme that I am looking to continue forward with. There’s an awful lot to do yet but I think I’m happy with it. It’s certainly better than the placeholder pages I had before.

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Please feel free to head over there and take a look. What do you think? Hopefully I’ll get another evening or two free soon so that I can continue to develop it further. I have a lot of ideas and a whole bunch of ‘stuff’ that I want to try out…

Lounge - New Sofa

Home Sweet Home

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As I write this I’ve been in my current place for just over a year and Paula moved in a few months ago, too. It was at that point when things started to get a little more ‘homely’ as I’d been living the minimalistic lifestyle until that point. It’s quite funny looking back now… but that’s what you get when your new place is unfurnished and you have no furniture (and your car spectacularly breaks down and soaks up all your money!)

Here’s the house – in sunny South Wales. Sometimes. When it’s not raining.

Home - Moving in...

I have to admit that I am quite a lucky guy as it’s a real nice house in an equally nice area and it immediately felt like ‘home’ during a prior viewing.

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It has the garage, 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms (including en-suite), a good sized kitchen, utility room and separate living and dining areas. It also has a decent sized garden. Ok, so it’s a bit excessive considering I was living alone to start with but the deal was too good and I liked the house too much!

As mentioned above, my style was minimalistic to start with (as you can see with the lone chair in front of the TV in the lounge!)

First Day - Kitchen Kitchen - Taking shape...

But it’s amazing how different things look when you’ve bought a few bits and pieces. Take the kitchen, for example. After a quick trip to a local retail park I had soon taken delivery of a few appliances.

Within a few weeks of moving in I woke up one morning to this. Snow. At least it wasn’t raining! :D

First Christmas

Shortly after Christmas I decided that I really needed to sort out the living room as I couldn’t keep sitting in my office chair each day. So, naturally, I decided to buy a huge bean bag. This came to be known as Goliath and Paula and I actually used it for some months thereafter. It was quite comfortable (or so I thought). But it wasn’t just the lounge that was lacking in furnishings; I was sleeping on an inflatable bed (a single bed, then later a double bed) so this would have to be rectified at some point. Eventually. :oops:

It was July when Paula and I actually went out and bought a new sofa (to go with the small table, rug and pot plant). It certainly improved the look of the room and meant we actually had somewhere to sit. Goliath was taken upstairs to his new home, the chill out / games room (which is still work-in-progress!) The lounge was transformed into something like this:

Lounge - New Sofa

Much better, don’t you think? And within a month or so of buying the sofa, Paula had started to bring over some of her furniture and possessions in readiness for moving in with me. This actually worked out well as the tenancy agreement was just about to expire at her place. Making the journey over to Wales was her bed so we were finally able to furnish the guest room (whilst we still used the inflatable bed) :oops: The guest room was now available for, well, guests!

Guest Room

And so eventually arrived and it was time to consider losing the inflatable bed and to upgrade to a proper bed. Luckily I had just the bed in mind… and the good news was that Paula also liked it. The only problem was the price (hence the reason why we hadn’t bought it earlier). But thanks to the good old January sales, the bed went on sale with 60% off so we decided to go for it. Within a handful of days the new bed (and eventually the mattress) had arrived and the master bedroom was transformed:

Master Bedroom

Next on the agenda is the office / study and the chill out room…

Wilton House Supercar Day 2011

Wilton House Supercar Day 2011

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Yes, yes – I know I’m still stuck in 2011 but my time machine is broken so you’ll just have to wait until it’s fixed…

To be honest I couldn’t help myself. I simply had to post up a little report about the Supercar day that Paula and I went to last August. So many beautiful cars to look at and listen to; I was in petrol-fuelled Heaven. :D The day was made all the more enjoyable due to the fact that we were joined by some good friends (and FullyFuelled.com Club members) of ours.

Whether you were an Aston Martin admirer, a Ferrari fetishist, a Porsche-aphile or a Lamborghini lover, there was something for everyone. With the blazing sunshine and blue skies it was very much a day for sunglasses and sunscreen (the sunglasses mainly to cut out the glare from the polished cars on display!)

With a couple of Bugatti Veyrons (not to mention the brand new Lamborghini Aventador, Aston One-77 and McClaren MP4-12C) there was some serious metal [and money] on show. However, my favourite car of the show – and still the car I’d buy tomorrow if I won the lottery – was/is the Ferrari F458 Italia. A bargain at £170,000. Isn’t it beautiful?

Wilton House Supercar Day 2011

As soon as the details for the 2012 show are released I’ll be applying for tickets so that I can once again get up close and personal with some of the world’s most exotic cars.

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FullyFuelled.com

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It’s true, I do indeed have a passion for performance cars of one sort or another. Whether it’s a hot-hatch, super-saloon or hypercar, it’s probably going to get my interest to some degree. And because of that, I decided that I would start a new Car Club whereby friends and performance car enthusiasts could gather together and do all those things that petrol heads like to do. Drives, track days, social gatherings and attending car shows… we’ve got them covered.

FullyFuelled.com came into being circa last May and started life primarily as a group of friends with a common interest. Due to lack of time I haven’t yet promoted or pushed the Club as I intended to so it’s kind of ‘simmering’ away at the moment with the odd new member joining now and again. The good news is that we are very active and there are several events planned for the coming year.

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If you fancy joining a friendly car club for the drives, meets or simply good old-fashioned chat (via the online forums) then please do sign up. Likewise, if you have friends who may also be interested then please do let them know about FullyFuelled.com. :D

Hungary - September 2011

Looking back – Budapest 2011

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Last September I took a trip over to Budapest, Hungary, to visit family. It was my first time back in Hungary for many years and I travelled over with my sister. My dad was already in Budapest staying with his sister and the plan was to meet up with them once we had arrived.

As the flat where my aunt lives is quite small (especially considering the fact that my elderly grandma is living there and my dad was staying there, too) Nicola and I were staying in the Hotel Charles. This was pre-arranged on our behalf before we got there and the location of the hotel was ideal. It was only a relatively short walk to the centre of Budapest and a short journey to my aunt’s flat. Talking of walking… we walked miles. Miles and miles. If nothing else we certainly kept ourselves fit during our time in Budapest!

During our walks we visited many places including the Houses of Parliament, the Fisherman’s Bastion, Margaret Island and many other historical and picturesque places – as can be seen in the photos above.

Morocco - August 2011

Looking back – Morocco 2011

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August is a good time of year. It’s usually quite warm and it’s also the month in which I was born. Interestingly enough it’s also the month in which Paula was born. :D And August 2011 was that little bit more special than usual thanks to a fantastic birthday treat courtesy of that very lady! A trip to Morocco…

We stayed in a Riad in Marrakech and we were fairly centrally located. We were only a matter of minutes away from the medina and the souks for which Marrakech is well known. In addition, the holy Koutubia Mosque was only minutes away, too and throughout the day we would hear the call to prayer.

Here’s a selection of photos from the holiday:

Our time in Marrakech fell during the Islamic month of fasting, more commonly known as Ramadan. During Ramadan, Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex during the hours of daylight. The intention is to teach Muslims about patience, spirituality, humility and submissiveness to God (Allah). It must have been tough due to the extremely high temperatures throughout the day.

To escape the heat of the city we spent some time exploring in the Atlas Mountains with our tour guide. This time was spent crossing rivers and trekking along some fairly precarious ravines. The final stage also involved the climbing of a rock face over which a waterfall fell from some 100 feet high. It was spectacular if somewhat perilous! :lol: I only wish I’d had my camera with me to capture it.

Lytes Cary - 17-Jul-2011

Looking back – Part 4

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There are not many more instalments to go in this looking back series so please do stick with it. :lol:

It was a sunny day in July when we drove the very short distance from home to the local town of Caerphilly. Despite being famous for it’s cheese, the Big Cheese (an annual festival) and being the birthplace of Tommy Cooper, we were visiting for entirely different reasons. We were interested in visiting the Castle, which is the largest in Wales and the second largest in Britain.

I have to admit that I know Caerphilly quite well having lived there for three years or so (in fact, I was there earlier today to get my haircut, to wander around the shops and to enjoy a quick chip butty before driving home… ) However, I also have to admit that I’d never been in the castle during my time there hence the reason we decided to do just that last July.

It’s quite an impressive castle, don’t you think? It’s quite a sight as it stands and dominates the centre of the town!

Moving quickly on (and jumping a week forward in July) a trip was made to Lytes Cary in Somerset. The plan was to check out the Manor House, the Chapel, the gardens and – of course – the cream teas. Sadly the cream teas weren’t all that good here but we did enjoy an hour or two walking around the gardens surrounding areas. And Paula enjoyed her swings yet again…

Thanks for looking. :D

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