Garrion Bridges

There are two major interests in the Brown household – collecting old things (me) and gardening (Lee). Imagine if there was some sort of magical place, not far from Brownton, that catered to both of our interests… Well, there is!

Not long after we moved to the area, a quick bit of research on Jeff Google unearthed Garrion Bridges, a garden and antiques centre about 10 miles away from home. (Their website is terrible, but click to see where it is, if nothing else.) Based in what I’m told is an old Fyffes banana packing facility, it’s a good afternoon out. Yes, I know how old that makes me sound, but I genuinely love it!

Aside from the gardening bit, which is small but well-stocked with gardening essentials, there’s a large range of giftware, an old-fashioned sweetie shop, a Yankee candle concession, a wool shop, and a pet shop which sells all sorts of dried-out offal that Max adores.

There’s also a large cafe, which I haven’t sampled yet myself, but looks to be fairly decent, with a wide range of cake (and let’s face it, that’s what you were waiting for).

The best bit though, for me, are the antiques halls – one large and one smaller one. You can do a nice big S-shaped route through the two and take in all manner of delights. Here’s a few snaps from my recent visits:

 

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Ahhh, the trunks! I wish I had room/funds to snap all of these up. I’m a sucker for a trunk, I have a big old one that we used to use as a laundry basket, which sits at the foot of our bed. Lee had to be restrained from buying the gong.

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Well, I do need a desk… (I didn’t, though).

 

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I was really taken with that Nellie brooch! If only I knew a Nellie. Those owls are part of a whole shelf of owls at one of the stands. There are dozens of different independent traders with booths and you pay the centre and they divvy it all up. Good idea.

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I do like the idea that in the olden days, there was a necessity to label your baby with a silver pin.

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More trunks! Umm, that big earthenware flagon might now be in my dining room… There’s a lot of collectables as well as antiques  - the football shirt stand was just opening up last week when I was there.

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And yes, I did try that top hat on. It fitted a treat.

The only problem I find with Garrion Bridges is that I don’t have enough room or money to buy everything I like! But I have picked up some great gifts there, and some cool stuff for the house, and my American cousins loved it, too. Hoorah!

If you’re in the area, do check it out. There’s a whole bunch of other garden centres and a nice farm shop just along the road in Rosebank, too, which also has a weekly car boot sale and monthly farmer’s market.

Grand Troyes Hotel And Other Exotic Locations

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Coincidentally, after recently seeing Grand Budapest Hotel on my annual trip to the cinema, I rediscovered this small collection of vintage luggage labels I’ve amassed. I’m not sure what I had planned on doing with them – they were just too pretty to leave behind!

I’m selling them now as they deserve to be put to use, or at least admired by other people, out of the drawer in my studio. They mostly look to be gummed paper, I’ve shown the backs of them, too. The wear is minimal on them and they all come in individual pouches.

They are priced at £3 each including UK first class postage and you can pay by PayPal – just drop me a line at hello@thebellwether.co.uk to request the ones you like!

1. Le Puy

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2. Hotel Persborg

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3. Hotel Prinsen

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4. Central Hotel

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5. Hotel Bristol

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6. Caledonian Hotel

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7. Hotel Bellevue

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8. Hotel Da Baleeira

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9. Grand Hotel

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10. Hotel D’Italie

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Guilty Pleasure: AM

courtesy of Arctic Monkeys website

courtesy of Arctic Monkeys website

 

My guilty pleasure of recent months is this album, AM by the Arctic Monkeys. I’ve always had a bit of a thing for bands that sing in their own accents. I’m not sure why, maybe it just sounds/feels more authentic. I don’t know. But I bought this album not long after it came out on a whim, one late night or early morning on the way home from work. I stuck it in the CD player and then…never took it out for about 5 months. I’m not even joking.

Occasionally, I would take it out and put in another CD in from my vast collection. I’d get a couple of songs through something else and then think, no, I just have to list to AM again. And so, one-handed down the M8, I’d fish it out the side pocket of my car, and on it would go again.

What is it about this album that made me love it so much? Perhaps it’s the fact that I was working mostly really early or late shifts, leaving in darkness, coming home in darkness, always driving around in the murkiness and listening to this very after-dark sounding record. The whole vibe from start to finish is “late night after a night out” (apart from one or two mediocre numbers in the middle (Mad Sounds, track number 7, is always quickly skipped past. It has no place on this majestic beast of an album). That might be the Josh Homme influence. It is very QOTSA-y in places.

Or maybe it’s because it just has a slightly more grown-up sound to it from the previous albums. I remember the first time I heard Arctic Monkeys – it must have been about 9 years ago now. I was in the bathroom in our flat in Maryhill and I Bet  That You Look Good On The Dance Floor came on the radio and it just sounded great and attention-grabbing. It is a silly song, but it was instantly a hit with me. I kind of drifted away from them in recent years, but this brought me back in and I couldn’t let go of it.

I am not sure why I feel such a deep sense of burning shame about this, but for some reason, I do. I’ve listened to this album so much that it’s come from one car to the other, across the new year boundary and is so worn out, it’s starting to skip a bit (on track 4, Arabella, which incidentally, is the latest single from the album. I didn’t like this song so much when I first heard it, but now think that the last verse, the one where it all speeds up a bit, is magical).

You’ll be pleased to hear though, that I’ve now managed to prise it out of my stereo in favour of the new Mark Morriss album, A Flash Of Darkness. It’s basically another Bluetones album and that can only ever be a good thing. Oh, and late to the party, I bought the Haim album the other day (Lee says they sound like Milli Vanilli doing the hits of Madonna).

If only I’d bought a car with a CD changer.

Day In The Life 10th March 2014

I meant to do a proper DITL post for this day, but then haven’t had time and have now probably forgotten half of it. But, luckily, I did take photos to jog my memory.

I woke up when Lee went to work and Max came to join me in bed. We had a short snooze further and then I got up, showered and dressed. I then took photos of the prize for the massive Super Cute Kawaii giveaway that is running at the moment – you should totally enter!

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Whilst I was doing that, the postman arrived, so I shut the dog indoors and had a chat with him. He didn’t bring anything exciting though, despite it being my birthday the next day. The perils of being old.

After that, I took some photos for my Not On The High Street store whilst it was not raining and I had the camera out. I also took this photo to add to my own webshop, I didn’t think it would be all that popular, but 2 people have asked for one on Instagram already, so I may as well add it.

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Whoever would say no? Idiots, that’s who. Whilst I am taking the photos, I remember that Lee made chocolate brownies, so I have a bit for breakfast. I’m an adult, I can do what I want. Then a man arrives at the house asking me if he can put some stickers on next door’s propane gas tank. He doesn’t seem able to fathom that I have no authority over such matters. I eventually tell him to have at it.

By this point, the dog is doing my nut in, so I take him up to the local forestry commission place for a walk. It’s approximately a 2 minute drive away, but we can’t walk there without being killed.

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It’s the first day this year I have been able to go out without a coat on. It’s glorious. Max enjoys gambolling around in the sunshine. We trek round for a couple of miles, before heading back to the car, and home.

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Amazing. No rain! Then I had to drive all the way to Helensburgh, which is very far away from my house now. About 50 miles, in fact. It takes about an hour and 45 minutes. But first, I met Marceline in Partick and then we went to Ikea so she could pick up some new things for her new pad. Of course, we had to have cake first.

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A cake break also, of course, means an Instagram opportunity! After we refuelled and shopped, we drove to Helensburgh and on the way there, were discussing a mutual acquaintance of ours who also recently moved there. As soon as we got out of the car outside Marceline’s new flat, said acquaintance walked past – uncanny! So we had a quick chat, and then lugged everything upstairs and marvelled again at how ace the flat is.

After unpacking things, we had a stroll around H-burgh to take in the sights as it wasn’t raining. Behold, the delightfully old-skool postbox:

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Love it. I wonder what happens if you put things in the wrong slots? Also discovered this ghost sign, just around the corner:

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No visit to H-burgh is complete without an ice-cream from Dino’s Radio Cafe. The best ice-cream in the West!

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Delicious, if a little unseasonal (and blurry)! A quick pitstop at the most picturesque supermarket car park ever (Waitrose in H-burgh is awesome)…

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and then I dropped Marceline off at home in Bridgeton and went home.

Once I got there, Lee and I decided to go for Chinese food at our favourite place – which is another 40 mile or so round-trip. I made him drive, but I drove home. The food is delish and worth the journey!

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God, it was good. Then home, some puppy time and then bed. Zzzzzz. I’d love to reignite Day In The Life blogging. Want to join me? First person to comment that they do gets to pick the next date!

Cake Or Death?

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Totally forgot about these. I made a bunch for Renegade last year and then forgot to add them to the shop. I say, forgot, I mean, didn’t have bleeding time for anything. Gah. Anyway, they’re there now. Regardez,

Do you like my Alsatian? He’s an old Cadbury’s chocolate box. He’s the height of kitsch. It’s pink and gold. I know.

And something else in the works – an Orange Is The New Black inspired get well card:

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I can’t wait for the second series.

 

Feedem Pet Supplies

Recently, I was contacted to see if Max would like to review some products from Feedem, an online pet supermarket. I consulted with him and he duly agreed, he’s a sucker for a freebie. I took a slightly more scientific approach, checked out the site, and agreed to help him out with it.

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We were given £35 and a choice of two aisles to browse – the dog beds and the Kong toys.

Firstly, let me say that the choice of dog bedding is wide and varied. It was difficult to choose what to purchase but I did find that the filters on the website helped me narrow it down a bit. Obviously, I needed a big bed, what with Max being part T-Rex, so being able to filter by size was pretty useful. There are also filters for price, waterproof, softness, etc which are handy if you know roughly what style you want but are open to suggestions, like I was.

I knew that I needed something flat and big – Max likes to stretch out – but I also wanted something that wasn’t brightly coloured or cheesy – nothing with paw prints all over it.

tartan bedAnd here’s what we chose – a nice big tartan cushion-style bed. It fits in very well with our hunting lodge chic decor and is plenty big for Max to lounge on – ours is actually more of a Stewart red tartan. Here’s Max modelling on it by the fire:

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As you can see, he was a little unsure of it to begin with, as it’s a bit puffy and it being synthetic, he slid off it a bit! But now it has settled down, he’s pretty happy to lounge on there with a bone, giving us a little bit more of a chance of being able to sit on more than a few millimetres of the sofa. It also gives us somewhere to send him to if he needs a time-out, or to get out from under our feet.

The downside to this bed is that I am not so sure it will be fully washable – the description on the site says it is, but I imagine it will lose its shape when it’s washed. I’d prefer it to have a removable cover like Max’s other bed, as they can get rather muddy if you have a country-dwelling dog like me!

However, having said that, at just £15.99 at the moment, you won’t find much better value for the size and apparent comfort. Definitely a winner on those fronts. A good size for fitting in the boot of my car, too, for when we have to road trip.

On the Kong toy front, we opted for the large Kong Wubba toy, which Max has had one of before. These toys are excellent quality and are very durable, which is just as well, at the jaws of a large Labrador!

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The big bit squeaks, but takes a fair bit of pressure to do so, so isn’t constantly squeaking like some of the cheaper toys that do my head in! Sometimes, I buy Max a toy and instantly regret it as the noise is too much! But this one he will actually chew and chase without it squeaking, which to me, is a great reason to invest in one! It took Max several months to detach all the tentacles from his previous Kong Wubba (a gift from auntie Sarah & Pumpkin), which is a pretty good return on investment. They come in various sizes and colours, too, so don’t worry if you think your dog would never fit that in his chops! Kong do a wide range of toys including special water resistant ones for swimming with – not something we’ve had success with with Maxie, but little Pumpkin has one and loves to swim out for it.

All in all, I was really pleased with the service from Feedem. I made a mistake on my address, and had to contact customer services, who were quick and clear in their response and my order showed up very quickly by UPS. I especially liked that the bed hadn’t been rolled up or vacuum packed, meaning it didn’t lose any of its shape – the box it came in was massive!

Feedem have a wide range of stuff not just for dogs, but for cats and other domestic pets, so I am pretty sure I’ll be back to use their services again soon. In fact, I’m just eyeing up their special offers section now and thinking now might be a good time to stock up on treats for the garden birds. We are quite literally overrun with tits right now. Arf arf.

For reading all the way to the end, here’s a bonus picture of a cute, sleepy Max. You’re welcome.

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PS – the one thing I don’t get is the name – Feedem. Is it like Feed ‘em? It sounds a bit feminine hygiene, non?

Yes, Sherlock, this is a sponsored post. I was supplied two items free of charge by Feedem to review but these opinions are all mine (and Max’s). Damn straight.

Lent

I’ve given up Coke for Lent. The liquid kind in the red can, not the powdered stuff. I’ve also given up swearing. 50p a swear, going in a jar to save for my holidays. So far, 4 days in, I have £17.50. Work is very stressful.

Jonathan Adler x Toms

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I love Jonathan Adler. Stitchy pal Emily Peacock first introduced me to his work several years ago, and since then, I have been lucky enough to visit the Chicago branch of his stores and also pick up a few wee things. It’s all so bright and happy (and a bit expensive, sadly!).

An email about his latest collaboration with Toms pinged into my inbox yesterday and I am SO in love with these shoes! I am a sucker for a chevron, of course, but these are just so bright and springy and joyful.

If anyone needs any ideas for a birthday gift, ahem, I’ll take a size UK 9, as Toms run a bit small. Thank you, please.

Things I Got For Christmas Vol 3

This Lovely Pigeon necklace. I love both the minty formica and copper contrast, and Kirsty what made it. She’s a clever sausage, that one. And also SO bloody nice. She has an amazing house and always a kind word and a hello and a smile and a hug when I see her, all too infrequently, at shows. Look, she has a SWING in her house!

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A green dash pot from Onwards Ceramics.

 

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Onwards is the ceramics branch of Jen Collins artwork. Jen is lovely. I think I have only met her a couple of times, much like Kirsty, but when I have, I’ve always felt like I’ve known her for ages, she’s very friendly and smiley. I hope it’s not creepily stalkerish of me to say that Jen is the epitome of young artist to me – beautiful, thoughtful, generous. Do I sound a bit Yew Tree? I hope not. She’s just exceptionally talented and I feel the need to tell you that.

 

This tiny skulls ring from Datter Industries.

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Is it a coincidence that I am drawn to items made by ladies who rock? I am not into that hardcore feminist shit, but there is maybe something in that. I bought myself a ring from Datter at Renegade last year to celebrate my good fortune and doubled my collection at Christmas scoring this beauty. Kay was very patient and made the piece I selected bigger to fit my big fat sausage fingers at Renegade. Lee was somehow prescient enough to get the biggest size of this one which fits perfectly. I don’t wear it enough – I only ever go to work, let’s face it, and as I am newly allergic to the soap there, it makes my hands itch and swell. I must endeavour to go more places so I can wear this.

I’m very lucky. My husband bought these things for me. Clever husband.

 

My Funny Valentine

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Running an indie business isn’t at all what you’d think. It’s not all long lunches browsing through the Toast catalogue and eating homemade kale chips. In fact, in my case, it’s not any of that at all (kale chips sound like my idea of hell). It’s a rollercoaster, of both fortune and emotions, and one that, as I’ve written about before, I think no one really ever tells the truth about.

Claire Brown, myth-buster – that’s me. I think I have moved on sufficiently from the jarring shock of my rebranding over a year ago now to tell  you candidly that it was simultaneously one of the best and one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made.  Without a doubt, it had to happen, as I’d outgrown the old name so long ago and it grated on me so much that I felt embarrassed to mumble it out. It was forever mispronounced, mis-spelt, mis-appropriated. It was such a massive fucking relief to be rid of it.

But on the flipside – I had spent 8 years building that name up. It was well-known and I would like to think well-respected. It also had a whole heap of good Google karma, and I was pretty much top of the search engine pops for a lot of things. Every week, tens of thousands of people would swing by my website, leave a blog comment, buy a few things, sign up to my newsletter and generally make everything go with a swing. Cometh the hour of my rebrand, the switch was flicked and…that all stopped. I was in the dark and back to square one. It was like 2005 all over again. No one was coming, no one knew I was there apart from the people I directly told. It was bleak.

It’s improved a bit over the year, but I am basically starting over. All that goodwill and karma that went with my old name is gone. I’ve fallen off the face of the earth and I have to remind people that I’m here. It’s a depressingly necessary evil. I had so much built up and it went in an instant. And then of course the great homelessness debacle of 2013 happened and I just couldn’t do it. And now here I am in 2014, finally thinking I might be physically and mentally able to try and stake my claim to my patch of the internet once more.

What’s this got to do with Valentine’s Day, I hear you ask. Well, it’s a funny old thing. Last year, it was just before the rebranding. I did fairly well on my own website at Valentine’s Day. Not amazing-pay-off-the-mortgage well, but pretty good. I supplemented that with a fair showing on my Not On The High Street shop and was pleased.

This year though – I sold a grand total of 14 Valentine’s cards via my own website. Yes, that’s 14. I don’t really set myself targets as such, but if I did, it would have at least a 0 on the end of that figure. 14. FOURTEEN. I could weep. However – over on NOTHS – mental busy. I was making 2 or 3 trips to the postbox a day, and pretty much sold out of the print run I got done at the start of February. What’s the difference? Traffic. Of course it is. I wasn’t in any brochures, none of the newsletters, TV ads – none of that. I don’t think I had any press for it either, but I do know that people went mad for my Fat Kid card over there.

The moral of the story is that building it is not enough to make the people come any more. It probably was 9 years ago when I started out. But it’s not anymore. It’s been a hard way to realise that but I finally feel able to lay my experience bare for others to learn from. Deep down, I already knew that, but hoped my goodwill and good standing in the virtual indie community would see me through my rough patch. It didn’t. It was like watching a hippo stagediving – the waves of people parted and I fell on the ground hard.

It’s a long road to rebuild what I had. It’s not like the Jehovah’s Witnesses – you can’t put out a call to your pals and they come and build you a Kingdom Hall over a weekend. More’s the pity. It’s going to take a very long time to regain what I had. Best stop griping and get on with it then, eh?

Snow Days

I bloody love the snow. If you know me in real life, you’ll know that as soon as the forecast has the merest hint of snow in it, I go into Snow Watch mode – standing staring at the sky, willing it to start snowing. I am unashamedly child-like when it comes to the white stuff. I will even go to bed and sleep with the blinds up so I can keep an eye on things overnight. Waking up to a blanket of snow is truly wondrous, no matter what age you are.

We’ve had a snowy few days at home. Ever since we moved to this area, people have said, “Oh, Shotts? Yes, you’ll get loads of snow up there…”. I hadn’t been aware of it before, but we’re pretty high up and the road to our house is fairly exposed, across some moorland where even the sheep look cold. Yesterday, Lee posted this picture of our garden to Facebook…

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Dreamy! Unfortunately, I was at work so I was pretty dismayed not to be at home frolicking in it! He then posted this one, later on:

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Ahhh, so picturesque! I drove home after midnight and was a bit disappointed to note that the roads were all clear – until I got to the road across the moorland and I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face and had to drive at 20mph the whole way. Max was waiting for me when I got home so we could have a bit of a snowball fight in the garden before bedtime – he LOVES the snow, even more than me, maybe!

This morning, it’s turned to slush and it’s all disappearing again, but we have more snow forecast. So I will be on Snow Watch again, waiting for the sky to turn grey and the light to do that magic thing it does and the first flakes to start drifting down.

Here’s a video from out the front of our house the other day, where the snowflakes were the size of Pringles. Swoon.

Craftydermy

Now, here’s a thing – I don’t think I actually blogged about this previously. It happened in the midst of house shit and I forgot, most like. But behold – Craftydermy:

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I was invited to contribute a project to the book and wanted to do something small and quick – so often with these books, I flick through and get put off by the amount of time the projects take, so whenever I am lucky enough to be asked to contribute, I always pick something small and fast to make!

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I had to nick this photo from the lovely Laura from Bugs & Fishes blog because I am lame -but she has written a nice review of the book which you should read (thanks, Laura!).

Slightly annoyed that they spelled my name incorrectly inside! But I was pleased that they included my wee deer, none the less!

I should probably put together some sort of page with all my stuff like this on – a creative CV! Fancy that.

Tidy

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We had a house inspection the other day, so the house was tidy and clean for a few hours. Max was packed off to my dad’s for the night to give the illusion of calm. It was quite strange having a sofa without a big dog sprawled on it and no dog-hair dust bunnies roaming the floors. Doesn’t it look tranquil?

We got that stag’s head just before Christmas from M&S. It’s a cardboard pop up one and I think it looks pretty at home up there above the fire. We’ve also put up a bunch of artwork we’ve been meaning to for a while, including the Hatch Show Print one to the left of the fire which you can’t quite make out. It makes everything feel a bit more homely.

We finally completed the last bit of admin which sees us free from the housing debacle of 2013, so a weight has been lifted, finally and fully off our shoulders. We did what any sane person would do to celebrate – booked a holiday on the proceeds. Cincinnati here we come!