Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Travels to Italy

The final part of my birthday celebrations took place this weekend - we went on a four day trip to Bologna with friends.  I didn't know too much about the area before we left, other than the fact that their ragu sauce is famous (although the bolognese people will never eat it with spaghetti, that's for the southern Italians, in Bologna it is always served with tagliatelle).  

I can tell you that you will never go hungry in Bologna.  I had the best lasagne that I have ever tasted there and will be completely re thinking how I make it at home, less meat, more pasta and double the cheese!  The local wine is Sangiovese so a litre of house wine costs about 8 euros and is absolutely superb.  The Italians do simple food, but oh so deliciously.  One lunchtime, not feeling particularly hungry, we decided to share a meat and cheese platter that should have been for 2 between the 4 of us, with a small bruschetta to go with it.  This is what turned up

After a long day walking around town on Saturday, we stopped at about 6pm for a small prosecco to revive us for the walk back to the hotel.  We did not order food, but with our drinks came a 'small' complimentary plate of appetisers, a bowl of crisps, olives and nuts.

But it wasn't all eating and drinking (honest) we also did a lot of sightseeing.  We got a taxi up to the sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca.  It is high up and has one of the longest covered porticos in the world leading from the town to the church.  We had been advised to drive up and then walk back, not the other way round which was good advice as the walk back into town is a steep two and a half miles!

Something a little different - we also went to the Teatro Anatomico where corpses were first dissected for scientific study

A couple of little gruesome wooden carvings of skinless figurines are beside the chair where a priest would keep an eye on the proceedings to ensure nothing became 'spiritually compromised'.  Hard to believe that this was the first place where they realised that you could learn so much about the human body that way.

On a much lighter note - no wonder the Italians have a reputation for being stylish, there is no lack of high quality clothes, Gucci, Prada, Fendi, Armani ... my husband seemed keen to rush me through that shopping area!

We had a fab weekend, it's just hard to get back into work mode now!

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Neglected blogging

I don't know if it's because I've jotting down what I'm doing every day in a draft blog post to post at the end of the month or some other such excuse but I haven't done a normal blog post in a while.  Now I've started this one, I'm struggling for what subject to write about, if I were Coco, this would be me, staring out the window hoping that inspiration will come and find me...

Last week of the Easter school holidays here and I'm trying to get organised for our weekend away.  This happens every time I go away.  I have plenty of time to get organised and then leave everything until the last minute.  The weather forecast out there is a bit mixed so I'm in a clothing dilemma especially as we are going 'hand luggage only' so I've got to organise what fashion magazines call 'a capsule wardrobe'.  Or put some of my clothes in my husband's bag ... 😉

My current problem is finding a pair of shoes I can wear in the evening, that are smart enough to look good with a dress, yet low heeled and comfortable enough in case we have to walk a fair distance from our hotel to a restaurant on what may be cobbled streets (a few of my smart shoes are only comfortable enough to walk from car park to restaurant!) and can't be made of fabric or suede in case it's raining.  These shoes do not exist in my wardrobe, compromises will have to be made ... {or some last minute shopping}

I'm having my final birthday treat today - the people I work with bought me a voucher for a local restaurant which has a lovely Sunday lunch menu.  I am so looking forward to not cooking today!  This restaurant used to run cookery classes and I used to go there once a month to watch the chef make three or four dishes on a certain theme, then sample them, along with suggested wines.  I would come home on a Thursday night, slightly merry, full of good food and recipes to try out at home.  So I know the food will be great quality and such a treat to not be the one in the kitchen cooking.

Our son flew out to Copenhagen on Friday to visit a friend he met at uni and he's flying back into Stansted later tonight so we have him staying over.  His flight gets in at 11.35 pm - do you think he'll be able to come in at midnight quietly and not wake us up?  No, neither do I! There'll be the slam of a taxi door, a fumble to get the key in the lock, the front door will open and close noisily, Coco will be in guard dog mode and will run up and down stairs to let us know someone's come in and we'll all be wide awake.  Maybe I'd better have a post-lunch Sunday afternoon nap 😴

Have a good Sunday!

Monday, 2 April 2018

A sentence a day for March

It was a big month over here this month.  There was a BIG birthday.  In fact half way through the month I tipped over from one decade to the next!  But let's not dwell on  that, let's get cracking with the fab idea over on Leslie's blog to make a note of a sentence a day. (I think I'm early for the link up!)


Day 1: No matter how cold it is, how icy the paths are or how low the temperatures are, Coco the wonder-dog likes to check that everything is ok in the park behind where we live.

Day 2: Had a meeting with my line manager to discuss the date that I will be leaving - it's all getting real now!

Day 3: We have the family coming over tomorrow to celebrate our son's 28th birthday so I was busy baking cakes - the traditional 'Cadbury finger biscuits round the outside with your favourite sweets on top' that everyone has to have, and a special egg and dairy free one so our grandson can join in the celebrations (not sure he will eat a whole cake to himself though!)

Day 4:  We went on a long dog walk before all the family arrived for Jon's birthday celebrations - either the ducks have learnt to walk on water, or the lake is still very frozen.

Day 5: Twenty eight years ago, we dropped my daughter at my mum's and my husband drove me to the hospital where I was booked in for a planned C Section for the birth of our second child; Jonathan arrived that afternoon and there hasn't been a dull moment since!  (How can my youngest possibly be 28?!!!)

Day 6: At work today I was working on the school's Award Evening which will take place after I leave - it seems so weird (and a little sad) to start a big project knowing that I won't be in the office to see it through to fruition.

Day 7: It's my day for having Leo all day so we headed off to a playgroup to while away an hour or so this morning - with the nice added benefit of wearing him out to help with a well needed after lunch nap - however when we got back home I discovered that he had craftily sneaked a toy out with him and hidden it in his pocket, are we helping to raise a kleptomaniac?

Day 8: A full on day at work followed by an hour of Fitsteps meant it was early to bed and a sound night's sleep.

Day 9: Finding it hard to travel light for my Mother's Day/Birthday treat of a spa break on Sunday with my daughter, it's only an overnight stay and we'll be spending most of our time wrapped in a fluffy bathrobe so why is my list of things to pack getting so long?

Day 10: We are looking after a neighbour's cat while they are on holiday this week which makes me nervous as the cat is about 17 I think and not looking as well as she did last time we had care of her; looking after other people's pets is quite stressful.

Day 11:  Trip to Lifehouse Spa with Rachel where I had my first hot stone massage - I don't think I've ever felt so relaxed.

Day 12:  After a blissful night's sleep, I was treated to a luxury manicure before I was reluctantly taken home.

Day 13: My last day of being in my 50s - I am surely too young to be this old!

Day 14: The balloon says it all ...

Day 15: A poorly Leo came to visit in the afternoon, he's caught a virus and he'd been miserable all day - his mum thought a trip to Nanny's might cheer him up, I think it worked!

Day 16: My friend Sally, who has recently joined the Grandmother club (Glam-mothers?) visited with her daughter and her baby in the afternoon and we introduced her to Leo who is clearly destined to be perfect husband material.

Day 17: My son and daughter in law came for the weekend and combined their trip with some house viewings in Saffron Walden which is about half an hour away - am trying hard to contain my excitement at the prospect of them moving out of London and back to a more local place.

Day 18: We took 17 members of family out for lunch to celebrate us both having our 60th birthdays - Rachel had made a fabulous cake {good job I took a photo of it before everyone came back to ours after the meal as it didn't last long once we finished singing 'happy birthday'}

Day 19: In an effort to revamp my wardrobe I've bought some chunky soled trainers - I was wondering if they suited me when my daughter arrived and her first reaction was 'Mum, I love those shoes' so it looks like they're keepers.

Day 20: I handed in my notice at work!  👏

Day 21: My day for looking after Leo - he certainly knows how to keep me on my toes.

Day 22: Fitsteps class in the evening but the air-conditioning wasn't working in the hall we use, I think it's true to say we all left a lot hotter and sweatier than when we arrived.

Day 23: Invited to a neighbours for tea and a chat in the afternoon, they went to Bologna last year so she's given us plenty of ideas for things to do when we are there in a couple of weeks time.

Day 24: Jumped on scales and quickly jumped off again - time to get back to Slimming World frame of mind - all those celebration meals out, chocolates and cake have taken their toll!

Day 25: We put our clocks forward an hour as the start of British summertime but I think someone needs to tell the weather that it needs to leave Winter behind - although it wasn't snowing/hailing/raining like it was last Sunday, it certainly wasn't very summery out there on our Sunday morning dog walk.

Day 26: A change of routine this week as my grandson's childminder is on holiday, I decided he may be old enough to 'help' with some cooking - cheese scones - luckily we have a dog who is willing to clean up any ingredients that fall on the floor 🐶

Day 27: After only 4 days of eating in a Slimming World friendly way I am already having withdrawal symptoms for biscuits - I hadn't realised how often I dip into the biscuit tin while waiting for the kettle to boil for a cup of tea!

Day 28: Babysitting day again and it was absolutely pouring down with rain so all those lovely dog walks in the fresh air that we normally have didn't happen, instead we did some baking.

Day 29: School breaks up for the Easter holidays today so we closed early at 1.30pm; staff are just as happy as the students are - 2 weeks off work!

Day 30: Woken early today as our son and wife were staying over before they left for a weekend at her Grandparents house in France for the weekend; they had an early Eurotunnel booking and left here at 4am! (Why does a front door opening and closing sound so loud in the early hours?)

Day 31: I'm congratulating myself on keeping up with this post - the secret really is to not let yourself get behind.

March certainly was eventful, I wonder what April has in store?

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

It's hard work being good

About 4 years ago I joined Slimming World.  I wasn't massively overweight, but I needed to lose a bit of weight to feel comfortable in my clothes - I refused to start buying a larger size!  At SW they tell you to initially aim to lose 10% of your body weight and I was given a target of 13lb to lose.  I did it and kept it off until about 6 months ago.  Gradually, it has been sneaking back on.  After both weddings last year I guess I got back into bad habits and I've now put back nine of those little pounds.  

In my defence, we've had a lot of celebrations with the two weddings and with both of us having our 'big' birthdays, a couple of long weekends away, Christmas - all great excuses for cake, rich food and the odd glass or two of wine.  Well, maybe more than just the odd glass!  

It has to stop.  I need to get back on track.  Slimming world is so easy to do and it really is just common sense and changing the way in which you cook.  My main problem is the snacking.  I find it hard to sit and watch things like Bake Off with just a cup of coffee without a biscuit to keep it company.

But when I set my mind to something, I do try my utmost to do it - despite friends trying to sabotage my efforts.  We've been invited to friends for a takeaway Indian meal at the end of the week, obviously it's Good Friday (Hot cross buns), Easter Sunday (chocolate eggs) and then a belated birthday meal out at a local Italian restaurant next Thursday.  Boy have I got to be strong willed! 

Anyone else feeling like they need to spring clean their diet before we have to bare a bit more flesh in summer clothes?  {Please tell me it isn't just me ...}

Monday, 19 March 2018

A plausible excuse

You know how it is when the universe tries to tell you something?  You don't always see the signs but the clues are definitely there.  This can also be known as 'trying to justify buying new clothes'.

Last week we had one of those charity bags put through our door, collecting clothes for the NSPCC charity.  This was fantastic timing as I am planning to go through my wardrobe and get rid of those clothes I only ever wear for work.  But you know how it is when you weed things out of your wardrobe and the wardrobe suddenly looks a bit empty and there are hangers hanging around with nothing on them?  They look so sad.  They clearly need something new to wear (and so do I).  

I first noticed a fab, bright, cheerful colour combination on Jodie's blog.  I have a lovely pair of crop trousers in a fun, bright tone of green and loved how she had styled the same colour in a cardigan with pink.  Clearly my crops were never going to look as good combined with a boring neutral shade, they needed something to cheer them up.

So the universe sent me another clue.  A 15% voucher to be used in White Stuff.  I do like their clothing but usually only shop there when there is a sale or a money off offer.  You see where this is going don't you?  

Jodie had also done another blog post on footwear, which got me thinking about what I would be taking for our forthcoming trip to Bologna.  We're going with another couple and my friend is quite fashion conscious and I realised that my trusty Sketcher trainers possibly weren't going to be up to any photo opportunities.  

A quick trip into town this morning has resolved both issues

I love the coral pink of the top, I can see me getting a lot of use out of it and the trainers are so different to any other footwear I have.  In fact my daughter popped round unexpectedly when I was trying them on and her opening greeting was 'Mum, I love those shoes!' so they are definitely keepers - plus they have an inch platform spongy sole so I am taller when I wear them!

Has the universe spoken to you recently?  Keep listening!

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Over the hill

Am happy to report that tipping over from my 50s to my 60s has been fantastic.  I've been wined and dined, pampered and spoilt.  If this is what 60 feels like - bring it on!

Monday, 12 March 2018


Well, what a difference between the me that wrote the last post and the me writing this one.  The unexpected spa break which was a combined Mother's Day and early birthday treat, was absolutely what I needed to shake me out of my low mood and I've returned feeling much more like my old self.  Actually a more relaxed and pampered, better version of that old self.

A glass of prosecco on arrival will always set the scene for a relaxing time.  Then up to our room to change into our towelling robes to have a blissful hot stone massage.  Oh wow.  Amazing, don't think I've ever felt so relaxed.  Then suddenly it's time to get dressed for dinner

We arrived a little early to the restaurant so killed some time enjoying a lovely G&T in the bar

The food was amazing - absolutely delicious and after dinner we both went up to our room and I don't think I've slept so soundly for ages.

Before we went down for breakfast she handed me a card which was an early birthday card from my son saying that as his birthday treat for me he had paid for me to have a luxury manicure.  

To say I feel pampered, relaxed and very, very lucky to have such thoughtful and generous children is the understatement of the year.  The last few days of my 50s have been pretty special.   60?  Bring it on!