Friday, 2 December 2022

Let's sit and have a cup of ...

 ... mulled wine!  Let's get in the Christmas spirit on this first Friday in December!

We have friends who lived in Belgium for a while and the first December they were there we went to visit.  It was such a lovely atmosphere there, and visiting the Christmas markets in Brussels was such a lovely day out.  When you bought your mulled wine to keep your hands (and insides) warm while you were walking around, you were able to keep your cup or glass. These particular mulled wine mugs are actually from Cologne; we enjoyed the European markets so much we tried somewhere else the following year. Happy memories! 

Can you believe that we are in December?  You'll notice that we don't have our decorations up yet - family tradition dictates that we do that just before Paul's birthday so we have another week or so to wait yet.  To be honest, much as I love the decorations, I am always ready to take them down between Christmas and New Year. My one concession to early decorating is this festive ribbon wreath that I made!

Do you have particular family traditions at this time of year? It's always interesting to hear how other people organise their time.  When we went to Belgium that year we had to leave our shoes outside of our bedrooms on December 5th and in the morning Sinterklaas had left chocolate gifts for us.  That's the start of the celebrations over there.

Have you heard of the statue in Brussels called Manneken Pis?  A little boy relieving himself into a fountain.  He's pretty famous over there and is dressed up for national occasions.

As you can imagine, excitement is mounting amongst the youngsters of the family.  school Christmas fairs have been visited, Elves on the shelves have arrived, letters to Santa written and soon we will be visiting the illuminations at the Enchanted Gardens at Audley End to get in the festive mood.  My Zumba Christmas party is on Sunday which should be good fun and we have a few meals out with friends in the next couple of weeks.

This year we are all going to our daughter's for Christmas Day.  It will be the first time for years that Jon and his family will be there too.  They usually join us for Boxing Day and spend Christmas Day at his in laws but they are having a break from that routine this year.  I'm always mindful of those for whom Christmas is not a time of celebration for whatever reason - we had an awful year in 1997 when my mum died the week before Christmas Day - and I really do never take it for granted.

So that is it for this month, thank you for visiting! Next time we have a cup of tea together, it will be the New Year - can you believe it?

Thursday, 1 December 2022

A sentence a day in November

 Gosh November, you seem to have arrived so quickly this year!

Day 1 Paul accompanied Leo on an evening bat walk with Beavers, but it absolutely poured with rain - all bats stayed safely dry in the trees!

Day 2 Had Olive here for the day, Paul was doing his volunteer work over the local park so we had a girly day

Day 3 Zumba in the morning and a friend popped round in the afternoon

Day 4 Went to Cambridge, lunch at Aromi, their open topped focaccia slices are deliziosa!

Day 5 Max and Olive here for a sleepover - they were so well behaved, but I got little sleep and felt worse for wear so ...

Day 6 Felt very tired after a disturbed night's sleep, not because either of them kept waking up, but because I was sleeping with Olive who is quite a wriggler in her sleep!

Day 7 Went to Bury St Edmunds with two other couples to visit and have lunch with friends who moved there three years ago.

Day 8 On the one day I decide to walk into town, there was a sudden downpour and I got drenched!  

Day 9 Olive had her 1 year vaccinations today so no childcare today - instead I went through the toys we keep here to pass on those that aren't being played with any more to a friend who is about to look after her granddaughter 2 days a week. 

Day 10 Zumba was fun and in the afternoon I spent time working on my blanket - which is very nearly finished

Look at her guilty little face, I'd only put it down for a few minutes and she was on it in a flash!

Day 11 Paul went up to London so I had a day to myself - altered the dress I have bought to wear for Christmas meals out.  Remembrance Day.

Day 12 Decided that our bathroom is in need of some TLC.  Cue searching for wallpapers, enquiries about replacement shower panel seals and new bath panels.

Day 13 Rachel and family came for Sunday lunch - lovely to catch up on their news as although we see them a couple of times a week it's usually just a quick chat while handing over children.

Day 14 Tumble drier broke, the drum has fallen off the motor and the damage to the back plate looks beyond repair; as we have had it almost 15 years we decided it was time to replace and spent a lot of the day researching and comparing prices and the rest of the day wrapping birthday and Christmas presents.

Day 15 Popped into town, continued to work on a half finished blanket that I was working on using up leftover wool - took a while to work out which row I was working on!

Day 16 Had Olive here for the day, she is now confidently standing up and not so keen on sitting still for a minute - this is quite a dangerous age!

Day 17 Rain, rain, rain.  

Day 18 New tumble dryer delivered, cue mega laundry catch up!

Day 19 Sleepover for Leo and Rosie - they were so excited.  Once again, four people went to bed but only three had a good nights sleep 

Day 20 Rosie's party was such good fun, bouncy castle, ball pit, soft play and a visit from two Disney princesses, what more could a birthday girl want?

Day 21 Rosie's birthday - those four years have flown by

Day 22 Went into Saffron Walden to meet Jon, Max and Olive for coffee while Sophie had important working from home to do

Day 23 Meal out with my ex-work colleagues in the evening - such fun to meet up and share all the gossip!

Day 24 Zumba in the morning 

Day 25 Visited friends in the afternoon for a cup of tea and slice of cake

Day 26 Coco went to vets and now has a big shaved area on the top of her head, had friends over for drinks in the evening and learnt a new card game Five Crowns

Day 27 Had a quiet Sunday, wrapped some Christmas presents, popped into the school Christmas fair in the afternoon and won a bottle of prosecco in the tombola and a necklace in the raffle.

Day 28 Went to Chelmsford to get a couple of Christmas gifts, was busy enough to be festive but not too busy to cause queues in the shops

Day 29 Had my hair cut and after a pampering morning, down to earth with stripping the old wallpaper from the bathroom in the afternoon! England through to the last 16 teams in the World Cup

Day 30 Olive here for the day, wondering when she will finally be brave enough to take her first steps!

Well that month was over and done with very quickly - let's condense it all down to 1 Second Everyday!

Tuesday, 29 November 2022

What I've been reading in November

 Truth be told, I started this one at the very end of October!

The Girlfriend by K L Slater

I saw this one recommended by Gail over at Is This Mutton. It sounded like the kind of mystery I would enjoy!  

Cole and his wife are preparing for their annual party when Cole takes a phone call and then rushes off.  Watching from an upstairs window their son sees him get in his car and notices that he is acting strangely.  Not long afterwards, the police arrive with the tragic news that Cole has been involved in a fatal car crash.  

Reeling from the shock of her husband's death, Jennifer is shocked to be visited by someone who claims to be the mother of his second son and who allegedly owns the family home.  In disbelief, Jennifer seeks help from the financial advisor who dealt with their accounts. Imagine her surprise when she confirms that this is true and Jennifer feels she has no alternative but to say 'yes' when the girlfriend suggests that she moves into the house and they live there together in order to give all the children a sense of stability.

An unthinkable situation eh?  Naturally things do not run smoothly and the friction in the house is unbearable.  So many secrets and lies are being hidden.  I'm giving no spoilers, you will need to read it to find out what the truth is!

Next up was Perfectly Ordinary People by Nick Alexander

Ruth and her brother are part of a close family, but although they are well acquainted with the extended family on her mother's side, they know nothing about their father's family.  After an upsetting conversation one Christmas, Ruth becomes concerned about her father's anti-semetic comments and after her Grandma Genny dies she decides to investigate why they know so little about his family.

The story is based around taped interviews between Genevieve and a journalist from a French gay magazine.  They tell of a friendship between Genevieve, Pierre and Ethel at the time of WWII in France.  The treatment of Jews in Europe is well known, but I had not realised the extent of discrimination against the gay community. 

After Ruth's grandfather on her father's side of the family dies, Genevieve's friend Ethel tries to make contact with him but he refuses to even make a telephone call.  Taking matters into her own hands, and determined to find out why her father has cut himself off from his parents, Ruth goes to visit Ethel to find out the truth.

There are so many books relating the horrors of living in this area of Europe during the war and this one has the twist of two people living a painful lie for the greater good of protecting an orphan baby.  Their situation would have been so difficult to endure and it is not until many years have passed that they are able to live the lives they desired all along.  

This was a good book, my only criticism was that I felt that some of the chapters showing the transcripts of the interviews could have been more concise.  But I guess that the premise that they were the spoken memories of a woman who had lived under unimaginable circumstances makes any ramblings and straying off subject can easily be excused! 

Monday, 28 November 2022

Me on Monday

 Is it me, or are Mondays coming around much faster nowadays?

How was your week?  We had a mixed bag over the last seven days, I seemed to fare better than the other two in the family home!  

The week contained

For Paul

  • One suspicious cold followed by a negative covid test
For Coco
  • One vet visit followed by a very unusual hair style
For me
  • One meet up for coffee with Jon and the children which ended up costing me two bedtime books as well
  • One afternoon tea with friends
  • One meal out with the lovely ladies I used to work with
  • One trip to Leo and Rosie's School Christmas Fair where I won a bottle of pink prosecco in the wine tombola and a necklace in the raffle
  • One drinks evening where we learnt a new card game (shared this get together with Paul who was feeling a lot better!)
I think you can tell who had the better week!

Let me tell you about the card game which I would really recommend. It's called Five Crowns and if you are looking for something new to play, give it a whirl!  If you know the basic rules to 'rummy' then you will have no problem playing it although there is quite a distinct twist to the game as there you play with two packs of cards, there is a fifth suit (stars), jokers are wild, there are no aces or twos and in the last round you end up with 13 cards in a hand!  

So here we are again at Monday.  I'm planning to pop to Chelmsford later today to have a browse around the shops.  I feel like I'm doing ok with my shopping, we have pared down the people with whom we exchange gifts and it's made life a lot simpler!

Hair cut for me on Tuesday - hopefully not one which matches Coco's and I'm also having our oven professionally cleaned in the afternoon.  I know it is a real luxury but try as I might, I can never keep my oven completely clean so about once every three years I have it done properly and fill myself with good intentions to keep on top of it!  I love cooking so the oven gets a lot of use and it never happens. 

For those wondering, Coco has a skin tag on top of her head which she made bleed and we were worried that it was looking a bit 'dodgy' so the vet had to shave the top of her head to clean it up and check it out.  She looks a little like a medieval monk at the moment but thankfully the vet feels that all is well.

No other firm plans for the weekdays but a busy weekend with a trip to Audley End to see the Enchanted Lights and then the big Zumba dance party on Sunday. More on that next week!  

Hope you have a healthy and happy week!  

Monday, 21 November 2022

Me on Monday

 Alternative title - Me on Rosie's birthday.  

How can it possibly be four years since this little lady arrived in the world?

She's certainly grown up since that photo was taken!  

I am sure we will pop and see her when she gets home from school, her party was Sunday.

Can you guess which one is our little princess?

Last week was far more expensive than we had thought it may be as our tumble drier broke quite dramatically on Monday.  The screw holes which help attach the drum to the motor distorted and then tore as the drum made a bid for freedom from the rest of the machine.  To repair would mean a whole new drum, plus possibly a new motor and as we had bought it at least 12 years ago, probably would mean that it was more expensive to keep than to replace.  So a new one was ordered, the washing built up over the week and a new one arrived on Friday. 

The weather was miserable most of the week and I have to be honest, one afternoon, I picked up the blanket I had put down when I started the gingerbread one and watched a Christmas film.  It was warm under the blanket work in progress, it was one of those 'happy ever after' films and it was a really comforting way to spend an hour or two.  It got me in the mood to decorate the house too, but tradition dictates we don't do that until the weekend closest to P's birthday so that has to wait a little while yet.

So what does this week hold?  A couple of social events - a meal out with my friends on Wednesday evening for me and then popping to see friends with Paul on Friday.  I need to go into town and get something for P's birthday.  He knows I've got him some art supplies that he chose himself but I like to get a surprise gift to go with them.

Right, time to put that new dryer to good use.  It's wet and miserable outside and there's a pile of bed linen that needs to be washed.  I hope it's better weather where you are, I've seen on Instagram that some people have already had their first fall of snow.  Please don't send that across the Atlantic just yet!

Monday, 14 November 2022

Me on Monday

Drum roll please ...  I am thrilled to start this post with the news that ... It's finished!  The Christmas blanket is ready for Christmas!  I put it down for five minutes while I put dinner in the oven on Friday evening and came back to this little guilty face.

And when I didn't have the heart to tell her to get off, I went to set the table and saw she had made herself very comfortable!

I learnt a lot from this pattern, and know that I will miss being curled up beneath it while I was working on it in the evenings.  What a good job I have a half finished blanket I put aside when I started this one, so I can crack on with that now!

We started last week with a trip to our friends in Bury St Edmunds.  I always thought that sounded like it would be a long way from us but we were there in just under an hour!  It was nice to get together with our friends (along with three other couples) and I was able to have a good old nosey look round their new home. The house is only three years old and still looking very pristine, so coming back home made me realise that some rooms in ours are looking a little tired and there a few projects that we need to start thinking about in the new year. Well, I'll be thinking about them now and will drip feed my thoughts to Paul over the next few weeks ;-)

So this Monday finds me thinking that I need to wrap Rosie's birthday presents up, and buy some wrapping paper for the few Christmas presents that I have bought, otherwise my intention to wrap as I buy this year is never going to happen and I'll be caught in a wrapping frenzy the week before Christmas! 

I think I may also get organised with Christmas cards, and print address labels out.  I just looked online to see if this year's stamp design is on sale yet and realised that this one still has the Queen's profile on it.  Every now and again you see something that jogs your memory that she isn't here any more.  

It's Rosie's birthday party on Sunday so I am sure I will be roped in to help with the catering at some point over the weekend!  Not that children at birthday parties eat much do they?  So long as there is cake, they will be happy!

Hope everyone has a good week, I'm starting mine with good intentions of having a good tidy up around the house - how long will that last do you think?  

Monday, 7 November 2022

Me on Monday

Just a quick post today as we are off to visit friends in Bury St Edmunds later.  They moved there three years ago after they returned from ten years living in Belgium.  This will be our first chance to pop across and see them because circumstances over the last couple of years have put paid to visits, plus they are also renovating a house in France so they are difficult to pin down when they are back in the UK!

I'm looking forward to a quieter week this week as last week ended up being very busy.  We ended the week with a trip to Cambridge - I really enjoy time spent there.  I love the variety found down every street.  From the old and historic

To the newer and slightly quirky (note the decoration made from old copper saucepans)

To the theatre welcoming in the local city population and s
tudents from the universities there (Town and Gown)

And of course lunch at our favourite Sicilian cafe.  Honestly, the flavours they get into those slices of deliciousness 

Saturday night was the night of the big sleepover.  I picked up the ring bearer and the flower girl from the venue, where Max proudly told me 'I walked down the aisle Nanny, and now I'm married.  To Daddy'. Three of us got a good night's sleep.  I, however, did not!  I was sharing a bed with Olive, who sleeps horizontally across the bed, tosses and turns and at times tries to lay on top of you.  But she stayed asleep all night so I'm counting that as a win!

So this week includes our trip to Bury St Edmunds, a short day of childminding on Wednesday as Max and Olive both have vaccination appointments at lunchtime, Zumba on Thursday and then a free day with no plans on Friday.  Let's keep an eye on the weather forecast before we plan a day out somewhere!

Do you have a busy or a quiet week on the books this week?