Wednesday 30 June 2010

Catching up

With Shimelle's class approaching, I thought I had better get a move on with my Portugal album so last night while everyone else was out, I got another couple of pages done. These pages relate to the day we went to Lagos.

We popped into the fish market opposite the harbour and went up onto the roof to take some pictures. Normally when we go past it must be later in the morning as the stalls are cleared - fish markets sell out early over there! But this time we were lucky and managed to see some of the local delicacies. When you think of Portugal, you immediately think of sardines but on the left hand page, the photo on it's own shows a fish typical to that area - Espada. We first came across this fish when we went to Madeira back in the early 80s and we were told that they live so deep in the ocean that they have never been able to bring one to the surface alive. Rumour has it that even Jacques Cousteau had tried and failed! They really are beautiful ugly fish (if you know what I mean!) the silver of their skin looks completely metallic so for the educational part of my post today, here's a close up!

Thanks to everyone for their kind words on my travelling son. If I get any updates on his journey I will pass them on! Meanwhile I'm trying to keep myself busy so maybe there'll be a bit more scrapbooking to my blog in the next few weeks ...

Monday 28 June 2010

Partially empty nest syndrome

I'm not sure that I do 'letting go' very well. I love the fact my kids are independent and that my son, in particular, is adventurous and eager to experience what they can. But for a mum who has the worry gene imprinted in her DNA, it's kind of hard.
I've tried so hard to latch on to my son's excitement over his month long trip to Europe. I've encouraged and shown an interest in places on maps which have very strange names and very little vowels in their spellings. I've helped get clothes and toiletries together. I even gave him and 2 friends a lift to the station this morning. But I can't deny that I wish he had more concrete plans rather than flight tickets, a booking for a few days in a hostel in Croatia, a ticket for a music festival, an Interrail ticket and a map. So be prepared for a bumpy ride with me over the next few weeks! All I can tell you is all that I know: he will be staying in Zadar this week and he is planning to be the Garden Festival here over next weekend. I tried to instill some culture into him by telling him that I had heard of the sea organ which had been built there where the action of the sea hitting various pipes etc makes atmospheric noises. Impressed? No of course he wasn't.
Talking of music, the evening on Saturday was amazing. So many talented musicians at one school. There was much dancing going on and if there had been a prize for the table with the most food on it, we would definitely have won - we all over catered. No one went home hungry!

Saturday 26 June 2010

Catering queen

When it's possibly the warmest day of the year and temperatures are predicted to be in the 30s, what's the last thing you want to be doing? Cooking up a storm in the kitchen! But that's what I am up to today.
We've been invited to a special evening at the Anglo-European college in town for their annual celebration event which involves you taking your own food - 'Hampers' and then they will provide the 'Champers' . Can you guess what they call the evening yet? So we are on a table of 10 and are sharing the catering. But although I only volunteered for baking a quiche, and making a tuna,celery and grape pasta dish and bring some salad bits, I naturally got sidetracked looking through 'Old Faithful' - my trusty handwritten recipe book!
So on top of the things I said I am bringing I have made 'Mandy's samosa/pasty pies' to have with an Indian mint dip and 'Ainsley's Feta/olive/sun dried tomato triangles'. Temperature outside - 30 Temperature in my kitchen - more like 40.
The music tonight is provided by the college's band and singers which are supposed to be amazing and it's held in a marquee with twinkly lights in the ceiling (I do so love fairy lights!) and rumour has it that the atmosphere is more 'London Hotel' than provincial college. I will let you know!
Meanwhile - here's the food ....

Monday 21 June 2010

A* all round

How funny is this? I work in a secondary school - half my time in the exams office and half in the secretaries office. Today was the Year 11 GCSE ICT exam. After it had finished, two girls came to the exams office and said 'Miss ... that was easy, we'd already seen that paper'. Turns out, the exam board had printed off a paper that they had published on their website as a practice paper! Oooops! I'm not quite sure what happens now, clearly the examining board have made a huge error ... so if any of you out there have 16 year old children who took ICT today, tell them there is no excuse for scoring less than 100%!

Sunday 20 June 2010

The other side of the story

His side of the story
It was the early 1940s. Home was the East End of London and he had lived all his life in the poorer parts of a built up city. He'd had to leave school as soon as possible as the family had 7 mouths to feed and any extra income was needed. As the only son, it was his responsibility to go out and earn some money to help out. Never mind that he had been offered a scholarship to go on to study English further, the family simply could not afford for him to go. But now, the army had stepped in, World War 2 showed no sign of coming to an end and he was 'called up' to become a soldier. He was being sent to Scotland, to complete his training. There were many stops on the way up north, one of them to a sleepy village in Essex. His company had driven into the village and the men had gone to a local inn for food and a rest. It must have been a complete culture shock to be in the middle of nowhere, with dozens of men he had never met before. He walked in - and saw a lovely young redhead serving in the bar. They talk about love at first sight, and now he knew what they meant.
Her side of the story
The war had been going on now for a couple of years. It had changed everyone's lives in so many ways and changed hers dramatically. She was engaged to be married and her fiancee was called up to join the army. He did not return. Of all the ways to die in a war, his story was such a horrible quirk of fate. Uncomfortable, unwieldy army boots had rubbed a blister on his heel. Cheap socks had rubbed their dye into the broken blister. Blood poisoning set in. What a needless way to die. But she had picked herself up, got herself a job in a local inn. They were always busy, although it was a quiet village, it was off of the main A11 road from London to the North of England. Then one night, a group of soldiers came in for a meal on their way to Scotland.
My side of the story
That's how my mum and dad met. Kind of romantic isn't it? My Dad was a true romantic, he loved his family with all his heart. When we cleared Mum and Dad's house after they had both died, we found an army kit bag and it is absolutely stuffed full of love letters that Dad sent my Mum while he was in the army. She had kept every one. My sister thought we should get rid of them, it was their private correspondence, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. Mum had kept them all those years and I didn't want to be the one to get rid of them. So I have it stored safely at home.
So on today, Father's Day, I thought I would share this story with you. You can imagine how much I hate not having my dad around to buy a card for or to spoil with presents or just to spend one more hour with.

Saturday 19 June 2010

Lagos layout

I'm home alone this afternoon and I'm taking the opportunity to take over the lounge and make as much scrapbooking mess as I possibly can without anyone interfering. I've been thinking about what I can do for the next page of my Portuguese album and decided to use some pictures I took in the town of Lagos which is about 10 mins drive from my sister's house.
It's a lovely town, full of character and an important part of the Algarve's history. It used to be the capital and you can still see parts of the old city walls. The building which was Europe's first slave market is still there, it houses an art gallery now. When you walk around it, you find it hard to believe the sights and sounds that would have been on that spot over 600 years ago.
But it's not just a historical place, it's a busy town full of cafes, restaurants and shops and the perfect place to sit in the mid morning with a glass of 'Galao' - 1/3 espresso coffee and 2/3 frothy milk, and just watch the world go by. How much do I wish I was there right now?

Tuesday 15 June 2010

A duo of new classes

So I rang Cheryl and said 'I'm doing a new exercise class tonight and we're learning your routine, could I borrow your outfit? You know, the soldier one with the low slung trousers with the split legs' but she said 'No'.
Apparently it's at the dry cleaners. Huh! A likely story, I think she's just worried that I might stretch it out of shape (and let's face it, that is probably a very valid worry).
But I'm sure not having the right clothes won't affect my performance ;-)
Hopefully I will have better luck with my other new class. Yes, Shimelle has a new online class starting! And if you sign up early, you get it cheaper! And .... you don't need any skimpy clothing in which to do it in! That's got to be a win-win situation hasn't it? But don't take my word for it, go on, go over there and have a look yourself.....

Sunday 13 June 2010

What have I signed up for?

OK. Promise not to laugh? The instructor who takes my fitness class is arranging some extra exercise sessions on a Tuesday to get us motivated to be 'beach body beautiful' by the summer. So to make it a bit more fun, she's teaching various well known dance routines. I missed out on the Dirty Dancing weeks as I was in Portugal but I've signed up for the next one. Cheryl Cole's 'Fight for this Love'
Now I know what you are thinking. Me and Cheryl Cole have SO much in common. Yes we have, don't laugh. We're both quite short and we're both women and neither of us like Ashley Cole very much and ... well that's about it. My coordination isn't as good as it could be and I suspect that this could end up like the belly dancing fiasco. Maybe I could fashion myself on the Rufus Hound version that he did for Sport Relief

Now, where on earth can I find the right costume?

Friday 11 June 2010

The boys are back in town

Or at least 'the' boy will be back ... on Sunday!
2nd year of uni finished now and he is home for the summer. So tomorrow entails a 300 mile round trip up to Sheffield to fill our car with boxes and books and printers and amplifiers and speakers and guitars and cooking equipment and clothes and dirty washing and bed linen .... then he will drive himself home in his little car on Sunday with whatever we couldn't fit in. Plus we have friends coming over in the evening to watch the first England game in the World Cup. I have a feeling it's going to be a long day .....
When I say 'we' are going up, it may be just my husband as our daughter is really quite poorly after her hospital visit yesterday. Seems to have had a nasty reaction to the anaesthetic and is dizzy, tired, sick, aching, head hurting - you name it. Hopefully now 24 hours have passed she will start to improve but there are no signs yet of it getting better. We'll make a judgement call tomorrow morning to see if I am comfortable with leaving her on her own without her passing out/falling down the stairs/falling asleep and leaving the cooker on/forgetting when she last took painkillers and taking more after half an hour etc etc.
Looking forward to having the four of us asleep under the same roof again, it's a great feeling for a mum!

Thursday 10 June 2010

23 years later

One of my reasons for using the job description post yesterday was because before I had my babies I naively thought that when they had grown up, I wouldn't worry about them so much any more, my job would be done.
Not so. This morning was spent at the hospital with my eldest. She has had tummy problems most of her life when I look back. She was a colicky baby, she had random tummy aches growing up, they discovered she has a very slow digestive system about 5 years ago and most recently she has suffered badly with heartburn. So today she was booked in to have a gastroscopy and although she is 23 and quite old enough to go on her own, she wanted her mum to go with her and quite frankly there was no way her mum was not going to be there to hold her hand before and after! It's not pleasant and she's now sleepy and sore.
I found it very tough to be in the waiting room while she was in the operating theatre as when my mum had that procedure done 12 years ago, the diagnosis was as bad as you can get and those memories kept swirling around in my head and tears were swimming around waiting to escape.
But all those hopes,wishes and prayers I made in the last few days seem to have worked as the surgeon said all looked fine in there and he just wants to do one more scan to be doubly sure but then he will be able to prescribe medication which hopefully will get rid of the discomfort.
It's been a long day. And even though she's 23 and a grown young woman, she's still my baby, I still worry about her and I always will.

Wednesday 9 June 2010

If only we'd known ...

Job Description
Long term, team players needed, for challenging permanent work in an often chaotic environment
Candidates must possess excellent communication and organisational skills and be willing to work variable hours, which will include evenings and weekends and frequent 24 hour shifts on call.
Some overnight travel required, including trips to primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless watching of sports/dancing/musical productions.
Travel expenses not reimbursed
Extensive courier duties also required
The rest of your life
Must be willing to be hated, at least temporarily
Must be willing to bite tongue repeatedly
Also, must possess the physical stamina of a pack mule and be able to go from zero to 60mph in three seconds flat in case, this time, the screams from the backyard are not someone just crying wolf
Must be willing to face stimulating technical challenges such as small gadget repair, mysteriously sluggish toilets and stuck zippers
Must screen phone calls, maintain calendars and co ordinate production of multiple homework projects
Must have ability to plan and organise social gatherings for clients of all ages and mental outlooks
Must be willing to be indispensable one minute, and an embarrassment the next.
Must always hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.
Must assume final, complete accountability for the quality of the end product
Responsibilities also include floor maintenance and janitorial work throughout the facility
Possibility for advancement and promotion
Your job is to remain in the same position for years without complaining and constantly retraining and updating your skills so that those in your charge can ultimately surpass you
Previous Experience needed
On the job training offered on a continually exhausting basis.
Wages and compensation.
Get this - You pay them!
Offering frequent raises and bonuses.
No health or dental insurance, no pension, no tuition reimbursement, no paid holidays
This job supplies limitless opportunities for personal growth, unconditional love and free hugs and kisses for life if you play your cards right.
There is no retirement.

Tuesday 8 June 2010

The Dolphin

Nothing to do with creatures from the deep, but the name of a fab restaurant in Luz. This is our favourite place to eat. It's owned by a family from South Africa and the food is superb and the service is welcoming and friendly. This had to have a page or two to itself in my album. The pic on the right hand side is of the two of us on the terrace before we went out. I look even shorter than normal, not helped by the fact that I was wearing an exceptionally flat pair of sandals that my daughter had lent me. They had the shiniest, flattest soles you have seen and not at all suitable for walking along polished cobblestone pavements. But of course I didn't know that until after we had left the house and it was too late to go home and change. My husband must have thought I was being particularly affectionate in the way I hugged his arm and held his hand there and back, little did he know it was more the fact that I was on the verge of falling over every time I took a step!
Then we have the obligatory photo of our food. Notice that I could not wait for the photo to be taken before I started tucking into my beef fillet and chorizo kebab ;-) Paul had a South African dish called bobotie which he tells me was delicious and came with various different dips and side dishes.
Just before dinner we took a little walk/slide/stumble just past the restaurant and the bottom photo is a picture looking back towards The Dolphin.
It was back to work yesterday. I have to tell you that school secretaries are no more keen to go back after half term than the students are ....

Sunday 6 June 2010

Pictures of Portugal

At the risk of boring you with all things Portuguese ... here's my first page of my album! I wanted to follow the grid idea that we did at the NSD crop and just show general images of the area in which we stayed. I already have an idea for the next couple of pages but probably ought to be getting on with a bit of housework :-(
When I am on holiday I love to read. Going 'hand luggage only' limited how many books I could take but I managed to get through both books I took. I am a huge fan of Jeffrey Deaver books, especially the ones which feature the detective Lincoln Rhyme. He's started a new collection now with a character called Kathryn Dance who is a specialist in body language to solve crimes. This is the book I read, Roadside Crosses, and I would recommend it as good holiday reading! It is set in Monterey, California and is really a bit of a warning to anyone to writes or comments on blogs! I think us scrapbookers are safe from the kind of thing that happens in the book but it makes you realise how careful you need to be in divulging personal information! The clever thing he has done is that he has set up a blog website which is the basis of the story and made it look totally real when you check it out. I didn't realise it existed before I read the book but having checked it out, it was good to see pictures of where the story is actually set and the locations mentioned in the book.
Oh well, better get back to the housework ....

Saturday 5 June 2010

Honey, I'm home ...!!!

Just to pop my head round the door and say 'hello' to everyone! Arrived home yesterday afternoon and already wishing I was back in Portugal. It was so pretty everywhere, the trees in bloom and oranges, limes and lemons growing wild in back gardens of tumbledown houses. A really lovely time to go.
So back to reality now, but I took a fair few photos and have a few ideas for some new pages - watch this space! I have, waiting on my shelf, a lovely album that I bought a while ago, lovely shaped pages, pale blue 'flocked' design on the cover and it's so lovely I have been scared to start using it as nothing so far has been considered worthy of its use. But I know if I don't use it soon it will gather dust until it's out of vogue and dated - so the 'Portrait of Portugal' album is about to start. It's ideal and I can hardly wait to start.
Well you guys have certainly been busy in my absence, I can see I have a lot of catching up to do. Excuse my lack of commenting, I am going to check everyone's blog out to see what you have been up to in this last week, but gradually work through one at a time. See you soon!

Thursday 3 June 2010

Snorkelling? Not me!

But I guarantee my husband will have packed his snorkel mask in his hand luggage. His favourite beach for snorkelling is here , Dona Ana beach in between Luz and Lagos. Literally a 10 minute drive from where we will be staying. The sea is COLD along the Algarve coast, it's the Atlantic and I struggle to go into the water past my ankles but my husband loves snorkelling and I am more than happy to stay on the beach looking after the beach towels and bags reading a book. This beach is not that well known by tourists, and if you go there at the weekend, it is literally full of local families with picnic tables and the whole family from great-granny to tiny babies. Always a good sign I feel, when somewhere is popular with people who live there. So I am guessing that today we may have caught the local bus and ended up here.

Wednesday 2 June 2010

The Fort

One of the prettiest landmarks in Luz is here, it's a lovely place to have lunch on the terrace but the restaurant inside is lovely in the evenings. The Algarve temperatures can be deceiving, beautifully hot during the day and very chilly in the evenings. About 7pm a wind can pick up from the sea and can take you by surprise. So we always tend to book an inside table in restaurants as I am prone to commenting on how breezy it is! I never leave the house without my trusty pashmina to throw round my shoulders in the evenings. My husband, who seems to function on a different thermostat to me, never notices and has been known to shake his head, wrinkle his brow and take on a 'what is she talking about' look when I mention that I am a bit chilly.

Tuesday 1 June 2010

Where will I be tonight?

Well, if I am lucky I will be here , my favourite restaurant in Luz. The Dolphin is owned by a South African family and the food is fabulous. We've been visiting the Dolphin for over 5 years now and always try to get a table there during our stay. The food is delicious, and the staff are so friendly and welcoming. It's always busy and you usually have to pre-book a table but it's well worth it. We have our favourites on the menu but last time I went I had the mixed meat marinated kebab and it was beautiful! Who knows, maybe I'll go for the swordfish steak tonight .... washed down with a nice glass of wine ... followed by something delicious from the sweet menu .... then a nice walk along the seafront promenade and then home.