Tuesday 30 April 2013

My Month in Numbers - April

Boy, this is coming around quickly! My month in numbers was the brainchild of Julie and if you want to see what other people have been up to in the month of April, better pop over to her blog and see who's linked up! 

Ah, when I think of April it takes me back to 1976, A level English, analysing TS Eliot's The Wasteland - 'April is the cruellest month ...' and George Orwell's 1984 'It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”' A baking hot summer when we sunbathed, chatted up the sixth form boys, revised over at the town park, rolled our  school skirts up even higher to ensure maximum suntan, looked cool in our oversized sunglasses, teetered about in our platform wedge sandals, and would rather be anywhere else than sitting in an overheated exam hall.  I digress, let's see what April 2013 held ...

1 evening of Keep dancing!,  Sev-ern!, Sequins, glitter and men in tight trousers.  2 of Strictly Come Dancing stars that I saw at our local theatre.  And before you ask, yes Pasha Kovalev is as handsome in real life as he is on the tv.

2 weeks of school Easter holidays.  Nothing like a fortnight off work to make you think 'working in a school isn't that bad after all'.  Truth be told, if we didn't have to deal with teachers or children, it'd be a perfect place to be a secretary.  Finish work at 3.45 and 12 weeks holiday a year.

"Would you like to come to a Boden party that I'm hosting?" asked my neighbour at number 5. "20% off all orders." Don't mind if I do.  1 free cosmetic bag and 1 new dress later ...

1 cookery demonstration attended.  3 different recipes for salmon, 1 glass of rose wine and 1 glass of pinot noir.  Domestic Science lessons at school were nowhere near as much fun as this is. Not even the time I brought my lemon meringue pie out the oven too quickly, the pie almost fell off the baking tray and there was a molten lemon curd filling issue all over my uniform.
3 mountain peaks climbed by 3 members of the family.  About 24 miles walked that day.  And they came home with only 1 blister between them. 

1 dog groomed.  Dog now looking half the size that she did and back to her girlish puppy style.  Wonder if this is the answer to all my problems.  10 years younger and 7 lbs lighter just by a drastic hair cut.

2 meals at home with friends.  1 Sunday lunch out. 4 Mondays when I have vowed 'this week I am going to eat healthily' and 4 Tuesdays where I have realised that I've already broken that good intention.

7 birthdays.  If I had baked each one a cake I would have got through 346 candles - eeek!

So that's it for me - how's April been for you? 

Sunday 28 April 2013

Hold the front page

Sometimes you meet people in the workplace that you instantly 'click' with.  People who share your sense of humour and values and who make going into work a bit easier when you would much rather just stay at home.  I'm really lucky to have one of those kind of people in my office and luckier still that two parts of my job involve working closely with her.  We work well together and, having a mutual love of the meerkat insurance advert, liken ourselves to Aleksandr and Sergei.  (I'm the overworked assistant!) 
Now one thing you should know about her is that she has been writing stories for many a year.  Some short stories have been published in magazines but her real aspiration is to have a proper book published.  Many a manuscript has been sent off but no success - until now.  Her daughter works in the publishing industry and she suggested that her mum self-publish her first book on Kindle.  So one weekend, a front cover was designed, an authors note was drafted and 'Fractured' was available for download on Kindle.  Check it out here! Sales at first were a little slow, but over the Easter holidays she sold 10,000 downloads.  Amazing!  since then she's sold nearly 2000 more and is in the top 50 overall kindle fiction books and I think that last weekend she told me she was in the top 5 fictional books.
So imagine the excitement in the office on Thursday when she received a message from a literary agent asking to meet her this week as she was very interested in her work.  After years of her approaching agents, here was an agent approaching her!  She's such a talented lady and I wanted to make her a 'well done' card.  How fortuitous that Sian wrote this blog post to show a website she had found to make a mock up of a newspaper page.  I immediately clicked on the link to fodey.com and made an image to use.
We always joke that when she is rich and famous she has to hire me as her personal assistant as I am the only one who understands her!  So I hope that she will find this card amusing.  Thanks Sian for the link, I would never have found it on my own!

Saturday 27 April 2013

Let's sit and have a cup of tea

That was good timing, the kettle's just boiled - what would you prefer, tea or coffee?  I'm so pleased Abi came up with the idea of gathering people around a virtual cuppa on the 27th of each month.

After deciding on our drinks, I'll probably a suggest we take our mugs into the conservatory where we can sit and comment on how ironic it is that the weather has been glorious all week and then the minute we get to the weekend the temperatures plummet. We'll probably smile as we realise how very British that sounds, drinking tea and talking about the weather. 

If you've chosen to sit on the sofa, I'll apologise for the excited dog who will insist on sitting next to you, she'll be hoping you give into those big puppy dog eyes and let her have the last crumbs from your slice of cake.  Oh, I should also warn you that she is partial to a cup of tea herself so don't take your eyes off her, she's not to be trusted!

We'll probably chat about how our weeks have been and I will tell you how I had been a bit fed up at work but I've been assigned some new projects which I am happy about; I do like a new challenge. I'll be asking you whether you feel that your whole attitude to life in general seems to be affected by the weather.  If I wake up to sunshine, the world seems a better place, I'll put my favourite sing-along tunes on in the car and arrive at work in a good frame of mood.  Do you have a favourite cd that makes you sing out loud in the privacy of your car?  The one I'm listening to a lot at the moment is a compilation of George Michael's greatest hits.  So if you ever find yourself in the car in front of me in a queue of traffic and I appear to be shouting to myself, I'm probably just singing 'I don't want your freedom ....' at the top of my voice.  (I don't think Will.i.am or Jessie J are going to be fighting over me to be part of their The Voice team though)

It's nice to have some company this weekend after being home alone last weekend while the rest of the family were doing their 3 Peaks Challenge.  It's been great to see you here and whilst I'd love for you to stay longer, I'm sure you want to head on over to Abi's to see if anyone else has put the kettle on yet!

Tuesday 23 April 2013

And then there were three (and a dog)

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So the intrepid explorers returned triumphant after their 3 Peaks Challenge. All proudly clutching their certificates of achievement and all remarkably unscathed. Photographs show magnificent views, proud climbers at the top of each peak and relieved faces enjoying a well earned pint at the pub conveniently situated at the end! They had an amazing time. The weather was perfect, dry, bright and with a gentle breeze, although at the top of the first peak they were still climbing through snow!
Peak One
Any Harry Potter fans out there recognise this bridge?
Phew, it's over.  Thirsty work all this mountaineering!
Responses to having done it varied from muttering about trying Kilimanjaro now (J), signing up for Race for Life next month (R) and "it was great, but I'm too old to do anything like that again (P). 55 year old knees complain more than 23 and 26 year old ones!
So today J has gone back to Edinburgh and we are back to being 3 again.  I'm not sure who's sulking the most, me or the dog. 


Saturday 20 April 2013

Ain't no mountain high enough

Ain't no valley low enough, ain't no river wide enough, to keep me ... at home with the dog. Yes this is the weekend the brave adventurous members of the household have taken themselves off to the wilds of the Yorkshire Peak District to do the 3 Peaks Challenge. 3 peaks, 25 miles in a day. Training has been varied, from long countryside dog walks and 12 mile hikes to Hatfield forest in the south, and around 'Arthur's Seat' and the Pentlands in Scotland.
Specialist clothing has been packed - the men have new walking boots, new waterproof trousers, new socks, special new moisture absorbing t shirts, new micro fleeces and waterproof jackets. The backpack that we bought for Js trip to Tanzania is clocking up a few more miles! My daughter has taken a pair of walking boots she had for a couple of school A level geography field trips to the Isle of Arran and Gower Peninsula 9 years ago, a jacket from the same trip that I have been using for dog walking, a pair of thick old socks, some leggings from ASOS, an old t shirt from Topshop and one of my old fleeces. Can you guess which one prefers to save her money for buying more trendy clothing?
The weather report for today is perfect. Sunny with a light southerly breeze and about 10 degrees (but who trusts the British weather?)
The dog and I have plans for the weekend too. One of us intends to walk a bit, sleep a bit, eat a bit , get up to mischief in the garden a bit, and hang around the kitchen for treats a bit. The other one plans to walk a bit, go to the supermarket a bit,eat a bit, sit in the garden with a coffee reading her book a bit, watching some tv programmes she recorded that no one else watches a bit and cooking some new recipes.
I am planning some good hearty meals for their return. One of Mama Keys' famous family lasagnes has been requested and I'm going to try Paul Hollywood's soda bread to go with it followed by a chocolate and pear frangipane tart that the Hairy Bikers did this week. When it comes to tv chefs, I have to say that I find Paul Hollywood much 'easier on the eye' than the Hairy Bikers!
Well, the sun is shining as as all us Brits know, we have to make the most of the British sunshine while it's there, so I'll finish up here and hope the sun is shining on you too - wherever you are! Have a good weekend!
PS has everyone signed up for Sian's new venture? Sounds like it will be fun. If you haven't done so already, pop over and take a look.     

Monday 15 April 2013

Simply a Moment - April

This post is prompted by Alexa where she asks us to blog about a small moment of time in our month.  You can find details on her blog here.
I prepared for our return before we even left the house.  This involves covering up anything that may be made dirty with blankets and covers.  The bed, in particular, has two layers on it, a green blanket at the top and a large blue fleece blanket to cover the whole bed.  Sure that I have covered every inch of the white bed linen, we can now go on our afternoon walkies.
We have done a quick circuit - what we call going 'round the block'.  Turn left at the end of our road, a brisk walk down to the underpass, cross over the road, along the side of Sainsburys supermarket, turn right along the cycle path, then right again to cut through the estate opposite ours and then home again.  It's just about a mile, plenty of grass and plenty of opportunities for a dog to do what a dog needs to do.
On our return, the bowl of tepid water that I left just inside the front door is waiting and four paws are gently washed one at a time "no, there is no point in trying to escape, you cannot go around with 3 clean paws and 1 grubby one".  Lead off, she skids across the kitchen floor, doing her version of the 'gravy bone dance'.  'Britain's Got Talent' clearly inspired her in this as she jumps and turns in circles at the same time, round and round again until I reach for the tin which houses her treats.  A firm 'sit' and a cute 'high five' and she is rewarded for walking nicely and behaving during her footbath.
I have things I want to do on the computer so I go upstairs to the study and she skips up the stairs behind me.  I can hear her padding around in the bedroom as I check bank balances, move money and pay bills.  Clicking on a blog is lethal; reading, commenting, clicking on links  - which lead to more links, a few pins on Pinterest - the minutes tick away as I become engrossed in the wonderful creative world in the blogworld.
It takes a while for me to realise that it has gone completely quiet in the room next to me.  She's obviously fallen asleep for her afternoon nap.  I get up quietly and creep around the door, even if she has jumped up onto the bed, at least I had prepared for all eventualities.  I expect I will find her curled up in a ball on top of the carefully placed covers.

Or maybe not ...

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Trying something different

There's a new app on the block. Well it's new to me anyway. I'd seen a few pictures come up on Instagram with #bubblecam and I knew I had to try it! And fortunately a few little flowers have appeared in the garden to act as models for my experiment.
Isn't it clever? Clearly it is not something you can use for many subjects ... Or could you?

So as you can see, I am using my Easter Holidays productively ;-)
Actually a fair bit of decorating has been done, 5 gloss doors, a ceiling and coving but we've come to a halt as the wall paint needed to be ordered in.  I suspect that my husband may have said something like 'we're in no hurry' as it's been a week since he ordered it.
Thankfully the weather is slightly improving with each day which is good because P,R@J are doing the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge next weekend.  25 miles up and down 3 Peaks within 12 hours, not my idea of a weekend stroll so I am staying home dog-sitting.  They've been in training for a while now.  J is getting his fair share of cycling to places and then walking for about 3 hours up in Scotland and P&R are discovering parts of our local area they've previously only driven to - 12 miles on average on a Sunday morning.  Luckily we have some lovely countryside around us - they even made it to Hatfield Forest and back last week - although P had to stop for a coffee and a Mars bar at the little cafĂ© there before the trek back!
So, back to app talk - I love discovering new (free) apps, what are your favourites?

Monday 8 April 2013


My family think I'm crazy for many reasons.  Not least the fact that I love the tv advert that features small furry creatures from Meerkova.  I think it's just a British advert so any visitors from overseas will be totally bemused.  Basically, it's a comparison website that scours the market for cheap deals on car insurance etc.  But they have a play on words and say that there is confusion with a different website that instead of comparing 'markets' compares 'meerkats'.  It just appeals to my sense of humour.  Now, if you go onto the website and eventually buy something they have recommended, you get sent a stuffed meerkat character and this is the only way you can get one.
My son got his car insurance via their site and he got his meerkat.  I was envious.  His meerkat got featured on Facebook, and twitter.  I tried to be happy for him, really I did.  But deep down inside I wanted that meerkat.  I needed that meerkat.  That meerkat would make our family complete.  And it couldn't be complete with the meerkat banished to the wilds of Edinburgh.  He needed to come home to Hertfordshire.  His cute little face taunted me, the rakish way he wore his glasses, his little tie and waistcoat.  Cute beyond words.  I thought my subtle hints about looking after it for him were falling on deaf ears but when a box turned up in the post for my birthday, guess what was inside ...
And look - my layout almost looks straight! {thanks for the suggestions, Sian}

Sunday 7 April 2013

Pick your Precious - April

Jamie Oliver? Nigella Lawson? Delia Smith? Oh yes I am an avid collector of their cookery books and you will find all their names in my bookshelves. But when I want something classic, tried and tested, this is the book to which I turn.

Now it's not new and it's definitely not fancy and there is no way I would ever go into a bookstore and buy the newest edition so I could throw this one away.  This cookery book was given to me by my mum as an engagement present. I loved cooking but back in those olden days, there weren't many celebrity chefs bringing out books and I relied on my O level cookery recipes and Mum's family recipes.  This book has very few photos in it, a few black and white lined drawings, splashes and spillages all over it and every classic recipe you could ever need.  It's from Good Housekeeping and when I received it, it had a green hardcover with gold lettering on it.   There was a colourful paper sleeve around it too, but that fell to pieces many years ago.  Now it has a tatty front cover piece of card and the index pages have fallen out of the binding and are attached to the main book by a piece of ribbon.  Interleaved in the pages are comments, hints that Mum passed onto me and instructions like 'might not need to add so much liquid next time'.  In there too are a few handwritten recipes that my Mum gave me, like her recipe for meringues. Some of the handy hints she scribbled alongside these notes make me smile so much as they probably made sense to her at the time, but they're not always so clear to anyone else now!  But along with those smiles is a little pang of sadness that she's not here for me to say 'What on earth does that mean?!'  No mention is made of microwaves, recipes are shown in lbs and oz first and those new fangled metric equivalents in brackets.  This is 'proper old school' as my kids would say.
But it's precious.  It was my first recipe book, and given from mum to daughter as I embarked on proper grown up married life, and no other cookery book will ever take its place.  It's not a very traditional heirloom but my kids know that this is one cookery book that must never be thrown away.
This post is part of Sian's monthly blog post - be sure to swing by there and see what other people are choosing this month.

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Going off the straight and narrow

Can anyone tell me why you can put a flat, square piece of card stock on the floor, which is completely flat too, and yet when you take a photo of it, it looks distorted and not square or flat at all? It's so annoying, I need to find a new way of photographing layouts!  I try hard to hold the camera at the proper angle so that I am looking straight down at the straight card, on the straight floor and still it comes out squiffy.  Short of suspending myself from the ceiling and lowering myself down towards the floor in a scene reminscent of Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, I can't think of what I can do to stop this. 
Anyhow, without further ramblings - part two of my Mad Hatter layout and the two pages next to one another ...

So anyway, today we are back to freezing temperatures, frost on the ground, gloves on, hoods up.  So I'm guessing that yesterday was Spring.  Gotta love the British seasons eh?

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Hello sunshine

There's something strange going on outside. There's something yellow and round in the sky. And the sky's blue, there aren't many clouds. I've just mown the lawn and picked some hellebore flowers to float in a bowl. It couldn't be. Could it? Surely not. Could it be Spring at long last?

So after an afternoon spent mowing the lawn, discovering a series of Coco-paw sized holes dug in one of the flower borders, (she maintains that it must be a neighbour's cat, but the earth engrained in between her toe nails and the muddy whiskers around her otherwise white face are a bit of a give away)  and generally starting the tidying up the garden process, I returned indoors on the pretext of making a pot of tea and started on my layout using photos from my birthday treat with my daughter.  It's going to be a double page layout and I only got to finish one side before a thirsty voice from the garden said 'what happened to that cup of tea?'  Ooops. 
So I brought the finished layout into the conservatory to photograph as the light was best in there.  The dog thought this was a game entitled 'get in the photo or if you can't do that, try and chew the layout'.  It wasn't until I uploaded the photo that I noticed that in waving the page around to keep it out of reach of my furry friend, some of the letters have started to lift.  Oh well, nothing that a bit of glue won't put right!  And of course in cropping the picture I have managed to make it look lop sided.  In the photo of me, I am holding a chocolate tea cup, inside of which was a green tea and white chocolate mousse which had popping candy mixed in with it.  Absolutely delicious!
It's amazing what a bit of sunshine can do to lift your mood, and having put our clocks forward an hour seems to make the days feel a little longer.  However, I wonder how my muscles are going to feel  tomorrow after all that gardening?