Thursday 31 December 2015

My Month in Numbers

So, the suitcases are down out of the loft and we're ready to pack up 2015 and send it on its way ready for the arrival of 2016.  It's been a while since I joined in with Julie's Month in Numbers, but like Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator, I said 'I'll be back' so here I am.  I am a bit of an arithmaphobe so numbers don't necessarily come naturally to me but I always enjoy reading other people's MMIN posts so here I am, joining in again.
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  • December was a bit of an eventful, sociable month so it's a good place to start.  Let's begin with a biggy.  My daughter went on holiday to Mauritius and came back a stone heavier.  Yes it was an all inclusive hotel and yes there was food and drink available 24/7 but she still came home with her beach bikini body because that stone wasn't in the form of weight but a rather gorgeous diamond set in a beautiful engagement ring.  {If I'd come home a stone heavier from my holiday I can assure you now it would have been a result of pasta, pizza and prosecco rather than a romantic gesture!}
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  • I went to 2 big 'dress up in your best party frock' events - both with meals and discos.  Those new sparkly shoes of mine saw a lot of dance action.  I'm of the opinion that Fleur East's song 'Play that sax' is the floor filler of the year and also the song that my family find most annoying when I sing it over and over (and over) again, mainly because I only sing the same line over and over (and over) again.  Whilst strutting my stuff on the dance floor I realised, to my shame, that I actually like 2 Justin Beiber songs.  Don't judge me.  It was a surprise to me too.  Let's move on.  Quickly.
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  • I went out for 2 meals.  One to celebrate the husband's birthday and one as a get together with a group of old school friends.  It's been 39 years since we left school and still get together at least a couple of times a year, I'm sure the memories and stories get slightly more outrageous every time but it never fails to be an evening full of fun and laughter. And about 14 people in their late 50s reverting back to 18 year olds!
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  • Christmas Day.  I had 14 people here for dinner.  Aged between 3 and 88.  If you hear me thinking about offering to host it again next year, please feel free to come round, give me a shake and remind me how tired I felt by the end of the day!  Queen Delia helped me out in calculating cooking times for a 6.5kg turkey and the reason why everyone who wandered in and out of the kitchen commented on how organised I appeared to be was because I had succumbed to the lure of the excel spreadsheet to plan what needed to be where in the oven at any given time between 8am and 1.30pm.  It led to random comments like 'it's 12.41, why aren't those parsnips in the oven?'  Now I may have appeared calm and organised, but let me leave you with the image of a swan gliding serenely across the surface of a lake, calm and in control above the water and paddling frantically to keep afloat below.  Except this particular swan had a glass of prosecco in her hand to help with the serenity. 
[Apologies to those fellow 'evil baby cabbage' haters for the inclusion of sprouts in this photo.  Apparently just because I don't like them isn't justification for denying others the 'pleasure' of having them with their dinner.]
  • I've ended the month with a new obsession.  I knew, as soon as I heard about it, that it was going to be all consuming.  Something that would make me forget that I was supposed to be starting dinner/going into town/walking the dog.  If you're the kind of person that enjoys a word related challenge, a crossword lover, or maybe you enjoy the code breaker puzzle in the paper, you are in for a treat.  Are you the kind of person that can't put a puzzle down until it is solved?  Then when you have solved it, are you anxious until you can move on to the next level?  You may wish to look away now before you too are consumed by the need to do 'just one more'.  I'm talking about Wordbrain. Apparently I have a brain size of 2736.  Each category is the name of an animal and I am Level 12 on Rat. Come join me, I love a bit of healthy competition!

So that's it, December over and done with.  2015 over and done with.  It's been the usual mix of happy times, anxious times, tiring times, relaxing holiday times but overall it's been a very good year and I hope that yours has been too.  Another year of blogging with you lovely people, sharing tales, inspiration and crafty creations.  Is everyone ready to start it all over again next year/tomorrow? Me too!  See you in 2016 x

Monday 28 December 2015

Me on the last Monday of 2015

Christmas 2015.  Lots of food, drink, visitors, cooking, cleaning and entertaining.  It's lovely while it's here, but who else feels a bit like this when it's over?
 
She's always a good girl when we have people over, but she's a creature of habit and routine and she's always happier when things are back to normal.  It's a tough job keeping an eye on everyone and being ever hopeful that someone will give in to those puppy dog eyes and give her a little bit of Christmas dinner. She makes it look easy but being cute for her visitors is hard work for her and the moment the guests have gone, she will wait for her favourite armchair to become vacant and sneak up onto it when no one is looking.  It's a family joke that she's exhausted from the pressure of entertaining, which is a reference to this episode of Friends: 
So all the shopping and cleaning and cooking and wrapping and entertaining is over and it's back to normal, and while I love having all the family over, and we really did have a lovely Christmas, there is a part of me that feels a bit Coco-ish when the holiday period is over! 
Back in the old routine obviously also means joining in with Sian for the last Me on Monday of the year.  And here I am, typing up this post!

 
I'm hoping that everyone had a good Christmas and that Santa was kind to you.  I need to convince myself that it is not my personal responsibility to finish off all the leftover chocolate, but I'm having trouble resisting.  It's weigh in at Slimming World on Wednesday, that will be a shock to the system I bet :-0
It's been fab joining in with the merry band of Mondayers this year and I'm wondering if Sian may have something new in store for us in 2016.  In the meantime, from all of us to all of you, we wish you a happy and healthy new year. 
{apologies that one of us is not looking at the camera, apparently there may have been a pigeon in the garden that needed keeping an eye on} 

Monday 21 December 2015

Me on the Monday before Christmas

Today finds me ...
Wrapping those last presents.  You know the ones.  The ones you bought long before the proper Christmas shopping started.  The ones you put in a safe place that no one would think of looking.  The ones you find quite by chance when looking for that pashmina with the gold threads that you need to wear to a meal out.  (The pashmina that you wore only two evenings earlier to your work party and which now seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth.)  Do you have a certain place you do your present wrapping?  Mine is at the top of the stairs on the landing outside the spare bedroom. It kills your knees after a while and I'm not sure it's ever so good for your back but it's convenient and means that you can have a break at any time without anyone saying 'you need to move that lot away if we're going to eat dinner at the table'
 
So while giving a big Monday wave to Sian and the rest of the Monday crew, I'll bring you up to speed on the weekend. 
  • We broke up from school at lunchtime on Friday which was a fab feeling.  No work until 4 Jan {she says with a huge grin on her face} So Saturday saw me wrapping most of the presents that I had stored safely in the spare bedroom.  Shopping early in Tesco to get the food for the next few days - still a bit too early for those fresh veg we need for Christmas Day.  Cooking Mary Berry's beef casserole with horseradish and Dijon mustard ready for the next day.  Batch baking some chicken casseroles for mother in law to stock up her freezer.  Out in the evening with our group of local friends.  Had a lovely meal in Cote restaurant then back to ours for prosecco (the ladies) and beer (the men) which ended up being a very late night indeed.
 
  • Imagine then the scene on Sunday morning.  It's about 9am and a very bleary eyed me is cooking a nice full English egg and bacon breakfast, still in my nighty and dressing gown.  Phone rings.  Hysterical Rachel on the other end of the phone.  Coco can't walk.  Come over NOW!  So with a prosecco fuddled head I stumbled into some clothes and ran round.  (Times like this I appreciate the fact she is only just around the corner!)  Coco is laying on R's bed with one leg bent up towards her chest and every time she tries to roll over and get up, she collapses back on the bed and cries.  Not as loud as her mummy is crying but a definite 'I'm in pain' whimper.  A trip to the emergency vet is imminent but that's not local and means a 30 min drive to Saffron Walden.  Rachel goes to get her dressing gown to wrap Coco in to carry her downstairs to the car.  Coco is still whimpering and trying to stand up, then gives herself a shake, tentatively stands up and looks like she is about to jump off the bed.  We all look at her as if a miracle has happened and it is obvious she is about to jump.  James reacts first and picks her up and carries her downstairs where she runs around the lounge, heads for the patio doors, demands to be let out, runs round the garden at 90 miles an hour, has a wee, comes back inside and looks at us as if to say 'what are you looking at?' 
When Rachel rang the vet back she said that obviously there was no point in taking her in, unless it happened again later that day, but it should probably be checked out to see if there was any obvious cause, they need to rule out a seizure even though there were no other symptoms of that.  So guess where I'm going later?  Yes, got it in one, Coco and I are going for a little trip to the vets for her to be looked over.  I'm getting too old for such drama first thing on a Sunday morning especially when I'm feeling a little fragile! 
 
I know that everyone is going to be having a busy week ahead, I have a dozen lists for all manner of things but when you're catering for 14 people aged between 3 and 88, one with a nut allergy and one coeliac, organisation is key!
Right, the sellotape and wrapping paper is calling me back.  Have a brilliant Christmas; rest, relax and enjoy yourselves!  Looking forward to cruising around blogland seeing what everyone else is up to!


Monday 14 December 2015

Me on the last 2015 Monday at work

It was a 'can't match the excitement of last week' kind of weekend but we still found something to celebrate.  My husband's birthday.  His choice for birthday cake was coffee and walnut.  Good job I took a picture early in the day as by lunchtime a quarter of it had gone!  Off to Carluccio's for dinner in the evening.  A festive menu, a glass of prosecco and Christmas crackers. He was a happy boy! 
Our son came home on Sunday and offered to cook lunch.  He didn't need to ask twice - he's a good cook and I am happy to hand over the cooker!  Of course, the neat and tidy new kitchen looks like a whirlwind has blown through it after he's finished but it's a small price to pay for someone else cooking Sunday lunch.  Not a traditional one of course, that's not his style.  A lamb tagine which was absolutely delicious.
So Monday arrives again and it's time to wave to Sian and her merry bunch of Mondayers. 
It's coming up for the anniversary of losing my mum, and so after work I went to the churchyard to lay a wreath. (not sure what's happened to the perspective in this photo - my hand looks much too large - the wreath isn't really that small!)
 It's sad to think she's been gone 18 years, and has missed so much of the kids growing up but I had a little chat to tell her all the exciting news and I like to think that she heard in some way.
Walking back to the car I noticed this :
Daffodils.  In December?  I know it's been mild but surely it's not right to see them before Christmas!  
So, how's everyone getting on with their Christmas preparations?  Everyone ready and organised?  I do hope not as I am completely behind schedule this year and I'd hate to think I was the only one starting to feel a little pre-Christmas panic coming on!

Monday 7 December 2015

Me on a December Monday

I'm giving a weary wave to Sian and the Mondayers today - it's been a busy weekend, I'm getting too old to have too many late nights in a row!
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But before we even get to the weekend I have exciting news to share - she said 'yes'!  My daughter got engaged during her holiday and I couldn't be happier!  Her fiancĂ© (that seems weird to type!) is a lovely guy and they make a great couple.  On the morning they were due to fly out he sent a text to my husband asking if he could pop round for a chat.  We looked at each other and thought 'could it be?'  At that point I was already becoming over excited and it was still just speculation, he could have been asking for P's advice on the best route to take to Gatwick (which would have been particularly disappointing at that point!)  I made myself scarce until I heard the door close but came down to see my husband with a huge grin on his face.  Isn't it great that even now, the old tradition of speaking to the future father-in-law before proposing is still continuing?
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Anyhow, we then knew that at some point in the holiday he was going to ask her to marry him but didn't know when.  Mauritius is 4 hours ahead of us, so each night as it got to about 7pm here we would look at each other and say 'well, it wasn't tonight then'.  But then on Wednesday we had a text from our daughter asking if we were around for a FaceTime chat.  We held our breath.  The phone rang.  The connection took FOREVER to take place.  Then we saw a wave of a hand with a beautiful diamond ring and R grinning from ear to ear, shouting 'I'm engaged!'  So I know no other details about how or where he proposed but they fly home today so it will be my mission to find out more when I see them tomorrow!
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Obviously anything after that was a bit of an anti-climax but we did still have a busy weekend.  It kicked off on Friday when we got together with friends for an Indian takeaway.  The trouble with going somewhere within walking distance means that no one has to volunteer to be the designated driver so it inevitably ends up being a late night.  Then you arrive home, the dog acts like she's been left on her own for a month, so pleased to see you, running around like a thing possessed, Can I go out in the garden?  Can I?  Can I? Please ... refusing to calm down when all you want to do is get in your pjs, get into bed and turn off the lights. 
Onto Saturday, glitz, glitter and glamour.  One of the guys that my husband plays badminton with invited us to a party to celebrate his 50th birthday and the dress code was dinner jackets and bow ties for the men, and ladies dressed to impress.  I only knew two of the other couples there so I was a bit dubious about it but it was a great night.  My new glittery dance shoes were put to the ultimate test and I am pleased to report that even after hours of dancing they were still supremely comfortable.  The disco was great, playing all the classics (funny how Rick Astley 'Never gonna give you up ...' guarantees everyone will be up on the dance floor after all these years) and everyone was up dancing - no wallflowers to be seen.  However, another late night, another 'where have you been?  I've been protecting this house on my own again for hours, there's no way I'm going to quietly settle back down to sleep.  I'm refreshed and raring to go.  But first - could someone please let me out in the garden ...'
Sunday.  Tired.  Very tired.  Watching the recorded Strictly Come Dancing with a cup of coffee after an egg and bacon breakfast.  Popping out to the supermarket.  Over to our daughter's house to leave a few bits of shopping she asked for and to leave flowers, champagne and 'congratulations' banners for their return.  Afternoon catch up of The Bridge.  May have had a short nap at some point during that!  Sometimes it's hard to keep your eyes open when it's all in subtitles.  A quick spur of the minute idea of changing my blog header turned into a frustrating, time consuming, project (I had totally forgotten how to do it, what size it had to be etc) and now it's got Christmas baubles on, I'm going to have to go through it all again in a few weeks time when baubles are no longer appropriate - doh!

Monday.  Here we are again.  A half day's work and then a quick jaunt into town to pick up a balloon to leave along with the champagne for the engaged couple's return.  (They won't be home until about 11pm so I've got to wait still longer to see the ring!) I am in this photo, honest!  You can just about see me in the reflection of the silver balloon!  Happy Monday everyone!

Monday 30 November 2015

Me on the last Monday in November

The last Monday in November ... Oh my goodness!  Time to give a big 'get well soon' wave to Sian and join in with the rest of the Mondayers.
 
So with Christmas just around the corner it was a weekend of gently embracing the forthcoming festivities 
As I took a short cut through the grounds of the local hardware shop I had to weave my way through the Christmas trees. Too early for such shenanigans in our house; we don't decorate until the weekend of my husband's birthday so we have another couple of weeks to wait.
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Sparkly shoes? Have I been invited to join the celebrities on Strictly Come Dancing? No, we have a 50th birthday party coming up soon in a posh golf club and although I had a suitable dress, I had no suitable sandals to go with it. I was pleasantly surprised to find some with 30% off, in my size and comfortable too.  This has been a good month for new footwear!
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Time to start making a few things to put in the freezer ready for Christmas so I can now cross sausage rolls off my 'to do' list.  Time also to sample this year's sloe gin.  Happy to report that it already tastes very good, although I may need to try it again next weekend, and the weekend after ... just to be sure!
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Our daughter is on holiday in Mauritius and we had a FaceTime conversation with her which was lovely. They're having a great time, temperatures are in the high 20s, they'd just got back to their hotel after a five island speed boat tour, seeing amazing waterfalls, feeding monkeys, eating barbecued chicken and lobster on the beach, snorkelling, it all sounds fantastic.  What a shock they're going to get when they come home next week to wind/rain/sleet/frost.
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It's back to working a half day on a Monday today - which was not welcome at all.  I liked having that long weekend for two weeks in a row.
I'd ordered some things on the John Lewis website to pick up at our local Waitrose store so I had a slight detour on my way home.  I'd only gone online to order a wok but you know how things go once you get clicking ... 

Hope everyone else is having a good start to the week - next time we meet it'll be December!
 

Wednesday 25 November 2015

An unwanted guest

We have a mouse.  I say 'mouse' because although I know they don't live solitary lives, I don't like to think we have a family of them.  He's in the garage and he's a cheeky little thing.  The first we knew of his existence was a hole appearing in the bag of Coco's food.  Now, if Coco had been out there and got hold of that bag, there is no way that she could have made such a small neat hole, she'd have been head first in the top, so we knew it was a mouse.

So the mouse traps came out.  I don't like the thought of killing anything, even an unwanted mouse, so we have a humane trap which just captures them.  It's like a black square tube, slightly angled at one end.  You paste peanut butter on the end, the mouse comes in, the tube overbalances and a door shuts behind the mouse.  You know there's something in there, because the trap is lying on it's side.  With a happy mouse covered in peanut butter inside.

The first morning, we came down and the tube was on its side.  My husband was summoned, well, actually I screamed 'get in the garage now, we've caught it!'  He picked up the trap, took it to the nearby field and opened it.  But it was empty.  The peanut butter was gone so we knew the mouse had been in there, but how on earth had it got out?

The second morning, the tube is on its side again.  Again, nothing inside.  Very curious.

The third morning, the tube is on its side and as he picked it up, my husband said 'there's definitely something in there this time' and took it over the field.  It trotted off in a peanut butter haze and we reset the trap in case he'd left his brother behind.

The fourth morning, tube is on its side, something inside it but as my husband picked it up, the door flipped open and the mouse ran out, into the safety of the far corner of the garage.

It has not been seen since. 

Our garage is integral to our house and we have to walk through it to get to the utility room where the washing machine is.  Needless to say, I will not be doing much washing until that trap is on its side again! And you've never seen me park my car and run into the house so fast. Now, does anyone have a cat I could borrow? 

Sunday 22 November 2015

Me on a frosty Monday

Well the temperature certainly dropped this weekend and it's not much warmer today as I wave to Sian and her merry band of Mondayers.



It was a Saturday where a light dusting of snow turned to torrential rain which dried up and let to a 'meh' kind of afternoon.   The kind of day that gives us Brits lots to talk about!
 
It was a Saturday evening of having our daughter and her boyfriend over for dinner as a farewell before they went off on holiday to Mauritius.  They didn't really get much of a holiday last year as although they had a relaxing week in my sister's holiday home in Portugal booked, Rachel got appendicitis 2 weeks before they were due to fly out.  Although they still got to go away, it was a very different type of holiday to that which they had planned - more of a convalescence!  So this year they decided to 'push the boat out'!  Lucky things.

It was a Sunday of waking up to the first real frost of the year, of finishing off that quilt, having a traditional Sunday roast and making a batch of vanilla fudge.  That was prompted in a most unusual way.  You see, at work I have been asking for ages if I could have a second monitor screen linked up to my computer.  It makes life so much easier if you are working with two documents at a time and despite the fact that we had two computers in our office not being used due to people leaving and not being replaced apparently it was not possible to 'borrow' one of the screens.  So I said to the Network Manager that if he arranged for me to have a 2nd monitor, I would give him some homemade vanilla fudge.  When I came back from lunch - I had two screens.  Who knew that homemade fudge could be a bartering tool?  Now what else do I need? ...
It was a Sunday of catching up on TV we had missed, of trying a new pudding recipe for dinner.  Individual panettone bread and butter puddings.  The husband reckons they were the best pudding I've ever made.  Which made me feel a little guilty as they were so easy to put together.  Just slice up half a panettone and cut into squares and fill two large ramekin dishes.  Make a custard with 2 eggs, caster sugar, vanilla extract and milk, then pour that over the panettone.  Leave to soak in for as long as it takes (half an hour?) then put in oven at 160 degrees for 15 - 20 mins.  Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and sit back and wait for the compliments!
So here we are at Monday again - and another Monday off (must remember that I'm back in the old routine from next Monday onwards).  Paul suggested a  shopping trip to Cambridge so I was in my boots and coat with the car keys ready before he had time to change his mind.  It was pleasantly busy without being crowded and we got a few early Christmas presents so all was good.  I loved this sign by a small stall selling very fancy cupcakes:
"You can't buy happiness, but you CAN buy cupcakes ...
and that's kinda the same thing"

Well it's freezing outside, which feels even colder when I look at the photo of the infinity pool by the beach that my daughter's boyfriend has just posted on Instagram.  How's Monday looking in your part of the world?




Monday 16 November 2015

Me on a mid November Monday

It's Monday and we all know what that means - time to give a wave to Sian and the rest of the Me on Mondayers.

It was a weekend that was full of shocking news. Where views of Paris were on every news report and the world mourned so many lives lost.
We had a very busy weekend, full of food and drink, friends and family.  Our weekend started on Friday night with a meal out with friends. It was ironic that as we sat and enjoyed a meal in a restaurant which specialises in French food, horrific things were happening in Paris.  I couldn't believe what I read when I saw the news the next day. 
Saturday was a very 'social' day - we were invited over to our neighbours for a cup of tea in the afternoon.  I had met and got on well with the wife of the couple who live diagonally across from us but the husbands hadn't met properly so it was really nice to go over and see them as a couple.  She is a very talented lady and a brilliant quilter so needless to say we had lots to chat about and I learned a lot in just a couple of hours.  Then onto friends for an Indian takeaway - two late nights on the row!
Our daughter had invited us over for Sunday lunch and our son and his girlfriend came up too so that was lovely, not only to have someone else cooking Sunday lunch but to have everyone together again.  I don't think we've ever had a long weekend with so much eating and drinking - but it was really lovely.
How fortunate then that I have an unexpected (but very welcome) Monday off work.  (I'm really not busy at the moment but in a couple of weeks time it's going to be crazy so it makes sense for me to 'bank' a few hours and then make the time up when there is more to do) Of course I'm using it wisely - there's a quilt to be finished and after learning so many hints and tips at the weekend, I'm itching to get it done:


Be prepared though for a future Me on Monday post which sees me moaning about having to work a whole day on a Monday as payback for not working this morning!
How's your Monday looking?  Hope it's a good one wherever you are and however you're spending it.

Monday 9 November 2015

Me on Monday

Hello!  How quickly these Mondays are rolling around!  It seems like only yesterday I was giving up a wave to Sian and yet here we are again. 

It was a wet and soggy weekend around these parts but what better excuse to give my new boots an outing on Saturday? These were what some may call an impulse buy or as I like to think of it, a perfect example of not realising how much you need a new pair of boots until they call to you from across the road.  You see, last Wednesday I'd popped into town to buy some white thread and a zip.  As I came out of the shop I looked across the road and saw a new display in a small independent clothes shop.  Now, I do like to support local shops so I went over for a proper look and noticed that they were also selling a few styles of shoes and boots.  One pair in particular caught my eye ... I went inside ... the pair on the display was a size 4 ... which is my size ... I tried them on ... they fitted perfectly.  It was clearly the universe telling me that these boots were meant to be mine.  With a quick swipe of a credit card, they were mine!

I'd bought my first ever copy of The Simple Things and there was a recipe for Danish Dream Cake.  So once I'd come home from taking my new boots on their first jaunt into town, I got baking.  It's like a very soft vanilla sponge on the bottom with a coconut flapjack type of topping.  It's getting the thumbs up around here!

Then of course it was Remembrance Sunday for a time of quiet reflection.  Grandma here for lunch - dog returning from her walk caked in mud and soggy leaves - and trying to work out why the programmer on our central heating system doesn't seem to like us wanting hot water and heating at the same time.  I predict an engineer's visit in the near future.  We've tried all the normal things, giving it a stern look, tapping it gently, putting the hoover nozzle up close to it to suck out any dust, blowing on it and even shouting 'why won't you work?' but nothing will convince it that hot water and hot radiators are a good thing. Thank goodness the weather is so mild.

And how does this Monday find me?
Pleasantly surprised by finding this in the mail ...

A premium bond win of £25 - just in time for Christmas, lovely!
Today it is really blustery; thankfully the central heating is behaving itself but I mustn't get too comfortable, I'm about to go out and meet a friend for afternoon tea.  Maybe those boots will be seeing their second trip into town.
See you again next week?  Same time?  Same place!

Monday 2 November 2015

Me on a Monday in November

It's so foggy out there this morning that I'm not sure Sian will see me waving hello and joining in with Me on Monday, but I'll give up a wave anyway.
 
What a glorious Autumnal weekend we had. Bright and dry and sunny right up until Sunday late afternoon when the fog rolled in.
I got lots of sewing done and my sister's surprise Christmas present quilt is now complete. I'm pleased with it and I hope she will like it.  We had some lovely long dog walks in the countryside; scuffing through the fallen leaves and appreciating the beautiful colours.  I know we moan about our weather over here, but without it our seasons would not be the same.  I do like the fact that we have very different seasons through the year.
 
The fog set in about 5pm here and we had already planned to go to see the fireworks in a nearby town.  So we set off with our warm mulled wine in our flask and wrapped up warm in winter coats and boots.  The display was fantastic despite the fog, although a few of the fireworks went up so high, it was hard to see them through the cloud and mist but they still lit up the sky with beautiful colours.
 
On Thursday I had decided to get a new hair style.  I'd become bored with my bob and had considered something drastic for a little while now.  I decided that the time had come, so went into the salon with the brave words 'I want to go a lot shorter'.  We had a discussion about what my idea of 'a lot shorter' was compared to that of the guy who cuts my hair.  Turns out his idea of 'short' is very short and we had to go through a process of negotiation!  However, I'm pleased I've been brave although it still takes me by surprise every time I catch sight of my reflection.  Washing it was fun too, I'm certainly not going to be using so much shampoo!  You can guess what my 'Me on Monday' photo is going to be can't you?
 
(I couldn't work out what the white splodges are on my lips in the photo, turns out that when I was using the hairspray I stood too close to the mirror and I have a covering all over it!)
So yes, this morning saw me returning to work after a lovely relaxing week of Half Term holiday.  Why is it that half terms go by so fast?  After a few hours at my desk it felt like I hadn't been away at all!   
 


Tuesday 27 October 2015

What's happening in my world

Earlier this week Rinda wrote an interesting post which was a variation on a meme that she found hereAs I'm home this week there is no excuse for not doing a blog post or two so thought I would join in with the idea.  
 1.  What’s the title of the last book you read? 
I have just finished the last in a trilogy of books written by Jonathan Holt.  They are fabulous!  It's hard to recommend books to people because everyone has their own taste so whilst I feel like shouting from the rooftops that everyone should read these three books I do realise that they may not be everyone's cup of tea.  In order of reading, they are The Abomination - (this may have a different title in some places) The Abduction,and The Traitor.  It's rare that my husband and I both enjoy the same book but he is hooked on these too!  They are mysteries set in Venice and a lot of the activity is linked to US military bases there.  There's a bit of political background going on without it being heavy going.  I'm not spoiling anything by telling that the Carnivia part of the titles refers to a website which has been set up by one of the characters where you can enter the world of Carnivia, which is a realistic copy of Venice, but are completely anonymous.  Needless to say, this gives people the opportunity to lead a double life, to lead a lifestyle or join groups which would be frowned upon or not be permitted in 'real life'. We're talking murders, Masonic groups, kidnapping, a bit of romance and a lot of intrigue. 
 
2.     What is the last thing you cooked at home? 
A friend of mine came for coffee yesterday and brought with her a large bag of windfall apples from the tree in her garden.  I've just peeled and chopped them all and part-cooked them ready to freeze for future apple crumbles.  While they were stewing I made a batch of sultana scones.  I'm looking forward to having one with a coffee after I've finished here!

3.      What is your favorite thing about Fall? 
The colours in the gardens and parks.  The leaves are so beautiful. 
 
4.     Share one thing that challenged you at some point over the last week.
Good job I wasn't doing this last week after the infamous excel melt down incident!  This week I've been trying to get my head around quantities of fabric needed to complete the quilt I'm making for my sister's Christmas present.  I'm not following a pattern, and adapted a quilt square I'd used before in a larger size and let's just say that there have been a few 'oh no, I'm not sure I've got enough of that fabric' moments!  However, with a bit of economical cutting, I've got all 16 squares cut and sewn now and I feel like I'm on the right track again.  But there was a moment ... Here's the work in progress, one more row to add before borders, binding and backing commence! 
 
5.     List three hobbies that you actively pursue or want to pursue. 
Sewing.  It's my number one craft at the moment.  Cooking.  I just love cooking, trying out new recipes and planning dinners.  Mandalas.  I got into these when I was doing the Summer of Colour and then lost the impetus, but it's something I definitely want to get back into doing.
 
6.      What is the most recent sporting event  you watched? 
The rugby.  I drew Australia in the sweepstake at work is in the final so I feel like I have a vested interest even though poor old England were wiped out in the very early stages.
 
7.     Besides watching "live TV," what service do you use to watch TV or films (netflix, on demand, etc.)?
We don't have Netflix or anything like that so if it's not on live tv or 'catch up', I don't see it!
 
8.     Have you started Christmas shopping yet? 
Yes.  It's early for me but I have a couple of presents that need to go overseas and I decided that I must be more organised this year rather than queuing at the post office on the last posting date.
 
9.      Do you have any upcoming trips?
No.  I have a few ideas of things I'd like to do next year but will wait until the New Year to actually book anything.
 
10.    Do you remember your dreams? 
Yes.  Vividly.  Colours, conversations - everything.  Not every day, but when I do recall them they are crystal clear.
 
So that's what's happening in my world; if you fancy joining in copy and paste the list and jump right in!
 
1.     What’s the title of the last book you read?
2.     What is the last thing you cooked at home? 
3.      What is your favorite thing about Fall? 
4.     Share one thing that challenged you at some point over the last week.
5.     List three hobbies that you actively pursue or want to pursue. 
6.      What is the most recent sporting event  you watched? 
7.     Besides watching "live TV," what service do you use to watch TV or films (netflix, on demand, etc.)?
8.     Have you started Christmas shopping yet? 
9.      Do you have any upcoming trips?
10.    Do you remember your dreams? 

 

Monday 26 October 2015

Me on a half term Monday

Well Hello Monday, come on in and let's give a big old Monday wave to Sian and the rest of the Me on Monday-ers.  What's that?  I seem remarkably perky for a Monday, could it have anything to do with it being half term?  No work for me today! 
Saturday found me test driving a new floor map (what a glamorous life I lead) and really cracking on with my quilt. Having done all the cutting and matching, the squares started to come together quickly and I'm reaching the part that I love, when you can see what it's going to look like
A final job for the day was to make sure all our clocks were altered so that when we woke on Sunday they were correct for going back an hour.  No chores for me on Sunday though. We were invited to our son's for lunch.
What a treat, someone else cooking Sunday lunch!  It was a really lovely day and great to have the family all together.  Even Coco came, although she missed the photo shoot as she was on Squirrel Watch in another room. She loved the fact that she could stand up at the window sill and have a brilliant view of the garden and people walking by.
 
So before I tell you what I'm up to today, let me share a story which happened last week and made me feel every one of my 57 years.  You see one of my jobs is to compile the school newsletter which I actually quite enjoy even though getting people to write articles is sometimes like getting blood out of that proverbial stone.  Some of our Sixth Formers are participating in the Dragon's Apprentice Challenge and had written me an article.  They are given a set amount of money and have a year to generate as much money from that starter to finance any charity events they organise.  So they wrote me an article.  The first group are raising money for the YMCA.  The second, YCT a counselling service for young people.  The third - and I quote - is:
Age Concern -  a meeting place for the over 55's. It provides elderly people with great venue to meet new people, enjoy good, hot food and participate in a variety of activities.
Hang on a minute.  Over 55 qualifies as Age Concern? Over 55 = elderly?  Oh my goodness. How old did that make me feel?  No matter how carefully you highlight those silver strands in your hair, no matter how tastefully on trend you may try and dress, those pesky Sixth Formers apparently classify you as 'elderly'!  There's a thought to start the week on. 
 
So today marks the start of a week away from work and I have a caffeine filled day in store.  A friend who is a teacher coming over for coffee this morning and this afternoon meeting up with a group of friends at CafĂ© Nero in town.
And a lot of quilt sewing in between.  In fact I can't think of a better way of spending a Monday, not being at work, meeting friends and doing something crafty.  A pretty good start to the week off.  Hope your Monday holds good things too!

Monday 19 October 2015

Me on the Monday after the Friday before

I did not want to go into work this morning. It wasn't just the normal Monday morning blues.  Those who know me on Facebook will have seen that I had an atrocious day on Friday and came home seriously considering leaving. Without boring you, let's just say that a 26 column, 12 worksheet sized excel spreadsheet was involved, along with three mail merge letters. I came home from work so wound up, and as I came in the kitchen my husband casually said 'how was your day?' Which prompted me to start having a 'bit' of a rant which turned into tears of frustration and there was an obvious moment when I could see from his face that he realised this wasn't a normal reply that he could get away with not listening to properly, and that he needed to pay attention as clearly the words 'what do you think I should do?' were about to be said.  If I was built with a 'rewind' button, he would certainly have been skipping back a bit so he could see exactly where the conversation all started to go downhill!
Anyway I calmed down, moaned about it a lot, made a status update on Facebook and was so touched by the words of support I was sent online. My sister was so moved by people's comments she rang me up to say what a lovely bunch of friends I have!  But I still wasn't keen to return this morning, thank goodness I had a nice lunch with friends to look forward to when I finished my half day.
 
Me on Monday - a flat iron steak in a baguette with caramelised onions, two good friends to help put the world to rights, lots of laughs and gossip.  A perfect antidote to the horrendous Friday.
 
The weekend went by in a flash.
Saturday was spent baking and sewing, followed by an Indian take-away with a group of friends.  Very good therapy for the technically stressed. 
Sunday was a 'having Grandma over for lunch' day.  My mother in law is a little very hard of hearing but is adamant she can hear a pin drop (she must have some particularly heavy, noisy pins) and refuses to wear her hearing aid. Anyone walking by the house must think we spent our afternoon shouting at her!  Sometimes she tries to second guess what we are going to say which leads to some rather interesting conversations where we are talking at total cross purposes.  Oh the joys of being 88. Our daughter went to a dog show at the Excel centre in London and came home with all manner of treats for Coco.  Including a rather smart bow.  It was supposed to be her Christmas outfit but she couldn't wait to try it on for size.
 
 
 Giving a big wave to Sian who had the idea of Me on Monday.

Thursday 15 October 2015

Martians

I've always been interested in space travel - watching that moon landing on the TV when I was eleven obviously had a profound effect on me.  I've never been tempted to send my CV into NASA though, clearly the fact that I'm too scared to step foot in a lift doesn't bode well for being encased in a lunar capsule hurtling through space for months on end. 
 
Matt Damon has been turning up on a few chat shows recently, promoting his new film The Martian, and I thought it sounded like my kind of film.  Can you imagine being left behind on a planet because the rest of your crew thought you were dead and the next scheduled landing was four years away?  I'm not sure that I'd cope awfully well with that.  Also, no internet?  No phone? So I suggested to my husband that we should go and see it.  We hadn't been to see a film for years, in fact neither of us could remember what it was, but last time we went it was touch and go as to whether we'd get in (must have been something very popular) so to ensure no disappointment we pre-booked our tickets in advance to pick up at the cinema.

To say we needn't have bothered in an understatement.  The foyer was empty apart from a girl behind a counter selling giant boxes of popcorn and litres of cola and as we walked down to screen three I said 'I wonder how many people will be in here?'  As we pushed open the doors it was quite obvious that we were the only people there!  10 minutes later the doors opened again and the audience doubled in size with the arrival of two boys.  Talk about a private screening! 
 
It made me think back to going to the cinema as a child.  There was one cinema in town and there was only one screen - no choice of film.  The internet hadn't been invented then so you couldn't pre-book, you had to factor queuing time into your schedule and normally the queue would be going round the block.  If you were going with a group of friends it wasn't unknown for 2 people to queue and then 8 others turn up to join them as you got closer to the door.  This was not always popular with the people behind you! 
After anxiously approaching the front of the queue, you'd get your tickets and go up the stairs where an usherette would meet you and guide you with her torch to a vacant seat.  There was usually a few adverts for the local Chinese take-away and the local cycle shop, then a short film before the lights went up briefly for the usherette to reappear with her tray of ice creams.  Tiny tubs with little wooden spoons.  Then the lights would dim, everyone would settle down into their seats and the main film would start.  I don't ever remember going to the cinema without nearly every seat being taken. 
At the end of the film they would play the National Anthem and as we got older standing up while it played was very un-cool, so it became a race to predict when the final credits would stop rolling and make sure you were already out the door before the music started.  Hard to imagine that nowadays eh?  I wonder when they stopped doing that. 
 
Are you thinking of seeing The Martian?  Have you already seen it?  I'm not sure I would have been as resourceful as Matt Damon, but luckily it's highly unlikely for me to be put in that situation.  Unless of course NASA find a way of making space capsules less lift-like and raise the age limit on applicants. Quite significantly.  Also, I'm pretty sure I'd be too short for the space suits.  Do they come in a Petite range do you think?