Monday 31 August 2015

Me on the last Monday of the summer holidays

Ah, August Bank Holiday.  The last Monday of August.  Still officially summer.  You're visualising lunch in the garden.  A variety of salads and maybe a quiche, followed by fresh fruit salad, maybe a pavlova with strawberries.  What we're actually seeing is me preparing vegetables for a nice hearty chicken and leek pie, good old comfort food to satisfy us on a cold wet miserable day.  That fresh fruit dessert?  Apple and blackberry sponge pudding and custard!

Not much of a smile going on here is there?  Well the relentless rain pouring down outside isn't helping but clearly I am dwelling on the fact that it is back to work for me tomorrow after almost six weeks at home.  I had so many plans for these holidays but found myself in the last week with very few of them being ticked off the 'to do' list. Which is why I found myself in a speed decorating project on Friday.  Despite the fact that our daughter moved out six months ago she's left so much behind in her bedroom that you'd think she is still living here! I figured a good way to get it looking better was to blitz it and freshen up all the paintwork. Boy did I ache the next day. My husband went out at 9am and by the time he came home at 5pm I'd painted all the gloss work and the three walls that aren't wallpapered.  
So when your muscles are feeling tight and sore, what's the best thing to do? Gardening.  Serious, heavy duty gardening. Our daughter's garden needed a good pruning session and neither her nor her boyfriend have any idea about what needs to be done. So we popped round and helped with a good clear up.  Amazing what turned up behind overgrown shrubs, even a good luck horseshoe hidden behind the stem of a passion fruit plant!
We had earned a relaxing evening and went out with friends for a meal in the evening to a new Thai restaurant that's opened in town.  Amazing how much better you feel after a glass of wine and a chicken massaman curry. 
Sunday dawned, another day, another garden. Our own one this time, boy I have burnt off some calories in he last three days, but it's good when you can see a real difference at the end of the day.  Thank goodness we did it yesterday because it sure isn't gardening weather out there today!
So, let's give a big wave to Sian as we share our Me on Monday stories.

Thursday 27 August 2015

Scavenger hunt - from tents to toilets

Last time I shared my scavenger hunt photos from the list that Rinda has set us I finished on a trio of turtles so it's time to pick up the list at
8 - Someone plugged into social media
Daughter watching catch-up TV on her iPad and her partner sending a message on Whatsapp.  I bet there is no one taking part in the hunt who had trouble with this category - you can always find someone engrossed in their phone or a tablet!
9 - A tent
You never get anyone camping in the local park.  Never.  Well, unless you count the little canvas shelters that the fishermen over the lake use for night time fishing.  But quite randomly, one day on a dog walk we noticed that someone was practising putting up a tent.  It was literally only in this state for about half an hour - as if they knew I needed a photo!
10 - A college or university
One of the easiest ones to get - as I work there! It felt like a bit of a cheat but I'm claiming it anyway.
11 - A cellular tower or television satellite dish
This was a really ramshackle house by the marina in Viareggio, it was a little unloved and one side of one of the walls had quite an elaborate graffiti painted on it.  It was definitely in need of a little TLC but I can definitely see a satellite dish up there on the rooftop aerial!
12 - A public restroom, bathroom or toilet

Oh Rinda - this was an odd one!  Ladies loos in England are notorious for their long queues to wait to use them so the chance of being able to photograph one in private was looking unlikely!  There are many things on a scavenger list that may cause raised eyebrows of those watching you take a photo of something obscure but a toilet?!  Plus the Ladies in our local shops and restaurants aren't really that photogenic - but look what I found at Pisa airport - pretty doors.  I tried to make it look like I was sending a text message while waiting in the queue but I'm pretty sure the lady next to me saw that I was actually using my camera. 
13 - A merry go round or carousel
We had got the bus to go to Lucca for the day and our cameras were seeing a lot of action (Panoramic view from the top of a tower for example, not to mention some rather lovely door knockers).  The town is built within the confines of the ancient city wall and we were heading out of the town to photograph the actual wall.  I was more than a little bit tired after climbing the tower and Paul was walking ahead of me, suddenly he turned a corner and stopped.  'You won't believe what's round here' he said and as I walked to join him I saw this beautiful traditional carousel.  (You can tell he was well versed in what was left to get on the list can't you?) It really was strange to see it as it wasn't part of any other children's attractions, just this one random carousel going round in a street.  It was like the tent situation again - it's as if the Scavenger Hunt fairies knew I needed one!
14 - A traffic signal
You can tell from the red Vespa parked along the road that this too was taken in Italy. I tried to find a sign that was very different to anything we have at home but it turns out that probably as we are part of Europe they have all been standardised. 

So that's the second third of the list.  Numbers one to fourteen safely chosen and shared.  And you know what that means don't you?  The next one will be number fifteen - the elusive and much sought after flag pole.  I can hardly wait!


Sunday 23 August 2015

Me on a Birthday Monday

29 years ago I met this young lady for the first time
Two weeks earlier than expected and weighing in at 5lb 10oz, a tiny bundle of loveliness. She arrived dramatically, wrong way up, back to front, emergency surgery - a drama queen from Day One!  Where did those twenty nine years go? 
We started the celebrations early and had a pre-birthday dinner on Friday night. Our son and his girlfriend are looking after someone's dog at the moment so he came with them on the train. We wondered how Coco would react to another dog in her house, especially as he was staying overnight but it worked out very well.

Saturday was scorchio! Riverside walks, lawn mowing and talking my husband into cooking crab linguine for dinner.  
It was a good job we made the most of Saturday's sunshine as the good old British weather was as predictable as ever by being totally unpredictable on Sunday.  Mid morning we were sitting outside in the sunshine reading the Sunday papers, drinking coffee (the humans) and sunbathing on the cushions of the patio sofa (the dog).  Lunchtime I had to leave my dinner half way through to run out to the garden to bring in the cushions and quilt because it was torrential rain.  Then two hours later and I was dog-walking in the sunshine.  Crazy weather. 
So - What am I doing today? Celebrating my daughter's birthday of course!  She has a day off work.  It was the first time ever she was going to have to work on her birthday.  When she was young, it was always in the school Summer Holidays, same thing when she was at uni, then it fell on either a weekend or a Bank Holiday Monday but this year ... no such luck.  And she couldn't possibly go into work on her special day could she? 
So here I am, Me on Monday having lunch with my girl

Wednesday 19 August 2015

How long is not long enough?

Whenever I tell people that I am a secretary in a school, I guarantee that at some point they will say 'oh how lovely to have all those holidays'.  I'd be lying if I didn't agree!  I saw a colleague in the car park at Aldi yesterday and we both commented on how we couldn't believe we were more than half way through the long summer break.  Have you ever wondered what five and a bit weeks off feels like?

Week 1 - I haven't got to go to work!  I can do what I want, when I want and I don't have to dress up and look smart for almost six weeks.  I'm going to be super organised and get all my holiday shopping done early and pack well in advance.

Week 2 - I'm on holiday!  The sun is shining, I don't have to cook any meals for a whole week and I can't remember when I was this relaxed.

Week 3 - I'm home.  There's a pile of washing needing to be done.  Those swimsuits won't see the light of day for another 12 months - there's no hurry. 

Week 4 - Stop ringing me! I didn't realise just how many times my home phone rings when I'm not here to answer it.  And most of the calls are either silent 'unknown' numbers from call centres or someone offering to mend my broken Windows system/double glaze my house/sell me solar panels or the best one this week 'We've looked at an aerial view of your house on Google earth and we can see you have a problem with moss on your roof.' 'Moss?' 'Yes madam, it's green fluffy stuff that ruins your guttering'.  Sigh.

Week 5 - Oh no, I've only got a few days left and then I've got to go back to work.  I was planning to meet up with so many people, go to so many places and I've hardly done any of that.  How can I cram that all into the last week?  It's never going to happen. Lots of baking going on this week.  Inspired by Great British Bake Off and with our daughter's birthday happening this week, there's lots of excuses to experiment.

September 1 - It's here.  The day we have to go back.  The day we have to sit in the hall and listen while the Head goes on (an on) about exam results, mission statements for the next year, introducing new staff, blah blah blah.  How did my desk get so untidy when I haven't been sitting at it?  I'm sure I left that in tray empty.  What was my log in password?  More importantly - How many weeks until half term?

But wait - I have news to share.  News of a woolly variety.  Warm toes and too good to hide under trousers style.  Today I came home from Tesco's to find a parcel on the door mat.  A soft squidgy parcel.  One with Sian's name in the 'sender's details' box. Inside that was a brown paper bag with a pretty tag on it.  Inside that bag was the most brilliant pair of homemade socks that fit to perfection!

Aren't I lucky!  And how fortunate that the temperatures have dropped and I am justified in keeping them on for the day!  On that 'footnote' I shall finish this post.  There's Portuguese Custard tarts cooling on the rack (we have a weekend in Lisbon coming up which is the home of the Pastel de Nata so I need to get myself in the mood), water boiling in the kettle - time to put my feet up with a cuppa and a cake and admire my lovely socks.

Monday 17 August 2015

Me on Monday - the Christmas in August edition

Giving a sunshiny wave to Sian and sharing this week's Me on Monday post. 
This is the Monday that I realised I am now closer to the end of the school holidays than I am the beginning.  That's a bit of a miserable thought but the mail today included this month's edition of my quilting magazine which was an excellent excuse to put the kettle on, make a cup of coffee and relax for a while in the garden.  
Ah, the summer holidays - sunny days, reading in the sunshine, picking beans from the garden
Sunbathing on the grass
... and being able to buy Christmas cards and gift bags down the town

What?!  That's crazy.  I went into town to buy wrapping paper for my daughter's birthday presents and while browsing discovered that the first aisle was being set up with Christmas goods.  Needless to say that the poor woman stocking the shelves was being interrupted every couple of minutes by people commenting on the fact that it was not Christmas for another four months.  She was remarkably patient, I'm not sure that my Christmas cheer would have lasted so long!
Sian's clocked up a few miles this weekend in her travels - mine was spent much closer to home with general chores and cooking on Saturday ready for an Italian inspired meal for friends on Sunday.  Oh how lovely it was to have everything prepared in advance - much more relaxing.  The weather even cooperated and we were able to have prosecco and antipasti in the garden before the main course.  There's also a dog in the house whose paws keep turning a strange earthy colour and is spending a suspicious amount of time sneaking around in the flower beds.  Careful investigation this morning has revealed an impressively sized hole behind one of the shrubs.  I wonder where she's planning to tunnel to?  I love the fact she thinks she's invisible.  She saunters out the door, runs up to the end of the garden where she thinks we can't see her and then every now and again you see a little white head poking through the shrubbery to make sure she hasn't been followed then it's head down, keep calm and keep digging. 

Tuesday 11 August 2015

Scavenger Hunt - the final cut 1 - 7

I've still got one photo to take for the Scavenger Hunt organised by Rinda, the one of me with a sign and I'm hoping that I won't have too many problems getting that one!  But I thought it was time to share a few of the pictures that I've chosen as my finalists. 

1 - A bouquet of flowers
Although I've seen many bouquets as I've walked past flower shops and market stalls, I still like this picture that I took right at the beginning of the hunt.
2 - An ornate door knocker
I really was spoilt for choice on holiday so have chosen a few to show the Italian style.  Mediterranean countries have a certain distinct style of door knocker, and I knew that I would be able to tick this one off the list while I was on holiday.
3 - A person walking a dog
Or as Coco would put it, a dog walking her human.

4 - People playing a board game
This one was harder to capture than you might think.  These guys were sitting in the shade of the beach bar every day, drinking espresso and playing games but it wasn't easy to sneak a photo of them as you walked past, they may have wondered why I was taking their photo and I wasn't sure of how to say 'it's for a photographic scavenger hunt' in Italian!  In the end I made Paul stand over the other side of them, pretend I was taking his photo and then swing round at the last moment.  They were so engrossed in their game I don't think they even noticed!
5 - Architectural columns
Viareggio had the most pretty churches.  The paintings on the fronts were such beautiful colours and so well maintained.  This one also had some rather gorgeous architectural columns!
6 - A metal bridge
I was happy to find this metal bridge on an early morning walk to the marina and took several photos.  Then when we turned round to walk back we saw that it had raised up to let some boats through and I realised that this was the photo for number six!
7 - A turtle
Or a selection of turtles.  From real ones to inflatable ones to printed on a sarong ones.  I couldn't choose between them so decided to make a collage!  We also noticed that the waiter at the beach bar had a turtle incorporated into a tattoo that ran the width of his calf but thought that taking photos of the leg of a handsome young Italian could be misinterpreted! 

So that's the first third that have made it to the finals.  I absolutely love this fun summer project and it really adds to the holiday by trying to find the missing ones. I think that the reason I haven't taken the final one is because I don't want the hunt to end! 

Monday 10 August 2015

Me on Monday with the post holiday blues

This time last week I was taking selfies by the beach with a flag pole with more than three flags on it in the background - this week I'm trying to think up ways to avoid doing the ironing that was generated from getting all the washing done and dried yesterday.
And what's the best way to while away an hour or so?  Checking out the photos that I've found for Rinda's Scavenger Hunt.  I have one left to get and it's one I can engineer any time - a person walking a dog.  I think Coco's nose will be well and truly out of joint if I use some other dog for that one!
I was really happy with the extra finds I made whilst on holiday.  You've never seen so many flagpoles with lots of flags flying as there are in Viareggio!  A trip into the nearby town of Lucca found me so many decorative door knockers that I am spoilt for choice now and may need to resort to making a small collage up for that one.  And imagine my delight at rounding a corner and finding a beautiful carousel twirling around in the sunshine. 
My weekend was a strange mix of travelling and getting back to normal routines.  Overexcited dogs, unpacking suitcases, one more batch of washing in the machine, watching the Great British Bake Off that I recorded, let's have Sunday lunch at the local pub because I don't want to cook and downloading photos.  Which is where this post started - time to give a big wave to Sian and see what everyone else is up to today. 

Sunday 9 August 2015

One photo and twenty words

You know the holiday is well and truly over when the washing line is full of holiday clothes. Ciao Italia!

Monday 3 August 2015

Me on Monday- the Italian edition

There's sunshine and sand, there's sunglasses and flip flops. There's even a flag pole with at least three flags flying! 
Buenaventi Italia!