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.
  • 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!}
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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!
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?
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!
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!