Monday 25 April 2022

Me on Monday

 I mentioned before that our son and daughter in law gifted us a hotel voucher as a Christmas present, and we made our booking for last Friday.  Coco was booked into my niece's house for a couple of days and we headed off, bright and early, for the Chiltern hills.

When we were trying to decide where to go, we didn't want to go too far afield and waste our limited time away in the car so we chose Amersham, which is only about an hour and a half away.  Isn't it strange how we tend to venture further afield to discover new places and not visit places closer to home?  We based ourselves in Old Amersham at The Crown Inn.  If you've seen the film Four Weddings and a Funeral you will have already seen where we stayed as it was used as a location where Hugh Grant and Andi McDowell stayed there!

We started our exploration in West Wycombe which has close association with Sir Francis Dashwood who built the mausoleum dedicated to his family.

Quite an impressive structure!  Francis was a member of the Dilettanti Society and co founder of the Hellfire Club.  The Diettanti Society had a mysterious reputation and seemed to have an element of secrecy about it. The original club was disbanded but reformed under a different name 'The Order of the Knights of St Francis' organised by  Dashwood who arranged for the construction of a series of tunnels to be built beneath the local church and mausoleum so that they could have their meetings in complete privacy.  It was known as the Hellfire Club.

You can go into the Hellfire Caves to see where all the mysterious goings on took place and we kind of 'half explored' that.  

I'm not a lover of caves, but the entrance to them looked well lit and not too claustrophobic so I cautiously agreed to go in on the understanding that if I got spooked we would turn round and come out again!  The layout of the caves is not straightforward and you would go down a passage to be met with a choice of two directions to travel down.  Do you go left or right?  There weren't many other people around and we got about 3/4 of the way through when it seemed to get narrower, more steep, not so well lit, suddenly there was no one else in the passage we had chosen and water was dripping on my head.  I'm ashamed to say that this was my 'I need to get out now' moment!  So I've seen most of the infamous caves but not the inner sanctum!

So while I recovered from the stress we ate our picnic lunch we decided that we would stick to an afternoon of exploring open air places. We headed for Wendover Woods and enjoyed wonderful views over the Chiltern Hills.

Time to return to the hotel, have a shower and then head down the hotel restaurant, Hawkyns, which is run by Atul Kochar, a Michelin starred chef who specialises in modern Indian cuisine.  What a delicious meal!  Quite unlike any Indian meal I have had before and has possibly spoilt me for future Indian evenings with friends!  

The following day we headed up to Coombe Hills which has amazing views over the local area.  Apparently it is the highest viewpoint over the Chilterns.  Views too of Chequers, the countryside retreat that is used by every serving Prime Minister during their time in office.  

That's the house in the centre of the photo, isn't it a wonderful location?  

Next stop, Hughendon Manor. Now, those of you who follow Ruth's blog, will know that this is a favourite of hers!

What a beautiful house, with a fascinating history.  We have been to many National Trust properties over the years but I think that the volunteers who were available inside the house were the most knowledgeable and friendly we have ever met.  This was once the home of Benjamin Disraeli but holds a fascinating wartime history when it was used as a secret map making operation for the RAF with the codename 'Hillside', you can read more by clicking on the link.  The man in the short video is one of the volunteers who we met on our walk through the house.  

In addition to the house, there are more wonderful walks through the woods,

By then it was time to head home, having packed as much as we could into our couple of days away.  

So Monday finds me getting back to normal routine and not walking quite so many steps every day as I did over the weekend!  

Tuesday 19 April 2022

Lucky Dip


Our little Easter 'bunny'

It would seem that at this moment in time I may be Leo's most favourite person ever (well apart from his mum, dad and sister!) and it's because of something that was completely out of my control!  I didn't want to go over the top with Easter eggs this year as the kids will get more than enough chocolate so I just bought them one small one, and put it in a colour yourself canvas bag with a little gift.  Olive had a egg shaped stacking toy, Max had a Spiderman in a car, Rosie had a Polly Pocket and Leo had a couple of packs of Pokemon cards.  

At 7 o'clock on Sunday I had a WhatsApp video call from an over the top excited Leo because in one of the packs was a very rare collectable card - what were the chances?  He was so happy!  Apparently they are so rare that they sell on eBay for about £350 - not that he will be parting with it any time soon, but what a lucky pack that was.

We had our Easter family day on Friday which was absolutely lovely, the sun was shining and we spent the whole afternoon outside in the garden with all the cousins playing so well together.  

Easter cake did not last long!

On Saturday we popped into a local arts and crafts fair as Paul's art teacher had some works on show in the painting exhibition.  It was in a little village out in the countryside (in the village where Jamie Oliver's parents used to own the local pub) and it was a lovely drive in the sunshine, then back to sit in the garden.

So what does this week hold?  Well, after we have our routine childminding days out of the way we are venturing away for a couple of days - shh don't tell Coco she is off on a little holiday to stay with my niece!  We aren't going that far from home but will be using the hotel voucher that J&S gave us for Christmas.  I'll share more next week but the weather forecast is looking good, there's a good restaurant attached to the hotel and hopefully we will discover some interesting places to visit in an area that we haven't explored much before.  It's been over six months since we had some time away from home so I need to dust down our overnight bags.  Having been made to stay at home for so long means that even a couple of days away feels like a big deal!

Monday 18 April 2022

Me on Monday


There's something very special about walking through a bluebell wood in the spring.  Thanks to Coco for taking us somewhere different for our morning dog walk today!

Monday 11 April 2022

Me on Monday

 It's only 9am but it's been a long day already.  Someone - Coco - decided that 2am would be a good time to go for a little stroll around the garden.  Not to do anything in particular, just a bit of a saunter around, sniffing the breeze and generally wasting precious sleep time out there.  We have no idea what prompted it, did she sense a fox out there?  Or a cat sneaking onto her territory?  A squirrel running along a fence? We will never know, but it's so hard to get back to a nice deep sleep at that time in the morning, unless you are a dog!

We'd had a busy weekend as well so could have done with an uninterrupted night!  Popped over to Saffron Walden on Saturday where they have a really good market especially the vegetable stall there. We had friends over for dinner in the evening and it's nice to stock up on good quality veggies when you have visitors.  

 We hadn't seen these friends for over a year so we had much news to catch up on, so much so that the first time any of us looked at the time it was 11.45 and they still had an hour drive to get home.  

Then on Sunday we had Rachel and her family here for lunch; it was our first chance to catch up on all the news from their holiday.  It was a lovely sunny afternoon, we were all out in the garden. Daisy was running rings round Coco, the children were inspecting the tadpoles in the pond or playing football.  It was great and it really felt that spring was on its way, but I did feel as if I'd spent a lot of time preparing food over the last 48 hours!

So this week Coco is going to be spending a few hours at my niece's house on Tuesday to see how she settles as they are going to be dog-sitting for us in a few weeks time while we have our couple of days away which was our Christmas present from J & S.  I hope she behaves herself with no 2am shenanigans then!

I have a Wednesday free again this week as Max is going to go with his mum and sister to visit friends but we will be seeing all the grandchildren together later in the week when they come for lunch on Good Friday.  I think I shall be spending today trying to decide what to cook.  I am thinking of pesto and parmesan crusted salmon as the main part of the meal but need ideas for accompaniments and desserts.  Any suggestions for me?  I'm always looking for new dishes to try!

Thursday 7 April 2022

Progress report

 I thought I would share an update on various projects I've got on the go at the moment, just to prove I don't spend all my spare time watching the second series of Bridgerton 😉 {only because I binge watched the whole thing and have no more episodes to watch!}

The blanket made from leftover wool is now 20" square and coming along nicely.  I especially like the idea that I am making something that is costing me nothing as I'm determined not to buy any new wool to make this project.  I am loving the texture of this blanket and the instructions are so clear, it never feels as if I am out of my depth even though I am learning new stitches.  

I've also started a new project which was a present from Jon and Sophie for my birthday

I haven't done any embroidery since doing my A level textiles exam back in 1976 - how many years? 😳 but I've enjoyed starting this and remembering how much I like doing embroidery.  It's a daytime project though, my eyes aren't as good as they were 46 years ago and I don't have a daylight lamp to use in the evenings.

Also, project holiday has been finalised!  I realised that before we could decide where to go, we needed to find dog-care arrangements for Coco so that we knew when we could go.  Can you imagine how disappointed I was to discover that the lady she usually goes to is away herself for most of June and her son is home from Dubai for the whole of July?  As he hasn't been back since he got married out there 3 years ago there is a lot of relative visiting to do and she couldn't say when she would be home during his stay.  I wondered if my niece was serious when she said that she would have Coco for us if we ever wanted to go away.  Her dog died last year and they are missing canine company.  I mentioned it to my sister to ask if she thought that Kirsty was serious about her offer, when she said 'oh, can we have her here instead?'  They used to look after Kirsty's dog from time to time and I think that they too are missing having a dog around.  As I felt myself relax, it dawned on me that if she was home in the UK and free to have Coco, then she wouldn't be using her house in Portugal so I asked if we could use it and next thing you know I was booking flights!  It still feels a bit of a big deal, but I am so looking forward to it.  It is somewhere we know well and Gill was out there last month and said she felt so much safer over there than she did here so I feel a bit more confident about things.  

I guess my next project needs to be 'stop eating cakes and chocolate so I can fit into my summer clothes' 

Sunday 3 April 2022

What I've been reading - the March edition


I started the month with our book club choice of 'I must betray you' by Ruth Sepetys.

I will begin by admitting that it wasn't the book I voted for and bearing in mind the troubles going on in the world at the moment I wasn't sure that I would find it easy to read.  The book follows a 17 year old student, Cristian, who lives in Bucharest, Romania in 1989.  The communist regime at the time is harsh; there are strict rules and the people live in constant fear.  Cristian is told that in order for his sick grandfather to receive medication he must become an informer.  As the story unravels it appears that there are more informers in his friends and family than he realises and he has no idea who he can trust.  The end of the story, when he discovers who has been reporting on him surprised me no end.  The book describes the revolution in Romania and ultimately the execution of the President and his wife.  It is only then that the people of Romania realised just how much hardship they had needlessly suffered and how many lies they had been told.

Reading this at the time of such awful atrocities going on enhanced the bleakness of the life Cristian was forced to live.  I learned a lot from this book and it has definitely left an impression on me.  In 1989 I was a young mum living a normal life in the UK, I had no idea how difficult things were for a family in Romania at the same time.  This is actually published as a young adult book and I believe that any young adult who reads this will be amazed at how harsh life was under a dictatorship.


I needed a little escapism after this, so turned to the second in the Inspector Gamache series, A Fatal Grace.

We are transported back to the village of Three Pines in the midst of winter.  We meet C C de Poitiers in the first pages of the book, and first impressions are of a very self centred woman.  Her death is unusual to say the least.  She is electrocuted on a frozen lake at the annual curling tournament.  There were crowds of people there, yet no one saw how it happened.  Inspector Gamache is called upon again where he finds that C C had few friends and the list of likely suspects goes on and on.  At the same time that this is being investigated, a homeless woman, known only as Elle, is found strangled in the doorway of a shop and among her few possessions is a book of poetry signed by the author (who coincidentally lives in Three Pines) and a box containing a random collection of alphabet letters. 

What a mystery.  There was certainly no problems finding someone who may have wished her dead, and at times you wondered if the whole village was in on the act!  I'm enjoying Inspector Gamache, I like his character and his ethics in solving the mysteries and I suspect that number three in the series will soon be finding its way onto my kindle!


The third book I have been reading is The Villa by Clare Boyd

This book concentrates on Nora, who has invited her daughters and their families to a luxury villa in France with a view to sharing a wonderful holiday before she passes on some devastating news.  She anxiously awaits the best time to tell them but is unaware that she is not the only family member with secrets to hide.  She has not been the best mother to either of her daughters and relationships between all the women are a little fragile to say the least.  

I wanted to enjoy this book, I really did, but I could not warm to any of the main characters.  Nora is completely self absorbed and I cannot see how on earth she could convince herself that telling her family what she is doing and what she had done in the past was ever in the best interests of anyone else.  I guess she felt that in sharing her secrets she was clearing her conscience. Sadly I found myself longing to get to the end. 

Friday 1 April 2022

A sentence a day in March


It's always nice when March arrives; the days get longer, the sun shines now and again and of course - it's my birthday month!

Day 1 Shrove Tuesday, needless to say we all tucked into pancakes for our dinner time dessert - mine were with lemon juice and caster sugar, how do you like yours?

Day 2 Didn't feel 100% today, woke up very congested and with a bit of an earache so it took every bit of energy I had to look after Max today #earlynightforme

Day 3 Had to remember to take coin skirt, finger scarves, maracas and umbrella for Zumba today as we were being filmed (umbrella needed as a prop for a Dean Martin number 'aint that a kick in the head') yes, we cover all music tastes from Bollywood, the musicals, and the most recent chart songs!

Day 4 Met up with 16 ex-school friends for a meal, we must have talked non stop, what a great evening - I feel very blessed to have made friends for life when I was at school.

Day 5 Today my son is 32 - gosh that time flew by so fast.  He's the same age now as I was when he was born.

Day 6 A nice quiet Sunday, started a new crochet project #houseworkonpause

Day 7 It was sunny today but with a real 'bite' to the wind, even so I still managed to mow the lawn which had started to get quite long

Day 8 Rosie was here today, it was a warm sunny day and we were able to set up a picnic table for her 'babies' on the lawn.

Day 9 Max came for the day - he was in an 'I only want Nanny' kind of mood so it was kind of tiring! Coco went to the groomers
No we didn't make her sit in the middle of the road, this is a backdrop that the groomers use for photos of their customers!

Day 10 Zumba and then a hair cut so now I look as smart as Coco

Day 11 Lunch out with two ex work colleagues as a pre birthday treat

Day 12 Friends came over for drinks in the evening

Day 13 Went to Rachel's for a lovely family day - I was very spoilt.

Day 14 My birthday! Went out to lunch with Paul to my favourite Thai restaurant

Day 15 Back to normal - had Rosie here for the day, weather was glorious - both friends I had lunch with on Friday now have Covid, I tested myself but I am negative

Day 16 Our day for looking after Max - weather was horrendous with heavy rain containing weird red dust

Day 17 The sunny weather is back, Zumba in the morning, read my book in the afternoon with the sun streaming in through the conservatory windows

Day 18 Went to Saffron Walden in the morning, was gloriously sunny, had the most delicious cappuccino in a cafe there, popped over to friends in the afternoon

Day 19 Should have had friends here for dinner but one of them tested positive for Covid on Thursday.

Day 20 Rachel and her family came round for Sunday lunch, the children loved being out in the garden and Daisy went crazy running around in circles chasing them.

Day 21 Another warm sunny day - I even hung the washing out to dry on the clothes line in the garden

Day 22 Rosie was here all day and Leo in the afternoon, a friend has donated a bucket of frog spawn to us to add to our pond - there was much excitement to also find a frog!

Day 23 Max was here for the day, the outdoor toys were brought out again but his favourite was the large box we found in the garage.

Day 24 Fundraising day after Zumba for our local hospice, such a good cause, I'm hoping the grand total will be high.

Day 25 Lovely sunny day, had a pub lunch at a dog friendly pub and ate outside!

There seem to be a lot of pictures of me and food in this month's roundup!

Day 26 More sunshine, went to friends in the evening for an Indian meal

Day 27 Clocks forward an hour and it's Mother's Day!  Lunch at Jon's.

Day 28 Catching up on chores, bit of crochet, bit of reading - a nice slow day, Coco went to the vets for a check up and has put on a bit of weight #shesnottheonlyone

Day 29 A whole day to myself - Leo and Rosie are on holiday in Dubai and Paul had to take some elderly relatives to a funeral.  

Day 30 Max came for the day, made cakes and had fun icing them

Day 31 It snowed!  Just a little but the temperatures have plunged, at least I warmed up a bit after doing my Zumba class! 

Farewell to March, just time for a recap of 1 Second Everyday

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