Four day break for Easter.

Usually, with only working 2 days a week, I don’t really feel the benefit of the four day Easter weekend, but his year I did, and I have to say it was lovely πŸ™‚

On Friday I got the mundane weekend chores (like 4 hours of ironing) out of the way and Saturday I was out in the garden filling pots and baskets and sowing seeds. I wanted to get this done so that Mother Nature has a chance to do her thing and hopefully I might have some lovely colourful displays for “summer” for nothing thanks to mum giving me lots of packets of seeds πŸ™‚ I also assembled the solar-light planter she gave me – trying to get the moss to stay in the baskets was nigh on impossible fun and the result looks either very arty or very amateur πŸ˜‰

On Sunday we opened our Easter eggs and cards, I spoke to Mum and Rick on the phone to wish them a nice day and then we went to Pat’s for dinner and board games – as usual at this time of year, though I was away last time. Dinner was absolutely gorgeous (as ever) – I had the beef in red wine casserole, though the other option – chicken, bacon and mushroom casserole – also looked good (and Billy, who had both, said it was.) The beef was divine and what with all the veg, then the Eton mess (the raspberries drizzled with a raspberry liqueur) and far too much of the irresistible cheese and crackers, I was STUFFED! The usual boy v girl games followed, and the boys comfortably cleaned up – their 2nd round of Trivial Pursuit was mightily impressive it has to be said. They are both very good at storing knowledge, (Billy and Paul – Raji had gone to work by this time) and are very much on the same wavelength which helps. The girls were without Barbara who has emigrated to Oz, but gained Natalie – there was no cheating this year so looks like Barbara is the culprit πŸ˜‰ I did get the giggles when the girls were after a Scottish snooker player, clearly had absolutely no idea, and Pat asked if he had a Scottish accent! How this narrowed things down at all, I have yet to fathom πŸ˜€ Billy was hilarious in the game of Articulate and simply couldn’t get from “congregation” to “congregate” nor think of the word “fiddle” despite some interesting clues πŸ˜€ We left around midnight, having had a thoroughly wonderful day, but before I could fall in to bed, I had to tell Nel where her last little Easter chick was hidden as she couldn’t find it. Stephen had gone to work and therefore not looked for his mini-eggs.

I didn’t watch or hear City’s match against Arsenal, though I did follow the text updates. I’d expected us to lose so wasn’t as down as I may otherwise have been, but it was a bit disappointing to lose to an 86th minute goal. (Match report here, MCFC’s 60-second highlights here)

I was still very tired on Monday but enjoyed doing some baking – it was nice to have the extra day to recover and prepare for normality again.

Finishing the job – one year later!

One of the main jobs I wanted to get done during my fortnight off work was to finish painting Billy’s/the spare room. I’d started this a year ago and still the repaired wall was nothing but bare plaster! This was partly due to waiting for the plaster to dry, but mainly because I simply haven’t had the time.

By the end of Thursday I had sealed the plaster (good old PVA glue & water), given the wall 2 coats of (beautiful sky blue) paint, and done the gloss work.

On Friday I had to give the wall a few more coats of paint as the brown damp stains kept coming through which was frustrating but eventually I got it so that they were less noticeable. We then hung up all the pictures (which have been cluttering the hallway for the last year!) and over the weekend, Billy will put everything back in place.

The only thing remaining then, will be to paint the ceiling but as I have to buy ceiling paint for the bathroom, I hope to do both together next week.

I now ache! But it’s worth it – the room looks so much cleaner, lighter and brighter and it’s a job which has been on my mental list (and therefore bugging me) for a year.

Quiet but pleasant New Year 2012

Although I wasn’t quite 100% better, and Billy had started to sniffle, we both wanted to keep our annual New Year’s dates with our friends so we did so but kept it low-key.

On New Year’s Eve we met up with Simon & Claire, Sol & Louisa, Tim & Geraldine, and Raji and had a quick drink (orange juice for me) in Havanna hoping to see Paul, but he wasn’t there. We then all went to the Golden Dragon for dinner and they all had the banquet but as my appetite wasn’t quite back to normal yet I opted to choose just a main dish and had just one (large) glass of wine with it. This proved to be a good choice as I doubt I’d have managed to eat the banquet yet thoroughly enjoyed my lemon chicken and noodles and polished it all off, to my surprise. It was a nice quiet, but very pleasant evening with good company and delicious (as ever) food. When we’d finished, we went to the Tap & Spile for a drink and found the town to be very quiet for a New Year’s Eve – presumably people just don’t have the money/energy this year for big celebrations. I debated what to drink as I didn’t want to mix and opted for a port & lemon in the end – a drink we often used to have at Christmas when we were children so it fitted the mood nicely. I’d assumed we’d stay there to welcome in the New Year but apparently not, and we decamped again to the Grapes – at least this year the music was quieter. I’d had enough alcohol by then and had a lemon & lime, but had I known we were changing pubs I’d have had my drinks the opposite way round so that I could welcome in 2012 with a proper drink. As soon as we’d seen in the New Year, we left and were in bed well before 1am.

Much to my disgust, as with last year and the one before, I felt dreadful the next morning, and once again, it can’t have been drink related. I don’t understand why I always feel so ill on New Year’s Day because neither drink nor late night are unique to this time of year πŸ™ Again, as in the past, I did start to feel a little better by the time we left to go to Pat’s for our usual New Year’s Day meal and games. On the way, we popped in to Wetherspoons – hoping to see Roger Junior & Senior, but they were not in. We then found out that Junior was in Havanna so we went to wish he and Steph a Happy New Year and had a quick drink with them. (Orange Juice for me again.) Typically, Paul and Billy decided on a second drink, making us late arriving at Pat’s, which had the knock on effect of making dinner later than planned and meant that Raji had to miss out as he had to go to work. (He ended up grabbing a couple of chocolate bars as his breakfast/dinner on the way πŸ™ ) It was decided during the course of the afternoon, that as Raji had missed out and Barbara wouldn’t be here next year, we’d have another get together in February sometime. As it turned out, despite the boys’ protests to the contrary, we had all run out of steam for the games by midnight and since the girls were 3-2 up, we agreed that in February we’d pick up where we left off to give the boys a chance. For dinner we had a gorgeous roast – pork and turkey – with all the trimmings and Christmas pudding to follow. I was absolutely stuffed and couldn’t even manage any cheese and biscuits later, but I’d enjoyed the meal so much that I didn’t mind too much. The between-course entertainment this year was making balloon animals – but I don’t like balloons and hate it when they burst so I only made a token effort with this, butPat really is a wonderful hostess and once again, a good time was had by all.

Annoyingly, City’s game against Sunderland has been shifted to this day, and I made do with Twitter updates to follow it. It remained 0-0 all through until a 93rd minute off-side goal for Sunderland gave them the victory! Unbelievable! Apparently City had had many chances and hit the woodwork a couple of times, but Sunderland had kept playing and by all accounts not undeserving of their 3 points. Ah well!

MCFC’s 60 second highlights here.
MCFC’s extended highlights here.

So, a good day anyway and I wish you all a Happy 2012.

0-60 in a week :)

I always used to prepare for Christmas weeks in advance – and yet looking back through my blog entries for 2008, 2009 and 2010 I’ve been pretty late lately – and this year is no exception. This time last week I was panicking that I hadn’t really done anything – and now, a week later, I’ve finished! πŸ™‚

Again, as in previous years, we’ve had to cut down even more so it does make Christmas more manageable in one sense, but also presents its own challenges. However, I think I have managed to choose inexpensive presents that will still be appreciated – I’m pleased with my choices anyway. (One day, when/if we have money again, I have promised myself that I am going to thoroughly spoil my poor children who seem to get less and less each year and on whom I have never been able to splash the cash as much as I’d like (it’s natural I think, isn’t it? Even when they’re not babies any more, they’re still MY babies and I want to make Christmas magical for them.))

I was even pleased with finding something for some of the more challenging menfolk having been struggling for days. I popped in to Dillies on the way home one evening and did the lot in one go πŸ™‚ I love this shop and highly recommend you try popping in or even ordering online. All their products are the highest quality, often locally sourced or from small suppliers and are affordable. Whilst browsing, Andrew treated me to a sample of rosé port – I’d never heard of this before but it was beautifully smooth and tasted divine.

On Wednesday I was in Tesco at 7am (the best time to go, especially at this time of year) and got all the food shopping – though again, much less than in previous years. The postman brought the last of the presents and over the week I’ve wrapped presents a few at a time – and suddenly this morning, they were all done! πŸ™‚ I just about wrote and posted the cards in time for the last 2nd class posting date and this, as so often, was probably the most stressful thing so far. It’s such a time consuming job and I have even less time than usual this year with working so much – but I love it when they’re done and do enjoy thinking of friends and family this time of year and wishing them a good time. Nel put up the decorations this year so that was one less job to do, but sadly I couldn’t find anything I trusted Stephen to do well, so thus far he’s got away with it.

Today I have cooked the pork and will freeze it for us to have cold over Christmas, I’ve made mince pies (though they’ll soon be gone and I’ll have to bake more πŸ˜‰ ) and I’ve made a spiced apple cake to have instead of Christmas cake this year as we always have Christmas cake over and the apple cake is a bit lighter.

So now I feel ready for Christmas, which is just as well as I’m working most of the week – and having played Christmas music today whilst baking I’m starting to feel Christmassy too – where’s the sherry…..? πŸ™‚

Wednesday waiting.

After I’d got back from Mum’s when I’d had all the problems with the battery, I took the car down to KwikFit to get it sorted out once and for all. I only just managed to get there as the car had no power and I had to limp down there in 1st gear with foot flat to the floor – traveling less than 20mph! (Good job it’s only a 2 minute drive!) They tested the battery and alternator and found them to be fine. This was a bit bemusing as in the 2 years we’ve been having this battery problem, we’ve been convinced that it must be the alternator if not the battery itself. (Logic tells us that either something is draining all the power from the battery or the battery isn’t charging.) They said it could be an electric fault (which would explain the intermittent nature of the problem) and we’d need an auto-electrician to check it out. As we were talking, the mechanic tested the battery and alternator again and now the alternator was only ticking over at 11v (instead of 15). He said that if it had been like that first time round, he’d have said it was the alternator, and that although it still could be, he’d rather I had the chance to get a 2nd opinion in case it was still an electrical problem – in which case I’d have paid for a new alternator for nothing. This made sense and I appreciated his honesty so limped the car back home. It then sat (dead) on the road opposite the house for 3 weeks as we had to first locate an auto-electrician (none in this town despite the plethora of garages!) then find a day when we were not working to take it in, remove the battery and charge it indoors, and then refit it.

So… Wednesday was the day the car was finally booked in to the auto-technician’s in a town about 20 minutes drive away. Billy was coming with me for moral support and to help me find the place and we left the house at just gone 9am after reconnecting the battery. As we pulled off, though, we had the same problem I’d had previously – no power and minimum revs. ARGH! We weren’t going to make it! We really needed somewhere to park up safely so turned down the industrial estate but as this had double yellow lines all down it we had to turn in to one of the businesses there – so chose KwikFit on the off chance they could do anything. They said not as they felt it was all part of the same electrical problem so we called the AA (having worked out that we were more than 1/4 of a mile from home since I have roadside only.) They said they were busy but would get someone to us as when they could so we sat in the car to wait.

A couple of updates, a Tesco bought picnic and 3 hours later, the AA man arrived!

Poor man, he’d had a busy morning in the pouring rain, but nonetheless he was very nice and he tested the battery and alternator. The alternator was now chucking out 17v of charge! Far too much, and very dangerous. When we turned on all the lights and heating, it settled back to a normal rate, so previously, far from helping matters by turning all such things off to save battery power, I’d been making things worse. He said he’d only seen it a couple of times and on the last occasion, the battery had blown up whilst the car moving – yikes! The sort-of-good news was that this was “simply” a case of needing a new alternator. Since we had been parked in KwikFit for 3 hours (with their kind permission – and a bag of doughnuts in thanks) they may as well do the job for me – this would also save moving the car. The AA man came inside to tell them his diagnosis and they phoned their parts people for a price. I was expecting around £200, so my jaw dropped when it turned out to be £465! (There were a couple of other customers int here at the time, and theirs did too!) On investigation, it seems that Nissan and Toyota alternators are more expensive than others. (Hm, the cynic in me wonders if this is because they are a known weak point so will need replacing? πŸ˜‰ ) The AA man said there was a company down the A1 that could repair alternators – but this would still leave the problem of getting there, and to be honest, I think I prefer to know the part is new. He also suggested I try other garages to see if they could do better, but again I’d have to get there and it would take time to compare prices and then take the car in. I decided, despite the sinking feeling in my stomach, I wanted to just get the job done by KwikFit. Billy reckoned we could just about scrape together the extra £250 above the money I’d put aside for this repair, and we did feel that the alternator had been the problem all along (for a few years) so we agreed to go for it.

We arranged to collect the car on Friday as that was when we could get the money – but later that evening the garage called and advised that all four tyres were badly in need of replacing and were only just legal – and risky given the heavy rain, especially any long journeys down to Chester/Manchester. However this would cost another £200 or so and there was no way we could get that together for this week so we said to leave it for now. We’ve discussed it and will make sure I get the tyres changed in the next week or so before I go back down to Chester. So, we’ll have spent another £700 on the car then! The AA man reckoned it was worth around £1100 though so there is no way we could spend less than £700 and still get a basically reliable car. I reckon I’ll soon have a brand new car anyway – built piece by piece! πŸ˜‰

So, a 3 week wait for an auto electrician when we didn’t actually need one, and a 3 hour wait in the pouring rain for the AA when we didn’t really need to have called them! On the plus side, Billy and I spent more time together that day than for quite a while, and we did rather enjoy each other’s company so the wait wasn’t as grim as it might have been. (Just rather ironic given that we could have walked the 10 minutes home and come back, had we known.)

Happy Birthday Billy.

34 years young today! (Mind you, he acts as though he’s 9 years OLDER than me with the way he hobbles and moans, but I s’pose his birthday isn’t the time to rub that in πŸ˜‰ )

Not having much money, we had a small family celebration courtesy of party food from Iceland, a DVD, and a birthday cake lovingly made by yours truly πŸ™‚

This morning I took him coffee and bacon sandwich, along with his cards to open in bed. At his request, he mainly received money which he is putting towards replacing his now defunct laptop, so when he got up, he popped in to town to collect his new toy. He also got a very clever “gift voucher” from mum so that he could go to a Newcastle match on her. πŸ™‚

This afternoon, all five of us sat together and watched Iron Man 2 which we enjoyed (I can’t believe it was 2008 when Billy, the kids and I watched Iron Man 1 at the cinema!) and we munched party food and drink. The Iceland range of nibbles was rather nice and we all particularly liked the chicken skewers, and then we finished with the coffee and walnut cake I’d made this morning:


Raji and Stephen were both working this evening hence the early gathering, but it worked out quite well as it has left time for Billy to pack for his forthcoming week away (working) and to play with his new laptop.

Happy Birthday Billy, hope you have enjoyed your day. πŸ™‚

This time last year.

Herbal balance.

As you know, I scaled down my herbal activities when I gave up my clinic in December and think I did so just in time. I wanted to see what the government decided about the future of the profession before working out what to do in April when it became time for the annual dilemma about renewing insurances and professional membership.

The government DID commit to Statutory Regulation for Medical Herbalists, but not until April 2012. With the new European laws kicking in THIS April, this leaves a one year gap with us continuing as we were, but with access to less remedies.

I decided that I didn’t want to quit the profession as things may take off next year, and I’d hate to waste my 5 years training and 10 years experience. However, neither could I afford the fees required to practice, as there was little chance I would get enough income to justify it. So I have made the decision to remain a member of my professional body, but as a non-practicing member for a year while I wait to see what transpires.

It’s actually a bit of a relief to have some of the pressure taken off for a year and to be able to concentrate on my NHS work and the family. Since I have also managed to finish my accounts for last year and hand them in to the accountant, I’m feeling as though the weight of herbs has been lifted from my shoulders for a while and though I am passionate about the power of herbs, and helping people, I think I need this time out. It’s good to get the chance to keep on top of two things instead of merely keeping afloat with three.

St George’s Day 2011 – Eastbourne

As in previous years, (2010 2009 2008 2007 ) St George’s Day 2011 was mine and mum’s special day together, in memory of dad.


We hadn’t slept particularly well but were looking forward to our day and started, as always, by exchanging cards and little gifts. We’d brought a bunch of roses with us, and had them (minus the one we’d taken to the crem) in a jar in the room, and we mum made two of them in to buttonholes for us to wear.


I’d managed to leave Kitty’s England shirt at mum’s (she was a late addition to the party) so mum made her an outfit πŸ™‚ For those of you who don’t know her, I really must write a post to introduce you to Kitty sometime! She’s quite a character and supports Newcastle, City and England and always wears the appropriate shirt for any game she attends or watches.


The weather forecast had been good but given that it was still April, we had both packed for sunny-but-not-hot weather – and had already found that the day before had been very hot. We therefore ditched our usual smart attire for t-shirts (our buttonholes looked a little out of place really, so we removed these at lunchtime.) We spent the morning reacquainting ourselves with the shops in town, noting what was still there and what had gone. (It must be a good few years since I was last there, though mum had been last October.) Since mum wanted a couple of new pillows for home, and we’d found our pillows in the hotel uncomfortable, she bought some for us to use that night, and I bought some Millies Cookies to take to Uckfield next day for Easter, but otherwise, we just enjoyed browsing.

After a picnic lunch in our room, we spent the afternoon on the seafront and pier and were unbelievably lucky with the weather – 27 degrees, bright sunshine and everyone in a relaxed and holiday mood. We even caught the sun a bit πŸ™‚

By late afternoon, we finally realised we hadn’t yet had a drink (of alcohol that is) which was not what dad would have wanted at all! So we wandered into town hoping to find room at a table outside a pub. We particularly hoped to find one at the Duke of Devonshire – the only pub (or indeed, disappointingly, ANY place!) that was celebrating St George’s Day. Sadly, it was full as was the one next door. Neither mum nor I feel comfortable walking into pubs without a male escort and we decided to walk further down to Wetherspoons, with which we’re a bit happier as it’s more a family friendly chain. We found it almost empty inside, though there were a few people out in the garden at the back. We waited at the bar behind two others and several more people came in and formed a sort of line along the bar. We were not happy when some of these were served before us and we got a bit restless. The duty manager caught our eye and said someone would be with us soon which mollified us a bit and we waited our turn. We were completely taken aback when the same man then served a couple who were clearly behind us and as they were holding a menu, we think it was because he thought they were going to order food (which they didn’t) which was wrong in our opinion. We were both so annoyed that we left in disgust.

We walked back to the other bars and fate lent us a helping hand as there was now a table free outside so mum grabbed it and I went into the (empty) pub to get our drinks. Slightly annoyingly, we’d decided to have a half of Carlsberg each in Wetherspoons as they sponsor England(football team), but this pub didn’t have it. (We ended up with Grolsch which I rather like for its deep, full taste.) It was heavenly sitting out in the hot sun sipping cold beer watching the world go by, though poor dad looking down would no doubt have been saying it was about bloody time as he’d have been on his umpteenth drink by this time πŸ˜‰


It was so pleasant that we had two drinks before moving on to the seafront for some chips from the corner chippie that always used to serve the best chips in Eastbourne. It was now a Harry Ramsdens so we decided we’d eat in, and even had a 3rd beer with our food – dad would have quite liked that we thought.

We took a slow walk back to the hotel afterwards, and though we hadn’t exactly done things as dad would have, we felt he’d have enjoyed us enjoying our day. Next year, we really must have Billy with us to help us out with the drinking as we are such light weights πŸ˜›

Happy 8th St George’s Day by proxy, dad. Happy St George’s Day to every English man, woman and child. πŸ™‚

A busy New Year with friends.

On New Year’s Eve we did as we usually do, and had a meal with our friends (Louisa, Sol, John, Dana, Claire, Simon, Tim and Geraldine). In previous years, I’ve felt rather under dressed as they have “suited and booted” or glammed up, according to gender. This year I finally decided to wear a dress and heels – and they were all casual! How come they all know what they’re doing and I don’t? πŸ˜‰

After a quick drink (very quick 2 mouthfuls in my case since we were late thanks to Billy, so he had to finish my drink!) we went to Quattro Mori where we had booked a table for 8pm. We had to wait a short while while they set up our table and it was very busy in there. We faffed about a bit getting seated since Tim insisted he had to sit next to Simon – which was, in hindsight, a big mistake since they fed off each other’s silliness and got louder and ruder as the night went on, making me slightly uncomfortable.

There was a bit of confusion about my starter when they brought me hot jumbo prawns with rice, instead of Prawn cocktail, and then told me they hadn’t got any prawn cocktail left, so I ended up having pate. The rest of our meals arrived without incident and then some had dessert too – Billy being teased for choosing hot chocolate fudge cake with STRAWBERRY ice-cream! πŸ˜€ Drink flowed VERY freely, though I only had 2 glasses of wine myself. At the end of the meal, a few of us wanted to work out roughly what individual choices had cost and pay that, but we were over ruled in favour of an equal split – which I didn’t think quite fair given the variation in food and drink consumed. It worked out an expensive meal and I wouldn’t be keen to return there in future.

Usually we remain at our restaurant until shortly before midnight and then wander along to a (packed) pub to see in the New Year. However, this year, we were out early, and we ended up in a pub of Louisa’s choosing though a couple of us were not keen and said we’d prefer somewhere else. The Grapes was very quiet with only a handful of people in it which would have made it ideal for sitting and chatting together, but very loud music was playing on the juke box all evening so we couldn’t really talk. We discussed moving on to somewhere else, but as some had put a lot of money in the juke box, they wanted to wait for their songs. And so it was that we stayed there to see in the New Year, though Louisa and Sol disappeared early as they’d apparently got a party to attend. Once we’d dutifully welcomed the start of 2011, we escaped to our longed-for beds. The evening was a bit of a let-down really, compared to previous years which have been great fun – I think next year we’ll be back at the Chinese which we’d all enjoyed last year, and I shall certainly be a bit firmer in saying where I would or wouldn’t like to be as midnight strikes.

When we got home, Billy and I were ready to fall into bed, but just as we were getting ready to do so, Nel came in, in floods of tears. Billy got to her first and he was absolutely brilliant! He spent the next 20 minutes or so cuddling her, calming her, letting her soak his shirt front, promising her it would get better and generally being that perfect man we girls need when we’re upset. I was so pleased Billy had been on hand as I felt he did a much better job of reassuring Nel than I’d have done, and she was much happier by the time we all went to bed at last.

I woke the next morning feeling absolutely dreadful – banging headache, really tired and generally ill, which could not have been alcohol related given I’d only had the 2 glasses of wine with dinner and only orange juice in the pub! I felt very hard-done-by, though having read my entry for last year, I can see it’s a common theme! I could only put it down to tiredness since I’d had such a busy holiday period, culminating in a late night, and dozed, showered, massaged my head, had coffee and breakfast, dozed again and finally succumbed to a couple of Paracetamol to try and feel better in time for the day ahead.

By the time we’d walked to Pat’s for our traditional New Year’s Day meal and games, I did feel better and happily, was able to enjoy a really good time . This year’s between-course game was an origami one – let’s just say that my attempts at making a frog and a pig were woeful πŸ˜‰ Steph was the runaway winner, though Paul and Raji did well too. We went on to play Trivial Pursuit as usual, with the girls getting to the centre long before the boys but failing every time to answer the Blue question as chosen by the boys. The boys won after correctly answering a ridiculously easy blue question. Pft! πŸ˜‰ We also played a couple of new games: The Logo Game, which we all enjoyed, and Articulate, which wasn’t bad either, though the sand-timer kept getting stuck. The day’s games ended a draw, with girls and boys winning 2 each – and we ran out of steam to play a decider. Barbara had done well to be here since she was recovering from flu, and was actually drinking only water all day! I suspect next time, the games will be less calm and orderly as she and Pat ply each other with drink again πŸ˜€ Yet again, it was a lovely day and Pat is definitely the “hostess with the mostest.”

I slept much, much better that night and woke feeling myself on Sunday – just as well as we had more socialising to do! It was Sol’s 40th birthday on Monday and Louisa had organised a surprise party for him Sunday afternoon. She’d asked for a contribution of as much ice as possible, so I spent the morning making lots, and then at 1.30pm Billy and I went on ahead and Raji came a little later. We arrived to see Sol placing balloons outside and he told us she’d cracked and told him about the party so he’d been helping to get things ready. Louisa made the ladies a Poinsettia cocktail on arrival and it was gorgeous, and very drinkable, though I paced myself and had just 3 all afternoon. Claire, Simon, John and Dana soon arrived, as did more people with children around the same age as Louisa and Sol’s too so there were soon lots of little people running around. They were all pretty well behaved but we were careful to look where we were going so we didn’t trip over them πŸ˜‰ We left at about 5pm or so, after a pleasant afternoon of drinks, nibbles and conversation.

So ended a very sociable Festive Season, with just one day to try and catch our breath ready for normality resuming on the Tuesday.

However you spent your New Year, I hope that 2011 will be a peaceful, healthy and happy one for you all.

A Perfect Family Christmas.

We had a lovely quiet, calm, family Christmas and I really enjoyed it. It’s one of the least stressful Christmas times I’ve ever had, I think. Not because we have any of the stereotypical family arguments at this time, but just because there are normally so many things to organise and places to be, things to do. This year, everything just fell into place somehow and even the Christmas dinner almost seemed to cook itself with no hassles.

On Thursday (23rd) Nel and I were due to drive to Chester to collect mum but with the weather having been so bad we were trying to decide whether to call it off. In the end I made the decision to drive, with the proviso that if the roads seemed too dangerous, I’d turn back. Happily, the A69, M6 and M56 were all completely clear and smooth running and the only difficulty we encountered was that it was so cold that the screen wash didn’t defrost until 3 hours into the journey despite the addition of neat winter screen wash then near boiling water! Since the salt sprayed up from the road was so thick, I had to stop at every services to clean the windows – but then they iced over almost immediately. In the end, I was using neat de-icer to clean them which was slightly better, though the lack of clear vision did cause me to drive pretty slowly so that it took much longer to do the journey than usual. Happily, the return trip was trouble free since I could now wash the windscreen and so Mum was with us for Christmas. I was so pleased as I’d have been devastated if it had been otherwise. Billy had titivated his den so that it was a warm and welcoming bedroom for her – and he’d even bought flowers and arranged them on her bedside table, which earned him Brownie points with both wife and M-I-L πŸ™‚

On Christmas Eve we had a wander into Hexham, and had a coffee break in Café Nero for which Nel joined us after her dog-walking. We cooked the two turkey crowns, the gammon joint, as well as a goulash for dinner that evening. I also made the stuffing for Christmas dinner, using the homegrown sage harvested earlier in the year. During the week or so before Christmas, the whole family had been asking me when they could start the Christmas food and drink and I’d replied “When Mum/Granny is here” (you’ve never seen a family so keen for her to arrive! πŸ˜‰ ) We therefore started on the goodies that evening πŸ™‚

On Christmas morning, Mum and I were up first and had breakfast, showered and dressed before anyone else appeared. Raji was next, having got up early to wrap his presents πŸ˜‰ Eventually, by about 10.30, everyone was up and we were ready to open all our presents – and there were lots of them despite promises to keep it all low key this year. We all did very well, and for Billy and I the theme was books. I now have loads of unread books which is treasure beyond compare – I love the anticipation almost as much as the read. πŸ™‚ The cats all enjoyed the paper as well as their stocking which Nel had bought for them – she had bought one for her hamsters too so the pets all got to enjoy the day as well. After we’d tidied up, I told everyone they could do as they pleased until dinner and that I wanted them to present themselves at 12.55 ready for a 1pm dinner and they were to be prepared to have a fun, festive, family meal. And they did. The “children” don’t normally like to eat with us but they know how much Christmas dinner means and we had a really lovely time with everyone relaxed, laughing, and clearing their plates. After the Queen’s Speech, Mum insisted on washing up and Raji dried, and then Mum, Nel and I played Cluedo which was fun. Next, the Wii, which we’d bought last Christmas,came out and the men and Nel demonstrated Bowling, Golf and Boxing for mum. Still full after dinner, we all just nibbled as we wanted rather than having a proper tea, and I had a play with the present mum had given us as a family – a wooden Sudoku board. I’ve never been able to do Sudoku and just not got the knack, but I started dabbling and Raji gave me some pointers and that was it – HOOKED! All over Christmas I was playing with it and it’s now permanently placed on the chest in the living room ready to be played. In the evening, Nel and Mum watched Coronation Street and the day drew to a pleasantly chilled close.

On Boxing Day Stephen, Billy and I went to our Newcastle v City football match, Mum and Nel had a girls’ day together and Raji went to work.

On Bank Holiday Monday, we girls all went to the Metrocentre and though it was busy, it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. We found a parking spot without too much trouble, and we managed to get round the shops we wanted as well as being able to have lunch in our favourite coffee shop. We all bought something in the sales and were pleased with our bargains – Nel definitely came out tops though and seemed to get a lot for her money πŸ™‚ She and I then trekked over to Pets at Home to get some hamster bits she wanted, leaving mum in the car, and then we drove home. We had roast beef for dinner, but just as I was dishing up, there was a power cut! It’s a good job I like candles and have some strategically placed battery operated LED lights for just such eventualities because the power was out for two hours! (It was a widespread one too, affecting a large part of Hexham, and my only guess is that some snow and ice may have thawed and flooded something causing the outage.) So we ate by candlelight, mum packed by candlelight, and just as we settled down to amuse ourselves (by candelight) for the evening, with a saucepan of water boiling on the (gas) hob for a cuppa – the power returned πŸ™‚

Mum and I left after breakfast on Tuesday to go to the City v Villa match and then on to her house where I was staying for the night. Lee had been house and cat sitting which was a last minute arrangement and one that suited both he and mum admirably, and Rocky was pleased to have his Mummy back and enjoyed lots of fuss. We had an easy egg and chips dinner, a few drinks, and then an early night. I must have fallen asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow as I woke up in exactly the same position as I landed on going to bed πŸ™‚

On the Wednesday, we mooched round her nearest shops and had lunch in Pizza Hut (where we were very dissatisfied with the service, though the food was perfect) and then I had a very smooth drive home in the afternoon.

I really loved having mum stay with us (her first visit to us for a couple of years, what with our various other commitments and her hip operation) and everyone else had too – even the pussy cats who were quick to spot a cat lover! (Zeb was particularly taken with mum’s lap whenever she was trying to read her newspaper, which was funny.) Everyone had entered into the spirit to give me a perfect family Christmas with those I love most in this world, and Billy in particular had done a lot to help make it happen.

2010 was not an easy year, but it did have a perfect Christmas to round it off πŸ™‚

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