To Chester and back.

I managed to finish work at 4.00pm on Friday and raced home to fetch Nel as I was taking her to Chester where she was staying for a week. I wanted to try and get ahead of the bank holiday traffic but feared it was already too late. Happily, the roads were fairly clear until the last part of the M56 and even that was still moving, just congested. We drove through alternating patches of sunshine and downpours – but I didn’t mind as I was just pleased to have my car back on the road, and I enjoyed driving again. (The car has had its 4 new tyres as well as all the other recent work so hopefully I will have trouble free motoring for a while now.)

It was dry as we arrived in Chester and as it was 8.15pm and we’d planned to have takeaway for tea, we stopped at the shop on our way in, so we could arrive at Mum’s with the food ready to eat. Just as we parked in Mum’s drive, it started to rain quite heavily so I quickly unloaded the car and then we thankfully locked the weather out and settled down for the evening. It was so good to see Mum again as I hadn’t seen her since the end of June and I’ve missed her. We had a pleasant evening which flew past and before we knew it it was bed time. The storm which had been building since the rain started, was now directly overhead with bright white lightning and very loud thunder which was quite fun. Happily all of us enjoy a good storm and it was very nice to lay warm and cosy in bed listening to it – though I was so tired, I drifted off before it quite finished.

The next day, I was returning home, but before I did so, I’d arranged to meet L and A who had driven to Chester specially so we could meet and I could spend some time with Callum, my adorable little Godson, whom I hadn’t seen since last November. I felt a bit bad that they had had to travel though really appreciated them doing so and they said it was no bother. We met up at the retail park and one of Callum’s brothers had come along for the ride too. We went to Frankie & Benny’s where they had a special breakfast offer – two breakfasts for £10 – and what a feed we had! We all had the full English apart from Callum who picked his items individually – the staff were brilliant with him and were very obliging with sterilising his cutlery for him, nothing was too much trouble. I would highly recommend them to anyone wanting a really good breakfast out – both the food and the service were top class.

I loved catching up with Callum and the family, hearing their news, having a laugh, finding out how Callum’s treatment is going. (He’s now on a year’s maintenance course of chemo, he’s put on some weight at last, and his hair is growing back 🙂 ) I also enjoyed getting to know M, Callum’s brother, a really nice lad, and got on well with him. After we’d eaten, we looked in a couple of the shops and then the boys wanted to go to Toys R Us – which was entertaining in their company. Our couple of hours just flew past and all too soon it was time for us to return to our respective homes – but hopefully we’ll meet up again soon.

I really enjoyed my drive home, despite the heavy rain, and it was just lovely to be back on the road, and to have a little time out just being me for a few hours. I’m even looking forward to going back for Nel next weekend 🙂

Easter Sunday – family, food, cats, cars and ice-cream.

After a better night’s sleep – though still an early awakening by the seagulls 😉 – we showered and dressed and went down for breakfast. We’d learned yesterday that we had to be specific in what cooked food we requested. We asked for bacon and eggs and got just that – bacon and eggs. (Perfectly cooked and delicious.) We opted for not too heavy a breakfast though, as we were going out to dinner with my brother Rick, his lovely wife Mel, and son Jay. Since we didn’t need to leave until 11.45 or so, we had time for stroll along the seafront for some fresh air and a paper – and we bought some rock to take back home.

We arrived early at the restaurant – The Halland Forge – and got ourselves a drink to sip in the garden whilst we waited for Rick and family. Just as we finished them, they arrived, and we went in for our meal which was huge, and absolutely delicious. The restaurant is a carvery and attracts people from all over, with many returning often. Mum and Rick have been a few times, but I hadn’t been before so was taken aback at the size of the servings. Rick was in front of me in the queue and he knew the chef who was carving and got chatting. As he carved Rick’s beef, he came to the end of the joint and stuck the huge slab of meat remaining on Rick’s plate along with the already large portion of sliced beef! How Rick ate it, I don’t know – there must have been half a cow there! 😀 While we ate, we had a lovely catch up and as I sat next to Jay, I enjoyed hearing what he’s up to and his plans after his (GCSE) exams. I said I’d send him the little lucky black cat previously used to get mum, me, Stephen and Nel through exams successfully, to pop in his pocket for luck. I really enjoyed just relaxing with my family, and in fact, hadn’t seen Rick and co for a long time so appreciated it all the more. (This had been a contributing factor in our decision to visit Sussex.) We decided we could just about manage a dessert (who were we kidding? We’d eyed them up as soon as we came in and knew darn well we’d keep a little room. 😉 ) It was difficult to choose just one with so many gorgeous offerings, but we managed.

When we were so stuffed we could barely move, we waddled back to our cars and drove to Rick’s house to meet the new additions to the family. (OK, I confess! Another factor in the decision to come to Sussex 😛 ) Last year, their pedigree Persian cat Harley passed away after a long and happy little life, having been with Rick for 16 years. In December Rick and Mel welcomed two Maine Coon kittens into their house after visiting the breeder’s home weekly to bond with them. Guns, the boy, is very pale in colour and quite a poser by the fireplace. Roses. the girl, is darker and quite mischievous and playful.


Mum and I fell in love straight away and enjoyed playing with them, fussing them and generally admiring them. They were utterly irresistible.

I had taken my car round to KwikFit when shortly after we’d arrived and just as Rick had made a cup of tea, they phoned to say my car was ready for collection. I finished my tea and then walked the short path to the garage and brought back my now quiet and healthy car – whilst I was sorry for the mechanics having to work over Easter, it had certainly all worked out very well for me and the location was extremely convenient to fit in with our existing plans.

We stayed another couple of hours, during which time mum took some lovely photos, including a really nice (and rare!) one of Rick and I.



We left just after 5pm, having had a wonderful afternoon with them all. I don’t see Rick and co often, but I love it when I do as they are very comfortable people with whom to spend time. I expect mum enjoyed having both her children together with her too (I know I do, when I have both of mine together) but whether Rick quite “enjoyed” having mum and sister both at once, only he will know 😉

When we got back to our hotel we simply HAD to go for a walk along the sea front again (not only were we cramming as much sea as possible into our short stay, but with the weather being like mid-summer, it would have been criminal to waste it ) and we wanted an ice-cream before we left as it was the one sea-side thing we had not yet done. There is a wonderful Italian ice-cream shop called Fusciardi’s which has been there ever since I can remember. People come to Eastbourne specially to go there and that was where I wanted to get my ice-cream. Ice-cream doesn’t agree with me at all and I generally hate the stuff – it gives me terrible tummy ache and makes me feel sick. However, a really good ice-cream is worth suffering that for, and Fusciardi’s ice-creams are worth it. We were spoiled for choice for flavours though I already knew which I’d have – cappuccino, and mum had pistachio and vanilla. Yummy! 🙂


Foam Party!

I received a package in the post a couple of weeks ago, and on opening it, found a full sized pack of a new foam hair dye, plus some “VIP Invitations” to a Foam Partyon March 19th.

The claim was that this dye was a foam that didn’t drip and was easy to apply, and it gave 100% coverage of grey hairs. I was supposed to throw a party and we’d try out the foam (there were two vouchers for a free pack) and then give the company our feedback.

I wasn’t quite up for the party thing, but gave Nel one of the vouchers and she went and got a bottle of the reddest looking shade available (as she regularly dyes her hair red, and it was in need of redoing anyway.) I decided I would give mine ago as it looked a good match for my hair colour and I do have four or five grey hairs starting to appear. They’re not a problem as yet, but when I do start getting a lot more, I may well want to cover them (since I DO have a gorgeous younger husband and I’m sure he won’t want to be seen around with a grey haired hag 😉 )

On the date set, Nel and I shut ourselves in the bathroom with our foam and a few giggles – the men of the house safely watching rugby 🙂 This was our verdict:

    Things we DIDN’T like:

The overwhelming peroxide fumes which had us running to open the window and our eyes streaming;
The instructions don’t make it clear enough that you only shake the bottle 3 times – however, in our case, it didn’t cause a problem;
Conditioner sachet’s could do with being easier to open instead of having to hunt down some scissors.

    Neutral comment:

At first, we thought there wouldn’t be enough foam to cover our hair entirely, but in the end there was plenty. It just takes a bit of patience to cover all your hair.

    Things we DID like:

It doesn’t drip so you really CAN go and do stuff whilst waiting to rinse;
Resulting colour – good coverage, covered my odd grey hairs, gave a nice “highlights” effect in my case, so not a radical change. (I didn’t want a huge change, just something that will work to cover grey as more come through.) Nel’s hair looked nice and vibrant and was fairly evenly covered given she did it herself – normally I have to apply the liquid dyes she uses;
The conditioner made our hair feel gorgeously silky.


7/10 The highly offensive peroxide fumes would stop us using this again. If, however, that could be overcome, the results are really good. Though since there is one voucher left, Nel’s bravely going to get another pack for next time her hair needs doing.

We may not have quite got into the party spirit with this, but it was nice to have a mum-and-daughter girly session and we had a few laughs. Thanks Nice and Easy 🙂

Nel’s 18th Birthday trip

After breakfast and present opening, Nel, Billy and I set off for Manchester and made good time getting there. We decided to drive to our first stop, which seemed a good idea at the time, it ended up taking us in circles around the city centre before we finally ended up where we wanted. Further time was spent trying to park, but at last, we made it and entered the University of Manchester Museum at around 2.30pm. We were particularly interested in the Egyptian exhibits especially the mummies and their stories, as an appetizer or the following day’s arrangements. Nel and I also enjoyed the evolution exhibits -fossils, dinosaurs, extinct animals and the evolution of existing animals. Billy and I braved the vivarium, though actually all the animals were behind secure glass so it wasn’t too bad. This is a decent museum with small but well thought out exhibits, and it’s free of charge so well worth a visit if you are in the area.

Next we I decided to drive to the hotel and check in so we I could ditch the car after so long spent driving, and relax. Again,we took a bit of a tour of Manchester though not as stressful as the previous one. We found the hotel which we’d chosen so as to be close to the Trafford Centre ready for the next day’s activities, but I was slightly nervous about my car (with its City stickers) being so deep in enemy territory.(It turned out to be fine and in fact I hardly saw any references to football.) We checked in and were pleased enough with our rooms. Nel had a double to herself and Billy and I had a family room (basically the same sized rooms, but ours had a sofa bed in it (in case Nel felt insecure in the night and wanted to come in with us (which she didn’t).)) We’d paid extra for Nel to have Wi-Fi access during our stay so she set that up on her laptop whilst I had a cup of tea and freshened up and then we headed off for dinner.

Nel specifically wanted a Chinese meal as her birthday meal and the friendly lady on reception had advised us that there were several Chinese restaurants in the Trafford Centre. Although it was only a short walk, it was about £3 for a taxi so as it was a cold night we decided to take the warmer option, on her advice, and picked up a business card of a local firm. They operate a system whereby you call and are put through to the next available driver so that you don’t have to wait long, and we only waited a couple of minutes before we were picked up. We looked around the various restaurants before settling on the Yang Sing Cathaywhere we had a gorgeous meal sharing half a crispy duck for starters, and a beef, a pork and a lamb dish with noodles and rice for main. A little strangely, diners are given a knife and fork by default so we had to ask for chopsticks as Nel and I prefer chopsticks, though Billy was happy with his fork. Nel and I had a glass of wine each whilst Billy had beer and we enjoyed a relaxing, beautifully cooked meal. Then Billy suggested we have a look to see what films were on at the cinema and I realised it was Wednesday so we could make use of an Orange Wednesday (two-for-one)deal, and so we went and watched Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (part 1.)

It was just as well we did use the Orange Wednesday deal since tickets were £8.30 EACH! Good job that isn’t our local cinema as we wouldn’t ever get to go! It was a good choice of film, even though Nel has seen it twice already (it was her choice and apparently she likes to watch films a few times.) Billy and I have both read the book but having seen all the previous films it was nice to see this one. Nel and I got the giggles after once scene in which big, bad, scary, snake falls down a hole with our heroes cautiously peeping over the edge. Now you know what happens next don’t you? It’s obvious that the snake is going to leap up at them. You know this, I know this. I knew it at the time too. So I was all tensed up waiting for it. Then when it happened, I leaped a foot in the air with arms raised. Nel found it hilarious and every time one of us would master the giggles, the other would set us off again. 😀

After the film, we got a taxi back to the hotel, which was just as well as the fog was so thick we could barely see a thing – good job the taxi driver knew the way. At least, he did in the end, after making a scary U-turn at one point and driving rather fast given the poor visibility. Anyway, we turned in for the night, Nel to watch TV and chat to friends online, and us to an old, slightly saggy and lumpy mattress which nonetheless wasn’t too bad. I was so tired I felt like I was on a ship, and it was just nice to lie still and not be on the move.

In the morning I enjoyed the breakfast picnic bag provided (little pre-packed bowl of cornflakes with milk, croissant and muffin) with coffee, and later Billy and Nel had a croissant and muffin respectively, before we checked out. It was a very short and easy drive to the Trafford Centre and to my surprise, there was plenty of parking space.

First stop was Appy Feet where Nel was keen to try out a fishy pedicure. It was very quiet at the time so happily, they could accommodate her immediately so she sat for 15 minutes with her feet in a fish tank whilst the fish nibbled away all the hard, dead skin on her feet! She loved it and said her feet were really soft afterwards – I think she might be hooked! (Good job there is a store in the Metrocentre now too.) The staff were very friendly which added to the enjoyment and made it fun so we left there feeling good about the day ahead.

After a little wander, we stopped for lunch though we had to change our plans for this as we’d intended picking up something light from Greggs or similar. Sadly, nothing like that existed there so we went instead to Pizza Hut and had the all-you-can-eat buffet which was delicious. The service was good too – quietly efficient and friendly without interfering.

Nel wanted to go and play on some of the machines in the casino area and managed to win some sweets. Billy mischeviously challenged me to a game of air hockey which I love – and I thrashed him! 😀

Finally, it was time for the main point of our trip: The Tutanhkhamun exhibition at the Museum of Museums. This was brilliantly done and really brought history to life. Very well worth a visit if you get the chance before it closes on March 26th this year. I liked the fact that headphones and audio guide are provided on entry and we could all go round at our own speed. The exhibits start with life size arrangements of how the archaeologists saw each chamber as they discovered them before going on to reproduce each item in painstaking detail. Most importantly, Nel loved it. 🙂

After leaving the exhibition, we decided to head off home since none of us wanted to go shopping (and in any case the shops would all be the same as any other shopping centre) and we were soon on the M60 homeward bound. It was a very tiring journey with thick fog the majority of the way, reducing visibility and speed and increasing the amount of concentration needed to drive. At the last services, Nel wanted a burger from Burger King and then surprised us by buying us each a thank you present – Maltesers for Billy and daffodils for me. I just about remembered in time not to cuddle her in public, but it was such a lovely thing to do. 🙂

And so, that was her 18th birthday trip. All that remained to do at home was to make her the cheesecake she’d requested and drink champagne so she could keep the cork and silver coin for luck.

Hands that do dishes….(Product review)

A couple of weeks ago, I received a full bottle of Fairy’s new “Clean and Care” washing up liquid with Olay to try and then review.

I wasn’t too sure I’d like the scent as it was Aloe vera and cucumber, and I’m generally not a fan of Aloe vera as a smell. However, much to my surprise, I DID like it – it was clean and fresh and not overpowering.

The cleaning power was excellent as you’d expect from Fairy and heaven knows our family’s washing up makes sure it gets well tested! Everything came out clean and shiny without too much elbow grease.

As to the hand softening bit by Olay – I can’t honestly say that I got away without hand cream but I CAN say that unlike usual, I didn’t have to run straight for the handcream after washing up – so it must help a bit.

All in all, a nice product and one I’d buy in all likelihood – and I would certainly be happy to recommend it. 🙂

Hair Lifting.

A few weeks ago I bought a Groupon Voucher, paying £20 for a haircut and treatments worth £73. I duly went along to Sherlocks for a much needed cut – it had been 18 months since my last, and I was steeling myself for a major loss of length to get it back to good health. Happily for me, my hair was in good condition and I only had to lose about an inch from the bottom. I turned down the half a head of highlights included in the offer, and the girl doing it must have forgotten the massage (as did I until I was home again!) but she did apply a hydrating treatment which I must admit was nice. I had a cup of tea whilst I waited for it to work, and given that I’m not really a hair salon lover, I found the place relatively relaxing. My stylist knew her stuff and when I left my hair did feel lighter and better – though there is no way I’d ever pay anything like £70 for a haircut and treatment!

When I lived in Sussex, my hair was very fair most of the time as it reacts to the sunshine and gets lighter in summer, darker in winter. Since moving north, my hair has got darker, though the sunshine earlier this year helped and recently a friend described its colour as “tabby” 🙂 Anyway, for my birthday, amongst my other presents, mum bought me this Andrew Barton, Ultimate Blonde shampoo:


I think it HAS lifted the colour of my hair a bit and it looks and feels glossy, so I’m giving this shampoo the thumbs up and would definitely buy it in future 🙂


F.A.C.T – A very long day.

On Saturday I was taking part in an event for F.A.C.T which raises awareness of cancers of all types and gives people support, advice and practical solutions to the challenges encountered with cancer. The event was being held in the Metrocentre, the first event of its kind to be hosted in a shopping mall, and there were strict rules to which we had to adhere.

We had to arrive and set up well before the opening time of 9 am and the stall had to be manned at all times throughout the day, with all clearing up to be done after 7 pm. Nothing could be sold, nor orders taken so my Herbal Clinic stall offered literature and free 10 minute consultations. Billy had kindly agreed to be my glamorous assistant so that I could pop to the loo when needed and so we set off at 8 am – though by the time we finally found the right entrance and walked through from behind the shops to the Exhibition Square, we only had 10 minutes to set up. (Luckily this was eminently doable!)

As it turned out, my stall had been placed adjacent to fellow business owner and friend, Sarah’s (providing wigs both privately and through the NHS) and had we known this, Billy could have spent the day relaxing and watching The Ryder Cup as Sarah and I could keep an eye on each other’s stall if needed. Nevertheless, I was glad of Billy’s practical help and his moral support and appreciated it.

It was a very long day and there were times when it really dragged – and then little flurries of activity. I gave advice as planned, but I also did some networking with the other businesses and organisations there and got to know one really lovely lady called Pamela, from Look Good…Feel Better As luck had it, the stall opposite Sarah and I was Boots and they had store staff covering it in shifts doing mini-makeovers and handing out free samples – one of each of which found their way into each of our handbags 🙂 Billy sat with me at times, fetched coffee, food and water at others and occasionally managed a break himself though to our disappointment Wetherspoons was closed for refurbishment meaning he couldn’t go for to watch a bit of the sporting action. (In fact we feel there is a distinct gap in the market for a man-crèche of the bar-and-sports-TV variety in the Metrocentre!)

Friends also appeared during the day to say hello and see how things were going, and Nel arrived mid-afternoon to collect Billy to go to Pets At Home with her. She’d wanted a Roborovski hamster for a while, had been very unhappy since losing Nel the hamster and Simon and Claire had very kindly popped in to the shop the previous day to establish whether they had any in. Once Nel knew they had, she was keen to get one and needed someone over 18 to buy it, so off they went and when they returned, she was smiling broadly and clutching a little box – with TWO hamsters inside it! Apparently they are social creatures and like company and Nel was 100% sure that they were both male so opted for a pair.Everyone oohed and aahed and wanted to see but of course, the box had to stay shut for the journey home.

Lesley, one of the F.A.C.T founders and owner of Bouncing Back in Gateshead came round at about 5 pm with a box of fruit to keep us all going and we were all starting to flag a little by this time. However, Lesley felt the day had been a success and was very pleased so this perked us up.

Finally, 7 pm arrived and we cleared up, said our goodbyes and loaded up the car before deciding to treat ourselves to a quick bite at Pizza Hut as a reward for our efforts and to save us cooking when we got home. We chose to go to the one outside the shopping mall – which was a mistake I think. There were plenty of staff but all quite young and more interested in chatting together than in their customers – there was even some sort of disagreement and one flounced off to the kitchens clearly upset by something which the others found highly amusing. We sat next to a waist-high wall which separated the dining area from the walk-way between dining, kitchen and bar areas and at one point our waitress just leaned over it to put Billy’s drink refill on the table. The staff were polite but not sincere and certainly not in any hurry. We waited 15 minutes to have our order taken and were finally served our food at 8 pm. We finished by 8.15 and then had to wait an age, ignored by the rest of the staff, for our waitress to make up the bill so we could pay. Very unusually for us, we did not leave a tip as we didn’t feel one had been earned. All that said – the food was delicious 🙂

When we got home, I immediately went to see Nel and her new little furry babies and they are SO cute! They’re tiny and such a pretty colour. She has named them Lev and Mimski – Lev is a camera loving little scruff and Mimski is shyer and tidier.

Lev the poser
Lev on his house
Lev in his wheel

Kwik Fit Cavalry

Ever since I had my first car, I’ve been really disciplined at making sure I check the levels and keep everything topped up. Sadly, my car is now a bit scruffy and getting a bit rough around the edges, but still performs well for me.

Amongst other little imperfections, it’s bonnet has become more and more reluctant to open and when I recently thought the engine sounded a little rough, I suspected it might want some oil – but couldn’t open the bonnet to check. So next time I was at Mum’s, I asked if she’d help (sometimes someone applying a bit of pressure over the catch can help) – but it still wouldn’t open. Then I got Billy to have a go – same result. By now I was convinced it was desperate for oil and that I really had to get that bonnet open.

On my way to Tesco last week, it occurred to me to pop in to Kwik-Fit who had done a good job with my exhaust before, so off I went and asked if they could help. The man on reception took my keys and he and a mechanic went off to my car whilst I had a seat in the waiting area. When he returned, he said they’d got it open and had topped up all the fluids, including oil – and that I didn’t owe them a penny! WOW! What great service! 🙂

He said that the oil had been very low and that the car could probably so with a service. I replied that I thought so too, but that I was hoping it could wait until my MOT in December so it could be done in one hit – and he proceeded to tell me about their offer price of £99 for MOT and mini-service or £165 for MOT and service. That sounds a good deal to me, and I think I’ve pretty much decided to go for that! Better yet, I can apparently take the car in any time after the 2nd November and still maintain the anniversary of the MOT.

Thanks Kwik-Fit for such great service, such friendliness and good advice. Not only am I pleased, but I will be back 🙂 10/10!

Mum, Mojitos and Mmmm.

When I arrived at mum’s after the match on Saturday, all fed up, damp and weary, she greeted me with a cuddle and sent me up to change and get comfortable whilst she prepared a new drink for us to try. When I came back downstairs, feeling better already, we sat and sampled a vodka mojito each – she had even crushed the ice and added fresh mint leaves. I loved it and could taste the mint and the lime, making it a refreshing drink with a lovely flavour. (I give it 10/10 in fact.) It does seem to evaporate fast though, as by the end of the evening the whole bottle had mysteriously disappeared! 😉 Between the drink, a hot, tasty dinner of braised steak with a rich gravy, and mum’s company, I felt much more relaxed by bedtime.

On Sunday we picked apples from mum’s tree (with me trying desperately to avoid any critters roaming around amongst them) but we needed someone taller than us to reach those left higher up. Maybe we can persuade Billy to get some of them when we go down on my birthday. We also went shopping and as ever, I was very good at helping mum spend money 😛 We went into B&Q so she could look for one thing (which they didn’t have) and ended up buying something entirely different. Ooops! Still, it IS something she needs and would have had to buy at some point. ( That’s my defence and I’m sticking to it!) After that, mum treated me to coffee and a little something to keep us going, before we went to the supermarket.

We had a light lunch of gammon, new potatoes and salad, followed by home-grown/home-made apple crumble – at least it would have been a light lunch if only we’d had about half the portion! 🙂 I was so stuffed I didn’t need to eat another meal all day.

By the time I left for home at around 4pm, I felt more mellow and as though I’d had a day’s holiday. Thank you Mum. Again. 🙂

Pound Stretcher comes good.

Remember my little table with the too-sticky sticker and subsequent hard work and messy mark?

Well yesterday I had a phonecall from them offering to replace the table – from which they will ensure the sticker has been removed before it is delivered to me. Since the mark really does spoil the table, I accepted this offer and asked how they wanted to proceed with me returning the original table. They have very kindly said that I may keep it – I’m sure I can find a table cloth to cover the mark and find a use for it.

The replacement has arrived this morning, with no sign of a sticker in a sight. Sadly, one edge has got slightly damaged in transit but since I now have two tables for the price of one, I shan’t complain.

So, Poundstretcher customer service have shown that in actual fact they DO care and do take note. The lady to whom I spoke reassured me that they do not expect to take in excess of three weeks to respond to a customer query, and that Katie has indeed ensured that future tables will have less adhesive stickers.

Thank you Poundstretcher and well done. 🙂

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