A Canadian gal living in Britain with 3 men and a dog. Wine helps.

Created by MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter

Friday, September 24, 2010

I'm just me...

This week has been a long week, in terms of work especially.  I suppose I'm finding it difficult if for no other reason that I'm back to working five days a week when for the last six weeks or so I've only been working 3-4 days out of the five.  It could also be due to the fact that I have one week of work left until Andy and I go on our first holiday together in over a year.

I’ve fallen off the wagon again in terms of my healthy eating which fills me with frustration especially when I haven’t been to the gym since Sunday and I’m not likely to get back until this coming Sunday. I get frustrated because one week finds me doing so well gym-wise, and then the next I slack off. It wouldn’t bother me so much if I’d not eaten so much fattening food. There’s nothing stopping me from getting my lazy arse out of bed tomorrow morning before we head to Nottingham to celebrate Alex’s 18th birthday so I will see what the morning brings.

Speaking of fattening food, here’s a little something that might make you smile: Andy and I went out for supper last night where I made a silly mistake and called our server (who knows us from our frequent visits and happens to be Andy’s boss’s daughter) over to take a look at the hardness of my puff pastry. I demonstrated for her that that my fork wouldn’t go all the way through the raised sides. She giggled and said it was probably because of the dish beneath it; it was a deep dish and I stupidly didn’t realize it. My face was probably ten shades of red yet I laughed and asked her not to tell her dad what a moron Andy was married to. I could have sworn the last time I’d eaten this particular dish it had come on a flat plate. Oops. Nicky kindly said that it was the first time she’d smiled during her hectic shift and thanked me for the laugh. Like Andy says, it’s a good thing I have the ability to laugh at myself.

Now here is something that made me smile this week, despite the fact that it has also made me a little sad (here is why):

A few months ago I was out on the field with Molly and was surprised to see a Blue Merle Sheltie running around. Polar, our family dog back home was a Blue Merle and died last year. When the little sheltie got closer I was thrilled to see he had one blue eye, and one brown eye, just like Polar. It actually brought tears to my eyes, as Blue Merle’s are uncommon as it is, and to see one who so closely resembled our Polar was quite nostalgic. His owner and I started chatting and she seemed really interested when I told her about Polar. She was pleased with the fact I’d even known what kind of dog Flynn was. He was two years old, and a rescue dog and although he and Molly didn’t pay much attention to each other his owner and I would sometimes walk together. I kept saying I wanted to take his photo to show my sister and mom, yet never quite got round to it.

Last evening there was a knock on the door and it was Flynn’s mom. She had sought me out to inform me that whilst they were away on holiday, Flynn escaped from her step-daughter’s house and ran away. He was sadly found 3.5 hours later, dead on the train tracks. Both of our eyes welled up with tears as she was telling me this. I was amazed that this lady, whose name I didn’t even know until last night had taken the time to find out where the ‘Canadian lady who owns Molly lived’, just so she could tell me about the loss of her dog. Some people might find this strange but not me. I had been wondering where they were and when I was telling Beryl about it later on, Beryl said that I just have that kind of effect on people, that I touch their lives in a good way and that is why this woman wanted to seek me out. She knew I would care, as I most certainly did. It was a sweet thing for Beryl to say, and it made me feel proud.

If I don’t get recognized for anything else in this life, I will be grateful that people considered me a kind and caring person. Fame and fortune would be great, or even incredible intelligence however I’m more than satisfied to be thought of as someone people genuinely wanted to be around for no other reason than I am me.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thanks for the laughter, Sophia Petrillo

Today is the day that my grandmother would have turned 100.   Although she isn't with us anymore I know that all of her girls and son will be thinking of their mom today.  I'm remembering Nan by thinking of the fun times we had together.  I only had her in my life until I was 23, but she played a very big role in my life.

Nanny had beautiful white hair and sparkly grey-blue eyes; she never left the house without a hat on and never once, in all of her 86 years wore a pair of trousers, ever.  She adored the Queen Mother and all things royal.  Nanny was a genuine lady.  But here is the funny part - Nan only had one tooth in the whole of her mouth.  It was her right 'canine' tooth.  The rest of the family could never figure out why a lady who was so concerned with looking proper in public didn't mind the fact that she didn't have a set of teeth. Some mysteries are meant to remain unsolved!

I would presume that it was because of her oral situation that Nan had a serious stomach problem.  She would often say  to me that she was all bound up.  I used to say 'No wonder Nan, you eat pork chops without any teeth!'.  I remember a few conversations where she was telling me that her tummy was bugging her because she hadn't had a BM in days and that she needed to express gas.  I once suggested with a smile that she should drink a beer, it was bound (no pun intended) to make her go.  Her response?  She cackled with laughter and said 'Oh Jody... what are you like?'  No way was this lady ever going to drink a beer.  Eat without teeth, yes but drink lager - not a chance.  You can't help but love a woman who sticks to her guns. 

I think the favourite memories I have of Nanny are when she was laughing.   She laughed whole-heartedly, and never more so on those Saturday nights when I baby-sat my cousins and she & I sat together on the couch and watched the Golden Girls.  Sophia used to make her howl with laughter and how I loved that sound.  I will carry those memories in my heart and smile to myself when I think back on those Saturday nights with Clara.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Friday Song

This weekend has passed much too quickly, however it always does.

When Friday finally rolls around I could almost start singing a corny song that they used to sing on one of the lame radio stations during my drive to work when I lived in Nova Scotia, a song that bleated on about not wanting to work but bang on a drum all day.  I wonder if they still sing that stupid song?  I would think so; the station is just that lame.  But its a lameness I love to hate because its so Nova Scotia.  Now I'm sure I've bored you to tears numerous times in the past with talk of  Nova Scotia, so I shall refrain, just for today; but only because I care that much about you giving yourself a headache due to numerous eye-rolls.  But I am singing that song in my head. Sorry - I can't help it.

Fridays are my favourite day of the week because they signify the beginning of the weekend.  Yes I have to work, however Fridays have a different feeling.  I have two full days ahead of me in which to fill my time  however I want, be that walking on the beach with Molly, staying in bed all day, getting drunk in the afternoon in my housecoat, or just counting how many hours I have left in the weekend (not really, but either way its my weekend to do with what I want).   

I went home last Friday and the first only item on my list was to ring this beautiful girl:

My sister Tawny, and wish her a Happy 35th Birthday. 
I told her I would be bringing her present to her when we travel to her next month, but really no present I bring will compare to this little gift she wakes up to every morning:

What a smile :) Something tells me her Aunty Jojo won't be able to deny this girl anything. 

I actually did have a few other items on my agenda for this weekend. One was to work out at least twice, the second was to continue to ensure I kept up my healthy eating, which included refraining from drinking wine (ack!) The gym part was easy:  I went both Friday and Saturday.  Friday found me back at body pump class and I didn't do as badly as I thought considering it had been over a month since my last class.  I'm still not sure its a good thing or a bad thing when the instructor repeatedly makes reference to the fact that she's happy you are back. 

As for healthy eating: I haven't snacked on anything that would be considered unhealthy save for one piece of bread last evening, which I will not beat myself up for. It was my first piece of bread all week.  I didn't drink wine either evening which wasn't too bad.  I did however find standing in the wine isle yesterday afternoon at Lidl a bit  hard.  I actually found myself beginning to drool at the thought of a nice cold class of Italian Pinot Grigio; which should have me worried but doesn't.   I did however indulge in one glass of a beautiful red with Beryl this afternoon while we watched 'Its Comlicated'.  Its just too hard to say no to my mate when she is so happily cheered when I partake in an afternoon tipple with her.  Life is short after all and I'm sure it won't hamper the deflating of my spare tire that much... one glass is much better than one bottle. 

And now its Sunday night and I'm going to go soak in a hot tub, without a glass of wine;  I will take my water and a good book and think slimming thoughts as I don't  eat a bar of chocolate. 

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Clara's Girls

Aunt Nita, Mom, Aunt Marg (standing), Aunt Beth, Aunt Jerita (standing) and Aunt Shirley

(The girls pictured all  fall in the middle of an eldest brother, Nelson (deceased) and a youngest brother, Jimmy)

This picture was taken two weekends ago, on a rare night out for my mom.  Her sister Anita had come to visit from Newfoundland to spend some time with mom prior to the beginning of her radiation treatments and she convinced mom to join the rest of her sisters at the Newfie Club, a local that two or three of my aunts frequent most Saturday nights.

I must say I think my mom looks fantastic;  However despite looking so wonderful I know that she has spent most of the summer feeling nauseous and tired.  Despite this she continues to go to the gym as much as she can, which is usually four or five days a week. 

A double bonus for my mom was having my sister Tawny visit with her daughter Clara (named for our grandmother).  Mom was so excited to see them both and had looked forward to it all summer.  She never complained that Tawny was unable to stay at the house with her and although it was the week she started radiation mom jumped in the car every day and went to visit her 'girls'.  Although she was tired from her treatment, she wasn't missing out on the joy of her granddaughter. 

As I've mentioned in previous posts, in just over four weeks Andy and I are going out to Ontario to meet Clara and spend time with friends and family.  Tawny and I have been texting each other to make plans and yesterday, something so small as a text asking me did I mind if she switched her dentist appointment around so that she could leave the baby with us had me smiling all day.  I have a nephew here who I am never asked to look after, as my sister-in-law has so much family of her own.   Tawny lives away from the rest of the family so none of us get to help out with Clara and when the opportunity presents itself, of course we will :)  That's what family is all about.  I believe that Tawny also wishes we could have the convenience of being nearer.

My sister-in-law Alison is finally sustaining a pregnancy after a long 18 months.  I couldn't be more thrilled for her and her partner, two of the best people in my life.  What's even better is that despite the fact that they live a 1.5 hour drive away, I think that I will see plenty of this baby.  They have already told me they want me on standby.  I laugh and say of course I will always be there to look after their child, however they might not be as readily able give him/her up as they think;  not at first anyway.  Either way it will be good to have a baby come to stay for weekends, with or without the parents.  Besides, Andy owes them for all the times they have spent weekends with his children over the years :)

I just wish, as I often do that we could all live closer together. That our boys could see Clara grow up and although they are so much older I know they would take an interest in her as they love little ones.  Time spent with my cousin's twin boys in Nova Scotia are always fun to watch, the way they all interact together.  Alex has a lot of patience and time for small children which is rare in a 17 year old lad.

I spent a lot of time in the homes of my Aunties, especially my Aunt Shirley's and Jerita's.  Shirley's because I was close to both her children; with Aunt Jerita, it was more that my Nan lived with her and I spent a lot of time with my Nan, as well as the fact that I babysat Jerita's girls Tracy and Nancy, often for the whole of the summer and nearly every Saturday night.  I therefore have grown to be friends with these cousins.  I'm especially close with Wayne, Shirley's son.  Aunt Anita, although she lived farther away in St. John's, was seen on a yearly basis and although we didn't see her children as much, we had a few great holidays together and as we've grown into adults, her daughter Heather and I have become very close.   Aunt Beth used to love to have me come spend the night with her, and always over indulged me, especially as she had no children of her own.  Aunt Marg, well she has always been a constant in our house, coming to see us regularly and continuing to do so whenever me and my sister get back to Nova Scotia.  Both Marg and  Shirley get tearful when its time to say goodbye.  

I'm so happy that mom has her sisters near whilst she is going through all this;  I'm so thankful that I was raised in a big, extended family, not just our own immediate one (which you can read about here), with Aunts, Uncles and cousin's nearby.  Sure, my mom's own family of siblings have their fair share of disagreements and strife.. I can remember some huge rows between a few of these sisters, one or two nights in particular, with three of them arguing whilst two were in tears over the row and mom being horrified whilst trying to be peacekeeper, as usual (hmmm I wonder who I get that from?).   However despite all this, despite the fact that two of them aren't what you would call friends, they come together whenever any of them are in need.  I remember the night Beth lost her husband Art;  Wayne and I were out clubbing when we heard the news.  We drove into Beth's house straightaway and at two o'clock in the morning found my Aunt Beth surrounded by her sisters.  All of them, with the exception of Aunt Anita who lived too far away to be there, but would have if she could. 

We might not be able to pick our families, like we can choose our friends. However if given a choice, I wouldn't have chosen any differently.  It's taken me awhile but I've learned that no family is perfect and most have some level of dysfunction: a few odd balls, the over-acheivers and under acheivers; and always the prerequisite stubborn one (or two) that march to a completely different beat. Our big, extended family can tick all these boxes, some even twice ;) Its a family that doesn't always like each other, one that certainly doesn't understand each other (some don't even try), yet I've come to the decision that this is ok.   We do what we are each personally capable of and let me tell you, this group of women are strong women, capable of almost anything.  They have survived so much, both within their individual lives and together as a family.   And still they continue to laugh and remember that there have been more good times than bad. I'm so proud to have come from these women and treasure all that I have learned along the way and will hopefully continue to learn. 

Monday, September 06, 2010

This post comes with a scratch warning...

The Saturday prior to the departure of Heather & Garry, we had Andy’s family around for a BBQ. It was our third weekend of non-stop action in a row, however when I have my family come to stay I always like to have a little joining of the clans. As well as I fit in with Andy’s family, it’s always that much nicer when I have one or two of my family in the mix; something that never happens but for once or twice a year.

My cousin Wayne always has both families around him as he and his wife are close to both their families, all of whom get on with each other (which is rare). I'm sure that most of the time, its a good thing and I often find myself wishing we all lived closer together, because both mine and Andy’s family tolerate like each other. Sure my dad and mother-in-law have been known to ‘lock horns’ a few times, but we find it amusing; well, everyone except for my dad that is but you can’t win ‘em all. There aren’t many in my own family that challenge my father and when I come across people in our extended family who will, such as my cousin Collette, and now my mother-in-law, I can’t help but laugh a little.  So on second though, maybe it wouldn’t work so well if we were in closer quarters, but I don't buy into that, we would all do just fine. Most of the Allenby clan are (self-professed) know-it-alls and love a good banter. Compared to the in-laws that came before me, with the 1st wife, our family runs like a classic episode of the Brady Bunch. Ok, maybe that’s pushing it a bit (besides, do we really want to be that lame?) we are probably more like the characters out of The Jeffersons. But we work; amidst all the dysfunction our families blend well together.  We can bring both branches of the family together and it is always a laugh.  Which is the most important item on the agenda here in the McAllenby household.

It was an added bonus on Saturday to have my cousin in the kitchen with me, helping me get everything sorted while I heard Andy’s family laughing and carrying on.  It was also a big help to have her pouring me another large glass of wine in the midst of what happened that evening:

It happened shortly after everyone had eaten and Heather and I were clearing up; all joking aside, it was good to have so many people around to keep me calm, calmer than I would have been if we'd been on our own  that evening.   What I'm about to tell you also made me realize (I doubt any of you will be surprised by this proclamation) that I am way too attached to my dog. Seriously – to the point where I will need a psychiatrist should anything happen to her. Even that sentence proves how much denial I am in. Something will happen to her eventually because she is a dog and people generally outlive their dogs. They aren’t children. BUT... to those of us who don’t have kids of their very own, they tend to be our substitute babies; especially when our step-children are nearly grown and don’t need us so much anymore (unless they want food in their bellies and money in their hand ;)

I'm digressing.  Back to the story:

As I was saying, we were clearing up after dinner when Connor came in the kitchen and asked me to have a look at some lumps Molly had. Almost instantly my heart started skipping beats as it slowly begin to dawn on me what I was looking at and calmly hysterically called Wendy into the kitchen.  It would appear that during our visit to the Lake District the previous weekend, Molly picked up ticks; three ugly blood sucking little mites. (I'm itching just typing this.) I was so appalled and upset, horrified that these disgusting creatures were attached to my dog and I hadn’t known. Heather fetched me another glass of wine (that I couldn't drink) while Connor stayed close to my side, calmly repeating that Molly was going to be just fine. I felt foolish for having tears in my eyes, of course she was going to be OK I kept repeating; more for my sake or Connor's I do not know. Dave was sent home for the surgical spirits (my mother in law is the Dog-Mother after all) and after about an hour of scrubbing the little buggers, we had them all out. Molly was so good throughout it all and didn’t fight it one bit. I hate the look of the ugly scabs they have left on her chest, but they are out now, and I’m going to make sure I take the necessary steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

Around a year ago a similar situation happened to my friend’s little girl and I remember reading her post about her experience and how upsetting it was for her. Molly is only my dog and I was in major distress, guilty over the fact that I didn’t notice straight away, when logic tells me that it’s easy not to notice these little bastards on a dog until they’ve been there awhile. The dog wasn't even that bothered.  I think my mind would have got up and left the building if it had been my child.  But no, we have to remain calm for the children, I'm sure I would have coped; It's not like it they were leeches.   Anybody who knows me will tell you that dog, child or senior citizen, I honestly cannot cope with leeches - my mind really does check out when they come on the scene, to the point where I might have even used the kids as stepping stones to get out of the water on a past occasion.

Friday, September 03, 2010

You try and say balaclava after a bottle of wine...

Last Friday we woke up to sunshine and Heather, Gaz, Dawn and I headed out to one of my very favourite cities:  Lincoln.  (If I'd ever had a son, this would have been one of his names). 

The sun always shines when we go to Lincoln, which makes it a much more enjoyable way to shop the cobblestone streets of this ancient city built on a hill. After stopping for tea (cake and diet cokes) we made our way back home with the idea of a few drinks around the fire pit after supper. 

However, when I got home Andy informed me that my brother-in-law had dropped off a load of fresh mussels and mackerel.  My first response was to ring Dawn and tell her to head on over with her boys for supper with us, as I know Robert adores mussels and we had a load of mackerel to throw on the bbq. We foil wrapped the mackerel with lemon and parsley, I put together a Greek salad to go with the left-over jacket's from the night before while Garry made a garlic and wine sauce for the mussels.

And the feast was on:

The boys digging into the mussels

We were lucky enough to have Connor with us for the weekend, and our youngest boy loves nothing more than a good time around the fire-pit.  He decided he would be the comedian for the evening and made his appearance wearing this:

The Brits call it a Balaclava, most Canucks just say 'ski mask'

At first, I think  he was making fun of how cold Dawn was, as she was in a borrowed sweater that I knew would keep her warm as its made for a much colder climate, like Banff (thanks Stace).  Then he started having fun and calling himself Nacho Libre. Which soon got changed to Nacho Cheese by the adults.  We eventually all agreed on 'Spicy Nacho'

It was hard to get a photograph that evening without Spicy Nacho making an appearance:

Spicy Nacho and Cameron snuck back to Cam's (what must the neighbours have thought?) to grab the acoustic and surprise Gaz, as he hadn't played his guitar since he arrived in England. It didn't take him long to get strumming; and for us to start singing. Or something like that...

(A little Eagles anyone?)

We had a few dodgy moments when hot stones started flying out of the fire pit (wtf???), however as I was the only one to take a hit before Andy rectified the situation, it was all good.

The girls

Spicy Nacho and Robert having a wrestle:
(Robert even remembered to put down his wine glass for the big event)

Group shot of the 'adults'

Connor making a rare appearance with Cameron:

Keeping it cozy:

When Madonna started pumping through the speakers, it wasn't long before we were up and dancing.  Spicy Nacho was keeping us in stitches with his running commentary during 'She's Not Me' as he moved around his dancer Quesadilla (me);  Dawn was busy dancing with the pole in between stints of napping.

All in all, yet another very successful night in the secret garden;  I think Heather and Gaz loved the way we like to relax and have fun on a crisp Friday evening at the end of summer.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Short but Sweet

The last two days have been sunny and warm;  a welcome relief as its been mostly grey and dull here in the northern counties of England.  (Anyone who is friends with me on Facebook is aware of the fact that I'm in complete envy over the heatwave occurring in Nova Scotia, humidity be damned; you all have gorgeous beaches and lakes you could be accessing at some point.)

Dull and grey does not assist my mental state of health.  Of course I'm sure increased humidity with next to no reprieve wouldn't be beneficial either, however heading to the lake for an evening swim would soon rectify any negative emotion I was currently experiencing.  That or sitting naked in front of a fan with a glass of wine in hand.

However my original point was to say this: at the moment it's beautiful outside and my husband rang me a short while ago to ask if I'd like him to pick up some lunch for us.  I took him up on the offer and had a rare moment out in the sun with him in the middle of the work day.  We had to sit on the cement behind the building, but who cares?  No bench - so what? Let's live on the wildside for 20 minutes.  I was rejoicing in the fact that the sun was full on my face and my husband was beside me - a welcome distraction to what was going on inside the building (in other words - work).  It was a brief break, but it was one of those moments in life when you just pause and say thanks for the little things in life.

Lunch break is over now and I must leave you to get back to (ack) work... or at least of going through the motions.