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

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Saturday, December 31, 2011

The end of another year...

What a year it has been; Andy keeps saying he can’t wait for it to be over, yet when I think back over the last year I can’t say it’s been all bad. Although it has been difficult at times, there have been a lot of good to match the not-so-good. I think this is the way it normally goes with each year, within every family. 2010 was much the same.  

Here is a rundown of the year in review, 2011 as perceived from my skewed view:

January: was devastating with the news of hearing my 43 year old friend died suddenly and unexpectedly;

Feb: despite the sad start to the year, I managed to get home and spend a few weeks with my mom and family. Also, while I was at home, we received word of the birth of our 2nd niece, Daisy.

March: another good month, with a fabulous, indulgent long weekend to London to celebrate our friend Dawn’s 50th.

April: things were starting to break down with Alex in a very unsettling way; I participated in a blog 30 Day blog challenge with my sister which was a great distraction as well as for reminiscing over better times. It also increased my blog posts (I’ve beaten last year’s grand total which can most likely be attributed to this month).

May: Asking Alex to leave home in May was one of the hardest things I have ever done and I can’t help but think if I hadn’t asked him to go, might he be in a different place right now? However I can’t dwell on this – you can’t turn back time and although it was hard for all concerned, I think it taught him a few life lessons he needed to learn.

June: Brought with it another bright light, my brother; we also celebrated our Tasha’s 21st birthday.

July: We had our biggest Canada BBQ to date – it was a great time and an opportunity for all to get to know my brother. We also had a great trip to Wales with John in the same week.

August: Was a disquieting month, what with the riots taking place all over the UK, especially London. We also gave up on the idea of having a sun-filled summer. It was during August that Molly developed her skin irritation, something we are still trying to sort out. We also found out that our boy (yes boy) was going to be a father. Although we are coming to terms with this fact, it’s still a hard pill to swallow at times. He and his girlfriend are just so young.

September: Prior to my brother’s departure, we spend a couple of days in the Lake District, which is never disappointing.

October: I made my first Canadian Thankgsiving Dinner for Andy’s family; it was lovely to have everyone around the table celebrating all that we have to be thankful for.

November: Three days in Paris, need I say more?

December: Was a busy month getting ready for Christmas; all broken fences between Alex and his dad have now been mended and we thoroughly enjoyed a family Christmas together.  We also celebrated Christmas with our close friends Robert and Dawn, you can't beat champagne with dear friends on Christmas morning.  

We of course will be celebrating New Year's Eve with them as well, as is our usual.   Bring on the champagne, games and lot's of laughs. 

Wishing you all a safe and  happy New Year. May 2012 bring you all peace, love and joy.  Oh, and lots of laughs too.

 I'd like to send out wishes to an old friend who celebrates her birthday on this day as well; I'm not sure if she still pops in to visit this site, but just in case, Happy Birthday Paula!

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Champagne Fuelled McAllenby Christmas

We kicked off our Christmas celebrations on the Friday afternoon before Christmas Eve by meeting our friends Robert and Dawn at the Harvest Moon for a few drinks, which as I mentioned in my previous post, was a great way to begin the festivities.

We headed out to my friend Jayne's place on the Friday night for her Christmas Shed Party, which although cold, was still an adventure.  (What she calls a shed, we call a cabin ;)

Andy and I went for our usual feed of Thai on Christmas Eve and when we got home, Dawn and Robert popped in for a cranberry/champagne cocktail and a few photos before heading back to their boys.   

Andy and I enjoyed a quiet night in watching It's a Wonderful Life and woke up early on Christmas Day to get the turkey prepped, open our presents and of course, enjoy a glass of bubbly in the hot tub. What a way to start Christmas day eh?

We then got dressed in our Christmas best and headed over to Dawn and Roberts to see what bounty they had scored and of course to enjoy yet another glass of bubbly (with orange juice of course).

I love the new dress my husband got me for Christmas :)

Dawn with Cameron (who is showing off his classy new robe)

We then headed up to Andy's parents to bring our gifts and see his sister Claire, who enjoys Christmas (especially the presents) as much as an eight year old does.

Andy's mum and dad.

I went home and called home as I knew by then that they would be up.  I chatted for a few minutes each with my mom, sister and brother before I rang off.  I hung up the phone with a lump in my throat, but quickly turned to getting the prep ready for Christmas Dinner.

Wendy, Dave and Claire turned up shortly after to share Christmas Dinner, which left us stuffed and uncomfortable (as usual).  The kids turned up a short while later to open their presents and stay for the night.

We had a few minutes on Skype with my sister Tawny and Clara, (I loved hearing all the kids comment on how adorable Clara is) then we all got down to playing a board game that my sister had sent us for Christmas. 
All in all, a very successful and joyous day.

Boxing Day saw the arrival of Alison, Scott and Daisy and the annual buffet at Wendy's.  We have more pictures, but they are on Andy's camera and I haven't downloaded them yet. 

I did capture this one though, as we came back from Wendy's and it's one of my favourite from this Christmas:
My handsome man and his beautiful daughter.

Now it's time to get ready to celebrate the New Year. 

I think more champagne is definitely in order!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cranberry Sauce and Cookies

It's no secret that I have done a lot of baking over the last month.  To cut down on eating copious amounts myself, I have been putting them in pretty Christmas boxes and handing them out to my
friends children, Andy's sister Claire and our nephew Archie.  (I had also frozen a bunch to put out for the kids and family over Christmas.) 

Because I like to make my own cranberry sauce, on Christmas Eve morning I tried out a new recipe for a cranberry-pear sauce and decided to put some in a few little jars to give out to friends that I would be seeing later that day, along with the cookies. 

I think it all looked rather pretty and I took great joy in giving out gifts that I'd taken the time to make myself.  (The cranberry sauce was good thankfully, if not a little bit tart - but hey, they are cranberries afterall.)

I ended up taking last Friday off to ensure I had just about everything ready and it turned out to be a great decision.  Andy and I did what needed doing in the morning and by mid-afternoon we were free to meet up with Robert and Dawn in our local for a few glasses of wine.  It was festive and relaxing and a brilliant way to kick off the season.

We've had a lovely Christmas and I will be back tomorrow to share a few photos with you.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Almost all wrapped up

Late yesterday afternoon I finished all my Christmas shopping (well except for one last item I needed to pick up this morning). Andy and I did the food shop on Tuesday night. I’m a little bit impressed with us so far this season.

I got home last night and after making Andy a few sandwiches and giving Molly her antibiotics, I got to work baking a few more goodies. Lord knows I don’t need any, but the kids seem to appreciate them. After the last batch of my mom’s chocolate chip oatmeal cookies came out of the oven, I realised it was 9:00 pm and I still hadn’t had any tea (dinner/supper – whatever you wish to call it). If you know anything about me, it’s that Jody never forgets to eat. Ever. I also never refer to myself in the 3rd person but look what just happened.

After I had a light snack, I got to work wrapping a few more presents:

(I wish I could wrap the presents for my mom and sisters in Canada like this, but they just don’t end up looking quite the same when they’ve been sent in the post).

Although I’m not a fantastic present wrapper, I don’t think I do too badly at all and rather enjoy wrapping gifts up in pretty paper and bows. I am currently suffering from a bit of tag envy though, upon seeing the stash of really cute tags my sister has on hand.

I only have about 12 more presents to wrap and as I’m having the day off tomorrow I know I won’t be rushing to get them wrapped on Christmas Eve. I have too many people to visit and a cocktail that I’m dying to try out that I want to share with my friend Dawn. Hopefully we can manage to find an hour together before Christmas morning, when Andy and I will be dropping in at Dawn and Robert’s for a glass of Christmas cheer.

This is the drink I’m so excited to try out:

Courtesy of  The Curvy Girl Guide . It’s pretty and festive and I hope it tastes as delectable as it looks.

Hopefully I will find a moment to pop in and give you a few more photos or an update tomorrow or Saturday. I also hope all your Christmas prep is going to plan and you aren’t getting wrapped up in all the stress that so many people find themselves in during this festive season.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Someone is not very impressed

If she could cry, I'm sure she would.  I don't know if it would be from humiliation or from being so damn uncomfortable.  Probably both.  She just hangs her head after it's been put on and barely moves her tail when I speak to her.  There is no way to explain to her that its only to help keep her from licking off the cream that will help to heal her skin rash. At least she only needs to wear it when we aren't at home, which from the end of the day tomorrow will be most of the time, since Andy will be finished until after the New Year. 

Me?  I can't help but chuckle at how funny it looks, especially because she is so clumsy with it; however leaving her so depressed this morning almost broke my heart.  

Poor Molly. 

(Andy and I will make sure she has a few extra toys under the tree this year as she can't have any goodies, not even the doggy kind). 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A little too much Christmas Cheer :)

We share office space with the Occupational Therapists and to celebrate Christmas jointly, we all agreed last Friday that we would each bring in an edible goody and hope to have a few different snacks to indulge in throughout the day. The food on the table turned out to be pretty impressive, ranging from homemade onion bhajis, somosa’s, home-made sausage rolls and flans, to the Philly Cheese Ball that I make (which was a major hit as most Brits seem to have never seen or tasted one and always seem to love it.) Of course there were plenty of sweets on offer: coffee cake with mascarpone cheese icing, gorgeous brownies and these:

Needless to say I didn’t end up eating any dinner before I went out with Sarah and Joanne on Friday night for a much needed Christmas drink. We haven’t been out together since March and although we were missing one of our quartet (Sharon), we had a fabulous night full of laughter and drinks. We only shared two starters upon arriving at the pub which would definitely be the main factor for becoming so intoxicated so quickly. If I’ve learned anything from Friday night (besides that I’m an emotional idiot but that’s not really news to anyone) it’s this: I can’t drink like I did when I was 25 and still expect to spend the next day shopping or doing errands.

However, I did manage to run two errands but only because Andy was driving. (I am grown up enough to know that a person shouldn’t even drive the next day after drinking so much.) I remember so clearly the days when Cat and I used to tear up the town by night and be out back on it again by lunch time the next day, yet it seems a whole lifetime ago; misspent youth, how I miss you at times. Thankfully I have seldom been privy to the barf brigade after copious amount of alcohol. That at least hasn’t changed.

It’s actually the reverse on the odd occasion where I am hung over (I’ve always been fortunate to not suffer from a bad hang over) as I indulge in way too much rubbish food. Saturday night I actually suggested we order Chinese and I never do that. We were told it would take approximately an hour. An hour and a half later we were just calling to see where it was when the delivery guy pulled up outside. Connor yelped with glee, only to discover the guy was going next door. WTF? Seriously, what are the odds. We were just cancelling at the two hour mark when if finally turned up. I think we were all ready to eat the coffee table by this point. Normally we would have refused it but no way was I letting it get sent back... I needed me some chowmein. The worst part? They still charged us full price for barely warm food. It’s doubtful we will be ringing that place anytime soon.

On Sunday morning I woke up with eye’s that were nearly swollen shut. It could have been a reaction to something I rammed in my mouth the day before, or a delayed reaction to the alcohol, I don’t know. I wasn’t best pleased as we were out for a lunch to celebrate the fact that Andy’s sister Alison and brother Adrian, as well as Ali’s husband Scott turned 40 on Friday. Yup, you heard me right.

All three of them on the same day:

My eyes were luckily much better by lunch, but by no means suitable for photos. I did however manage to capture some great photos of little Daisy. They are on the camera waiting to be uploaded, however I caught this one that I think is adorable on my phone:

So this week I’m catching up on all the things I didn’t get a chance to do on Saturday, like finish up my Christmas shopping and wrapping. I’m not sweating it though; as crowded as the shops are and despite not having any time off before Christmas Eve, it will still all get done. Fingers crossed though that the present I ordered for Connor online turns up by Friday!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I don't suffer from the Christmas Card Craze

This time of year is a hectic time of year for so many people. It could be for me, if I was that way inclined but I’m not. I don’t mind Christmas shopping (for the most part), I like baking, I have a husband who is fantastic about helping out around the house and I love Christmas parties. I no longer stress over cooking Christmas dinner because I have finally figured out how a turkey should be cooked. Wrapped in bacon all the way baby. So you see, I really have nothing to worry about other than enjoying the season.

A number of people have been telling me how stressed they are and I can only chuckle. I believe that you are only as stressed as you let yourself be (this is excluding single working parents – I can’t imagine the stress you experience everyday, never mind at Christmas). I find it amusing that people are getting anxious over writing Christmas cards. My answer to that? Don’t send them if it has become such a chore. I love getting Christmas cards from family and friends I don’t get to see very often but I really don’t get the point of a card that just has someone’s named signed to it; obviously if you can’t take a second to write a brief message then you are only sending a card out of a sense of obligation. I don’t send any out, other than to family back in Canada but I think I forgot to put them in the package I sent home with my brother in September. I don’t give them out to colleagues or neighbours either as I just can’t be bothered.

What I find incredibly hard at this time of year (and will come as no surprise to any of you) is that I miss my family terribly. So, so terribly. I want to be doing last minute shopping with my sister and then sit for awhile drinking lattes as we laugh and talk; I want to be there to eat Dad’s tray of nibbles as we watch A Wonderful Life as my Aunts and Uncle pop in and out throughout the evening on Christmas Eve. I don’t think I will ever stop missing my little sister coming to wake me on Christmas morning. I don’t know when I will next get to sit around my mom’s table on Christmas Day and share a meal with them… my husband has never been home with me for Christmas and I haven’t had a Christmas with them in six years now. It’s a long time, yet the ticket prices are usually so extortionate. Maybe next year (something I unfortunately say every year)…. My mom told me the other day that my sister Sandra was flying in on Christmas morning. My first reaction was joy for mom, but then envy for me. What a Christmas gift to give my mother, better than any present that will be under the tree.

Speaking of trees, we had some friends over on Saturday night to help adorn the tree. This was the result:

(Not the best photo as it was taken with my mobile, however I'm sure you will see a few more over the next few weeks.)
As usual, I ended up with some amazing new decorations for the tree, ones that I will remember fondly in years to come. (I always ask those who are coming to help for the first time to bring a decoration for the tree). A new friend came and was dismayed that she got the colour scheme wrong yet I told her no worries, when I see that one red bauble it will make me think of her; it’s quirky and fun like she is and I’m hardly one to stress over the fact that my tree might not be a vision of perfection in someone else’s eyes.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

What are your most and least favorite things about the holiday season? (from Plinky.com)

Most favourite:

Picking out our fresh Christmas tree, then seeing it decorated in our living room;
The feeling I get on Christmas Eve… it’s hard to explain but ties it in with old family traditions.
Gathering with friends and family, eating, drinking and playing games (on Christmas Day and afterwards);
Bailey’s Irish Cream;
Waking up on Christmas morning – I still have the expectant/hopeful feeling I had when I was little;
The parties;
Buck’s Fizz on Christmas morning (champagne and orange juice);
Baking cookies for the kids;
The movies – especially Elf, The Family Stone and It’s a Wonderful Life;
Receiving cards in the post from those far away;
Wrapping presents

Least Favourite:

How materialistic it has all become.
How angry and rude fellow shoppers are, especially in parking lots
Being away from my family and friends who are thousands of miles away
The feeling I get on Christmas Eve… it’s hard to explain but it ties in with old family traditions;
Wrapping presents (I know, another one that is a catch 22 for me!)
The hassle of packing everything away when it’s all over (although I’m usually more than ready to take it all down).

Although I often claim to not be overly bothered about Christmas one way or the other, I like that my most favourite things about Christmas outnumber my least favourite. It’s a great time of year, so long as we don’t lose sight of what is important to us.

I also don’t get overly stressed at this time of year like so many others because I’m not a perfectionist and I think Christmas is meant to be enjoyed, not stressed over. So long as the kids are sorted out, a lovely meal is on the menu, the house looks good and I can be surrounded by those I love (even when I’m missing those who aren’t near) then I’m good to go.

Bring on the holiday cheer.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Wednesday Roundup

We had a busy weekend, a much more hectic schedule than I’m used to, but it was good.

We finally got to catch up with Paul, Sophia and Madelana on Saturday. I can’t possibly explain how much this little girl’s sweet nature shines through. We had a lovely time in Presso, even the pizza maker couldn’t resist this little one, giving her a bit of dough to roll. I think Paul and Connor were secretly wishing for a piece of their own:

(and it’s not even a restaurant that caters to children :)
We also had a bit of fun in TK Maxx trying on hats:

We went and got our tree early on Sunday morning before I started my Christmas shopping. It’s definitely not as spectacular as last year’s, but there was no way I was getting a seven footer again. The tree is now in a bucket of water on the deck, waiting to be dressed on Friday night, when I have a few people over.

I’m a little anxious though, as the element in the oven has burned out and I’m waiting to see if it can be mended before Friday night. I might have to reorganize a few things if it can’t be fixed in time. I wasn’t planning on a multitude of hot snacks, but a few would be nice. I’m sure I can work something out with Dawn in regard to using her oven if not.

I’ve been feeling in a bit of a slump the last few days but hope to get over this by hitting the gym tonight. Andy is home for the rest of the week so I want to use the time to get sweating. I’ve not worked out nearly enough over the last few weeks – not good, considering all the snacking I’ve been doing.

Oh, I can't forget to share this with you:  I found out this morning that I’m going to be hitting up a Florence and the Machine concert in London in March! Who-hoo! I don’t go to very many concerts so I'm excited about this one for sure. Florence is a major player on my workout soundtrack.

Tonight I might download a few Christmas Albums. Besides Pink Martini and the new Michael Bublee, I’d love a few suggestions of some of your favourite Christmas compilations.

Well there you have it... a much briefer than usual roundup of what's been going on.  Just in case you've been wondering :)

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Christmas Cookies

My mother always does a load of baking for Christmas each year. She did this when we were younger and still continues to do so; and it’s not only her children that look forward to her baking. Mom has always made extra and each year I know she makes a special batch of brownies especially for my cousin Wayne as he loves her brownies. It’s a shame she doesn’t have a flock of grand kids living near her at times like these.

For the last few years I have done some baking myself. I have asked mom for a number of her recipes i.e. chocolate snowballs, cherry balls, peanut butter balls and peanut butter squares. Some recipes I gather from elsewhere, especially this site here. Barry’s holiday recipes are fantastic, not to mention everything else he does. His short breads really do melt in your mouth and always go down a treat at our house.

There are some recipes that don’t seem to work out so well, no matter how closely I follow them. It could be due to a number of factors: my oven settings, UK measuring cups, the ingredients here varying slightly and the fact that I just don’t have mom’s touch in the baking department. But I’m getting there, slowly but surely.

The chocolate snowballs seemed to have worked much better this year and I’ve gotten much better at the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (a definite favourite of Connor’s). Luckily the cherry balls (a top choice of both Alex and Andy’s) have always come out well. I tried the peanut butter squares this year as Alex had asked for them last year, and they are a flop. I will chalk it up to the fact that the local peanut butter just doesn’t hold up to Kraft (which I ran out of last year). So end of story on that count.

So you can probably gather that even though Mom doesn’t live near our boys, they still know what a great baker their ‘Nana Gina’ is. It’s a legacy I hope to carry on... especially now that I'm going to be a granny myself. (Ack! - I'm still getting used to that one.

This year, I ordered some Christmas cookie cutters from Amazon and looked forward to trying out mom’s Christmas Cookies (I always loved how she used to decorate them in such festive icing). I’m always slightly confused when a recipe calls for shortening as the alternative here is lard and that is just nasty. So I usually just substitute for butter, this time I didn’t.

It started out fairly well:

But then the dough was super sticky and I couldn’t get it to roll. All three kids happened to turn up as I was trying to work out what to do (besides adding more flour) and we decided to start from the beginning and use butter, not lard (that word is just plain disgusting). I’m pleased they were happy to join in as I didn’t feel like measuring and sifting five cups of flour etc. etc. So I poured Tasha and myself a glass of wine and we got to work.

(Tasha really pitched in - a fantastic assistant)

We hit the same roadblock as the first time and I made a quick call to mom to ask her if she experienced the same issue. She confirmed that she did, so as Tasha and I both thought, we had to add a lot of extra flour. Connor made a comment that made me chuckle ‘Most people check a recipe when they are baking. Not Jods, she rings Gina’. He’s not all wrong on that count. She is the baking expert and my crowd knows it.

Eventually we reached a texture that enabled the cutting out of cookie shapes:

I had a load of fun in the kitchen with the kids this past Sunday as we baked and I really love how they seem to enjoy baking/cooking with me. Connor has already made a list of what he wants to start on this Friday when he comes down. I think we are going to ease quite nicely into the Christmas Season this year.

We didn’t have a chance to decorate our cookies and as they needed to go in the freezer (well those that were left after Connor and Andy finished eating their share) I had to get them iced on Monday night.

This is the end result:

Sorry, but I do impress myself sometimes.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The City of Love

sParis lived up to my every expectation, and more.  The trip we took in 2006 was fun for so many varying reasons;  it was a place that I unwittingly fell in love with and I've always wanted to return.  After this trip alone with my husband, I can honestly say it's one of my favourite cities ever

The Parisians are so kind, so accommodating... so helpful.  Without even being asked.  I can't give that to various other European cities. 

Despite a few hiccups such as:

Andy giving his head a very hard knock prior to even leaving the local train station;
Almost missing our connecting train out of Newark;
Not having time to stop at the champagne bar in St Pancras;
Ilhame not being in when we arrived at the bed and breakfast after travelling all day;
An elephant being in the in the room above us on the first night;
My camera lens falling apart;
A very sore blister on my little toe;
Andy nearly being pickpocketed on the underground, however that was more amusing than anything as he was well aware of the situation; we had another laugh when we saw the police questioning the female pickpockets ten minutes later. 

We had an absolutely amazing time in Paris.

The best bits? 

Well the big glass of wine we were given when Ilhame finally got home to greet us;  It was hard to stay annoyed at such a vivacious, sweet natured lady - especially when she is filling your glass with cold, crisp wine.

The room: truly authentic Parisian with a Moroccan twist. 

The breakfast:  home-made jams, croissants, pain-au-chocolate, breads and coffee. 

Walking along the Seine on a lazy Sunday morning.

 Taking in the sites from a river cruise

The Sunday Market up by Sacre Coeur

Watching the street dancers up on the Tracadero

Lunch in a cafe with a view of the Eiffel Tower

The mussels :)

The Wine

The authentic Italian Bistro we found that served a gorgeous scallop linguine

The amazing shops of Galeries Layfayette

Laughing with my husband as he drank his first glass of chardonnay with me (with me).

(alhtough I think he's drinking Leffe here... a few moments later he was drinking wine)

The coffee

The Wine (again)

The rumpy pumpy.... Sorry TMI maybe, but it was a romantic trip to Paris - would you expect any different?

The Christmas Market down the Champs Elysees

All the laughs with my husband

Seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up for Christmas

Spending four glorious days alone with my husband.

Friday, November 18, 2011

If money was no object

Sometimes I can't help but have a look at what's on offer in terms of Nova Scotia real estate.  Especially in comparison to what is on offer locally.  There is no comparison.  None at all.  The type of home that appeals to me here is so far out of reach that it's not even worth day dreaming about.  The house we live in is within our limits if we decided we wanted to buy here. However I can't help but think of what we could get in Nova Scotia for a similar price.  A few weeks ago I came across this:

I've always dreamed of a big front porch

I could so see me and Andy in our bedroom nook enjoing a cup of coffee on a wintry Sunday morning
Sea views from mostly every room in the house...

Although it's not near Queensland or Chester, it ticks all the boxes for me in terms of my 'dream home'.  You can check out the full listing for yourself here if you want. Dream is probably all I will ever be able to do in terms of owning a home like this as it is definitely out of our price range... but you never know.  If we work hard and long enough in England, some day something like this might just be possible in Canada. But most likely not.   

However, back to my regularly scheduled life;  as Paris is on the agenda I have no complaints.  My nails and fake bake are all sorted and I've been going over my wardrobe mentally for at least a week now.  I'm not packing light which I normally try and do for short breaks, as I want to be prepared for anything: afternoon strolls by the Seine, dinner and drinks with my husband and of course the concert at the Royal Albert Hall that we are going to when we arrive back in London on Tuesday.  I'm not a fanatic for designer labels and only own a select few items, and other than my boots and coats, I don't have a lot of expensive clothes.  I'm kind of middle of the road.  However since I'm going to Paris, which I believe is one of the most stylish cities in the world, I kind of wish I at least had a designer hand bag like one of these: 

Jimmy Choo


I won't tell you how much these bags retail for if you don't already know. 

I happened to express my wish out loud to one of my friends at work yesterday and when she turned up at my house last night to have her nails done, she came touting both a Jimmy Choo handbag (tan) and a Mulberry tote bag (in a burnt orangy brown).  Both very similar to those pictured above.  Ummm yeah, that's a friend for you.  I chose the Mulberry for this particular trip. I will at least be rockin an amazing bag and a big grin if nothing else. 

What more could a girl want? (I'll save that post for another day)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Three More Sleeps

I took two days off work last week to spend some time in Nottingham with my sister-in-law and niece, Daisy. I didn’t let the fact that I was coming down with a cold impinge on my time spent with them, and so far there are no signs that I left my cold with them.

My local gym has been taken over by Virgin and because of this I was able to attend Alison’s gym on Saturday morning (I managed to run over 3 k’s even though I thought my head was going to explode). Spending time at Ali’s gym only reaffirmed that the gym I’m attending could be so much better. Alison gets loads more for her monthly fee than I do. The gym is three times the size and the class schedule looks so much better. I’ve been debating giving up my membership but I know I won’t do it. The last time I quit the gym I gained weight that I still haven’t been able to shake. So no, as disgruntled as I am I will not be giving up the gym. I can continue to hope that it will improve and they will eventually hire instructors that are qualified to teach spin, rather than pulling the trainers off the floor. I’m sorry, our trainers might be good at what they do in the gym, however I don’t think they belong in front of a spin class; especially if they don’t bring any added flair or personality. Spin is challenging enough without being boring to boot. I won't even start on our TRX... Oh, and before you suggest it, I won’t change gyms as the one I go to is just so convenient in terms of location and parking. I can jog up there and do some weights. That is, whenever I decide to get my arse into a weight regime again.

So… Andy and I have been down with a bug over the last few days. I really have to give him credit though for coming to fetch me in Nottingham on Saturday morning when he was feeling dreadful. What a guy. However it was better that we were sick last weekend than this coming weekend; we have three more sleeps till we catch the Eurostar to Paris and I.can’t.wait.

To have nearly three days in one of the most romantic cities in the world with my husband will be so good. We need this break, it’s been a tough year and we haven’t had any time away on our own in too damn long.

We are even looking forward to the train journey: 

(Hard to believe the last trip on Eurostar was in 2006)
I’m really looking forward to spending an afternoon doing this:

and maybe visiting a few wine bars :)
Oh, and I'm so looking forward to the gorgeous bed and breakfast we are booked into, which you can have a look at for yourself here; Fingers crossed it stands up to it’s reputation. I’m  pleased I could get us a place in the Montmartre Quarter; we will have lots of time to explore the artsy markets and cafes.

I’m also looking forward to returning here again:

Sorry, but I still can’t comprehend why there isn’t one in the UK… even Halifax, Nova Scotia even has a shop now, yet the UK doesn’t. It makes no sense I tell you.

I will be spending the next few evenings figuring out what to pack, having my nails sorted and doing everything else a girl needs to do when preparing for a Parisian getaway with her man.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Shorter Days = Less Motivation

I try really hard not to be late for things, especially work. I’m lucky to have the kind of job where I have some flexibility and no one questions me if I’m ten minutes late. It’s just accepted that I will make it up at the end of the day or take it off my flexi-time. No big deal. Besides I’m usually in at 8:00 am, well before anyone else anyway.
All my life I had the misfortune of being habitually late. I wonder if this is something that I learned, although I don’t know from whom, my mom and dad are never late for appointments and tried to teach us all the importance of being on time. My mother said I was a late delivery, stubborn in my quest to stay snuggled inside of her. (I don’t think I can be blamed though; it was January and seriously, what time of year is that to be born?) It was only after she slipped on the ice on one of her long walks to try and coax me out that I was actually jarred into moving. During my latter school days Mom had the patience of a saint in her quest to get me out of bed. When it came to getting a lift from my dad, if I wasn’t ready when he was I could often be found running out the door as he was pulling out of the drive. If I was lucky, he would stop; I wasn’t always lucky. (I thought I’d always be mad at him for those times yet having teenagers in the house has given me a slightly different perspective and I’ve become much ‘harder’ than I ever thought I could be – it’s necessary at times, trust me.)

I married a man who is never late for anything. He is also a man who has approximately the same level of patience as my dad when it comes to being ready to leave on time (just ask my sister) and from an early stage in our relationship I managed to adapt; (Andy has also lightened up a bit over the last few years and isn’t as impatient – I guess we are good for each other after all :) I pride myself on the fact that these days I am usually always on time for appointments. I’m even prouder of the fact that when my husband and I agree on a time of departure I am ready to roll when he is. I’m not usually ready before, but I can guarantee you if we planned to leave the house at 7:00 pm I will be walking out the door at 7:00 pm. I surprise myself on days when I’m ready ten minutes early. When it comes to appointments though, I will often walk in no more than five minutes beforehand. I won’t ever change in this aspect because I abhor waiting rooms.

These days I find myself waking up about an hour before my alarm goes off. I usually have an argument with myself on whether or not I should get up to exercise (I would love to be that person), take Molly for a walk or even possibly catch up on a bit of laundry etc. I always lose this argument and although I’m almost wide awake I stay there till I fall back asleep and am rudely awakened just after 7 am feeling annoyed at myself for not getting up earlier. I really wish I could get up in time to do more than wash my face, fix my hair and put on a minimal amount of makeup prior to going. And no, I don’t shower most mornings as I have my bath or shower before bed each night. It’s rare when I have an extra few minutes to actually style my hair and make lunch (if it hasn’t been done the night before). Even when I do wake up with time to spare I usually waste it trying to figure out what to wear.

Today I had set my alarm for 6:40 and when it went off I didn’t even hit snooze. I was up early enough to take Molly for a romp on the field with her ball; the reason behind my earlier rise was that Molly’s granddad couldn’t walk her at midday so she needed a walk before work. It’s amazing how much better I feel throughout the day when I actually achieve what I plan. Since the time change nearly two weeks ago I’ve not been able to get to the gym as much or take Molly out after dark (its fireworks central around here at the moment) which has put the brakes on my jogging in the evening. So last night I hopped on my stationary bike for almost an hour and as always, a good sweat goes a long way in making me feel much brighter and better about, well everything.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Capturing the True Essance

I understand that times are changing and the world of technology can be amazing and wonderful.  I understand that today's children are being raised very differently to the way previous generations have been raised; many of these changes are great, some of them not so.  I'm not going to start ranting about how I think too many kids are wrapped up in 'cotton wool' or being spoiled to the extreme or even how materialistic the world has become.  I'm going to stop myself from making this about my thoughts on children and the varying extremes of raising them because I don't have any of my own and some of you might tell me I'm not qualified to raise such issues in the first place.  Because as we know, all childless women are clueless when it comes to child rearing (yes, I am rolling my eyes and smiling). 

However I've steered a little of track from what I originally meant to yell at talk to you about today.  I'm a little sad that the world is obsessed with appearances to the point where it's not only magazines that are doing things like this:

(What the hell was wrong with her before? When Faith Hill needs to be thinned down it's a sad state of affairs)

No wonder so many young girls (and even some boys) are obsessed with their weight and develop eating disorders.  Personally I think the before shot looks much better and I don't think I'd be on my own.

I suppose I can see the reason behind the editing of this picture:

 yet at the same time I think the first picture is more 'relatable'. But 'relatable'doesn't seem to matter when you are of celebrity status. God forbid you have a few flaws.

Photoshop is an awesome tool.  I realize that many of you take great joy in it and spend hours 'editing' photos.  Making a bride's smile whiter and brighter or erasing a small blemish; I love it when I see pictures that have been 'softened up' or when the back ground is a bit out of focus (although my husband can manage this with just his camera).  I imagine photoshop can go a long way in helping someone's self image.  But at the same time, if you have to move people from one photo and place them in another because their eyes were shut in the first photo, I struggle to understand how that is a true image. I completely get it when people/items are 'photoshopped' into a picture for design purposes i.e. the banner of your blog, invitations, etc.  What I can't  do is give credit to a photographer that has photoshopped a picture to the point where it hardly represents the original shot any longer. How can they be acknowledged as a brilliant photographer? 

Sure there are plenty of pictures that I would love to have 'slimmed down'; Why couldn't there have been an editing program available when my school photos were taken? I would have loved to have had the option at the time, yet as awful as most of them are, they remind me of the awkward teenager who couldn't keep her eyes open, smile naturally or have nice, clear skin.  They remind me of the girl I was back then, and if nothing else, they provide me with a good laugh.