Sunday, 2 March 2014

The best of Februarys

As my last post said, February 1st saw the arrival of our grandchild number two.  That must be a pretty good way to start any month.  Matilda is now thirty days old and a happy and thriving tot.  Her big sister, Lucy - all of three and a half - is already mothering her nicely.

The family had another piece of lovely news this month, but like mushrooms on my breakfast plate, I'll save the best until last.

Just in passing...  do we have machines like this at home?  Seriously, I never go to a main post office in the UK so I wouldn't know.........  if not, isn't this just a great idea?  They are always open even when the post office is closed and you can mail anything from them - just answer all the questions and slide your credit card and Bob's your whatnot.

Oh yes, the other joy is 'free' boxes and envelopes if you use Priority shipping - just pack and go.

Did I mention the alternative leg therapy last month? - that's alternative to usual medicine therapy not therapy on my alternative leg.  As you might know I got whacked in the leg last October and I am still suffering from it even after seeing every doctor under the sun in the UK and here.  Someone I met in the walk-in clinic over here suggested a lady who had done wonders for her... I saw her at the end of last month and again, a week or so later, this month and I must admit in two one-hour sessions she made a huge difference.  She uses a TENS machine, heat treatment lasers, massage, vibrating bed and essential oils.  I am especially fond of the essential oils (this was a mix of lavender, rosemary, helichrysum and frankincense).  As someone who had eschewed such stuff before I can only say, don't knock it until you've tried it.

On the second of the month our usual February guests arrived for a four week (less one week?) stay with us.  They are always in Florida for six weeks in the winter and we usually spend five of them together, but this year was slightly different.  We went away a for three days and they went away for a few days on a cruise.  Also, we didn't do our usual trip up to Orlando with them at the end of their stay, so we ended up with something like three weeks together this year.  It is always nice to have company. P & S have been 'here' as long as we have so, like us, they just 'live here' when they visit and we don't do much touristy stuff.  It does seem to involve a lot of meals out and shopping though, which isn't a great hardship on our part!  We did squeeze in a concert in the park, a dinner and movie deal at our 'posh' cinema (Silverspot) and a trip round the bay on the Naples Princess to see how the other half live.

In true old person style, for something to do one day, we even opted for a barrage of heart tests.....  Ken and I thought it was a company that had 'done' us five years before and it was interesting to get thoroughly checked over and have a stack of results to confirm we were still alive.  It turned out not to be the same company and I am still waiting for the results (three weeks later).  It does put a terrible strain on the old ticker all this suspense.

Middle of the month - Valentine's Day, in fact - Ken and I took off for a couple of nights in Orlando for the usual Molly Cromwell Dolls House Show.  We had added in an extra day this time as I wanted to do my first workshop.  As always, if you want to know all about my mini-nuttery, you can follow this part of it here:  Dolls House Shows blog.

For our Orlando trip Ken decided to hire a Mustang rather than just using our (wonderfully comfortable all-singing, all-dancing, Lincoln Continental) car ....  what can I say?.... other than I spent three days trying to convince him that cars having evolved into vehicles with climate controlled interiors and utterly wind-free, seemed, to me, a huge improvement on the open buggy .

We had some hours to kill on Saturday before the show so we decided to bomb over to the East Coast and Cocoa Beach.  Thirteen years ago (last time we did it)  'bombing over' might have been possible, now it is a good deal heavier on the traffic.  Still better than driving in the UK though.

The beach was pretty much deserted which seemed very odd for such a nice day.

Mind you, the three notices tacked on the boardwalk didn't instill confidence.

What idiot needs to be told to "Run!"?

Might be wise to check for rocks anytime you fancy diving in the sea?  What were they doing being submerged - its just not cricket!

Our drive home on Sunday was as entertaining as it always is when off the beaten track in Florida.  Just to share a couple of signs with you...

  • Ring Crime Line!  We pay cash for crooks.   If only I had one I didn't need I could EBay it.
  • Huge shop labelled: Discount Bakery Store - what in heavens name is discounted bakery goods - three-day-old bread?
  • There are many gun shops pretty much everywhere but, on this occasion, we passed a massive supermarket-size store with an armoured vehicle parked outside.  Decidedly more terrifying than it was impressive.  Incidentally it was incongruously next door to the 'Pets and Farm Animals' shop.
When my daughter's partner was visiting, he was amused by stores just simply saying what they did rather than having fancy names - note:  Gun Shop/Discount bakery Store/Pets and Farm Animals....  wonder what they all sell...

If you wonder how so many gun shops thrive here - don't.  Right now they are in the process of changing the law to allow people to get their concealed weapon permit from their local tax office.  Apparently there is such a demand for them that the Division of Licensing offices can't cope.  Scary country.

To top it all, as we drove home, we watched this take shape in the sky:

This is how you know it is Sunday and you are in Florida - someone in a plane, sky-writes: U +  GOD = smiley face!

While we were away, our friends had run away to sea so we were without them a few days until eventually they jumped ship in Lauderdale and arrived home (via Jamaica). Then, in what seemed like a blink of the eye, the end of the month rushed in and it was time for them to go.

I started February's tale with a huge family announcement and promised you a similar ending..... 

My daughter Sally got engaged this month.  We are so pleased for them both.  They are house-hunting right now and want to settle that before setting a date for their (quiet) wedding.  Watch this space.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

We are a grandmother

1st February 2014:  Welcome to Matilda Elizabeth, weighed in at about seven and a half pounds in old money!

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Time does fly...

Time does fly..... when you are doing nothing, in my case.

I last wrote to you properly on Christmas Day, which speaks volumes about my festivities.  

The LEG (as it has now become) carried on being a pain - no pun intended.  The next lot of antibiotics gave me an incredible rash all over (literally!)  As someone said I looked as though I'd been pebble-dashed.  It did do me a favour though as this time I got to see someone who was appalled by all the antibiotics and said they needed to find out the underlying cause of the problem - so off for an MRI.  Unlike in the UK, even though this is a walk-in clinic it all gets done same day - admittedly we spent six hours there but I was done and dusted and an appointment booked with a surgeon before I left.

A week later we were off to see the surgeon.  He basically said surgery was an option but it might not speedup the healing process all that much.  He tactfully said I was old and healing takes time.  He left the choice to me- have it done which then gives you the residual initial problem plus a gash (his word not mine) in the leg which also needs to heal or I could leave well alone and let it takes the months (!) it needs to get better.  I put it back to him and said I'd go with his best judgement - quote:  if it was me I wouldn't have it done.

The plus side is we are not bankrupted by paying up front for any more medical stuff until the insurance coughs up.  $1,487.74 so far.  When you pay something like $125 for one lot of antibiotics it racks up pretty quickly.  The down side the LEG remains a LEG.

December bucked up immediately after Christmas with a visit from my daughter and her chap.   We all had a lovely time together and had fun showing Naples to a first-timer.  Whenever we have visitors we never seem to cover all we have planned.  They will insist that holidays are for R & R, whereas in my tender care there is a huge checklist to be got through.  They were kind enough to co-operate and let me tick off things like.......... 

Swift visit to the beach - they had some mixed weather - look at the breakers!

We did the concert in the park, some art on Fifth, a boat trip, a zillion eateries including a diner and a New Year's Eve dinner on 5th, endless ice cream, shopping and 

A trip to a 'neighborhood' where they do their Christmas lights in a big way.

They had a mini break in the middle of their stay and hired an open top to bomb down to a luxury resort on the Keys.  Back to the old folk and we finished with a lovely meal in one of our favourite spots - Bonefish restaurant and soaked up a Florida sunset. (before getting the 'last' ice cream from Regina's)

In a blink of an eye they were gone and we were back to ourselves for company.

On the weekend of 18th/19th January Ken and I were in Sarasota for what is fast becoming our regular Molly Cromwell doll's house show.  This is my third year of going to Sarasota and it is just as much fun.  As with all things mini related you need to chase up that weekend in my other blogs if you are interested.

Since then I have been trying to do writing and resting (the LEG) in an attempt to get ahead of the game before our next visitors arrive.  We have friends staying for February so much to do ..... can't sit here doing this ...............

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Bit of Miniatures sneaking in

I make no apologies for letting a bit of my mini madness sneak into the Clavering Blog.  I defy you not to like these wonderful window displays at Tiffany's here in Naples this year.

Click on each photo to get a look at just how lovely they are.

There were several more, but you get the idea.  Simply beautiful.  They look to be 1/12th scale so even sweeter.  Imagine one of those in your own window at Christmas - how utterly gorgeous.

I thought I might get an article out of it so I tried to get to speak to someone about how they are made, what happens to them after Christmas etc etc but got the usual - write to head office - they suggested write to local store - write to local store - they suggested I write to head office - all of them VERY Tiffany nice (Remember how kind they were to Audrey Hepburn!) but not fussed enough to pursue it.

Meanwhile just enjoy.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Punished for being a Grinch

I was about to write a piece about what a miserable Christmas Day I had but before doing that I thought I'd remind myself where I was up to last time I wrote so I went back for a read.  Crikey Moses what a moaning Minny!  No way can I inflict more of the same on you.

Suffice it to say "Do not be a Grinch.  It will only rebound on you"

In our wisdom - yes 'we', not just me, decided not to do Christmas at all this year.  The decision was knee deep in reasons.  

No decorations: we took part of our Christmas decorations to the UK a couple of years ago as we would always be in the UK for Christmas (!) and the rest we had given away.  It seemed utterly doolally buying more.  

We are thousands of miles from any friend or relative, so would be entirely on our own and neither of us 'were bothered'.  So off we toddled into a normal Wednesday with a lunch of lemon chicken and rice.

All I can say is it is decidedly weird.  It is like quitting smoking or something.  You have this 68 year old habit of one day a year doing strange stuff because everyone else does it and then there you are doing nothing.

I already know that I don't especially like Christmas away from the UK because I can't fulfill the essential requirements of a Marilyn Christmas but, believe me, even a partial 'foreign' Christmas is better than none.

So take note anyone intending to visit us here next year.  The travel plans right now are:

October and November in Naples, December in Bury, January February March in Naples.  You will have to fit in that time frame I'm afraid because during Christmas 2014 I shall be doing the following:

Decorations up mid-month including a tree (used to always do that on Xmas Eve).  The decorations have to include stuff that goes back years;  a weary Santa in a car that was my daughter's when she was three and she insisted was wheeled out each year and a wooden Xmas tree candle holder that I bought with my kids from Ikea for example.

Christmas cards from everyone in all in one place and enjoyed at Christmas instead of March!
A tin of Roses or Quality Street

Christmas day begins with a boiled egg and soldier breakfast - why? - because it always does; followed by chocolates while I unwrap gifts with a background of Carols from Kings.

Lunch at 1 pm comprising delicious M & S comestibles - some terrific starter conjured up by M & S and/or Tesco Finest; a luxury bird of some sort so it is different to the rest of the year, King Edward spuds and goose fat to roast them in, chipolatas, oxo for my gravy - can't get any of these things here. (mind you I do like their corn bread stuffing!)

Several puddings which need to include a trifle, Christmas pudding with brandy sauce, mince pies with brandy butter, lovely cheeses and chocolates, Christmas crackers.  Again these are all things I can't get over here. 

The Queens speech after lunch with a port and lemon and nuts in shells so they make a mess with cold weather outside the window, so that being snugly is even nicer.

An evening of rubbish TV like a Downtosh special (aka Downton Abby) with masses of nice nibbles to go at all day and night so you're too full for tea.

A boxing day buffet - (no boxing day in America) with M & S to thank for buffet type eats plus pork pie, sausage rolls (for Ken) pickled onions and a zillion other condiments, an iced fruit cake, none of which exist on this side of the pond.  

Anyone who knows me wasn't surprised this was all about food!

I hope your Christmas was loaded with good stuff that fits your psyche and makes you feel comfortable in your skin.  Thanks for joining me for my virtual Christmas 2013.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Our resident frog

Just a quick note to share something with you.  We have tree frogs galore in Naples and one likes to live by our outside lamp.  Presume he stays warm through the night and gets to snack on all those night-time critters attracted by the light.  

Today I put the Christmas decorations up and I tie a red velvet ribbon round the lamp to support a wreath.  He moved about four inches up the wall to let me do that then returned to his 'perch' before I had even finished - talk about not bothered.  He now resides on a velvet bed.

He's not the prettiest of creatures and even if he is a prince I still think I'll give it a miss!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Start as you mean to go on

Day two in Naples and I have the glums!  Absolutely and utterly senseless.  I really wanted to come this year - there are all kinds of nice things waiting for me here - or will be when our post arrives on Monday.

It started well.  I did an eleventh hour trip to the docs on Wednesday (3.30pm) to check the latest batch of antibiotics for my gammy leg.  Yet another doctor looks at it - what ever happened to continuity of care? - and decides it is cellulitis  and bangs out a scrip for another lot of antibiotics.  Looked up cellulitis and it is worrying to say the least - basically I have a poisoned leg which can do all sorts, not least of which is kill me.  I am now on month two and course five of antibiotics - talk about lack of concern on the medics part.  I actually feel dreadful - not an ounce of oomph in me - typing this is like weight lifting.

So any way I was declared fit to do a long haul without the leg exploding and here I am.

The flight was as good as any flight can be.  We had to take Premium Upgrade seats as that's all they had; so no hardship there.  We got to Orlando about 3.15 pm their time (8.15 pm on the body clock).  Checked into a motel and went off to our usual buffet dinner at a great place P and S found a while back.  Stuffed myself silly and pretty much staggered back to bed.

Up bright and early as I was still running on UK time and off to the same buffet for a never ending breakfast.  I think I probably had four breakfasts.  This is especially easy to do when you sit near Americans having breakfast.  They are usually eating off two or three plates at the same time.  Seriously.  At least mine was consecutive and not concurrent.

We then stopped by my favourite clothes shop - look at what I got for $59! (£36)

Left to right:  
A no-button cardigan and matching short sleeve jumper in a lovely cotton mix fabric.  They aren't sold as a 'twin-set' but they match perfectly - same fabric, same dye. 
Three-quarter sleeve light weight cotton sweater in white.  Really useful.
Button through cardigan in a mix of two nice blues.  
Back to the lime green and a pretty floaty blouse for warm days and crops.

The outlet price for them was $166 total which is great, but then they had 50% off because the shop is closing (aaaarrrrggghh!) making them $83.  Then I had a $50 Groupon coupon for which I'd paid $25; so, as I said, I parted with $34 in the shop and the $25 already spent on the coupon making a total of $59.  My kind of shopping.  Incidentally Ken bought the Groupon coupon  on his phone while I was in the shop and they took the details from the phone.

We then pootled on back down to Naples after the compulsory stop at Smokin' Joe's for Ken's ice cream (water for me). Our GPS calls it Smocking Joes which gives it a whole other image.  Not much smocking going on when we were there.

So far, so good.  We did a bit of grocery shopping, had dinner in Cracker Barrel and so to bed.

Then it started to kick in.  Saturday wasn't a particularly fraught day - bits and bobs of things not going quite right as always when you are settling back in.  No internet connection and debate as to why not; TV up the swanny etc .  We did the grocery shopping, going out in the sunshine - a blue sky and 85 degrees should cheer anyone up but I was already feeling scritchy. I put it down to being tired - jet lag - being woken at midnight and six in the morning for flipping pills doesn't help, plus I know that either the poisoned leg or the pills are having some effect on me.  I have read that a lot of antibiotics stop thyroxine working so that could also be a factor.  Any way on Saturday put my long face down to general physical iffyness and looked forward to a better Sunday.  I got up this morning laden with gloom!!

I was cooking our Sunday dinner - a simple roast chicken dinner and begab thinking about how much it isn't our Sunday dinner. No goose fat, so no decent roast potatoes.  The chicken is different - fatty and super soft and falls into shreds.  Tesco Finest it aint!  I went on to ruin the usual corn bead stuffing by experimenting and making a spoon corn pudding thingy that's eaten here.  Imagine savoury bread pudding made with corn bead and sweet corn.  It serves - like a bread pudding does - slightly sweet and eggy and flopy doppy.  This is not at all yum yum with your roast.  Knorr stock cubes are probably a delight when you use them all the time but they are distinctly not Oxo.  When Oxo is what you've eaten for 68 years everything else tastes odd and Knorr is VERY salty.  So rubbish gravy.  My grumbles begin.  

Whilst in the realm of cooking - I wanted to make my daughter a (gluten fee) cherry cake - no such thing as ground almonds, I think their granulated fine ground is the equivalent of our castor sugar, but I'm not sure and when it came to glacé cherries I just got blank stares and was offered maraschino.  When I said I wanted the cherries cakes I was told - yup, that would be maraschino!!  See what I mean.  The simplest flipping thing and I know I am in a foreign country.  Nothing wrong with the country - Naples is lovely, the people are lovely etc etc etc BUT it is foreign.  Americans would feel just the same stuck in England.  I just stood in the kitchen and tried not to either (a) cry or (b) moan at Ken and (c) realised that this is how it will be until March 14th.

I apologise for whingeing to everyone who doesn't get this.  I know how petty and peevish and just downright contrary this seems.  I can't offer an explanation that makes sense, even to me - I just know I want to be home.  Ken reckons it is just a stage of getting old and maybe he is right.
Another cheering thought!

So what brought me to this point since I last wrote to you in November ......  there was a lot of hospital and care home and sorting out aunty J stuff which I could actually kill you with if I elaborated - people do die of boredom.

I did get to a dolls house show at Pudsey on 9th November which Id normally miss.  So that was a good day out and not much money spent.  

My birthday arrived on the 12th and I was spoiled rotten by all and sundry.  So nice to be home for my birthday - probably the first time in 13 years! We celebrated in grand pensioner style with lunch (not dinner!) at a local restaurant that we like and sloped off to the afternoon movies to see 'Philomena'.  A gem of a film - small but perfectly formed.  Ms Dench acts up a storm as usual and even the, for me loathsome, Steve Coogan  was excellent.

A few days later on the 16th and we were living the high life at Château Impney in Droitwich.  We did an overnighter to get in a DH show the next day.  I had an all round lovely couple of days, courtesy of my other half who said it was compensation for having to miss the Philadelphia show weekend.  What a star.

I don't blather on about the shows here because some folk read pretty much all my blogs and it would a be a pain for them and for me, to repeat everything ten times over.

Threaded through all this was lots of time with chums and meals out in favourite spots -all in all a life which suits me very well.

I am sure I will soon be distracted by the visit of my daughter and her chap and then the usual visit of our two friends P & S.  When other folk are around you have to get a grip of your knickers and just get on with it.  I just wish I could explain, or better still control, this need to go home.