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.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Forgot what winter was like!

I know November 2nd, and a mild one at that, isn't exactly winter but we do find it it odd to be putting the lights on in the house at 3.30 in the afternoon.  Yup - you guessed it we aren't in Naples - or even Philadelphia!  

Right now I should be settled in a nice hotel and on my second day of trawling round one of the largest dolls house shows in America.  We had arranged our trip back to Naples for the winter via a three day break in Philly so I could 'do' a three day show. I can't tell you how miserable I am not to be there.

I left you in my last post in September with my aunt having a fall and dislocating her hip - the saga has ground on since then.  To condense it as much as possible she fell on 11 Sept - had two operations, got fixed, moved into a care home, three days there and was settling in nicely with a couple of days to go before we were due to fly out to Philly.  She fell and, guess what, dislocated the other hip and as of yesterday underwent surgery on that one and we are starting the rounds again, having already wasted a week just getting to the surgery stage.

We cancelled our flights and are just doing a 'wait and see' exercise right now before we try to make any other plans.  As it took nearly two months to sort out last time we are praying this one moves a good deal faster than that.  We have family visiting us immediately after Christmas in Naples so we really have to be back for that; not to mention Ken will have burst a blood vessel by then being trapped in Bury in the rain.

To add insult to injury (literally) on the 22nd October, shopping in Bury, a solid wood sandwich board blew over on the back of my leg and has either bruised the calf muscle or maybe bruised the bone (yes, you can bruise a bone).  It is INCREDIBLY painful and seemingly very, very slow to mend.  There is very little change since I did it nearly two weeks ago. In fact I am reluctant to fly with it in this state as it is as swollen as my overstretched skin will allow which doesn't bode well for someone who has ankles that puff up on long haul as it is!

Chez Ormson is more House of Usher right now.

I have trawled back through my diary to where I left you about mid September to see what fun and japes I could share with you and pretty much can't find any.  

I did do the 'meet the youth' for the garden project I am doing.  Unsurprisingly they turned out to be the usual mixed bunch of kids 8 - 14 from a fairly poor estate - good at heart but don't 'sit quietly' !!

I have worked out all the projects and delivered the necessary kits for when I am away so it should go on without me.  As if anything could.

We had a great two days in Birmingham - yes that IS possible!!! if you are going to Miniatura - a whacking big show at the NEC.  I had a complete brain explosion and spent a small fortune on a half scale (1/2 inch = 1 foot) house.  Absolutely no sensible reason other than it was lust at first sight.  It is based on a real house which turned out to be just across the water from my daughter in Scotland and was designed (in real life) by a lady with the same name as my poorly aunt.  Talk about Kismet.

The real one is also for sale around £200,000 - seriously if we had the money...........  I so love it.

On the 25th I sold my last project Bentleys to a lovely local lady who would have bought it complete but sadly I'd already sold some of the pieces from it.  She did buy a lot of what I have left though so it will remain Bentleys at heart.  She is even keeping its name.

We squeezed out the last four days of September in Ludlow (ish) with my daughter and her partner which was a delight.  We think we have wrung the last drop out of Shropshire for a while but spending time with my favourite daughter is always good.

We spent what should have been our last month here pretty much going demented running around trying to sort out the aunty problems knowing we had an absolute  deadline.  Alongside this I needed to get my writing filed and sorted to give me a breathing space to settle into Naples for a few days before picking up the quill again.  The last month always holds a few visits and meals hither and yon to say farewell to folk before we decamp and then there is the process of closing up the house and garden and fitting in any dentist, doctors, hairdressers etc; add to all this one gammy leg and you can see what fun October was.

In amongst all that though my dear friend took me to see the wonderful Ballet Rambert - sigh of relief - an evening off doing something I really love and, guess what - even that was not to be.  The evening began with something like a twenty minute fire alert which does wonders for Mrs Nervy-about-fires-in-crowds (must get a shorter nom de plume).  Finally we nestled into our seats only to be battered by 'modern' music and wonderful displays of athletics.  We left at the interval. Traditionalist - moi?  Certainly am.  I am quaint enough, when at a ballet performance, to want music which doesn't hurt the brain and some floaty dancers actually dancing in time to it!

My daughter and other half squeezed in another weekend trip to us which turned out to be another clutch of mishaps one way and another - the phrase it never rains but it pours comes to mind.  Seems like one thing after the next right now...... and here we are... where we began.... still in the UK and still hobbling round sorting the aunty.

Next time I write I hope I will be full of the joys of spring and in the sunshine, until then .... bye for now

Monday, 16 September 2013

Call it a breather

Well you didn't get much respite.  I gave up Clavering mid July and, guess what, here I am again.

My theory that I could keep up with folk without 'C' didn't take into account my rubbish memory and very spasmodic contacts with various people; so after just two months I no longer know who I told what to and spend more time tracking down old conversations before answering the new one than I did writing Clavering.  Hence my return.   I'll start with a quick diary catch up from my last proper posting.

I seem to have left you on a bit of a cliff-hanger which, being me, I can no longer recall what I was wittering about so - here are pretty much diary events to get us back on spot:


............began with our water butt (complete with hard struggled water) getting stolen from the lotty.  Some really cheesy folk around.

flying in over the Rockies
On the 3rd we flew out to Vancouver to visit my sister, her husband, her daughter and partner and their delightful toddler.  The bonus was that my son and grand-daughter (pretty much the same age as my great-nephew) had flown across from Calgary to see us all.  You can imagine our first meal together at my niece's house was just lovely - huge thanks to all of them - such a joy.

We stayed three days taking in the obligatory ice cream parlour for Ken - Huge???  this was something like ice cream heaven.

Ken and I then drove across to Calgary for the second
Rockies wherever you look
part of our visit with my son and family.  He and L flew home a couple of days after we left. There is a long drawn out saga of a broken down-rental car which I won't regale you with other than it took 17 hours to replace it!  Do not break down in the boon docks is the moral of that story.

We did a route from Vancouver to Calgary which we hadn't done before taking in Princeton, Grand Forks, Creston and Fernie, arriving in Calgary on the 9th.

We spent the next four days in a hotel with my son and his family.  They had sold up and had up- sticks and were on their way to live in Newfoundland.  We all left on the same day but we were able to take them to the airport in the morning as we didn't leave until the evening.  So, back to Manchester for us and a return to life for two.

On the 25th we spent a very nice evening helping my husband's daughter-in-law celebrate her milestone birthday (not saying which one!)  We joined her family for a meal and a Tasmin (yes, that is spelled correctly) Little concert at the Bridgewater.  It has been a few years since Ken and I had done that.  It is like remembering two other people - dressed up properly in shoes that cripple eating out and going to a whole concert series for the whole season as we did way back when ....

So with all the usual meals out, gardening and dollhousing we wander off into 


Last ten minutes of the show
My DH show for the month was the one at York which is one of my absolute favourites so I had a lovely day there shopping and mooching and talking to all and sundry because I was covering it for the magazine.  We came home via The Fleece (Ripponden) - a favourite watering hole.

A few days later my daughter and her partner bobbed down for three days, which is just the best.  It is always lovely to spend time with her and S.  Meals out, ice creams - she is another fan of the frozen stuff - and a chance to catch up.

In wanders July.........

On the 6th we did a local open garden that we do each year - Davenport Farm - just a reminder here, if anything garden or dolls house peaks your interest (there are some odd people out there) you can always find out about it in the appropriate blog).

The next day was a show - also on our doorstep in Bolton - so I had a great first weekend in July.

The minster dominates every street
15th - 19th we stayed in Maggie's Mews, Horncastle - very, very highly recommended - lovely place and quite an interesting area to go at.  My little chum, D, joined us so we had loads of giggles and chatter especially following our visit to a theatre in a pub to see the Titfield Thunderbolt - bit of a contrast to our visit to Lincoln Cathedral earlier in the day.  Fun-filled five days...... and we did very well in the quiz!  That's another story. to another favourite garden on the 21st - Jefferson's - this time with our regular chums P and S.

We seem to have galloped on at a great rate into....


My daughter and S. came for her usual birthday visit.  A nice five day stay which gave us tons of time to do what we do best - eat and natter.

The Crown, Hopton Wafers

The day after they left we were off to Shropshire for three nights with P and S.  It was fine and as always we packed in (even more) food and chatter.  

In retrospect we all decided we prefer to rent somewhere rather than 'do' hotels.  We are certainly becoming 'old-fogies'.  We like the idea of sitting around your own place, coming and going and doing your own thing. We like the comfort of a home away from home rather than a 'serviced' stay somewhere.

We did squeeze in Ken's 68th birthday while we were there which was lovely.  He always seems to be 'on holiday' somewhere for his birthday.  This may be because of a combination of an August birthday (rather than my November one) and the fact that he is our 'travel agent'.

The Hideaway
P & S went home and K and I travelled on to Woodhall Spa for a couple of days to 'cover' a DH show.  Woodhall Spa (and its environs) is a great place to visit, full of interesting things, starting with the venue of the show for example - the Petwood Hotel. This was where the dam busters were billeted.  We stayed in Woodhall last summer so we had done a lot of the area and our visit to Horncastle the previous month was also on its doorstep.  We still had a great couple of days thanks, in part, to the delightful little apartment we found.  

Finally, here we are in 


The first (!) DH show for the month was in Stafford so it was just a day trip there and back.  We are going to Miniatura at the NEC next weekend and staying over for a couple of days so I can do both days - for myself and to cover it for the magazine.  I will be picking up stuff from there to 'finish' Chocolat. 

A week ago my 81 year old aunty was hospitalised after a fall which, of course, is not turning out to be simple so that is taking up some of our time right now and I seem to be overwhelmed with stuff to do.  Along with the usual keeping on top of the garden and the lotty I am forever racing around and trying to keep the doll house plates spinning.  Right now I have three incomplete articles on my desk due out this month and the realisation that there is also one or more every month to come until May 2014: then there will be a major project I have in mind as well as any other 'commissions'.  I also have to work on a complete 'task' each month on Chocolat until we leave - working right up to the last week.  My involvement with the hobby brings with it a zillion blogs and major and minor commitments to other people and groups.

I decided this wasn't enough to send me crazy so I have just volunteered to do a garden 'thing' with the local Youth Group.  This consists of 15 'youth' aged 8 - 14.  That is a broad spread of age and gender to pitch things to.  With the added dimension that we can't go any actual gardening until next April it may prove a real challenge (aka worry).  I start next Tuesday - I may let you know how it went.

Meanwhile, I am back in Clavering so you can all keep up, BUT this time round I have no intention of beating myself up every time I don't do a Clavering at the end of a calender month. Posts will be even more hit and miss than they were before.  I'll try to come here only when I have something to say.  (!!!! I know, I know)

For any of you that suffer with anxiety - or worse, misdiagnosed depression - here's a link to terrific article my daughter sent me:

I saw this Observer article and thought you should see it:
Get the Guardian and Observer iPad edition by visiting

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Goodbye Clavering

OK I think it is time for a farewell to My Clavering.

I started an on-line journal in 1999 when we bought the Florida house.  I thought it would help friends and family keep track of where we were and what we were doing.  In effect, the friends and family who are interested pretty much keep up any way.

It was a shift from having always kept a diary/journal of some sort since I was about ten!  The downside being that the pleasure of the private journal was it gave me the chance to externalise thoughts/feelings about stuff I didn't necessarily want to share.  For me, public blogging removes any trace of private thought, indeed I work hard at not even mentioning friends and family names let alone any thoughts about them or any private moments shared with them.

In truth, I suppose Clavering's demise has come about because I am writing screeds of other stuff right now and my time is truly limited.  I maintain several other blogs attached to my gardening and mini hobbies and am writing up to four articles a month for publication which, of course, come with deadlines that must be met.

I get about 150 hits a month on this journal so I know some folk are dipping in.  This is a low number compared to the other blogs; I am probably only reaching the original friends and family group (which is as it should be).

So.... it's goodbye from her ...........from here at least.  Email me when you can and we'll keep in touch that way.

Friday, 24 May 2013

April tattling.......

Talk about late!  It is now 24th May and I am trying to remember/write about April.  Honestly the time just flies when we get back to the UK.  Between friends, family, gardening, lotty, mini stuff and short breaks here and there there is very little time to just sit and ruminate.  No complaints though;  I love being back.

It wouldn't be right if we got home and there wasn't something that needed fixing.  The last three years have all been very expensive fixes, this year all we could find was the phone line which had given up the ghost - one way only - incoming calls were fine we just couldn't make any out.  Should be simple you would think.  When it begins with BT leaving us a message on the 5th to say we haven't fixed it but we will keep you posted............  let's not follow that story through.

The first of the month and my daughter and her partner had stayed overnight in Bury the previous night on their way from Wales, so we were off to meet them for an unburned lunch at the Red Hall.  (need to read the end of last month's epistle to get that reference!) 

More good company and good food a couple of days later when we managed to catch up with our chums Phil and Sue.  Guess what - the following day Ken and I drove out to a very nice Restaurant - The Three Fishes at Mitton in the Ribble Valley - for another meal with three other friends.  Good food and a very pretty setting.  My up-North husband and friends all know the Ribble Valley (of course) but I think it was pretty 'new' to me - it looked lovely on first acquaintance and I hope we get back there a couple of times this summer.  Apparently there is a trio of good eateries around the Fishes.  Trees, vistas and food all seem to be intrinsically bound together for me......

For the best part of the following week we restrained ourselves and pretty much stuck to our computers catching up on heaps of 'paperwork'.

The Taming of the Shrew - PropellerOn the 10th I was off to share a freebie with my little Lowry volunteer friend.  We were seeing The Taming of the Shrew.  It was performed by Propeller an all male Shakespeare Company which, of course, is how it should be.  It was a complex emotional viewing - hard to watch with a twenty-first century eye and was decidedly hard to do in any detached academic way which is surely the sign of a great production.  If you are at all theatre interested read this crit for a very brief pointer to Propeller and definitely go see them if you get a chance.  This was an evening in the theatre to remember.

Need I say that it was prefaced with food.  Ken, D and I did a quick flit to Pizza Express.  Ken is my chauffeur on these occasions and is nice enough to take me to Salford Quays and then pick me up as I am really not driving any more now.  Lost my bottle basically!

It has been a gradual thing since retiring. Initially I suppose it begins with the fact I have never liked driving - it was just a necessary evil.  At some point in all our peripatetic meanderings I got rid of my car and with a 'shared' vehicle it was always easier just to let Ken drive.  Mostly we were out together, so, bit by bit, I drove less and less and it eventually became one of my 'dreads'.  I have given up or given in and accept I am just not going to be doing it any more. I try now and then to just go round the corner to the shops or even down the road to B & Q but even that is the limit of my comfort zone now.

The weekend of the 12th we were planning on an Edinburgh trip to catch up with my daughter and to take in a Doll's House Show.  At the eleventh hour it was cancelled because Sally realised it was the weekend of the Edinburgh marathon.  We had visited once before on that weekend and it was chaotic, so best avoided also she and Stuart had a load of various chores/commitments so their time with us would have been somewhat limited.  We agreed there would be better times to go.

I may have been thwarted on the family visit but I didn't have to give up on a DH show - off to the Pudsey Show on Saturday.  I think this was the first show I ever went to three years ago and have been back each year since.   If you want to hear all about this you will need to visit my Chocolat blog (and the other two!).  It is particularly lovely to do a show and know I have extra 'spends' because I am 'covering' it for the magazine.  I also get to meet a load of really nice people. So it was with this one. 

I finally got to the lotty in earnest in the middle of the month and got the spuds in and other stuff sorted; again another blog covers the lotty stuff - Bury Gardeners.

If I were to write about one of my chores this month (and, as it turns out, next month too) that would be all I would write about.  Why, in this day and age, is it more difficult to change banks than it was in the 'olden days' - we have all the technology in the world to make it bing, bang, bosh and what do we get clang, clink, grrrrrrr!  I remember when you drove to your bank, went in, had a bit of a natter, signed a bit of paper and a couple of weeks later - all sorted.  No, this is not rose-tinted specs, this was my real experience of banks.  As I said I am writing this on 24th May and so far I have had an on-line current account for three weeks which I can't yet access on line!!!

A couple of days before the end of the month we were trotting around Bury M & S buying cheese, pork scratchings, knitted dolls, scorpions and books - all for our forthcoming trip to Canada on 3rd May.

The upside of typing a piece late is that you can do a trailer for the next one because you know what's going to happen........ stay with me for a tour of the Rockies and for petty larceny!

Friday, 22 March 2013

March prattling

As I settle to write this, we have been home one week - here's a list of things I have 'experienced' just this week that immediately come to mind which make me so happy to be home.....

Family, friends, my (detached!) house, my garden, smell of laundry which dried outside, shops to walk to just round the corner....... a nice drive to the Ribble Valley to an old (16th century) inn/restaurant for lunch.  Also eaten (and loved) this week .....  chip shop fish and chips, English bacon (not smoked!!), shredless marmalade, new potatoes.  The food list is endless.  Then there is my dolls house stuff, spring flowers, my oven, deciduous trees, my washing machine, bread (not loaded with sugar), Tesco Finest everything, my grocery delivered, booking a Shakespeare just one week!  Those have just poured through my fingers without pause for thought and I know there is a million more.  This is the minutiae that make up my inner landscape ... is it any wonder that Ken (and others) don't understand my need to be home and be me. 

So all that and more will be in my April account; now I need to get back to March and Naples.

First of the month and we gave our chums a lift to Orlando airport then hit my clothes shop
Minnie's waiting
(Coldwater Creek) one more time on the way back to the apartment and settled down to our last night in Orlando.  Next day we sped off back to Naples and a couple of days getting ready for our next visitors.  My son, his partner and my grand-daughter, Lucy, aged two and a half (which she is pleased to announce if asked) 
would be staying for ten days .

Tuesday evening came quickly and we collected them from the airport and, on the way home, we started the visit the way we meant it to go on with a trip to Ci-Ci's for fast cheap pizza.  We then got them settled in for the night at home and ready to begin their visit with us.

Day one didn't begin well in that I was stuck in waiting for the dishwasher repair man.  This saga has been running some weeks at this point and will continue to do so.  At this point we no longer have a working dishwasher and three visitors to feed.  Repair man, came and went, still no working machine. Meanwhile Ken, Chris and Gayle went to Cambier park and for a walk up Fifth, stopping for the obligatory ice cream at Regina's.

In the evening Chris and Gayle went to the movies and we baby-sat Lucy.  Such a treat.

Nina and Pinta
Next day we went to see the two pilgrim (replica) ships, The Nina and the Pinta. They were in Naples for the first two weeks of March.  Ken and I had been lucky enough to see them in New England when we went there.  Sadly they were pretty crowded and we decided not to bother to go aboard.

Instead we did the full-on tourist thing of Tin City and a trip on the Double Sunshine.  Boy was it cold! A quick stop in Target on the way home completed a day in Naples!

On Friday we had a lovely totally American breakfast in Skillets and then Ken dropped us all off at home and went on to do his stint as a volunteer for the Conservancy.  C, G and L went to the pool and then Chris and Gayle went to the shops on the bikes while I had Lucy   It was really lovely,  she is such fun; but I had forgotten just how extra long everything takes when you have a toddler for company.  Dinner was a little late!

Saturday and we were continuing the theme of 'while you are here you must...'  this time it was see the gators and go to Everglades City and go on an air-boat ride.  All accomplished.  The fast food Subway at Everglades City was a hoot as it took ten minutes plus just to get someone to find the man to do it.  Mel's Diner made up for that later that evening.

Sunday and we succumbed to the regular cast-in-stone routine of Cambier Park and the fairly frequent Sunday chicken at Cracker Barrel.  This was actually English Mothers day - a bit confusing now I have a son who does Canadian Mothers day and a daughter who does the English one.  Chris bought me some flowers and Sally bought me a subscription to Good Housekeeping.  A few months before I had an attack of stingy and had stopped my subscription in favour of having more spends on dolls house stuff but it is a magazine I miss.  [for American readers this is a different magazine to the American one].  My biggest treat for Mothering Sunday though was to have some of my family with me, especially Lucy.

Monday was Gayle's BIG shop day so Ken took her up to Miromar and then came back for us; lunch at Panera and off to buy a notebook - the electric kind - for Christopher.  How we don't have our own special assistant at Best Buy I don't know the amount of business they get from us and our visitors.  Then to Sugden Park with Lucy and off to pick up Gayle from Miromar and back for a relaxing dinner at home.

Tuesday, and we were due for another visit from Mr Dishwasher Repair so Chris and Gayle had the car and took Lucy out to the park and some shopping on 5th while Ken and I stayed home.  Chris, Ken and I then took Lucy out for a while to our little local park and the slides while Gayle had a Skype interview for a job in Newfoundland.  This was the day that Ken and I decided our guests might like an evening to themselves - eat what they like and watch TV, whatever, so we took off for a movie at the library.  Actually it was one I wasn't fussed about as it was a biog of  Carol Channing who has never particularly appealed to me.  Nice to be taken out of your comfort zone - I came out full of admiration for the woman.  We then went on to try a restaurant we have been passing for ages and saying, "Must give it a try".  It is a very clever conversion of a garage (as in Petrol station) so gets ten points for that BUT that's about as far as it goes.  Called a A Taste of Chicago and was dire.  Poor old Chicago deserves better.

spot the gopher
Back to having a less cut up day on Wednesday.  We went to Barefoot Beach in hopes of pleasing Lucy by being knee deep in Gopher tortoises.  Needless to say, like the rest of the population of Naples they had decided it was too cold to appear.  We glimpsed a couple but that was it and not an armadillo in sight.  At least, being a bit nippy, we actually managed to 'get in' this time unlike last year when we joined a queue of cars which were being sent away because the beach was full!

We had a Panera Bread lunch on our way home .... on our second attempt.  The first time we stopped at a place where Panera used to be - courtesy of our GPS.  

snuggle and story
Chris and Gayle went out early for a meal on the beach at The Ritz to watch the sunset   Now that's the way to spend a vacation.  This was lovely for me as we got to have Lucy all evening.  We had dinner with her and an evenings entertainment and tucked her up in bed, following the obligatory three stories, all easy peasy.  Other than she is getting canny now and chooses War and Peace as one of her three books - well the toddler equivalent.

go see the birds and fishes

Our last day so we all stopped by Publix for a sub lunch and then went on to the Conservancy with Ken for the official tour and boat ride. We let the other three do the boat trip as it is old hat for us and there were just three seats left.

Chris and Gayle took us out to dinner at a very quirky place - Buca di Beppo.  this translates roughly as Joe's Hole (basement).  it looks like a one-off and I was surprised to learn it is a chain of 92 in the USA and UK.  It is crammed with photos and nicknacks.  It
also features a table in the kitchen you which you can book.  Everyone gets to walk in through the kitchen any way, so you already feel you are in a Godfather movie.  Even more bizarrely there is a Pope table.  Kind of what it says it is - a round table with a bust of the pontiff in the middle.  Funnily enough a new pope had been appointed the previous day so they were awaiting the new stuff.

The food is served 'family style' so is meant to be ordered as a single dish serving four. Slight problem if four can't agree.  They do offer two's but that's it.  I had what Ken wanted being a noble and humble wife.

Lucy's meatball was the size of her head.

Sadly Friday 15th came around and we were all up early(ish) for the trip to Fort Myers airport.  It was a very poor and speedy farewell as I just couldn't manage it.  I howled most of the way home.

The next day (16th) was our 17th wedding anniversary which couldn't have been odder if it had tried.  Firstly I was pretty whacked out from a long run of visitors and the sadness of seeing a chunk of my family disappear back to Canada.  So far it gets the prize for the least celebrated anniversary. Ken did a half day at the Conservancy. I cleaned the house. This is always a pretty massive job after folk have been as we have to put furniture back in place - our 'office' moves from the guest room to our bedroom, which in turn has a knock on effect on chairs and side tables etc etc etc, so that all has to go back. This is followed by a BIG clean because that doesn't get done properly (if at all) when we have folk staying. So that's the fridge and cooker as well as the normal room cleaning. Then the laundry is huge as I wash all the bedding including the quilt and shams and mattress and pillow case protectors. By the time I came out from under I was truly cream-crackered. Most of that had also been accomplished only ten days before in the couple of days we had between visitors.  

We were also waiting for someone to come and collect the dolls house I was selling and their times were a bit vague as they were travelling a goodish distance from Bradenton. It had actually sold four times but no-one managed to complete on it. The arrangement was she would be with us well before six and ring us when they were half an hour away. We thought we might go out for a meal after they had been. By 7 pm and no phone call I had had enough and decided to get something to eat at home. As I went into the kitchen I spotted a likely candidate in front of our building and went out to see if she was looking for us. She had brought the address but not the apartment number and was about to ring bells until she found us. There was no mention of why they were an hour later than their latest estimate and no phone call? Ah well, just glad it is done and dusted even if I lost half of what I spent on it.  

So no meal out and not even a glass raised to seventeen years - incredible - where do they go????

Our last ten days don't stand out in any particular way just the usual wind down ready to leave the place for six months - food to eat up, stuff to sort out as to what to bring home this time and what to leave for another time, general tidying away of things, always with the notion you are on a countdown. I managed to fill one and a half 28" (50lb) suitcases with dolls house stuff. I had brought a load over at Christmas to work on Hillside which I then abandoned (the one that I sold) so all that had to go back and then there was the stuff I had bought on EBay and from two shows while we were in Florida. Much of the stuff from the California trip had already gone home at Christmas.

The evening before we left (26th) we went to pick up our hire car and were given a lift there by our best of neighbours C & T. We decided we might as well have a meal with them. We never seem to get round to it any other time. We went to Olive Garden as I remembered it was somewhere they liked. Good to spend a sit-down time with them before we decamped.

Our flight home the next day from Orlando courtesy of Virgin was as near to delightful as flying can be. This was the return part of our Premium Economy upgrade flight. I was even more grateful for it as it is an overnighter. At least the seats are comfortable and there are endless (47) movies to choose from. I watched Hitchcock and Life of Pi both of which I wanted to see and never got round to. Food was good and service terrific. I did my usual wide awake all night and arrived in Manchester with eyes like burning coals and an overwhelming desire for bed.

Crikey Moses, how did it know I was on the way - talk about cold. Coldest April since??? Kind of did me a favour though in the next week as it was too cold to get out in the garden in any real way and crack on with the huge amount of work that needs doing.

Day one, quick nap, Tesco delivers the grocery, unpacked and we are good to go.

A couple of days later and we were into the swing of things to come - always pretty much centered around food. P and S picked us up for lunch at the Ainsworth Arms - a newlyish refurbed local pub. Place is great and food is good enough for a £4.95 carvery and it is on the doorstep.

About twenty minutes before we are due there I got a phone call from my daughter to say she and her chap are on their way from Edinburgh as my Easter surprise. Wonderful - beats any egg that's for sure. Though Ken and I got one of those too. Eventually we all ended up having lunch before Sally and Stuart carried on with their journey to Wales to visit friends. It was absolutely lovely to be able to give my daughter a hug after months away from home.

Sunday 31st. Easter Day and my little friend was coming to visit and have a spot of lunch with us. It wasn't an Easter Day special just our usual roast chicken dinner. Very relaxed about it - maybe too relaxed - I managed to actually burn it. In all honesty I can't remember ever actually burning a dinner. Stuff has gone wrong in fifty years of cooking dinners but actually burning a pan of roast spuds and parsnips and dehydrating a chicken to the point of 'just about still edible' is not something I remember doing. My explanation being I hadn't transferred mentally from my American (rubbish) oven to my English (over-efficient) one. Luckily Denise is a good chum and saw the funny side and we all sat down to mash and dried chicken an hour later than planned.

Still on my favourite topic of food here's another whole new experience for me this month.... bought in Publix just before we left......

Dinosaur Egg Pluot - looks like a nectarine - cross between plum and apricot, hence silly name!  I was delicious but plum-like. I am not a huge fan of plums because they always have that bitter, sharp tasting skin however good the plum is. This was a big improvement on that. 

Thursday, 21 March 2013

February yacking

Here comes that not unusual apology for being disgracefully late with this post.  This time I really do have a good excuse - no the dog didn't eat my first draft - we have just had an eight week block of visitors staying with us.  My personal 'playtime' gets severely curtailed.  

There is a belief that oldies revert to a second childhood - we sort of do.... now I no longer have to go to school or work each day, which we get stuck with from age five, I am at last free to do what I like.  I choose playing over chores any time.  My playing over here in Naples consists mainly of writing and researching stuff I am interested in.  I live on the computer.  Clearly this isn't conducive to being sociable.

Well, here I am at last, quietly returned to my machine for a few days before we fly home to the UK and I have a couple of hours before lunch to crack on with recording my life in February.

Smack bang on the 1st our good friends P & S arrived from a week in Orlando and a week in Fort Lauderdale (also taking in Key West).  It seemed odd having them as distant neighbours in Florida before arriving at our place.  

Sunday concert in Cambier
We soon settled down into the normal living routines of four snow birds in Naples.  I am ashamed to say none of us even suggested a trip to the beach during their whole stay.  They, like us, now regard Naples as a winter home, not a holiday place.

Most of our time was filled with the normal stuff of shops, movies, concerts, library events, meals out.  Nothing especially remarkable or noteworthy.

The biggest saga which ran throughout their stay was the recurring visit of the dishwasher repair man who solved nothing.  We were eventually left with a machine that didn't work at all for the whole of our next set of visitors stay.  Washing up is an anathema to us after all these years, never mind washing up for five people!

In the middle of their stay Ken and I went off up to Orlando for the weekend to visit the Orlando Miniatures Festival.  This is the second Molly Cromwell show we get to do while we are here.  Go read about it in Bentleys if you want to know how that weekend went. 

As always we managed to stop at Smokin' Joes for the ritual ice cream.  This time we decided to have a go at the food as well.  Not the best decision we ever made.  Each of our meals would have served four and would probably be loved by the folk it is aimed at - an English palette was certainly struggling with hunks of (undercooked???) pork, tinned (!) potatoes and 'slaw, all served in a huge polystyrene box accompanied by plastic cutlery.  Mmmmmm!

Monday arrived and we were back into the usual swing of things.  This was our third week and we decided to go for the meal and movie treat at Silverspot.  It is a really good deal - lovely leather-seated movie house and a 'fine dining' meal experience all for $36 each.  The movies themselves cost (old folk rate!) $12.50.  You get to save more if you are young!

Sebring Diner on our way up to Orlando
On the 23rd we went up to Orlando for the week, courtesy of P & S.  We stayed in a terrific resort - Hilton Grand Vacation at Sea World.

First thing I did was my last Coldwater Creek clothes shopping.  It covers me for most of the year on both sides of the pond.  I don't like clothes shopping any more so it is nice to get it done and dusted in one place a couple of times a year.  Obviously you get stuck now and then for something but that is less of a chore than endlessly trawling for stuff if clothes trawling isn't something you enjoy.  Between M & S and Coldwater Creek I manage most things.

Our third movie of the month, which we saw while we were in Orlando, was a stand-out one for me - a rom-com but with an edge - 'Silver Lining Playlist'.  Check it out if you haven't seen it.  I think our others for the month were Argo (interesting) Quartet (predictable) and Skyfall (made for the real James Bond geeks)

Our meals out got to be quite funny as we ended up going back to the same place every day.  P & S had found a place called the Wood Grill Buffet.  The name is totally misleading - nothing to do with a wood grill as far as I could see, but 'buffet' most certainly!  It had just about every meal you could think of... far, far too many for me to list.  My favourites were sweet and sour chicken, swiss steak and the very best was a slow cooked beef with carrots and potatoes and onions all in the jus - no messing around with it - just basic meat and veg.  The chocolate (with nice chocolate!!) dipped strawberries and pineapple and marshmallows weren't too shabby either.

On our way back from the shops in Naples
So the month came to an end in Orlando , in the sunshine,  with us all stuffed to the gills daily and shopped out.  Not a bad life really!

As a post script I have to share this month's best signs.  Firstly, we have an incredible amount of churches in Naples.  I was told that there are forty-one of them on just one road that we use each day - Davis Blvd.  You can imagine that they must struggle to come up with original names - clearly 'St Mary's' times twenty is not going to hack it.

So, here's a sample.....

The Hispanic Church of God -  church of who else? and can you only go if you are Hispanic?
Peaceful Believers Church - so I should hope on both those counts.  I am now looking out for the Vengeful Atheist Church (probably more to my liking?)

Whilst on the topic of notices - I loved this one in a parking lot of a strip mall.  Imagine a shop with a wide pavement (side-walk for US  readers - pavement for them means road) and a (parking) road outside it - enough to park a row of vehicles with a huge backing out gap in between them and the side-walk.  When you get in your car ready to reverse, in front of your windscreen, is a sign which reads:

Caution when backing up building behind you

You would have to put the car in reverse and give it everything you'd got to hit the building.  Maybe it was a warning that the building might get you.  There is much to be feared in the New World!

Friday, 8 February 2013

January chaffering

First day of the new year and we were off on our travels again.  This time we had upgraded to  premium economy so we had the joy of a 'luxury' flight.  We were flying to Orlando on Virgin rather than our usual Fort Myers with Delta.  What a difference. Big seats, endless choices of films (videos, music, radio etc etc) on our personal players, great cabin staff service, good menu choices, linen glasses etc.  Just no comparison to our usual travel arrangements.  

Sadly on arrival we had to report a damaged suitcase.  We had to wait half an hour just for someone to turn up to the office to deal with it.  That said it was the usual form filling bing bang bosh job and we have $70 towards its replacement.  So something else we have to search for on our travels before we go home - a new case at the right price.

Day two and we were in Orlando, having booked a motel for an overnight stay. We started with an early (for us) full breakfast and then we were off for a tote around  the one and only American clothes shop that I favour.  Unbelievably we arrived before they opened - now there's a real first for us!  The shop is Coldwater Creek.... Outlet (!) it is my equivalent of M & S over here.  The Orlando one in particular is a brilliant shop and, even better, it had a 50% off all its (already reduced) stock, so I left with three bargains - all destined for the UK.

We then stopped by Ron's, the mini shop, for another hour's browsing and I bought my five 'Little Women' for my new project.

We then did a gentle pootle on down to Naples, stopping off at Ken's favourite ice cream place - Smokin' Joe's.  This is a Hicksville BBQ place with a huge smoker in a shed and the old fashioned smaller smoker by the roadside to attract attention.  Both are used seemingly non-stop.  It looks like something out of Redemption but they have great ice cream - probably made from pig fat or lost tourists.  We are yet to sample the BBQ which is strange considering the amount of times we have been there.

Day three and we were back in Naples with me waking up with the headache from hell which morphed into a full blown migraine complete with up-chucking and a day in bed - great start!

The following day I was fighting fit again and starting to sort myself out for the Sarasota show - what had I got? what did I want? etc.  During this, it slowly it dawned on me that the notion of doing a doll house project (Hillside) in Naples was just plain crackpot.  I had this huge eight room house which was going to cost a fortune to remodel and fill - more than any of my English projects and, even assuming we stay here enough years to complete it, what then?  It won't be viable to ship it - hugely expensive specialist crating etc and even if I did - where would it go in the UK house?  The more likely scenario is that it would be an unfinished project with thousands poured into it, sold for peanuts, when we leave.  I know it would be 'something to do' but I would lose heart knowing all this.  I decided not to throw good money after bad and try and sell it.  The things I had already bought for 'Little Women' would, hopefully   go into future UK projects and the women themselves would be returned to Ron at the Sarasota show.

The pain in the proverbial backside of this is that I then went on to completely fill a large suitcase, one out of our allowance of four, with doll's house buys and materials and tools that I won't be needing here now..... and there is still more to go!  There should be a lot of fun discussion and decision making when we are packing for our return in March.

Off to the dreaded Coastland Centre.... giant indoor shopping cathedrals are not my idea of fun.  We went to get my much loved glasses repaired.  They have had three lots of lens changes and are about ten years old (!!) As we had bought them from the opticians  we went to (on our say-so only) the repair was free.  American customer service is just the best!  I then talked myself up into spending $200 on a new pair.  They were well overdue but I hate parting with money for specs.

My other (some say better) half has enlisted for another organisation - The Conservancy.  He underwent the required brainwashing aka training to be told that he would be on standby - as he wasn't full-time resident (in other words American).  The (snow bird) chap chosen to be given a shift has only managed to do the one so far and Ken has subbed for him and others every week!  He who laughs last, laughs longest!  Volunteering for bucketeering for an Orchestra cost him a red top and pair of white trousers, the Conservancy are a lot cannier they actually sell you their expensive polo shirt to wear with your own Khaki shorts!  Double whammy there, I think.  You will have perceived by now my volunteering bone seems to be missing.  No chocolate testers required anywhere in Naples.

January 9th and our first dishwasher repair of the winter was under way.  This seems to be a regular feature which goes something like this... dishwasher stops when full of mucky water and dishes, man arrives three days later - yes, we have washed the dishes, but were unable to empty the water from the machine.  He is then puzzled by the problem and decides to change the timer - which he needs to order   Comes back the following week and fits timer.  The last one had done about eight weeks service.  One week after this next replacement ... the dishwasher stops when full of ..... think you've got the idea.  At the point of writing this we are now a month further on with a dishwasher that has had three timers fitted and it washes when it feels like it and doesn't when it doesn't.

Ken is there somewhere
 The 9th was the breakdown day.  I was just thinking about my nine o'clock cuppa and the power went out in our building and the one next to us. Ken rang FPL and got a recorded message saying that there was a power outage affecting 18 homes and the engineer would be there at  11pm!!!   So not an emergency then?  It gave our phone number and went on to say that it would ring us to keep us updated as things changed.  They will not call after 10 pm.  So no joined up logic there then.  There is no human there to discuss it with.  All this seemed to do was cause more frustration not less. 

Brownie solution
I immediately swung into post-holocaust mode and broke out the candles and the propane cooker top - when I discovered it had to be used outside only I went right off it.  Necessity being the mother of invention  I then proceeded to dismantle the cooker and insert a fat candle and an upturned trivet and put on my pan of water to make my cuppa - hardy souls us bombed out British.  I can now tell you for sure a single candle will not a cup of tea make.  I thought of rubbing two sticks together but decided it was easier to go to bed.  Ken and I happened to be awake as the light came back on - 3.15am.  Don't suppose we will ever know why.

10th - haircut, lunch out and a stint at the library with a presentation on Lucretia Garfield.  Now James A. Garfield is an interesting president for reasons other than being assassinated.

The following day the inspector arrived from Rooms to Go to look at the sofa - he did this in about half a minute (total!) from about fifteen feet saying he knew what the problem was from my phone call but has to come out and look and submit a report.  A couple of days later we had a call from the store to say as there wasn't anything actually wrong with the sofas (we just didn't like the fabric) we could go in and 'reselect'.

Most of our days are just filled with the usual Sunday concerts for Ken (I don't go any more) and his Conservancy cover etc etc etc etc.  Really not worth the ink recording....

.......  other than a naked woman!  Ken's first day's work at the conservancy and he arrived to find he had missed all the 'fun'.  Apparently one of the boats went out in the morning and discovered a naked woman on the edge of the mangroves waving for help.  It transpired she had been in a boat the previous day, got drunk, went skinny dipping around midnight and the boat left without her and she was marooned overnight.  She was duly rescued.

I think the best movie we saw this month was the freebie at the library - Moonrise Kingdom.  This was followed by ribs at Mel's which was a nice way to spend an evening for a few dollars.

Around the middle of the month my son and his partner sold their house in Calgary ready for their move to Newfoundland at the end of the Summer.  They will have G's family there so Lucy will grow up with an extended family around her which is as it should be.   I suspect this will be a stressful year for them and hope it all goes well.

Our next movie jaunt was a retro movie back in the Towne Center flea pit where we saw White Christmas, this time it was E.T.  I was surprised how fresh it was for me.  I had forgotten all the detail of it so it was a real pleasure to revisit a well-made piece of feel good factor.

On the 19th we took a trip to Sarasota for a doll's house show.  We stopped in at another Coldwater Creek Outlet on the way up which isn't as good as the Orlando one, but I managed to find three things, again for the UK.

view from our 'patio'
Our room was a ground floor room where we could sit outside overlooking the Marina.  This was in the hotel where the show is held which made it so much easier for Ken to be comfortable while I was doing my thing.  I used the whole 5 - 8 pm on Saturday evening talking to vendors for my show review article and buying things for my projects.  I also traded my four of my five little women for things from Ron's.  We went out for pizza after the show rather than do the free pizza social which is on offer for Preview ticket holders.

The second day of the show is open to the general Public from 10 am - 4 pm.  Preview ticket people get to go in at 9.30 am.  So, after breakfast I went back in for about an hour before we wended our way back to Naples at a leisurely pace.

Lovely empty beaches
We did a bit of a detour and stopped off on Longboat Key for a while.  It really is a very pretty place.... then  on to our real destination... Venice.

Pretty town in the mold of Naples but still a good deal smaller and all the better for it.  There is one main street of various interesting shops and we always seem to manage to park there however busy it is.  This time we were right outside the ice cream shop.

Ciao Gelato
Venice is another 'worth a diversion' Ice Cream spot for Ken and for once I agree.  This is an Italian made ice cream and is delicious.  That day's special was peanut butter which I sampled - Ciao Gelato is just about the only ice cream I eat.

We had lunch at the restaurant to the right of the ice cream shop which was excellent.  What a great journey back for two smiley people.

I was still in holiday mode after a weekend away and we were out for dinner on Monday too.  Ken's reason was the dishwasher was kaput again!

Having given up the idea of 'Little Women' and Hillside I supplanted it with another dream - I am thinking about buying a flat pack American farm house when we leave here to do in the UK and I quite fancy the notion of doing Anne of Green Gables.  To this end I borrowed the DVD from the library.  Ken and I settled in for a couple of episodes and ended up watching two hours of it!  Such a great TV series, superb cast, flawless...... and tons of inspiration for a Victorian American farmhouse.  If the plan comes to fruition I shall certainly buy the DVD for screenshotting.

Our major movie this month was Lincoln at the lovely Silverspot Cinema, courtesy of my son for my birthday.  I had gift vouchers for dinner and a movie for two.  It was a lovely evening, the food was excellent and service a delight.  It came with a glass of wine and a $5 bucket of popcorn which we declined.  A treat to repeat we decided.  The movie itself was excellent but a bit dry.

On the way home we decided to buy a new dishwasher!!

The next day our old one spontaneously started working again!  Cancel the purchase - ring the repair man.... the saga continues.

cream with fine brown stripe and perfect cushions
By the 26th the Rooms to Go issues were all done and dusted and our new replacement sofas arrived and the others were removed - all without any arguing with the store or any cost to us, other than the difference in price between the sofas which could have gone either way.  How's that for service!  Love the new ones.

Our last library presentation for the month was a couple who 'do' the Kennedys.  As always it was a very good piece of work.

The last two days of the month were used getting ready for our friends February visit.  The two cleaners went through the place in a couple of hours so that was pretty painless.  We shuffled the furniture around and waited for P & S to arrive on the 1st February.