Tuesday, 2 December 2014

November - on the road

It is odd how a week seems to take over the whole memory of one month but our trip to Philadelphia seems to be the only thing in my memory or diary for November other than my daughter announcing she would be getting married 23rd December!  Wow....  exciting stuff.

There was another, more minor, bit of excitement and a terrific bargain at the beginning of the month.  My iPad didn't seem to be lasting as long on its battery - not enough really to warrant getting rid of it but with the Air2 due out we had a look at what it would cost to swap it for the next generation iPad.  Ken's theory being, as mine was over three years old there would come a point it would die and maybe then I wouldn't be getting such good offers.  So trading mine in at Best Buy reaped me $150 then they were also giving a $50 gift card (if you bought an iPad) which could be used against the new iPad ..... I guess that's because Apple won't let stores discount their prices (?).  It seemed like a no brainer $200 off a new iPad.

So by the sixth, Ken, iPad Air2 and I were winging our way to Philadelphia for my birthday trip.

We arrived at our hotel (and the location of the show) a little after the four-day mini fest began.  Ice cream and fantastic toppings for Ken and minis for me - what a great way to start.

they know how to do toppings

I have written about the show in My Show blog and also a review for the magazine so you will forgive me if I don't do it again here.  I hear the sighs of relief from my not interested in minis friends and relatives.   

1:144 scale slide out interiors

On Friday we did drive into Philly for a look around and to see the Liberty Bell - nothing like being a tourist when you are one!  Most of our stay I was 'doing' minis and Ken found places to visit like a car museum that I wouldn't have been madly interested in, so we were both happy bunnies.

We intended to do more mooching on Sunday but being old tourists decided feet up and watching the Grand Prix on TV in a great hotel room sounded like a much better deal.

Monday and we were on the road.  Ken had planned a three day drive down to Richmond along the Jersey coast - and others!  Indeed we managed to go through five US states.  New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia.

Monday we headed to Cape May.  En route we did a bit of a detour to take a look at Atlantic City - yup, just like the movies.  A sort of chilly Las Vegas.  The best thing ever on the journey was a sign for a casino which read:

Man v. Chicken play tic-tac-toe against a live chicken.

I did fall in love with a wonderful building that at certain angles actually did disappear in the sky.

Cape May was one of the prettiest places we have visited in the States, small, relatively unspoiled, holiday town.  I thought we got to see it in its best frock as we were well out of the summer season and everywhere was uncrowded and normal.  I bet it is heaving in season as it is such a tiny place.  It is full of the most fabulous assortment of Victorian houses. In America, Victorian wealth and Gingerbread trimmings was a potent mix.  Best of all I got to see one of my favourite styles.  This is a house that was sold in its zillions all over the States - a Sears and Roebuck bungalow.  Yes, English readers, you could order a full house from the catalogue and it would be delivered to your plot and away you go with your hammer and nails.  Think Ikea had flat pack sorted? - they have nothing on early America.

The bungalow

We had a glimpse at the winery and lighthouse but both were closed - I am decidedly odd as I actually quite like that.

Tuesday began with  an impressive ferry crossing from Cape May to Lewes.  One hour 40 minutes so it is  good stretch of water.  Happy it was a calm day.  Not sure how the cars don't get drenched in sea water when its rough.

just a net at the front???

Off the ferry and into a fish and chip shop - it was as real as you are going to get outside the UK itself.  There is much joy to be found in fish and chips when you are an exile.

Ironic name as it is a phrase a Brit (!) would never use

From Lewes we headed to Cape Charles - not such a pretty town but a nice drive along autumn tinted roads.  

Wednesday, my 69th birthday morning, I woke up in a motel in Cape Charles, Virginia.  I still occasionally realise just how astonishing things like that would have seemed if I could have told my younger self that's where I would be on that birthday.

I opened cards and gifts that, like me, had travelled from Bury to Naples, flying across the Atlantic and then gone on to fly to Philadelphia and motor on down to Cape Charles.  Nice to have friends and family with me even as tokens.

Our next crossing from Cape Charles was an even more interesting one.  We needed to get back onto the proper US mainland from all these bits hanging off it.  To do this at that point you use the Chesapeake bridge and tunnel.  As the name says it is a bridge that goes down into a tunnel to allow shipping to cross and then emerge back onto another lump of bridge and off you go.

From here we drove on down to Richmond arriving in just enough time to make my birthday even more 'bizarre'.  We visited Agecroft Hall.  Those of you local to me may be wondering if that is just a co-incidental name as we live about six miles from Agecroft.  In fact it is the very same place.  I have copied the briefest explanation of how it got from A to B.

Mr. Thomas C. Williams, Jr. of Richmond, Virginia, a wealthy entrepreneur, purchased Agecroft Hall upon the advice of this architect, Henry G. Morse. Mr. Williams, whose financial interests included tobacco, banking, and shipping, wished to build a true English manor house on his 23 acres overlooking the James River. Agecroft was dismantled, crated, transported across the ocean, and reconstructed in Richmond's Windsor Farms neighborhood. Windsor Farms was the fashionable new neighborhood being developed by Mr. Williams on the Williams' family farm site which had long been known as 'Windsor.'

The architect, Mr. Morse, was retained to oversee the reconstruction. The intention was not to replicate Agecroft as it had stood in Lancashire, but rather to create a functional and comfortable house reminiscent of its English predecessor. The original floor plan was abandoned and many 20th century conveniences were included. Reconstruction took two years and cost approximately $250,000, a considerable sum for that time. The project was completed during the spring of 1928.

Sadly, the following year Mr. Williams died. With great foresight and generosity, he stipulated in his will that upon his widow's death or relocation, Agecroft Hall would become a house museum. The core of the endowment for the museum came from the estates of Mr. Williams, his brother, A.D. Williams, and his sister, Sue Williams Massie. The museum is administered by the Agecroft Association, under the control of a Board of Trustees. The house and gardens opened to the public in 1969.

For English sensibilities it makes it a very odd place to visit. Agecroft, but not, Tudor but not and even the docent's slant on English history is, quite rightly, from an American perspective but jangles on the ear. An all round odd experience and even odder to leave the grounds and realise you are, in effect, in a very grand housing estate with neighbours either side and across the way.

back of the house in a lovely sunset

Thursday morning in Richmond and we had a little time to kill so, to round off my mini fest, we visited a dollhouse shop. Not for actual shopping but out of curiosity. They had a favourite of mine in the window a 1/24th Monticello - Jefferson's house.

1:24 Monticello doll house 

We had discovered a planetarium in our GPS that we thought we'd take a peek at and duly arrived at an impressive 1930's building which turned out to be a High School. It did indeed have a planatarium but not open to the public. How very odd.

I seem to have missed out the planetarium 

Off to our flight and back home to Naples.

The second half of the month was absorbed in the usual meals, shops, Ken at the Conservancy, me messing with minis and trying to be mother-of-the-bride from this side of the pond.

Three more sleeps and I will be really home....... in Bury.

Photos of the trip Philadelphia 6 -13 November 2014

Friday, 31 October 2014

October - the winter begins

The winter begins  .... well, technically it is still autumn, but having our life split in two we seem to the miss the mid-seasons and go from Summer to Winter overnight - Summer in Bury, UK, Winter in Naples, Florida.  To confuse us even more, our Summer is cooler than our winter!!  You think you are muddled - try living it.  Yes, I know, almost without exception, you would sell your soul to trade places. Beware what you wish for.

Indeed the Florida tropical summer is staying late this year so we had a very wet journey down from Orlando and arrived in Naples in dark in torrential rain - this photo is taken as we arrived in Naples at lunch time.  It was gloomy and very, very wet.  Over here it is very wet in Summer and very dry in winter - see what I mean about confusing to the body and the brain - nothing is 'normal' for an English psyche.

Florida rain knocks ours into a cocked hat

Start as you mean to go on - our first morning in Naples and the two cleaners arrived.  They go through the place like a dose of salts and in one hour you are scrubbed to perfection.  Deep joy not having to clean all that tile, especially the lanai, not to mention wiping down all the kitchen cupboard doors.  I LOVE cleaners. Seriously, I would economise on food or whatever it took to get cleaned now and then.  It is easy for the two of us just to keep tidy and keep bits and bobs clean as we go along but that huge 'bottoming' as they call it up North is just a miserable flog and neither of us want to do it.

We do have to clean down outside and one thing which always needs sorting is all the poop left behind, on and around our outside light, by our resident frog.

I googled them as I thought it odd that we always seem to have a frog every year that looks just like the one we had last year.  Guess what, frogs can live about 15 years!!  He/she is truly our resident frog.  As you can see - totally unabashed by being unscrewed and cleaned up.  Love the little sucker toes for climbing trees (and walls!).

our resident frog

This is a picture of our commonest bird.   There is also a very teeny tiny one about the size of our wren and just as fast and elusive and, of course, our annual woodpecker family.  I think this (blue) bird is very pretty but it is probably their equivalent of our magpie or pigeon and is to be disparaged.  It does have a very unattractive call - more a screech.  I think it is a Blue Jay.

sorry for the not great picture, they refuse to pose

On day two we have to do the BIG grocery trawl.  We quite literally don't have a crumb in the house.  Talk about Mother Hubbard.  A half and half life means EVERYTHING gets dumped and you start again.  It isn't as easy as it sounds and we always spend the first week or two on each side of the transition saying stuff like - ''I thought we had some horseradish!' along with the other three hundred things we 'thought we had'.

The other thing which accompanies the first shop on this side of the water is me 'having a grocery shopping glum'.  This time, one item on my extensive it's-not-like-Tesco's  moan list was  ...... I had stuff for a Cherry Bakewell pudding: this came about because last time I was here I got wound up about not being able to get ground almonds (I know, get a life!) so I had flown here, accompanied by Ken and a packet of ground almonds, hence my having put the rest of the ingredients for the pudding on my shopping list.

Publix do not sell tinned cherries or cherry jam - neither creature exists here - already a bit peeved I mentally switched to - hey ho it will have to be a cherry cake before remembering they have not even heard of glace cherries.   Now before you read this as a chauvinistic tirade against 'foreigners who have no idea of what proper food is' - it isn't - it is actually the opposite - it is the realisation of how foreign I am.  I am in another culture and I don't fit.  Who but me could turn a shopping trip into a philosophical debate about differing cultures evolving from the same roots and language. 

I then went to pick up some Dijon mustard and discovered they have thirty (yes, thirty!) different brands of Dijon mustard - mostly, of course in giant squeezy bottles and very few relating to actual Dijon.

To cheer myself up (already) I hunted through the ethnic section where the British foods are stored (rightly so) primarily for pickled cabbage - no joy.  Sadly, this section does represent pretty much the worst of UK eating - Bisto, stuffing and cheap curry sauce so there isn't much for me here either.

Day two and I am already sliding into my ''I want to go home'' frame of mind.  On this day my (poor Ken!) husband had to listen to one of my usual rants about how I can't cook the simplest thing like a roast dinner because the oven is in effect an open fire in a box and I can't get basics like ........... (long list follows).  Being the sweetie he is, he then (unknown to me) tried to find several of the items I was already missing and he ended up ordering a jar of goose fat online - at $39 it will be my first and last.  For those who don't know, this is the only stuff to roast potatoes in!!!!!  Not that I am a foodie nit-picker or anything.

All that rant is just the tip of the ice-berg when you are a foreigner and not prepared to go native - I would have made a great colonial! Victorian corset, petticoat and bloomers in India.

That said - such a joy to shop here - if food shopping can ever be that.  Where in the UK would you find a virtually empty supermarket and car park and virtually empty roads.  Admittedly this place triples its population in season.  This did lead to a conversation that's worth remembering; we decided that when we give up on this place we will only come back to Naples out of season.  We had thought we might do six weeks here over the February part of our winter.  That is such a lovely idea weather-wise but it is sooooo much nicer to be here without the crowds.

Every year, when we get back - and I mean every year (all 15 of them) - our TV and wi-fi don't work.  It always takes a phone call and, often, a visit from a techie to sort it.  A phone call sorted the wi-fi but we had to wait on a techie for the TV.  Not a problem as thanks to my iPad and airplay TV we had a lovely couple of days immersed in good TV from the UK.

Just did a read through and realised, so far, you are ploughing through grump after grump - so I might as well get them all over in one go.

I have been selling all my 1/12ths in the UK and a lady wanted a lot but was concerned about postage from UK to USA so I said I would bring it with me and mail from here.  What a total nightmare.

Took the stuff up to the Post Office and discovered the Priority box might be a bit skimpy and would cost $17.90.

Off to UPS who agreed it was a good idea to pack my box within a larger box surrounded by peanuts (packing noodles to us) and this would cost $20.83.  Told my lady who sensibly opted for the UPS delivery.

Back to UPS who then tells me the packing costs $15 on top of the $20.83 but he would do it for $10.  So I am now ten bucks out of pocket.  He then looked at the address which was a PO Box address and tells us UPS don't deliver to PO boxes and if he put it through the mail it would cost more than the post office charge so it would best take it to them, assuring me it would be around the original $20 something dollars he'd first quoted me.

Off to the Post Office.  They say all that was rubbish UPS do deliver to PO boxes and the parcel is oversized and will cost $38.21.   I am now $27.38 out of pocket!!! not to mention packing and carrying a large box across the Atlantic.  Indeed one of our very large suitcases just came with the bear (remember him?) a pillow and this box.   

Note:  never, never complain about UK postage again.

We seemed to be trying to tick all the back in Naples boxes in week one and so we actually managed to get to the beach on Saturday.  Again, it was delightfully empty - for those of you who have been here let me just say we drove to Lowdermilk and just picked a parking place right at the front.  The sea is still 84 degrees at this time of the year, so Ken really enjoyed his swim - another reason to come here out of season.

Obviously we had to swing by Reginas (ice cream!) on Fifth (parked right outside!!!) but were too early - they don't open until 11.30 am.  Poor Ken.

I was luckier with my crab legs check-in at Grand Buffet on Sunday but I confess they were disappointingly pretty tasteless so I may try to resist that particular eatery during our stay.  All-you-can-eat shrimp at Red Lobster is calling me though.  Whilst on fishiness - during our grocery trip I bought a new to me fish called Swai - you know me try anything once. I bread-crumbed and Parmesan cheesed it and drizzled a little melted butter over it, popped in the oven and it was delicious.

The reason to relate all this was that it only cost $3.99 a pound.  Incredible.  Our North Atlantic fish and their own tuna and swordfish can come in at $20 a pound - breathtaking. 

Me, being me, will spend an arm and a leg on things that Ken likes but will scrimp when it comes to things I enjoy - why is that?  Love being a martyr?  No,  just left over pecuniary habits habits of a lifetime - 'dad always gets the biggest and best chop'

So, week two and we decided we needed to work on getting rid of all our leftover restaurant Groupons, coupons, gift cards etc from last year and we, being us, assiduously planned how and when.

We decided to work our way up the value scale and so began with a ten dollar Domino's coupon.  This gets a mention because - talk about cute - we ordered it on line and when Ken set off to pick it up I followed the cartoon of Pete the Pizza Man making our order - real time - I knew the second Ken had it in his mitts.  I have no idea why this amused me but marketing people know how to push your button.  Must check if Domino's at home has it.  Mind you we don't eat take-out pizza at home.

..... and that's pretty much it for week one: as far as week two goes - I was felled with a seven day 'headache'.  No kidding, three of the days I was pretty much useless.  I can only think it was because I had a week of steroids in the weeks before I left the UK and stopped them progressively the first week here???  I don't really have a better theory than that but I live in hope it was a one off.  My last day of, "OK I am probably better now", Ken came down with a stinky cold!!  Those of you who don't know Ken won't appreciate the significance - he NEVER but NEVER gets ill and the nearest he has ever been are the two or three colds he's had during our 20 years together and generally, even then,  I have to tell him he is ill because he hasn't noticed!  This time he took to flopping about in and on a bed for a couple of days.  Even more astonishingly not eating and .... wait for it ...... even refused pudding!!  I was getting seriously worried.

So, between us, we pretty much lost weeks two and three of October.

At the end of the poorly-bad stint, to celebrate wellness, avoid cooking and use another deal we opted for lunch at Carrabas for their special three course $12 deal.  Arrived at 1 pm to be told the offer only kicks in after 3pm.  Ate there any way and picked up a $50 tab.  Typical of the companies over here by the time we got home there was an email asking Ken to rate the meal. Ken commented (nicely not moaning) about their online advert not saying anything about their offer applying only after 3 pm.  Within half an hour after that he gets a phone message from the manager of the restaurant asking him to ring.  Half an hour later, an email arrives from her expressing her apologies, saying she will 'escalate it up to the powers that be' and giving him a free starter or dessert next time he is in there.  All this is not that unusual for customer service over here, though we remain impressed every time.  The clincher to this is, the next day, their email 'flyer' has 'after 3pm' added to it!!  We have a lot to learn in the UK about the customer being the reason for your business even existing.

Next food and customer service example comes from Ken's regular ice creamery.  He was on duty as a bucketeer for an orchestra at the park (free concerts in the sunshine on Sundays) and was passed by the lady who has the ice cream truck which Regina's sets up in the park that day.  She not only remembers him but remembers what he orders and that he has to go to the shop to get it (limited flavours on the truck) so she tells him she will bring his order back for him and it will be on the truck when he wants it.

When this began you must have thought it was to be one long moan about how dreadful it is for me being locked up in permanent sunshine in a beautiful coastal location for the winter but like most of life it is a two-sided coin and there will be much to miss about this place when we don't do it any more.

What could be nicer than riding your bike (for Ken) trike (for me) (yes a trike is not a jokey item over here) in the eighties sunshine with a slight breeze on empty flat roads at the end of October.....  oooh, I almost forgot.... then there is the Cracker Barrel Sunday fried chicken and 360's best lobster ravioli I have ever eaten and .......!

Lobster ravioli

Sorry about the dreadful photo but it is all I have except for my memories of the thinnest al dente pasta I have ever eaten, packed full of lumps of lobster meat - slight lemony, buttery creamy sauce to moisten it but not change the flavour - so delicate, so delicious and with Groupon (!) so cheap.  Glorious.  Do I love food or what?

The place also has a clever way of selling their wine - every bottle is at cost price plus their name 360. ($3.60)  

Tuesday, 7 October 2014


This is our last month here before we decamp to sunnier climes so it just gets filled with various kinds of farewells.

Visits and lunches with friends all back up at the end of the month so we see them as close as we can to leaving.  Among all this we try to get 'stuff' sorted so we aren't leaving problems behind.  That, of course, never works.  

This time we left in the middle of trying to arrange for someone to take my aunt out once a week from her care home (been here in Naples a week so far and heard nothing!).  This is fraught enough back in the UK but trying to contact all the various agencies from the States isn't to be contemplated.

I have also left in the middle of the doctor trying to determine if I have Fibromyalgia or Polymyalgia rheumatica.  As I have been presenting with various problems for four years now(!!!) I don't feel there is a rush on this ...... but it doesn't help in terms of continuity to have the 'conversation' and tests separated with a five month gap.

All kinds of mini domestic issues get snagged by absence.  One example is that we are part of a group who are trying to get the Lotty up and running properly.  Quite literally while in transit from UK to Naples via Orlando Ken was trying help with a funding application.

None of this is to be interpreted as my complaining about my lot but I hope it helps you to understand why the peripatetic life we live drives me nuts.  That is complaining isn't it?

Back to September and the good stuff.

The second week of the month we were in Leswalt, near Stranraer, Scotland with my daughter and her partner.  This is on a peninsular I sort of didn't even know existed let alone turning out to be the most southerly point of Scotland and benefitting from the Gulf Stream.  All in all it was a very unexpected bit of Scotland full of exotic plants.  it is not straightforward to get to and certainly not an area you would be 'passing' en route to any where else.

We visited a lighthouse at the Mull of Galloway.......... well three made it to the top........ I wandered off to the shop and museum.

view from the top

As you can see we had some lovely weather - Scotland was very kind to us.

As fully-fledged intrepids we then went on to Logan Botanical Gardens - pretty well-known on the planet of gardeners.

very tropical for Scotland
I understand why gardens like these are lovely and unusual but they are not to my taste - I don't get on with 'tropicals' outside the Tropics.  I am a decided traditionalist when it comes to gardens.  I can appreciate them all but the only thing that sings to my soul is the soft fluffy English variety.

This was a very short break for S and S and they left us the next day and Ken and I went to Castle Kennedy - primarily for lunch!  That went well as this was the venue....

That said we had a good hike and it was all very pretty in a wild and woody way.


If you want to see more photos click here Galloway Gardens

I am flicking through my diary as I do when I write this and it is crammed with 'chores' of various sorts so clearly it was a busy month - just nothing worth sharing unless you want to hear about hair appointments and chasing up snagging et al.

Lunch and farewell with my best mate mid-month and then S & S returned to visit us and my daughter's lifetime friend.  It was a lovely visit and felt like they were just living round the corner with them bobbing in and out between doing other stuff.  I so wish that was true.  It is always hard to say goodbye, even it it is only for a couple of months.

Lucky us!  they left us with a giant bear to take to the States for my grand-daughter.  My daughter won it!

Here is Ted on his first leg of a several thousand mile journey from S in Scotland to L in Canada via Naples, (and Orlando) Florida.

We became the weird old couple with a bear in the car.  I won't share the photo of him in the suitcase on the 29th as he looks decidedly uncomfortable.

Here comes the 29th and we left for Orlando.

We had a Premium Economy Upgrade which really does make the journey so much better - the advantages being - better service, smaller section of the cabin, deplane first without the rugby scrum and - being really snotty - the Orlando flight gets more than its fair share of Children passengers but not so much in this section.  Not that I am anti-children per se but, having had a couple of VERY long journeys with a child behind driving me bonkers - think feet in back of seat for nine hours, they are best avoided.  So there we were smugly settled in our 'posh' seats and the barbie family arrive across the aisle - Barbie mom and two teenage Barbie's - though to be fair they had so much work they could have been thirty-five.  The one nearest me - just across the aisle had a nasal high pitched squeak which barely let up for the whole trip.

I have reached the inevitable conclusion that the next step for me is a cave somewhere with my own juniper bush.  I just basically hate the human race.  This was confirmed some days later when we were in a half empty Naples and I realised it was a lovely place to be.

As we were flying backwards in time we arrived in Orlando for an all-you-can-eat-until-you fall-over buffet for 'dinner' at 5.30pm (!) with a body clock ticking at 10.30 pm.  Such fun this travel lark!

The next day was the last of the month and we used it driving down to Naples.... we were there by lunchtime (Cracker Barrel) and by bedtime we were well and truly, unpacked, tidied up, basic shopped and sorted out ready to begin the winter.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

July and August - Lost a month again

Oh my goodness whatever happened to July and August - all I did was blink and they are gone.


I suppose losing a month here in writing is not so bad as I don't have much to share.  Our time was spent with much of the same thing being repeated - building work and visiting my daughter seem to be the main events.

We had the conservatory put up in June so we would have somewhere to microwave meals and decamp in relative 'comfort' while the kitchen got ripped out and replaced with the all new singing version.

It arrived in its flat-pack glory on the 11th by the 14th the fitter was here.  He became a member of the family for the next two weeks and we learned to live without simple commodities like sink and cooker.  There seemed to be a never-ending flurry of follow up jobs going on through to the end of the month (and the next).

We managed to squeeze in a visit to Wales to visit Ken's daughter around her birthday.

lovely seat at the mill in Talgarth

Before that, in the middle of the kitchen fit we had a busy weekend dashing up to Edinburgh to help my daughter and her partner with their new move to their first house.  We had two men and a van carting stuff from here to there and us going to help sort it.  Nice to be needed still and even nicer to see them getting settled in (what will be) a lovely new home.

So, with the usual lots of eating out and seeing friends the month departed.


Another Edinburgh visit this month where we didn't get as much done, so it was nice to catch our breath and just visit.

This was the month I gave up on my latest 1/12th project and sold it on.  An interesting lady who was organising her first show bought it, so several mini related things came out of that.

I then spent a lot of time selling all my 1/12ths stuff as I was not only quitting on The Willows but was also quitting on 1/12ths.  this is the mountain I have to get through - remember those boxes are full of very small items - I listed over 600!

 Minis have not left me yet though as I am now into Quarter Scale (1/48ths) in a big way (!).

Made by me - Not bad for just over an inch long

We took a nice short break in a hotel we knew with our mates P and S.  It is becoming a tradition this short break over my husband's birthday.  It makes for an easy gift on my part for the man who has everything.  This year it was Lytham - so a suitable oldies break!  We squeezed in a couple of National Trust properties and a ton of food.

Park in Lytham

Middle of the month we got the kitchen painted, so nearly there.... by the 26th the up-stands went in and we were finished.  Three months upheaval is enough for anyone.  There is an album here (it will stay up for a couple of months) if you want a look - The Kitchen

one half of the kitchen

The end of the month we organised a birthday tea for the aged-Aunt that we (sort of) take care of.  Her Nursing Home made her a lovely tea and a birthday cake and five of her old friends/neighbours turned up to wish her well.  It was a very nice couple of hours.  We even managed to Skype my sister and her husband in Vancouver; although Aunty J insisted they were only just round the corner and not in Canada.  I wouldn't mind but they have never 'lived just round the corner' even when they were in the UK.

Hey ho, here comes September....... and the countdown begins.....

Sunday, 13 July 2014

June is truly bustin' out all over

Not so much bustin' out as bashing and hammering and clonking.

Looks like it has always been there

The core of this month was taken up with the conservatory build.  We were so impressed by the company that did it.  Absolutely hitch free, bang on time, almost everything done and dusted as promised.  We really have no complaints and would recommend Clearview to anyone for a good price, great people to deal with and a good result.  By the end of the month we were still hanging around for some exterior work to be completed but the delays on that have had more to do with 'misunderstandings' about what is and isn't part of the original contract.  So I recommend if you do this sort of thing you make sure you are clear what it includes down to the finest detail. So, with a start date of 9th and pretty much done by 20th,  it wasn't bad going.  

If you want to take a look, here's the album (for a short while) :  Conservatory

These are 1/48th scale

My Doll's House trip of the month was to the York show.  This is probably my favourite show for being the right size to take a day but not overwhelming like Miniatura can be.  I didn't buy a lot but what I did get were little gems.  I was also 'working' so that's fun as I get to go in early and I can natter to lots of the vendors.

We took my finished Chocolat project to the show to give to the magazine to use as a prize or raffle or whatever at the York Show in November - sadly I won't be here to see it happen.

Not sure I mentioned one of the freaky medical issues I had as a by-product of 'the leg' - wish I could type those words in cross stitch - feels like the leg's earned it.  I had some sort of allergic reaction which decided to take its form as an all-over and I mean all-over itchy rash.  It was hell on earth and lasted sixty days (and nights!).  I am telling you this because, looking through my June diary,  I saw the appointment the NHS finally managed to get me with a dermatologist (six days after the rash cleared up.  "Hello what can I do for you?"  Me: prattle, prattle.  Her: "Well you don't have anything now so there's nothing I can treat, come and see me if it returns"  Me:  I have photos and can describe it and show 'scars' and I was promised patch testing to see if there is anything I should avoid so I don't get it again.   She:  "Nothing I can treat - here's an open appointment for the next six months"  I was in her room less than five minutes - literally.

Don't ya just love it!

Though that is decidedly small beer in comparison to the shock event of the month.

Sadly, a friend of Ken's (and therefore mine) died whilst on a diving holiday on the Isle of Man so that was all a bit of a mess for the diving club.  To date the inquest remains open as they haven't yet worked out what happened to him.  Attending the funeral of someone younger (and probably fitter) than yourself is always a salutatory experience as well as a sad one.

In happier vein, my daughter and her chap came for a flying visit which was lovely as always.  Her poor fella got the 'meet the aged aunt treat' but he was compensated with the world's best fish and chips - the Metro - if you don't know it.

Finally, after eight months, we picked up our Deputyship papers so we can act on behalf of my aunt - long drawn out process and expensive one.  It is still not over as we are now embroiled getting the banks to  sort themselves out.  Hey Ho.  I heartily recommend you have your life sorted out in terms of wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney (if you can afford it!!) you have no idea what a mess you leave for other people to deal with if you don't.

We managed not one but two trips to Ikea this month and I can't for the life of me remember why I used to just love doing that stuff.  It was such a treat to wander round there for hours.  After our first extended tour one day I was ready to kill myself or anyone within a ten foot radius.  Now I know I am getting old.  Too true!   I was also absolutely physically shattered.  Talk about having to lie down with a sick head ache.

organised mess

And so the last day of the month rolled round with Ken out to lunch, my gardener working here for two hours, the electrician coming for a final fit and the cleaners due to clean the whole posh greenhouse aka conservatory - not bad for someone who is retired and doesn't have much to do!  A least I can retire to the peace of my deliberately scruffy garden.  I love this time of year when everything is just a tangled 'mess'.

if you want to take a look, here's the link:  Garden 2014

Sunday, 11 May 2014

April - where did it go?

Yet another month has disappeared without trace.  Only Mother Nature seems to have made an impact during these four weeks.  it is lovely to watch the garden change from twigs to leaf.

The cherry blossom is doing its thing, following on the heels of the lovely amelanchier (June berry)..... 

Then the crab apple catches up.
 Meanwhile the narcissi follow the daffs.  They come in all shapes and sizes so there is something for everyone.  I favour fairly simple ones and white in the back garden and yellow in the front.  I don't like to mix them; I have no idea why.

In addition to these two I have a third white variety which has just come out called Poeticus - you really must try it.  It is so dainty and has a lovely perfume so grow it in pots or near the house.  It is just the best! 

I have decided to quit my garden blog - lack of time and even worse lack of commitment to my garden any more.  

I had a willow that I had been sold as the small and unusual and hard to get cuprea variety - in two years this has grown from about three feet to over ten!  It has even spawned a six foot baby in that time.  Methinks it is not the small variety!  I had to hire someone to take them out.  The someone is a lady who seems to have enough knowledge to be able to take care of the garden for me so that's the path I am now on.

It is very frustrating to watch someone do a job you have done (and loved) for sixty years.  I am itching to step in and say do this or that but I have resisted and try to just shrug and say I don't have to weed and dig and work hard - and walk away.

So, unless I wanted to do an imitation Lady Penelope and report on my gardener's activities the blog seemed pretty pointless.  Hence these photos here I have no doubt I will thrust more garden stuff at you as the year progresses.

I have started the Garden album for this year if you want a look - might not be worth it just yet as there is very little other than weeds!  Garden 2014

Free of garden chores I should have been able to do other stuff but  as to how much I've achieved this month - probably not a lot.

Usual meals with friends and visits to 'aged aunt' fill a couple (or more) slots each week.

We did have an evening out in the first week of the month like proper 'growed-ups'.  A friend gave us tickets for Much Ado About Nothing at the Royal Exchange.  Being me, I did the mental chunnering about - I am 68, seen it a zillion times and used to virtually live at the Exchange so why bother????  So glad we did - it was an excellent production with a great cast and a I had a lovely time.  Thanks D.

I am still backing and forthing to the doctors with the ongoing ramifications of the minor accident to my leg back in October (!)  Incredible something so minor can turn out this way.  It is also pretty exhausting doing battle with something or other non-stop for six months - however minor.  Non-stop=no respite so it wears you out physically and gets you down.

To be fair to me, Ken and I did manage to finish the clearing out of my aunt's flat.  When I tell you it took two men and a van two days to take the stuff to the tip and that was after we had put a load in a storage facility and taken stuff to the charity shop, you may forgive me for being idle the rest of the month.  The chaps that came had been to the flat previously to move a chair to her care home for us and said they had no idea that amount of stuff was there - and wondered how could it be (very small flat).  It is truly incredible what you can squirrel away in a spare bedroom and two tiny box rooms over thirty years if you really try.  You begin by bringing a lot of it with you and never touching it again.

My kids are so lucky - we live like Spartans - devoid of 'trinklements' as my mom would call them and no collections of anything and neat and tidy and organised.  Indeed my mother once described my chosen style as 'prison cell'.

She says this sitting a doll's house workroom!  It would still only take an hour to empty!

My dolls house show of the month was Pudsey at Leeds which is one of my favourites so I had a great day there, nattering to everyone and his brother (or sister in this case) and buying a few bits and bobs for my latest project.  Ken bedded in in the cafeteria with his laptop and endless cake and coffee and a nice chatty companion for lunch (me!)  Win, win.

At the end of the month there was good news from my daughter and her chap - they have finally found their new home.  So a whole other chapter begins for them and, therefore, me.

The following day we had our house valued.  We think we would like a bit more room so played with the notion of moving up a notch - three to four bedrooms.  When we realised we were talking about a huge gap between ours and the sort of house we want where we want it, we decided to stay put and add on.  More of this to come over the next few months I think....  but for now....

Thursday, 24 April 2014

March - a month of two halves

Sarasota seems to have had its draw this season we were back there again on the first of the month for a Flea market.  Not the usual sort, but one related to minis.  What a great idea.  As always my nattering about that is in my Shows blog.

We started the month by putting the condo back to rights following our visitors.  We move furniture around between the bedrooms because we use the guest room for our office when we are on our own.  We wondered whether to bother as we only had a couple of weeks left in Naples but my theory was that we would have several more weeks on our own when we come back - just watch that not happen, now I've said it.

Ken did loads of Conservancy stints - he does more than the full-timers do! 

On the 6th we had a torrential rainstorm - odd for the time of year.  It gave us a good idea of how our lanai must look most of the summer.  We were awash.  I swept it out!  It was hardly surprising as the rain was horizontal along with the trees.  It also gave us a three and a half-hour power cut - the joy of cables being above ground!  This picture is our romantic lunch by candlelight.  I was about to make the gravy when the power went out - talk about great timing on my part - must be psychic. (stuffed pork chop incidentally)

While I was looking for this photo I came across this one.... this is what Spring looks like in Naples - if you look carefully you might notice new growth on some trees, such as the larches outside the apartment.  Not quite a plethora of spring bulbs or blossom is it?

Soon it was all about packing and getting in our last 'treat' meals at places like Bone Fish before we decamped.  The 12th duly arrived and so did the plane.  The flight delivered a lovely sunset as we left Florida......

The 13th followed, as it does, and we were safely back in Manchester.  Safely being the operative word.  We came into thick fog in Manchester and were borderline diversion to somewhere without fog but, fortunately, as our pilot said we had fuel (good to know) so we'll go round for a while and wait for it to lift a little.  It looked like this on landing.

Yes, you do hear yippees from me.  So good to be back to the grey dismal skies and cold.  No, really - at least we have seasons.

By four o' clock my Tesco order had arrived (how I miss that too in Naples) and we were firmly settled in sorting our stack of mail.

By day three I had caught up with my best little chum and a bunch of other folk and it was like we'd never been gone.

My issues from the original accident to my leg back in October are still grinding on - won't bore you with the details but it is all pretty miserable and relentless and so much of my time was taken up with back and forth doctor visits only to be made worse and better and worse and better and .... you get the picture....  believe me reactions to various drugs are less fun than the underlying problem.  My other half's notion of you only need a doctor when you can't sew your own arm back on has a lot of merit.

We had a flying visit from my daughter in March too which was great.  Always lovely to see her little chops and her chap's chops and hear how they are pootling along - why that is better face to face and not Skype to Skype is a mystery!  Nah, its not, you can't hug a Skype.

We succeeded in getting my aunt's electric chair ensconced in her room at the care home which was a comedy sketch worth seeing.  To begin with 'electric chair' as she calls it conjures images that are not quite correct as it is pale creamy pink leather and will just about wiggle itself into any comfortable position you like at the push of a button.  It also transpires - some days later - it will slowly and carefully slide you off it if you have dementia and muddle up the buttons.  Truly our encounters with my aunt would make a great (dark) comedy series!

On the 27th we bought a new (to us) car.  A something or other Prius - good with cars.......I can tell you it is red and I like it.

The very last day of March sent us scurrying to Scarborough to pick up dolls house I had 'won' courtesy of EBay.  Not a huge bargain cost wise, but one I have wanted for a while.  Go visit if you are interested:  The Willow

To end, as I pretty much began, with my favourite topic - food!  I had just about the best meal since I can't remember when.  Don't go uuugghh when I tell you it was cold pork pie and chips and peas.  Home made pork pie was on offer served hot, but being from the Midlands - we don't do that sort of thing (!), so I asked for it cold.  It was a delight and especially appreciated by me as I have made the little beggars.  The chips were also perfectly normal, like your mom made, home-made chips - just glorious.  I am not precious about good food - food is good when its good - it never needs to be fancy schmantzy to make it good.   This was one to remember.  If you can find an excuse to go that way here's the link to the place:  The Forge Tea Rooms

27th bought new car