Monday, 28 December 2009

Ashdown Forest Walks

We did a four mile walk this morning with four other families and three dogs. Twenty of us over hill and dale in glorious winter sunshine. Frost still on the ground in places, but mostly mud. The starting and end point was The Foresters Arms in Fairwarp. We wound up the walk in the pub for a great lunch. Rabbit and bacon pie for moi.
Three days now we have been walking.
Yesterday we went to Sheffield Park but it was closed, so went on to Lewes for a ramble through its streets and to see the castle. Lovely moon scape for you all to see.
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Saturday, 26 December 2009

Weighing In

Christmas Day was relaxed and fun. John bought a Wii Fit for the family and one by one the girls weighed in to get their BMI and fitness age. David, Kristen and Adam did it too and in the end I thought 'Blow it....what does it matter if they know?', so I did my public weigh-in to a range of comments and laughs. Yes, I am more chunky than I was when I met John (nearly five years now), but the machine says my BMI is IDEAL....Yeah! My fitness age needs work. I am showing 54 for a 49 year old...but that is reversable!
Long walk to Forest Row this afternoon, in rain, for all of us and some people weighed-in again today. Am not prepared to risk a change...certainly a negative one!
Got some crochet done this afternoon, nice to be back at it, my head is full of ideas and I have a fabulous new crochet book to help me learn even more now.

rabbit with carrot

rabbit with carrot
Originally uploaded by hirado_hime

Thursday, 24 December 2009

The night before Christmas

and all through the land, mad women like me are cooking!
In fact I started last night, which is the night before the night before Christmas. This of course does not include the gravy that Hannah and I made and froze at the weekend, or the brasied red cabbage and apple and the brussel sprouts which are ready in the freezer too!
Last night I made pork and chestnut stuffing balls. The smell of which is amazing. They have smoked bacon, garlic, sage, lemon zest, onions and of course pork and chestnuts in them...delicious. It is a fiddly job though and took almost 90 minutes just to get them oven ready. But so worth it.
I got up this morning really glad that job is done as we have 9 people here tonight for a Thai curry (also cooked last night). There will not be as much cooking time today.
Having said that, John is making bread sauce this morning. I know, the sound of it is horrible, but last year I made and ate if for the first time and it was superb. It is a creamy onion flavoured thick textured sauce, served warm with the turkey and trimmings.
At the last farmers market of the year, apart from veg, I bought a lovely stollen covered in powdered sugar. Something we ate when in Belgium that really reminds me of the season. It evens sounds like a Christmasy word!

After my two hour slot at the office (already had one broken down boiler) we are going to collect the turkey.

Then it will be on for young and old. This crazy time when a huge percentage of the population feels the need to eat the same thing, drink a lot, watch a lot of dubious TV and then moan about feeling full and lazy....

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Three Little Maids are we....

These are the little kokeshi that I have been working on for the grand daughters of two of my colleagues. They are about 12cm tall. The first one I made is of Amazonian proportions because I could not read the they look tiny and 'normal', although we all like the original Kozue chan.

The recent snow and ice is causing havoc, but for the first three days it was beautiful powder snow. Now it is crusty slush and last night it took almost an hour to dig my way out of the drive to get to the station.

The rabbit is one that John bravely took to his office Christmas party as his secret Santa gift....Fortunately at least the recipient was a girl...although it may have ended up in a bin on the way home! Who knows?

Friday, 18 December 2009

winter white

Bets are on that it will be a white Christmas in parts of the UK this year. In our part of the land we had 12 hours of snow over night and everything is white this morning. The sun is out too which makes it beautiful. No photos as John has taken the camera with him to Whitley Bay...
The last day of school was cancelled today, so the girls are meeting up with friends to play in the snow.
John opted to go north to see his parents as his father has been in hospital again. The good news is that he comes home today, but we will not be going up for the end of year celebration this time.
Emily's table tennis club had its Christmas party last night which was a hoot. Lots of pizza, all eaten....and everyone (mums included) playing table tennis. A raffle to raise money for the club attrated very enthusiastic participants, one group of lads bought £16.00 worth of tickets and of course walked away with most of the prizes. Hannah and Em did not come home empty handed, which was nice.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

The lull before Christmas

Things seem need to tempt fate, but we have had a peaceful few days. We took the girls and a friend to T'Wells on Saturday to do some shopping. John started coming down with something and by the end of the morning was very miserable. In bed for two days after that.
But apart from his ills it was a lovely day and I had a warm glowing feeling as we drove home, laughing and being really silly in the car.
We had our work Christmas lunch at the Griffin Inn in Fletching on Sunday, which I went to on my own.
The food is excellent and it is a cosy pub, with a roaring fire. I want to take John to it now. I had breast of wood pigeon....and lamb. Yum.
The girls put up our Christmas tree when I was out and it looks great. I am off work now for three days and plan to get the Christmas cards up and wrap some presents.
I ordered our organic turkey and pork at the butchers...even that felt festive. So may people were in there ordering food and talking about turkey. Having said that I am very tempted by goose too....
I have not been able to finish the rabbit that I was making for John to take to his Christmas party. There is not enough time.
Last night I shopped, collected the girls and some friends from the school disco, took the friends home, then came with Adam and Ben to the office to get keys for one of our flats. We moved a chest of drawers out of it, which the boys are going to use in their new home (when they get it) and as I was not home until nearly 10:00 did not feel like crocheting. Which is rare.

Friday, 11 December 2009


I have had a day and a half off work this week and just LOVED it. Not that anything special was done. The home insurance policy had to be renewed and that was done with a saving of £72.00 on last year...More Christmas presents were ordered on line and for the first time EVER, I think I am ahead.
I crocheted too. It is becoming something of a passion. I am impatient and need to pace myself better. My head is full of things I want to make and of course, that means I am going to have to make my own patterns. Seems a bit ambitious when I have only just learnt the basic steps. BUT I am working on my own koala at present. He is looking ok, not great, a bit gappy on his lower belly, something to do with the way the stitches are decreased. More research on that revealed that there is another way to decrease way is partially visible so it is time to learn the new method. I always admire the tight knitted look of other people's work and think mine looks amatuer.
I have been talking about doing something with these little creatures and as I have a history of planning and getting fired up about something then letting it fizzle out before anything gets started, I don't want to not do it this time. There has been a lot of encouragement. I am going to have to post pics here for everyone to see and you can tell me what you think. Honestly!
In the meantime John's days as a diplomat are winding down and he is winding up. There has been a fever of activity and he has been seeing lots of people and talking about opportunities for the new year.
All I can say is that I admire his gusto. Wonder if I am biased in any way?

Monday, 7 December 2009


It was my 49th on Saturday....don't feel ANY different. I worked in the morning and had my hair cut short in the afternoon. (Norah Jones was the inspiration for the style).
In the evening I cooked a pheasant with a sausage meat and fig stuffing, wrapped the bird in smokey bacon strips and cooked it in a casserole dish in the oven. On the side I made braised red cabbage with apples cooked in red wine vinegar and mashed potatoes. John opened a bottle of Cloudy Bay and we had a lovely meal - sans enfants who were all out socializing.
On Sunday Em played in her first table tennis tournament and did well. We only went to the morning session, and spent the rest of the day on chores and Christmas cards.
We went to dinner at The Old Mill in Dunnings Road for my birthday night out and again was treated to superb food. Yum...

Friday, 4 December 2009

Very Big News

It is sometimes hard not to tell, but this one has been under our hats for a while now.
John has accepted an early retirement package from the Foreign Office and that means from Jan 1st he is out there on his own.
We are both very excited as a big change like this in life does not come along all that often.
John now has a chance to do something for himself and it means we will be in the UK for a while, probably!! The girls will be pleased as they are not too keen on being uprooted.
As he winds down after 30 years, there is so much to look forward to. The man has a lot to offer.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Winter Concert

John sang in a Winter Concert at the Sackville School last night. (Sackville is the 'other' high school in town, but like Imberhorne, full of talented kids) John's choir sang with the school's choir and on their own and they were brilliant. Medleys don't really appeal to me, but I got quite excited at the wonderful selection of songs from The Sound of Music. It is great to see John get so much joy from his singing. We were very proud.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

First frost

There has been 9 days of rain and wind and storms, until today. The sun is shining, the air is crisp and there is a frost. Beautiful. It does mean however, having to scrape the windscreen of the car, a chilly job!

Apart from that, the birds were flitting around the garden and nothing is nicer on a white morning than to see the robin.

This link has some great shots of British birds.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Kitchen Whizz

Hannah, John and I were drooling over a great looking pumpkin and apple pie with a meringue top made by Hugh on River Cottage the other night. It looked so good, Hannah and I made it together on Saturday. From the pasty base to the filling and the meringue. The result, to look at was superb, but we did not enjoy it all that much. The pumpkin was too fiberous and too pale, but we are going to try it again.

Hugh did give one tip which we tried. To make sure the egg whites are really fluffed up, one should be able to hold the bowl of them upside down over one's head.

Hannah demonstates in this photo!

Friday, 27 November 2009


I cooked a rabbit on Saturday night last week and it was absolutely delicious. I am not squeamish about game on the whole. Man has always eaten rabbit. The Japanese used to have a (red) meat free diet as the consumption of animals with fur was considered unclean. They did however, eat rabbit, and to get around that, the Chinese character for rabbit has a bird radicle. Rabbits 'fly' and therefore fell into the fowl category!! Hannah would not eat it, and Adam did not want to, but after trying the dish agreed it was excellent.

I did it with a cream and white wine sauce served with mashed potatoes and caramelised mushrooms.

Bouyed by this, yesterday at the farmer's market I bought two pheasants....

Again I have been putting ads in the local paper, this time looking for unwanted knitting wool. Two women responded and as yesterday was my half day, as soon as work was over, I drove to Burgess Hill to collect a bag. The rest will be delivered next week...

It was my first solo trip on the motorway, and it went very well. The lady, Silvia, had prepared a large black garbage bag full of wool for me and in exchange I gave her a tin of Christmas biscuits. I am very pleased that now there are more colours to work with. My mind has been racing with ideas and there is even a pattern in my head...and all this from someone who has been doing it for 3 weeks!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Missing persons

A young policewoman visited the office this morning enquiring about a couple of missing Russian women. They wanted to know if anyone had been in looking for accommodation. A few months ago I met a Russian woman and her daughter and spent some time with them showing a flat and talking to them about how they could set up rent payments when they not working and on student visas. I liked them, they were very excited about the flat they saw and they kept hugging each other.
In the end they could not make the transfer of funds from their home country and it fell through. There were some tears and it was frustrating not to be of use.
The chances are that the women who are missing are not the two that I helped and I really hope that they aren't. However, at the end of the day, somewhere a family is missing two members and the police here are trying to find them.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

I can do it

The other night a friend and I had a self teaching session with crochet. It was fun, but my limited knowledge probably did her more harm than good! I am more and more fired up to do the babette blanket and with perserverence this week have managed to make my first square. I know what to do now and the next step is to learn how to join different colours.

The quilts are languishing as the thrill of a new texture and skill blot out their appeal....but they will get done. At this stage of life it is not wise to leave too many things incomplete. It is about time there was something to show for all the hard work, piles of fabric, pins in the carpet, bleeding fingers and hours and hours of dreaming!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Rite of passage

Adam is 18 today. An adult and like ancient tribal tradition in many parts of the world he will undergo a rite of passage today to mark the occasion. He has arranged to have a tattoo done on his chest! John and and I are concerned. I don't think a tattoo is something one lives to celebrate...they tend to be regretted. But Adam is an adult and he marks the event in his way.

Just hope he is not in too much pain.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Bah! Humbug

This time of year does two things to me. Fills me with good cheer towards my fellow man and makes me want to run away, espcially from the songs and decorations that are around us for months and most especially from the imposed need to SPEND LOTS OF MONEY. me it is the getting together of people. Loved ones, new ones, friends. To eat and celebrate together. The table groaning with lashings and lashings of food (Enid Blighton) and maybe a walk later.
What I DO NOT LIKE is the lists of things people want (including me). I have been chasing my lot to tell me what they want and to be honest, they struggle. We tend to live (loosely) by a 'buy what you need rather than what you want' rule, then at this time of year (and birthdays) we are faced with the want question.
We always spend too much, I always worry that the meaning of the season is lost. I worry too much.
This year I have decided to make a list for the family of EXACTLY what I think I want, including pictures from a catalogue, prices the lot. No mystery, no fun one might think. But I do not want my loved ones trying their best to please me when I am actually very pleased. I have all I need. I do not want THINGS. I have even asked for nothing to be told there must be something under the tree for me or they would feel strange. So my wish list includes:
A quilting mat with ruler.
A filleting knife for cooking
A gift voucher from Monsoon or East.
A possible renewal of my Gardener's World subsciption...I love this magazine, but am tempted to look for something crafty....maybe.
That is it. Happy, content!
I hope I have the strength to stick to my resolution of not being caught up in a shopping frenzy!

Monday, 16 November 2009

KOZUE chan

This is Kozue chan, named by first amigurumi attempt. Am pretty pleased with her!

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Baby steps

Last night I started following an amigurumi (crocheted or knitted soft toy) pattern and am half way through my first kokeshi doll. She is a little wide, but there is a shape....don't want to say too much more as there are some things on the pattern I do not understand yet. It was very exciting for me and more so for Em, who took my first lop sided attempt off my hands to create a little will follow, but he has only one ear and is not ready to be photographed. I sat with the family and we all watched tv, but my hands were busy. Fantastic.
The link here shows the doll, as mine is bald at present, I am not sure what hair she will end up with!
John and I are off this weekend, sans enfants, about which I cannot help but fret, but they can manage. We are going to the Windsor area and to Forest Green. Lots of eating out with friends and a night away....

Friday, 13 November 2009

Me Time

Today I had the day off. It was pouring with rain and the roads are partially flooded outside town, but this was a big chance to have some me time and I went to Lewes, regardless! It is on the River Ouse and has an old part of town with a brewery, still making the local beer, and lots of antique and bric a brac shops. Even in the heavy rain, it was nice pottering around. Of course I went to the charity shops too and bought two pieces of blue and white china. I used to buy it all the time and have a few nice pieces, but of late I do not like to add to the considerable clutter of this house, nor do I like to part with my money! Something got me going and though and these are the purchases ( see above).

I had lunch overlooking the river....

I wanted to look at fabrics and get some inspirations for colour and projects and I wanted to take some photos too...the latter didn't happen till I got home.

Still, it was my first solo drive anywhere beyond Forest Row, I listened to Women's Hour on the radio on the way and was really cheered by a group of knitters talking about their exhibition. They have made life sculptures with their knitting and some of the stories they told were hilarious. One woman KNITTED a pair of SWIMMING TRUNKS ( the mind boggles and I am sure some parts itched!!), for her husband, but when he jumped into the pool, they expanded so much that it took both him and his wife to hold them up so that he could clamber out of the pool and rush into the cubicles to get changed!!

The rubbish bin, complete with baked beans heading for it, is from that exhibition. They knitted a bicycle, a lamp stand, a carpenter's bag and tools and a midwife's bag and its equipment to name a few things. I would love to see the display.

The day is not over and I am full of ideas, such a pity that meals have to be prepared and houses cleaned up!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Car sick

At lunch time yesterday the electronic fob for the car would not open it. I walked home to see Hannah, who was ill and off school, picked up the spare key grabbed something to eat and taxied back to town. At the end of the day the spare key would not open the car either. I called our service company to be told the policy had lapsed! So I walked home again. Sore feet but good for my diet.
Last night the girls had their 'launch party' for the Alice in Wonderland performance they are both appearing in in the new year, so we went there by taxi, and I came home, then went out again at 9:30 in another cab to get them. We are a one car family for a reason, we don't need two cars, but boy do I miss our one car when it is not well.
This morning I schlepped into town again and the service engineer charged up the battery for me, I put petrol in it and went home to let the engine run in our driveway while I sewed a bit more of the quilt. 30 minutes late for work, but with luck the car is going to be fine at lunch time.

Monday, 9 November 2009


I would love to make this blanket.
The only hitch is that I can't actually read a crochet pattern! Undeterred, I sat in front of the computer last night with my ball of wool from the charity shop and my spiffing new crochet hook and did my best to follow an online video tutorial. I tried three tutorials and it was beginning to make sense...only all three tutors had vastly different styles and terminology. The results weren't great, but it is definately worth perservering with.
On a more positive note, I managed to get all the ironing done and out of the way on Sunday morning and then just took the time to continue piecing together the hexagon quilt. Can't wait to get it together so that I have something to hand quilt!

Saturday, 7 November 2009


I must be a very lucky step-mother. My step son is intelligent, kind and easy going and never have I felt the least hostility or resentment from him. He lost his mother only two and a half years ago and whatever he went through, he did not act out on it. I find it hard to tell him off though! But I am getting better at asking him to give me a hand and to do his chores.
John on the other hand has more of a challenge. The girls push harder and test his patience a lot more. They are reluctant to respond, to help, to participate and to share and even more reluctant (one of them at least) to enquire of others how they are, feel, etc. Their world is quite narrow, at least to us looking in. One is almost tempted to label it shallow. But....part of me thinks that this is them going through that part of their lives and all that counts is 'mates' and having a good time and the rest of us are a bunch of nagging dullards.
Hope so. Hate it when those I love are not talking to each other.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Other people's Blogs

From time to time I search Google images for pictures of quilts. I like bright strong colours and love the fabric of Kaffe Fassett, although my own work is far more subdued. I also greatly admire women (they are usually women) who have a natural skill for putting together quilts on a machine, who cut well and who experiment with hues. One blog I found lately really appeals and it gets me into the mood to SEW.
I am not sure of the protocol of adding this to my own, but if you are at all into fabric, this is a nice one.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Sewing bee

We had our first sewing bee last night. Celia arrived with lots of samples and an old copy of an older book showing how to do them all! Hannah did not warm to the notion, but Em plodded on and did some running stitch and then a French Seam! (See above)

Hannah was then fired into planning a quilt with the names of all her friends stitched on to it...and by the end of the session she was happily sewing.

I was reluctantly sewing the hexagon quilt as I am keen to move on....yet another unfinished project looms. BUT once started it was very satisfying.

Next week we meet again and let's see how we get on then!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009


It was great having my parents to stay and horrible saying good-bye. Australia is a long way away.

The last week they were here I was on holiday. We enjoyed mild and mostly sunny weather for the week and did a lot. ( Here they are at East Court, situated on the Meridian Line which runs through the town)

We went to Forest Green in Surrey to a lovely pub called the Parrott Inn. There we met up with Mum's eldest sister and her husband. When I was a small child and was in boarding school in Belfast, they took care of me at the weekends as my parents were in Nigeria.

We visited Tunbridge Wells again, and Tesco's in Three Bridges...On Wednesday John and I took a day out for a date and went to London and the girls had a day with Grandma and Pappy.

Thursday was a day at home, tidying and cleaning mostly, - my parents rarely rest and are brilliant at keeping the house clean and tidy....and on Friday, at 3pm we got married!

We celebrated at home afterwards with champagne and then played on the Wii!
Dinner for 12 at the local Thai restaurant finished off the day.

On Saturday, Mum and I went with my friend Celia to a craft show, but ended up finding only show dogs at the venue. Nice, but not the same....We went to Wakehurst Place (National Trust) instead and browsed in the mist, the shop and had the obligatory coffee break.

On Sunday, my parents took us out for lunch at Dunnings Mill Inn, another good food venue in town. Home for tea, a short walk and then their taxi was here at 6pm.

Green Tomato Chutney

What do you do when there are not enough green tomatoes to make a green tomato chutney? Add red ones!
Most of these were from the vines...the photos have been on the camera for ages. Love the colours and the smell was superb!
These photos have not appeared in the order that they were uploaded, but the gist is clear...Still one jar of chutney left.

Friday, 23 October 2009


I am about to head off for a week's holiday from work. Can't wait. I feel as if I have not been able to give my parents much of my time and maybe get to do some nice things with them. They have been here so long and they leave at the end of next week and I have missed so much!
Will make a big effort to get some photos up here and of course of the wedding/registry office ceremony.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

water water everywhere

John is at home and now impatiently waiting for the doctor to sign him back to work. It seems that the most likely cause of the problem was Legionnaires Disease! [Legionnaires' disease causes a serious pneumonia (lung infection). You get the infection by breathing in droplets of water which contain Legionella bacteria. The earlier the illness is treated with antibiotics, the better the likely outcome. The illness is fatal in some cases. Pontiac fever is a milder illness caused by the same bacteria]. Given that John had been in hotels, on planes and in general exposed to airconditioning for 12 days on his last trip to the Middle East, there are lots of places that he could have picked it up.
Anyway...yesterday a water pipe burst in the pavement infront of our neighbour's house. It seems that various residents in the street had been reporting it from 2:30 pm, but not a word from the water company. In my job I speak to all the utilities suppliers, almost daily! So I rang to add to the furore! They promised to deal with it and then I mentioned that all the houses on the leak side of the road were actually below street level and I would hate to think what would happen if water ran down into garages and living rooms.........there was someone there to plug up the leak within an hour! By bedtime the job was done and the water service we lost for about 2 hours was back on. Nice.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Blue Light Ambulance

Well, life is never dull.

We had a great weekend last week.... My mother was 71 on Friday 9th, so on Saturday my brother and his girlfriend came from London to celebrate. We made this fantastic lamb dish and served it with roasted potatoes and calabrese (a variety of broccolli)

For dessert we baked a raspberry cheesecake, using our own raspberries. There was champagne, wine and a lot of laughs.

On Sunday, John and I drove to West Berkshire, 1 and 1/2 hours away, for lunch. We met the Hidens and Goegehans at a pub called Langley Hall Inn in a place called World's End. It was a great day out, the food was excellent and so was the beer, although the women were designated drivers for the day, so we did not drink!

On Monday my parents left for a week in France and John reported feeling a bit unwell, which we put down to a big weekend, but as the day wore on he got worse and by the afternoon he was on the train back from London in agony.

I picked him up from the station and took him to the Queen Victoria Hospital in town, which does not have an A & E, only a minor unjuries unit. They put him on an ECG machine and said that it was not his chest, but he was gasping and very distressed. They called for a blue light ambulance to take him to the hospital in Tunbridge Wells. I was asked to drive on ahead to meet him there. I got all the way to T'Wells and was called by the hospital in East Grinstead to say that the ambulance had taken him to East Surrey hospital in Redhill, another 30 minutes on the other side of EG!!

By the time I had picked up Adam from home and found John in the emergency ward in the hospital, he was on morphine. It was 2 am before he saw a doctor and he has now been in hospital for 5 seems he has a chest infection and that he will be released today.

What a week. We have been going to see him every night. He is bored and tired as it is a surgical assessment ward so people are always being brought in and then taken out.

The week has been so strange. There is no routine, nothing is getting done and I cannot wait til he is home and we can go back to normal...

Friday, 9 October 2009

Red Tape

John and I went to the Crawley Registry Office on Wednesday to put in our paperwork. It was not very straightforward as we did not realise that we had to have an appointment. I managed to get someone lovely to agree to see us at 12:30 and we were interviewed seperately and had to sign a declaration that we are both free to marry.
We have set the date for October 30th at 3 pm!! If there are no complications with my paperwork (the japanese/english parts) it should go ahead then.

Friday, 2 October 2009

the knot

Since the last post I have had a few messages from people who did not realise that we are not yet married! Hope it is not a blow, but given the circumstances, only two months after the death of John's ex wife, it was not easy to rush things. We have always wanted to get married, and intended to when we got the children settled, work settled, the house sorted out etc.
In a way it is nice to be at this stage in life! It means we have all reached a state where the rite of marriage can take place! I cannot say though that the house is sorted out, that is still a work in progress.
John comes back from the Middle East next week and we will be able to set the date then. I will make sure we put some photos up of the event....

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Tying the knot

John and I are getting married.....we have had one attempt at this before and it just was not possible to get all the paperwork arranged in time for our ceremony in Hong Kong, so we 'committed' to each other in the garden of a friend and had a wonderful party.
This time, we are cutting it fine again! We hope to be able to arrange the paperwork in time to visit the local registry office while my parents are here in England. The last week of October is the target. I will keep you posted.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

impromptu party

Emily and some friends went out for pizza at lunchtime on her birthday then came back to our place for Banoffee pie...made by moi! Hannah had been swimming with her girlfriend and so we had 6 rather screechy young women in the house. They tucked into cake and drinks and as I was cooking dinner and most of them were making plans to be collected by parents it came to pass that they were all staying for said dinner!! Adam arrived home in time to quickly change and go out with Ben, who got some of the girls a titter as he is 'so fit'!! In the end Adam and I both ate from the meal, Japanese curry and it was great. So Em ended up having a party and it was a very nice day.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Emily is 13

Tomorrow our youngest, Emily will be 13. We will have three teenagers in the house! I am not sure if saying this here will put a hex on us, but they are for the most part not neaderthol-like; messy, yes very, noisy, sometimes, all like loud sometimes tuneless music, don't like doing chores, argue, but they are lovely people, with opinions and ideas and dreams and plans and all have a good sense of humour! They talk to us about their lives and I for one don't feel as if I have no idea what is going on all the time!

No big plans for the birthday girl as we took her and a friend to Thorpe Park last weekend She has asked for Japanese curry and a banoffee pie for her birthday dinner and will be having lunch with some girl friends in Pizza Express tomorrow. Cool.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

More scraps

I love charity shops. More than antique shops! I was in the St Catherine's Hospice place the other day and noticed some glass storage jars. I like glass, because I like to see what is in them and it makes a food cupboard look more exciting if you can see orange lentils and brown sultanas and different shaped pasta. So I bought four! At £4.50 for the lot that is good value; one new one can cost more! Today I went to collect them and was having a further poke around. I look for jackets, shoes, bags, jewelry and in the curtains/fabric piles. Today I found a bag of tiny hexagon pieces stitched into flowers. They are beautiful colours and about 1/4 of the size of my pieces at home. The fabric is for soft furnishings, curtains etc and some of them are stunning. I snapped them up and counted about 35 of them when I got back to the office. Many are missing the centres and as the material is quite heavy, finishing this off might be more of a challenge than usual. But I have had an idea that these little pieces could form a centre piece for a larger quilt....mmmm

I also bought a great little mulberry coloured jacket that fits snugly and is a little feminine! All for £10.50. I love to get a bargain!

Julie and Julia and Liz?

John and I went to see the film about the American Chef, Julia Child and her passion for food and cooking. It was funny and warming, although Meryl Streep seems to have mastered only one facet of Julia Child's personality....there must have been more to her than portrayed. BUT, the feeling I had when we left was one of slight envy. Only in that Julie Powell found her life's work, her passion, her calling through something that she liked to do, which was cooking. I told John how I was feeling and he rather sagely said, 'well, find yours...'
I would if I could. I love writing, but what about? Me is not very thrilling and having tried, (I did the NaNoWriMo National Novel Writing Month - challenge a few years ago) to write stories, found that hard. I love quilting, cooking, gardening and speaking Japanese. So how do I do what I love to make a living?

Plod on!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Japan Matsuri 2009

This year marks 150 years of trade/relations between Japan and the UK and to celebrate, a festival (matsuri) was held in Spitalfields in London on Saturday. Emily and Hannah have hand made yukatas (summer kimonos - beautifully made by their grandmother) so they decided to wear them. Unfortunately for Hannah, her best friend's birthday party clashed time-wise, so in the end, Emily, her friend Caity and I went up to the city. Caity borrowed Hannah's yukata and they looked great. It was my first time to tie them into one and coincidentally, Mum S had called from Yokohama the night before. She gave me lots of advice about how to do it, but it is easier said than done! Anyway, you can see the result here.

Fab festival. So many stalls selling things like tako yaki, kara-age, dorayaki, beer, sake, was wonderful. Caity now says her favourite food is tako yaki! It was however, CROWDED, in true festival tradition. There were lots of performers and performances and noise.

I loved being able to talk in Japanese and to eat the food and have an ice cold beer with my brother who joined us.

The girls were constantly being asked to pose for photos and were interviewed by one TV crew...pity we don't know which one!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Autumn Bliss

The air and light change subtly through the seasons and now in the mornings the sun hangs lower over the neighbours fence. The air is colder, and seems more sharp. Of course leaves are changing colour, more of a giveaway, but it is those tiny changes that I love best.
The first two winters here were hard. I hated the long dark days and the period when the ground was frozen and nothing grew. It is different now. We have had a great crop of fruit and veg this year and the soil, plants and trees now need to rest. I have planted up strawberry runners to over-winter, some fuschias and have taken seeds from sweet peas, and other annuals for next year.
In the long nights I want to sew and cook and read. A friend and I are going to start a sewing circle, just two of us! I want to learn to crochet so that I can make one of those lovely multi coloured rugs that my granny used to make... I also want to finish the quilts and use the sewing machine. It had its first run this week and behaved like a very old lady! Stopping and starting and dithering over stitches. By the end we got the motor really revving, so are hoping the next attempt will be better. Having said that it was a bit stop and go, I did get to downsize a double duvet cover for Em's new bed!!
Finally, the Autumn Bliss raspberry canes are providing fruit daily. I freeze them as I pick them so that we can make a vibrant dessert from them when things look a bit grey!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

End of August

One of the tasks I had set during August was to get Hannah's room painted. Both girls complain that their rooms do not feel like their own, so it was time to make a mark.
Hannah chose green, a pale one for three walls and a darker one for one. It is almost a macha colour (green tea). The result was calming and as I did all the painting and it is the second room I have ever painted, it was pleasing to me too. I did learn how NOT to do certain things. Every day after work while the light was still good I painted. It was all done before the last weekend in the month.
We then scooted up to Whitley Bay for a long weekend. We took turns driving up on Friday night, but after 5 hours on the road we stopped at Scotch Corner for the night. The Scotch Corner Hotel has always appealed to John, but I have to say...well. First of all we were in the bowels of the hotel, the room was smelly with mold and the bed hard. The view was of a Biffa skipp overflowing with rubbish! We had a good laugh at it all but did wake fresher than if we had been on the road til midnight and they do a good breakfast.

I went out for coffee with John's mum when we got to the house and then had to have a rest! Not that she is hard going, but the night was going to be long....we went to a 50th birthday party of one of John's school mates.
Out in the country, located beside a pub(!), the house was lovely. The food was delivered by a fish and chip van and we had to line up and place our orders. Dessert was an ice-cream van, so we had 99's with sauce!
It was fun, with lots of dancing and drinking and some of us were a little delicate the next day.

On the Sunday we took John's parents out for lunch in the Scottish border country at a town called Yetholm We had a delicious shoulder of lamb with red cabbage, carrots and mashed pototoes, at the pub shown in the link here, but the meal would have fed two. John and I then took to the hills and climbed one of the crags to work off some of the calories. It was lovely up there, two of us, sky above and only the odd munching sheep around.
Back to EG on Monday, again both of us driving and just in time to move some of Hannah's furniture back into her room.

It was a brilliant month, we saw so many friends but we had lots of time together as well.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

What happened to August? 2

After Devon, the girls left for three weeks in Japan. They flew to Narita alone for the first time. A good experience for them both. We did not hear much from them, which is great, as they were having a wonderful time. Their father took them to Kyoto for a few days, a lovely but hot city to visit in the summer.
While they were away, John and I had a really blissful period with just the two of us. (Adam was around, but mostly out.) It is the longest we have been alone together since we met....makes you wonder how we decided that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together with fleeting visits, emails and on line chatting!!

Anyway, August...

We met up with some of John's FCO friends in London. First time for me to meet the people he started his career with. A fun and liquid night.

Then we had friends around for a barbeque. Just four of us, but again, good food, wine and company.

We drove to Nottinghamshire for a weekend. (pics to follow when the camera comes back from Spain. It is there with Hannah at present). Lunch with a friend from LA then a joint 50th and 21st birthday party for a mother and son, Valerie and Greg, friends from Hong Kong. I met some of John's friends that he had promised were lovely and they were!

We spent the next day by a canal watching narrow boats coming through locks. What a life. I was on-line that night checking out narrow boat holidays!

Then back to EG and work....

Friday, 11 September 2009

What happened to August? 1

It whizzed past, but we had a great month. A week in Devon started wet, but ended in sunshine and waves. The surf is good there. We also went fishing, John, Emily and I went while Hannah went off with her friend to the beach. The mackerel fishing was fun but only John was successful. Em caught one only to have it leap off the hook as she reeled it in. We had the fish for breakfast! Devon is hilly and quaint and there seems to be a lot of farm between villages. The north coast is national park and is stunning. Hope you like these pictures.
More to follow.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The secret order of the lunch time revellers.

We went to Rowfant House, which is very local, for a great lunch with some friends this weekend. It was held by a branch of a branch of a masonic arm, and as we were being told what it was, all I could think of was Harry Potter! We were standing in a huge hall with two long tables set for dozens of people and on the wall was a draped cloth decorated with ivy and lights. I half expected Dumbledore to shuffle in!

However, it was a really good day, even without wizards. One can become a member and John and I are looking to do that as it is a lovely place to take friends for a meal. They even have a pudding club on Wednesday afternoons.....sounds good.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009


The first potatoes are ready, in fact have been for a while...but we are not short of supermarket ones for now, so the home grown version are still in the ground.
I picked the first golden courgette this week, it is a huge thing, have to eat it soon while it is still fresh. Pity that most of the family are not really fans of them.
There are about 5 carrots ready to come up and the tomatoes, bless them are plodding along. Frustratingly, as I have been tending to their every whim!

Monday, 13 July 2009

The gift quilts

Here they are on our bed. Ohio star and the pale little hexagons. I am working on the latter at present and aim to make it lap/single bed sized. I am also adding some slightly more vibrant colour combinations to give it some energy.

Unfinished Objects----UFO's

Here are mine:
A large Hawaiian quilt cut for me by Kathy Nakajima in Kamakura. Those of you in Japan may know her as a 'talent'...but she is probably better known for her quilts.

It is monsterio leaves, protea flowers and other flora that one finds in Australia (and Hawaii...)

You can see that I have started quilting it from the centre and have a long way to go.

The second one is a quilt I machine pieced from pieces of antique and new Japanese indigo fabric. Some of it belonged to the girls' great grandfather. It is pieces of his jimbei! This needs wadding and a back and the quilt lines are day!

Friday, 10 July 2009

Daily thread

Since the quilts have arrived there has not been a day when I have not sewed...bliss. This weekend I am driving John and the girls to Dorking in Surrey to practice the drive for when Francoise comes. There is a quilt shop there, but to be fair, it is a pretty looking market town and we want to take the girls shopping.
Plan to post some pictures of the quilts this weekend.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Bitten by a bug

It has been years since I have done any sewing, despite just buying a second hand Singer!! There are two unfinished quilts at home and some fabric that I have carried with me from Japan, but until last week it was all in the loft.

The girls and I went to a boot fair at Marsh Green in Kent and before going, went through the fabric stash to see what we could sell.
There are pieces of their great grandfather's jimbei (pajama like men's wear) with tiny patches stitched into them where the cloth wore thin. There are obi's and a wedding kimono and lots of bits intended for various unfinished projects. We had a good day at the boot sale and got rid of many clothes, but no one wanted the material.

Not preturbed, I then went off to Tunbridge Wells with a friend and bought a pattern and something to make some trousers with!!!! (Still haven't tested the machine yet!)

It gets worse. I have also been on the look-out for a full sized floor frame for hand quilting as both my quilts are very large, and just for luck I advertised for unwanted, unfinished quilt tops.

Yesterday a woman and her husband dropped over to the house when I was at work and John was at home and left for me two beautiful tops and her fabric stash. One is an Ohio Star pattern, almost complete, double bed sized in navy and pinks and blues. The other is a hexagon strip of 'flowers' in pale lilac...even if the colours are not ones I would have chosen, the work is beautiful. All the pieces are on paper and the stitches are so small and neat I thought they had been sewn on a machine. The lady has lost the sight in one eye and is losing the other eye as well. She wanted the work to go to someone who would get joy from it and would not take any money. I was completely moved by the gift and am really looking forward to sewing the remaining pieces together over the next few months.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Heat goes on

Loving it. Last night we were hankering after fresh cool soya beans for our salad. I think the Japanese do 'hot weather food' so well.

We toyed with the idea of growing eda mame this year, but frankly they look as if they need a lot of space, at least to get enough of them to really enjoy. Maybe next year.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Little Gem

I adore poppies and this one blossomed yesterday in the front garden. It is a ladybird poppy, aptly named with those black spots. It is far smaller than expected, some varieties are big and blousy, but not this little thing.

Hot English Summer

It is fantastic. It feels like Australia, those bright, bright days, warm before breakfast and swealtering by lunch time!

Last night we were all craving something cold and sharp to eat, and the thought of cooking was not pleasant, so we made hiyashi chuka...cold Chinese noodles.
I even found a reciped for the dressing and it was so good the girls said it was like being in heaven!
Fired up by this nostalgic culinary success, the next sauce on the agenda is ponzu!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

John, Adam, David and I went to see two international Twenty20 matches at The Oval in London at the beginning of the month. I am not a die-hard cricket fan, but a Twenty20 is shorter, faster and you know when it is going to end. (Each side gets 20 overs each, an over being 6 bowls...)

We saw South Africa play and beat Scotland and England vs Pakistan. England won, John was happy.

We drank beer and sipped Pimms, very English but was SEVEN POUNDS per pint....

Monday, 22 June 2009

Camera up and working at last.

Finally we have replaced the battery charger for the camera (thanks, John) and blogging can continue..It is hard without pictures.

MUCH has been going on but life is full of living.

Yesterday, Father's Day in the UK...(not in Australia!), we picked most of the cherries off the tree. For weeks it has been shrouded in the net curtain we took off our bedroom window to keep the birds from getting at the fruit. Some losses, but the crop itself was fabulous. More than 100 berries, we got 6 last year I think!

After a very gooey banoffee pie for dessert we all had a bowl of cherries each. Nothing like home grown fruit and veg.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

John and I went away for a weekend in April and had a great time. We set off for Whitstable in Kent and enroute visited Wye Farmer's Market, just as it was closing, but J managed to get some delicious pork and leek sausages which came with us on our trip!

My reason for wanting to go to Whitstable is because the protagonist from Sarah Waters's novel, Tipping the Velvet, was from an oyster selling family and I wanted to see the place for myself. Highly recommend the book and the BBC series.

Oysters are still farmed there and it is a busy fishing port. We walked aroung the docks and had a fresh oyster with a squeeze of lemon each, divine.

It was Grand National Day, so we picked or horses very scientifically over some fish and chips and laid our bets at the betting shop. The TAB to most Aussies, but something else here. We put £10.00 each way on two horses and came in 2nd and 4th, so made a fiver. We watched the race in a local pub with a rowdy crowd that got noisier and noisier, we were happy to get out and collect our winnings.

The rest of the trip was spent in Canterbury and driving along the Kent coast. Canturbury we only saw in the evening and it is a buzzing town, so we plan to go back there and explore more slowly some day.

Just love getting away.

Monday, 30 March 2009


Last week I got a call saying that I had won a 7 night luxury holiday for 4 people in a European destination....the only thing I had to do to claim my prize was to attend a 2 hour seminar in London on in fact, I was going to have to sit through a sales pitch on buying a time-share property in Europe and if I was really patient I would get the 'free' holiday (£29.50 per person booking fee, plus airport tax on top...). I chose Spain and we were all quite excited until I started reading the forum on the site that I belong to. In the end it felt wrong and we decided not to go. The kids were a bit sad, they loved the idea of luxury and holiday in one package, but we could afford to go regardles, and would not have to be at the mercy of the local sales team in Spain. Good thing we decided not to anyway as John forgot to put the clock back and we lost an hour on Sunday!!

We may not be going to Spain, but we did win £18.00 in the school raffle...that is a nice prize, the cheque was hand-delivered to the house....something real!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

The Sun

continues to shine almost daily although the wind is strong and cold. It is a bit like the spring wind in Japan. Haru no ichiban! The Vernal Equinox marks the first day of spring here, and it was lovely. John Emily and I went to a local nursery where we looked at so many lovely plants, but came away with compost and manure and two small beech trees to make a hedge...Em bought me some daikon seeds for Mother's day and we spent ages over the weekend planting seeds, planting out seedlings and filling up my garden bed with more nice things. Even Hannah put some seeds in!
David, my brother, came for the afternoon on Saturday and he and John watched cricket and rugby, culminating in the Ireland vs Wales game, which Ireland won to take the 6 Nations Grand Slam . It was pretty exciting.
Adam had his end of term gig this weekk and played with three different bands. He is very at home on stage and obviously gifted and popular with his peers. His girlfriend, Anna, has an amazing voice and they were great performing together. John was bursting with pride.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Two Years

Two years ago today we arrived at an icy Heathrow at about 7:30 in the morning and were picked up by a friend of John's and brought here to West Sussex. There was snow on the ground, but daffodils and other flowers in bloom. The house was cold and had been unlived in for some time. Karen had passed away only two months before. We walked into the town to see the Tudor buildings in the High Street and then drove to Tunbridge Wells to buy sheets and pillows. It was surreal.
Today it is warm and sunny and John is in London more busy than every nuturing the Olympics Legacy. Adam is having his first driving lesson. The girls are lovely and Bosley has been sitting in a muddy box in the garden, sunning himself. I am in the office, but my heart is out there!!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Who am I kidding? Work is for the birds...

Three days of sunshine and I so do not want to be in the office. I have been going home at lunch time to see if any new seedlings have come up, since the last time I looked before leaving for work.....!!!
Em and I potted up some veg seeds and left them in the conservatory and since then I have been fretting about the temperature and hoping for signs of life. The only thing that has shown is a chilli plant...not exactly the most needed of veg. Today I rang the seed company that I ordered strawberry plugs from to chivvy them along, only to discover they had not processed the order.....horror. The plants are now on their way. A packet of seeds has arrived from UK's famous kid's show Blue Peter, they are hoping that people will work to attract more bees to their gardens.
I have a half day off on Thursday this week and plan to go to the garden centre and to a local nursery to buy manure and compost and some more plants. Maybe even some canes to grow bortolli beans and for the raspberries.
There is no doubt, I would far rather not have to work.......

Monday, 16 March 2009

Sunshine at last

The weather has been fantastic, and it really lifts ones mood to see the sun. I worked on Saturday but was keen to get home and into the garden, but ended up not finding the time!!
John and I went to dinner at La Ferola, a Spanish restaurant and tapas bar in town to celebrate two years since our commitment ceremony!! Fabulous food, veal cutlets and a steak and very crispy white bait for entree. We didn't have desert. We walked home and watched a film with Adam and Anna.
On Sunday morning, John shut himself away to work and I got the wellies on and did some of the chores.
I turned the compost in the big new bin. Looking good, not wet and sloppy and not smelly!
The achillea in the front was getting bunched up so that was split and planted out. A new fuchsia 'Blacky' was potted up and the others all trimmed. I also put a daisy, probably an osteopermum into the front bed.
It is looking more like a garden, but there is a long way to go.

On Sunday we went for lunch to the fabulous Dim Sum restaurant in the Wing Yip complex in Croydon with friends, Chris and Judy. Good food, great company. Then followed a quick trip to Furniture Village to see Jane, John's sister and back home for the usual Sunday night round of chores and jobs to get us started for the week.

The weather is still great today and may continue to be so this week.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

RHS Wisley

John and I went to Wisley on Sunday, an RHS garden, and it was brilliant. Every thing that grows has a label, so if you see something that appeals, you can find out what it is. They were having a 'Grow Your Own' weekend and we wanted to see if we could learn anything. The veg growing talks were not until later in the day and we planned to stay for only a while, but still got a lot out of it. I realised that I do really want to study more and may actually go into it, so more about that later.

Since then, I have planted some carrot, lettuce and cucumber seeds and have got scabiosa, achillea and chilli seedlings coming up in the conservatory. I planted garlic and rhubarb in the veg patch too!

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Recession, coffins and smelling the roses

Recession is the mood and while it is true that job security has gone for many, people can't borrow money, interest rates on savings are barely existent and shops and pubs are closing in every town in England, it makes me feel fairly angry that there is only negative press. Papers only sell when the headlines scream bad news, no one wants to read good news. We all love to know that we are better off than someone else and few of us want to feel that others might be doing well when we are struggling. Lovely lot we all are.

Recession busting guides have become trendy and it takes me back to the 90s in Japan when there was a huge trend on being 'ketchy' (miserly). Books, magazines and TV shows were all about how to shop, cook, eat and live cheaply. Some channels even ran competitions to see how little people could spend in a month.

People recycled and as a nation, you have to hand it to them for innovative ideas, there were books on how to make storage containers, kids furniture, book cases, you name it from old milk cartons, bread bags, vegetable boxes, anything,

I was caught up in it all. I scrimped and saved and made do and it did us no harm, but when I saw homes featured on the box with all their reused milk cartons, it made me depressed. The best ever, was the elderly couple who made his and hers coffins from used cartons. His is green ones (skimmed-milk) and hers in red....(full cream milk). They were propped up against the living room wall in their modest (cluttered) home, ready for the day in which they would carry the makers out!!

When things went belly up here, it was no hardship to adjust and we have all done well. But I get tired of the 'we have to make do because we have so little' feeling. I much prefer the 'enjoy what we have and anything left over is deserved' outlook.

For Lent this year, my plan is to live within my means, show some self restraint and conserve energy while working to prepare the seeds/seedlings for the vegetable plot.

No coffees from the shop, packed lunch every day, planned shopping trips, and most important, to THINK about the choices we are making. To ENJOY the days.

Recession is good if it makes us slow down and contemplate how we live, it gives us time to smell the roses...

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Soda Bread

This is Irish bread, made without yeast and it is delicious.

Try this recipe if you like. Em and I made some last night and it is great.

250gm plain flour

10gm salt

15gm bicarbonate of soda

250gm wholemeal flour

150gm jumbo oat flakes (we used oatmeal)

2tbsp clear honey

2tbsp black treacle

500 ml buttermilk (we used semi skimmed with a good squeeze of lemon juice in it)

Preheat oven to 200C or gas mark 6. Line a baking sheet with cooking paper. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and then mix in the honey, treacle and buttermilk, working everything together lightly with your hands, until you have a loose, wet dough. (IT WAS VERY WET AND LOOSE AND HARD TO HANDLE, SO WE MIXED WITH A SPOON)

With floured hands shape the dough into a round and lift on to the lined baking sheet. With a knife mark a cross in the top.

Put into the oven and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the base. Transfer to a wire rack, drape a damp cloth over the top and leave to cool.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Robin Redbreast

Without a doubt my favourite British bird is the robin. They are cheeky, territorial and often very tame. Gardeners all over the country have their robin stories, and in many cases, their own robin. John often gets followed around the flower beds by one here who will sit on the blade of the spade when John is only feet away. It's on the lookout for worms, and sounds as if it's getting cross if it has to wait too long for food.

Last week we saw a pair of them on the back fence, they nest in a tree in the neighbours garden and come here to feed. I am hoping we see the young this year.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

some weather

Winter is cold in the UK, so too is the summer, both tend to be wet and for the last two years we have experienced more rain than we could imagine. Then this year we had snow. Lots of deep, fluffy, quiet snow. The heaviest falls in 18 years. Schools were closed for two days, trains were not running to London, so all kids and John were at home and I plodded into work with my wellingtons on and had to leave early before ice formed and the footpaths became dangerous. Locals organised a mass snowball fight on the green and Bosley the cat was delighted, he jumped in it and played and when Em went into the garden to build a giant snowman he spent the entire time outside with her. We were all sad when it turned to rain. Despite the impact on the economy it was a hoot. The girls, Adam, his friend and I got into a big snowball fight near the railway track with some boys from the high school. What a laugh. People were talking and friendly, kids played outside and there was a real feeling of peace!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009


This is the first entry for 2009, hello all and Happy New Year. Back to blogging after a strenuous end to 2008. One by one we fell ill, John was in bed for a full week, then the girls, and finally in fits and starts me. Adam is the only one who did not succumb.

We did two Christmas dinners, one with Adam cooked by me, and one without him cooked by John. What bliss it was to be out of the kitchen all day. But how lucky we are to have 2 bashes at Christmas dinner.

I had a few short days at work and then we drove NORTH for the year's end. It was action packed. In typical Whitley Bay fashion, Nancy cooked for England and fed us wonderful food. The cousins got along, John and I caught up with friends and had a 'date' in Newcastle, such a beautiful town. New Year's Eve we all danced at the rugby club and Adam by this time had joined us from Manchester. On January 2nd John turned 50 and there was more food, family and drink to celebrate with him.

We got back to EG on January 4th and preparations started for John's 50th party. Held here, we cooked for and entertained 27 people, many friends that John has only been able to catch up with since he got back to the UK. It was, I say modestly, a great day, but I was still not well and while the last of the guests lingered in the conservatory, I snoozed in the living room while the remaining children played on the Wii!!