Thursday, 31 July 2014

Back Home

After 10 days spent in Southern Italy, we are now back home and in the throes of getting back to normal.

We had a lovely time, starting off with a night in the city of Bari on the south east coast of Italy.  It was a lovely city with a lovely old town area which very much reminded us of the ancient medinas in Morrocco.  There are relics of Saint Nicholas in a church here, brought from Turkey many centuries ago.  The old part of the city contained lots of small streets in which you could lose yourselves exploring.  We didn't manage to get lost thankfully, but did enjoy perusing some of the small shops.  This fabulous deli caught our eye with it's wonderful window display of meats and cheeses.

After a morning in Bari, we headed off to drive across the country to our rented villa on the Calabrian coast.  It was situated on a hillside and had breathtaking views of the sea and coast below.

Once there, most days fell into a pattern of mornings on the beach reading, swimming, sunbathing, then back to the villa for lunch, relaxation and a swim in the pool, before heading out to explore the surrounding area.   It was very restful (mosquitoes aside) and allowed us to fully recharge our batteries.  Southern Italy is very rugged and beautiful and for the most part very unspoilt by tourism or artifice.  The simplicity of life there was inspiring.

The weather was initially a little changeable with thunderstorms and lightning, followed by bright, hot sunny days, but we didn't let the former deter us, despite nearly getting blown off the beach one day, literally.  We took off the odd day to explore other towns or do a spot of shopping, food mainly.  I do enjoy shopping in supermarkets abroad.  The differences in the foods for sale in them fascinate me.  Call me strange, but particularly the flavours of yoghurts.  I discovered a new favourite - almond - heavenly.

We had a little visitor to our villa most days, his name was Bobby, although we called him lots of different names before we found out his real one.  

He would pop up to see us every lunchtime, probably for a few titbits, and would hang around for a while until we went out.  He was a sweetie with a toothy grin, which I wasn't able to capture on film.  When I first met him I wasn't sure if he was smiling or going to bite me.  Thankfully it was the former.  One particularly stormy day, we also had a visit from a couple of kittens, who camped out on the veranda to keep out of the storm.  Sweet. 

They all helped us not to miss our doggy so much, but we did get regular updates on her too, via text message.

At the end of our week in the villa we headed off to visit Salerno, the ruins at Pompeii and a small stretch of the Amalfi coast, before spending a couple of nights in Naples.  These busy cities brought our feet back down to earth and we explored as much as we could in the time that we had available, before heading back to Bari to catch our flight home.

Despite having had a lovely holiday, nothing beats the feeling of returning home to the comfort of your own bed and familiar surroundings.  We're all back home again now.  The dog is getting back used to us.  She's had a fabulous holiday too, with lots of doggy friends to keep her company.  I'm now looking forward to enjoying what is left of the summer in this country.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Last Minute Preparations

A bit of a double post today to make up for the next 10 days.  Thursday was a day spent completing last minute tasks from my list, that I hadn't yet got around to.  Mostly related to scheduled listings for my small business and sending off last minute orders. I managed to get it all done on OH's laptop, but I did have to spend ages poring through all the photos on my camera, so that I didn't upload lots of unnecessary ones onto his machine.  Talk about time consuming, there were two years worth on there!

As the dog was going to the dog sitter yesterday, I had my last pre-holiday walk with her, so I wanted to make it a good one, despite the heat.  It wasn't uneventful, especially when having let her off the lead, she headed straight for a man lying fast asleep in the middle of the park, and proceeded to sniff his crotch.  He didn't wake up fortunately, as I hate to think what he might have done waking up to find a dog sniffing his nether regions.

OH took our lovely mischievous doggie off to the sitter in the afternoon.  We all said our our goodbyes.  We hate leaving her behind when we go away.  Thankfully for us, she doesn't look back once she gets to the sitter's house, as she has doggy company there and she loves it.  It helps us to let go I guess.

That was when the real work started.  The remainder of the day and evening was spent doing a few last wash loads, ironing, bin emptying (collection day tomorrow), garden tidying and watering (later rendered unnecessary by a subsequent downpour overnight) and other last minute preparations before we disappear on holiday.  I decided to wash some of my hand made quilts, so that I could put them away until the autumn/winter.  I've been meaning to do it for a while now and the weather was perfect for it.  Unfortunately they were left out overnight and soaked through again so my first job this morning was spinning them to get the worst of the water out.  I'm relieved that they seem to have fared well enough in the wash though, just a slight bit of fading on one.  I'm going to do one last load of bedding and towels this morning and then I should have a virtually empty washing basket, until we get back that is.

I still have a couple of jobs left on my list to do today, the first one being a quick visit to the allotment before we go.  I no longer needed to water on account of the rain overnight, but I did need to check there were no courgettes to harvest or they'll be huge marrows by the time I get back.  On visiting the allotment there was very little needed doing. Hopefully there will be lots of lovely things ready to harvest when I get back instead of things gone over.  The final thing I need to do will be Little Bird's leaving assembly in the afternoon and soon after that we'll be setting off.  I don't think  I'll be blogging during our holiday, as it is good to take a break and get a proper rest.  I will, however, probably still be reading and commenting from time to time.  Have a good week.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

B is for .......................Bananagrams

Do you have a favourite family game that you like to get together and play? 

Our current favourite is Bananagrams.  I bought it for OH a couple of Christmases ago, as we enjoyed playing Scrabble and this game seemed similar, but easier to take away with us on our travels.

If you've never played, it is played along similar lines to Scrabble, in that you have to make words with small tiles with letters printed on them, but unlike scrabble there is no scoring in this game.  It is a simple case of a race on the part of all the players, to individually use up all of the tiles.  Whoever manages to use every one of their tiles first, making legitimate words in a crossword type configuration, when there are no more tiles left in the pool, is the winner.   That's the way we tend to play it anyway, but there are a couple of different options in the instruction booklet.

We really enjoy playing this game, especially when we go on holiday, visit relatives and sometimes at home.  It's small enough to pop into your luggage and take with you and you don't even need a pen and paper to score the words.  We'll be taking it with us to Italy and no doubt will play during our holiday.  Little Bird quite likes it as it's easier for younger players in that they don't have to try to get the highest scores possible with their tiles, they just need to use them all up as quickly as possible to make words.  Here's a picture of our set. 

As you can see from the photograph, the whole game packs neatly into a little zippable banana pouch.  Ideal for travel.  It's looking a bit battered and grubby, but that's just a sign of our love for it.

Joining in with Mum at Mum's Simply Living in blogging using the alphabet backwards.

NOTE:   I have NOT been sponsored for this post and any opinions offered are my own.  This is just a game we own and enjoy playing, that might appeal to readers of this blog.

Computer Glitch

It's just as well I won't need my computer for the next week or so, as for the last week it has been a little on the tempramental side.  The main problem is that some of the keys keep sticking and I just can't use them.  Even blowing out the dirt and dust and jiggling my finger on the key does no good anymore and I fear that it might have had it's day.  I've had it a few years, 3 or 4 to be exact, which doesn't sound long actually when it's written down.  It's making me think it is perhaps 'inbuilt obsolescence' at work, which is particularly apt considering my post yesterday.  Or maybe I've just worn them out.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that the full stop is one of the keys not working, I'm not actually able to access much at all on my computer, as I can't put the essential dot in any website address, which has frankly rendered it useless for the time being.  At times like this I am grateful for my phone which now thankfully has internet access, so that I can at least continue to blog read.

As a consequence of the above, I am having to use OH's laptop when I can, which is very nice and all that, but just not my trusty (or not so trusty) old machine, whose keys are so familiar and comfortable to me.  On this new machine, I'm making lots of typing errors and having to constantly correct them as it has a larger keyboard, which I'm finding a bit frustrating.  I wonder if I give my little machine a holiday too,  it will come back refreshed and working properly once again.  I do hope so.  If you don't hear from me for a while, chances are I'm probably lost in the annals of an electrical store somewhere, shopping for my next machine.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

To Consume or not to Consume - That is the Question

The other day, whilst standing at the ironing board, trying to catch up with the mound of ironing that built up last week whilst I'd been gallivanting about, I watched a programme I'd recorded at the weekend.  It was called 'The Men Who Made Us Shop' and was a programme about the men who introduced the notion of built in obsolescence into domestic and other manufactured goods and those who found and continue to find new ways to encourage us to buy more than we actually need.  It was a great programme that I'd recommend anyone to watch, if you can catch it on iPlayer.   Absolutely fascinating.

Apparently, according to this programme, manufacturers do and have since the 1950's actually built obsolescence into their products, as we all knew, in order to maximise their profits.  A manuscript of a contract made between certain manufacturers at this time to do this, was actually found, and documented the exact details of this plan including the fines imposed on those that didn't stick to the rules. 

The programme went on to investigate this phenomena and it's ramifications for western societies, as well as look at how such practices have changed over the decades that have passed since.  Call me na├»ve, but this was jaw dropping, eye opening stuff.  I was particularly shocked, in respect of the case of printer cartridges, which are often programmed to tell you they are empty after a certain amount of printed pages, when they could in fact still print over 3 times as many pages.  Such waste seems completely immoral.  I must admit that we always ignore the printer when it tells us the cartridge is empty and just carry on using it until it physically isn't doing a good enough job and then it gets changed.

Anyway, after watching it, it did make me think, my goodness do I really need to aspire to buying the contents of John Lewis Home department, which is inevitably what happens when I go into the store, when I've got a perfectly lovely, well functioning home already.  The answer was simple, a resounding no.

Why then, when I popped out the other day did I find myself buying things I never intended to?  I must be an ad man's dream.  The purchases in question were from M&S.  I just happended to go in and catch the tail end of the July sales and a very nice pair of beige linen trousers and a smart black top in my size, were just crying out to be bought. After paying for them (on my credit card I'm afraid), I was then handed a voucher for 20% off hoisery.  The till must have known that I would then go and buy some black lycra tights for the winter (M&S being one of the best places to buy these) to get the benefit of said discount.  In all honesty, it was in my mind to buy some more black tights this autumn, as I've thrown a couple of pairs away this year, so I guess it doesn't make much difference when I buy them. 

With regard to the earlier two purchases, I console myself with the (probably mistaken) belief that I am building a better quality wardrobe at sales prices, as both were classic pieces that should last and last.  Unless, of course, the fickle finger of fashion points me in another direction!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Holiday Countdown

With just 3 days to go until we go on holiday, my focus has now turned to winding things down and packing what we need ready to go.  I managed to do most of washing and ironing in the last couple of days, so a few more things have been packed in my suitcase.  I've decide to roll most of my clothes up this time around and see if they crease less.  Not sure I'm convinced by this idea, that I've read in several  magazine articles on packing.  I'll give it a try though.  After a discussion with OH the other day, I think I've already packed too much, so I might have to go through my suitcase again and be a lot more ruthless.

Whilst out and about last week, I bought most of the toiletries and things that we needed for the holiday.  I just have a couple of other items to get this week.  I'm intending to treat us to new beach towels, as we haven't had any new ones since we last went to Italy over 10 years ago, before Little Bird was born. On this basis, I think that I could perhaps justify buying us some more.  If I don't get around to it, it isn't a big deal, as we'll just make do again.

I did the weekly food shop at Lidl earlier in the week and because I'm trying to use up what is in the freezer and cupboards this week,  it was pretty minimal and came in at around the £25 mark.  If only it was so low every week.

I have a list of tasks to complete this week before we go away and am hoping I manage to work my way through it without losing focus.  There's doctor's appointments to book and attend, prescriptions to get, bills to pay, the allotment to visit, the last couple of gym classes to attend, in addition to lots of things going on at the school with it being Little Bird's final week of Primary school. i.e. end of school production (in which she has a part), leavers' meal, leavers' assembly and school disco.  I'll need a holiday after all that.

The lovely weather is a bit of a distraction, but at least I should be able to get all my washing dry very quickly!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Project 52 - Week 26 - A Visit to Hampton Court Flower Show

I've fallen behind a little on this 52 Projects blogging challenge, but this week I did manage to complete one project that I've been meaning to do for a long time now.  Being quite a keen gardener and living in London, I have always wanted to visit Chelsea or Hampton Court Flower Shows, but in over 15 years of living in London, I have never got around to it.  This year, I was determined it was going to be different.

A little while ago, I decided to book myself and a friend tickets to the Hampton Court Flower Show.  The tickets were quite pricey at £30, but as it was a once a year event and as I didn't manage to get tickets for Wimbledon this year, I didn't worry too much about it.  What's the point of living in London, if I can't have the occasional day out at a special event.

Anyway, the tickets came through very quickly and before I knew it, it was the day of our visit.  My friend and I met and took the train.  It took us almost two hours from catching the train to actually get through the gate of the show, we did stop off in the beautiful walled vegetable garden at Hampton Court though.  My kind of garden.  As walled gardens go, it was huge. (This was less than half of it!) You would need an army of gardeners to keep on top of it, not to mention a few hundred to feed, to use all the produce.

As a little treat, I had ordered us each a Hampton Court Flower Show shopper when I bought the tickets, just in case we decided to buy some plants!  We had to collect these as we entered the show.  They were quite attractive, so I'll be using mine again.

The show site was pretty huge and quite overwhelming at first.  We found ourselves needing to buy a brochure to find our way around, which at £4.50 was a bit pricey.  I should perhaps have checked for a map of the site on line before setting out, but I'm not so organised.  Anyway, it was incredibly busy and we were surprised at how many people had plastic cart trolleys to fill with plants.  They were a good idea, but had to be negotiated in a crowd.  This did, however, make me feel slightly vindicated in buying the shoppers.

We had a good look around the show.  The Floral Marquee was very interesting, although it was crammed full of visitors and hard to move around at times.  I loved this pineapple plant with tiny pineapples on it.

This display of all kinds of alliums was fantastic too.  They looked like fireworks.

In all honesty and without wanting to sound too negative, it was also sometimes a little difficult to get close to some of the gardens, due to the crowds, but we managed to see most of them.  Here are a few of my favourites.


We spotted Charlie Dimmock, who was doing a live talk on the Theatre stage and caught a bit of Toby Buckland's talk there too.  There were cookery demonstrations all day long although we didn't stop to watch.  Talking of food, we had a very nice lunch of Falafel and Mexican veggie burger respectively, from a healthy food stall, washed down with a very agreeable glass of Pimms.  As with all these type of shows, there are never enough seats for everyone and you invariably end up sat on grass at some point, if you are able that is.

There were hundreds of stalls at the show selling all manner of goods, gardening related and otherwise.  We were actually quite surprised at how much of the show is focussed on selling you things.  Having said this, I did, of course, buy a few things.  Two white clump forming geraniums for my border, a lovely creamy coloured scabiosa called 'Moon Dance',

a few Allium Christophii bulbs to add to the ones I currently have in the garden and a small, but perfectly formed, bird drinking bowl. So sweet.

The bag did indeed come in useful after all.  I could have happily bought a whole lot more, especially roses, various achilleas and some beautiful hydrangeas, but I couldn't physically carry them home on the train, so that put paid to that. 

I also was given a free pack of seeds from the Macmillan garden, which were Queen Anne's Lace or Bullwort, a wild flower that looks like a delicate hog weed.  Very pretty.  I'll be giving them a try in my white/yellow border.

It was an enjoyable and interesting day out and I am pleased that I finally got to visit and experience the show.
Joining in with Dreamer at Living a Slow and Simple Life in the 52 Projects challenge, completing a must do task every week for a year.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

A Sunny Saturday and Sanity Returns

After a very hectic week, it was such a relief when Saturday rolled around, as I could get back to some sort of normality.  OH was feeling a lot better, after feeling very ill for a couple of days, which was a great relief.  Partly on the dog walking front, as I'd been doing double shifts, but mainly because it meant that everyone was now restored to good health.  He'd caught the same bug as Little Bird had earlier in the week, but seemed to suffer it a little worse.  We didn't have any particular plans for the weekend, save me for attending a gym class each morning, so the rest of the time was our own.

I had a long awaited half hour or so lie in on Saturday morning and read my current book.  It was the first one I'd had for a few weeks.  The rest of the morning I caught up on some blog reading and posting, email, clearing up the bombsite that was the kitchen and generally just pottered around in my night dress.  It was blissful.  I was just relieved to have a little time to spend on the things I wanted and needed to do.

Later, I got ready and cycled off to my class.  On the way home I called into the library to return some books that were overdue.  I just hadn't managed to return them this week, with one thing and another.  I hate getting overdue fines, seems such a waste of money, £1.60 in this instance.  As consolation, I did pick up a bit of a bargain whilst there, as they were selling off old stock. 


I saw this book and couldn't resist buying it.  The synopsis on the cover sounded good and I have a feeling I've read good reviews of it in the past.  It had a bit of damage to the spine and is large print, but for 20p was brilliant, especially as a bit of sellotape soon had it virtually good as new. 

When I got back home it was bacon sandwiches and salad for lunch, followed by reading some of the newspapers, hanging out the washing and a bit of pottering in the garden.  There were just a few small gardening tasks I wanted to complete before we go away.  It was a lovely sunny day.  Wonderful for gardening.  What could be better after a busier than usual week.

Friday, 11 July 2014

C is for ........Cupcakes

As promised, I am posting a photo of Little Bird's cupcake making efforts, following her attendance at a cupcake decorating workshop at Center Parks a couple of weeks ago.  She wanted to practice her new found skills when she got back home and once I had bought some of the ingredients she needed, she had a go all by herself.

It was a bit fiddly for her, as you will see from the photographs, so it took her a couple of hours to make them.  I think she did a good job.  What do you think?

These were a daisy design, one of  3 or 4 designs she was taught in the workshop.  When you look a bit closer you can see that they were made by cutting small marshmallows in half to make the petals.  Very effective.

 She now wants an all singing, all dancing food mixer to aide her in her baking efforts.  We've compromised and I may be getting her a hand held one to use for the time being, as I don't have the worktop space or the money to spend on one of the big expensive ones.  It's great to see her getting enthusiastic about baking though, which is more than I can say for myself. (I just like the eating!)

I'll post again when she makes some different designs.

Joining in with Mum from Mum's Simply Living in blogging using the alphabet backwards.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Allotment Tales

Wednesday afternoon and I managed to squeeze in a couple of hours at the allotment.  I'd not been for a couple of weeks and needed desperately to get some plants in, that I've been growing on in pots and that have been cluttering up the back garden. 

I took the car and loaded it up with all the plants.  I then had to walk up to the site which is a short walk through the park, and borrow the wheel barrow to barrow them all up to the plot. 

To make room for the new plants, I had to dig up the onions and some of the potatoes I had growing.  The onions weren't very big, but not to worry, they'll still get eaten.

I dug up about one third of the potato plants.  They produced a cloth bag full of lovely potatoes.  I did manage to fork a few and a few had a bit of slug damage, but mostly they were lovely. There must be about 5 or 6 lbs here, if not more.  They should last us a while and there's still plenty more to harvest.

Once I'd dug up the onions and potatoes, I dug over the soil and started to plant out some of the plants I had brought with me.  There was sweetcorn, which was looking a little ropey, but will hopefully recover and establish itself soon.
In front of the sweetcorn are a few pepper and chilli plants I bought ages ago, but which got mauled by snails in the garden, so they are looking a bit pathetic.  I'm hoping now that I've planted them out they might recover.  We'll see, I might be being a touch optimistic.

I also put some courgette plants in.  At least I think that's what they are.  These are two of them, there's another two slotted into gaps.

Finally, I planted out three cucumber plants (there's only two showing in this picture), in the bed where I took out most of the lettuce. 

Unfortunately, due to the hot weather virtually all of the lettuce had started to bolt.  It was a pity, but I harvested it anyway and we will eat what we can.  It can taste a little bitter once it has bolted, so if it does, it may have to be composted.  I harvested another couple of large bowls.  Just as well, as we've nearly finished the last lot I harvested.
There were a few more spring onions too.

I was really happy to see that the climbing/runner beans (not sure which) are now looking a lot better and are actually starting to flower.  I didn't take a photo.  The rhubarb looked healthy too, but I didn't harvest any as I still haven't used the last lot.  Note to self - make some more crumbles this week. 
I've been putting more effort into the allotment this year and visiting more regularly.  It is starting to pay off.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Holiday Packing

I have a confession to make.  I don't know about anyone else, but I'm completely useless at holiday packing.  I always have been and I probably always will be.  I pack far too much and usually end up coming home with half a suitcase full of unworn clothing. 

I've read the magazine articles, that tell you how to pack a capsule wardrobe, but I just can't seem to put the advice into practice.  In spite of numerous holidays, and many years of visits to family up and down the country, I'm still a terrible packer.  I can manage to pack for a weekend away, but any longer and I struggle.  I can only do it my own way, by packing an outfit for each day, plus a few extras.  Invariably, when I actually get to the holiday destination, if it is a beach type holiday, I spend most of my time in shorts, vests and swimsuits, only wear half of the packed garments and when I do, I often decide on new and more interesting combinations, inspired by the people I see out and about.

I'm not going to waste my time vowing that it will be different this year, because I know it won't, but I am going to try to do a better job of it, if it is at all possible . 

With less than two weeks to go until we go away on our annual holiday, and with the knowledge of how bad I am at packing, last night I decided to get started.  I usually start early and add things to the suitcase as I do the washing and ironing and the things that I want to take are laundered and ready.  I generally re-pack the case several times in the week and days before we are due to depart, taking out things I no longer wish to take and adding others, until it feels like I have got the right combination and the right weight of course.  I think it helps me to prepare mentally for the holiday. 

On occasion, I have still got it terribly wrong.  Like the time we went to Morocco and I hardly packed anything to cover my legs and arms (We were travelling around on trains with local people).  That really has got to be the worst packing disaster yet.  I managed not to cause any offence, thankfully, but believe me, it wasn't easy with the very few long sleeved and full length items I had with me.

OH, on the other hand, has the ability to throw a few things into a suitcase and go the very same day, wearing everything he takes and not worrying one iota about it.  It's truly sickening.  Is it a man thing or is it just me?  Are you a good holiday packer?  Any useful tips are very welcome.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

A Good Hair Day for a Change

Today, I spent most of the day at our local Shopping Mall, in an attempt at getting my twice yearly hair cut and colour.  It was long overdue and looking dreadful.  I couldn't put it off a moment longer, especially with a special day out planned for later in the week and our annual holiday only two weeks away. 

I tried to get there as early as possible, as the salon I go to has a no booking policy.  You have to just turn up and wait.  Unfortunately, though, Little Bird wasn't very well today and was off school, so I couldn't go as early as I'd have liked.  OH, who works from home, was able to look after her, but I did still feel a little guilty pampering myself while she was ill at home. 

I stopped in at Waitrose and claimed my free cup of tea which I drank whilst I was waiting to be attended to.  I also took a book with me, to keep me occupied during the long process of having the foils put in and taken out.  Once it was done it felt so good to tick the job off my to do list and I was very happy with the results.  I came out feeling like a normal person again.  I really shouldn't leave it so long, but I always do.

I hadn't been to the mall for a couple of months, so once I'd finished at the hairdressers, I had intended to have a little mooch around the shops.  I needed to get a couple of things, one being a new clock for our kitchen wall.   I'd seen a couple of nice ones on John Lewis's website and wanted to see them in the flesh, so to speak, and see which one I liked best.  However, due to the fact that I had a long wait in the hairdressers and Little Bird being unwell, I just bought some sushi for lunch and a treat for her from the Japanese store on my way out, then headed home on the bus.  I'm taking Little Bird there on Thursday as a treat, all being well, as she has a day off school due to a teachers' strike, so I can do my shopping then.

With our holiday only a couple of weeks away, I also need to do a bit of holiday toiletry shopping, so a visit to Boots will also be on the agenda.  I don't need too much, just a blemish stick, some sun cream, a travel soap holder, some toothpaste and new toothbrushes.  Not the cheapest place to buy these things, I realise, but at least I get some advantage points on my card.  After spending a year on the beauty challenge, it is good to be able to buy a few things and not think about a budget and whether or not I am breaking it.

Monday, 7 July 2014

A Weekend in Yorkshire for the Grand Depart

I took a little break from blogging this weekend as we travelled up to Yorkshire to see the start of the Tour de France.  It was a long haul, taking us 5 hours or so to get up there, as traffic was very heavy.  We were staying at OH's sisters house in Silsden, West Yorkshire.  The tour was due to pass through there during Stage Two on Sunday.

On Saturday, OH cycled off to watch the 1st Stage (many roads were closed so cycling was the best option), whilst the Little Bird and I hung out with family members, watching the stage on TV.  Later, I decided to venture into the town centre, as I'd noticed lots of decorations had been put up all over the town.   Here's a few pictures.

Yellow was a definite theme.

There were yellow shop windows,

artistic shop windows,
yellow flowers in gardens and hanging baskets,

yellow balloons,

lots of knitted jumpers in the colours of the race leaders' jerseys,  (so cute)

even the bollards on the roadside were painted the colours of the jerseys.

There was lots of Tour themed bunting strung everywhere,


and lots of bikes painted and decorated in yellow,

I particularly liked this rather amusing installation, which I was told found its way onto the Tour De France website.

Quite a few campsites had been set up on the edges of town, providing entertainment and food for visitors during their stay.

It was great that the whole town, and the county of Yorkshire generally, had really embraced the Tour and welcomed it with open arms.

On Sunday, we ventured down to the High Street to watch the race pass through.  There was a great atmosphere on the roadside and it wasn't so crowded that you couldn't see the racers pass by.  Everyone was excited, friendly and just having a good time.  Eventually the Tour came through.   They pass so quickly, if you blink you could almost miss it.  Little Bird managed to get me quite a good photo of the peloton passing through.  (She's a much better photographer than I am!)

Once the race had passed, it was back up to the house for a BBQ, before heading back to London for the 3rd and final stage in this country, which passed not far from where we live.  OH and I cycled up the road to watch it and then cycled back to see the finish on TV. 

It was a tiring weekend, but great fun, very memorable, and it was lovely to be able to soak up the party atmosphere everywhere.   Tomorrow the Tour starts from Le Touquet, one of our favourite haunts in France.  We won't be following it, unfortunately.

Friday, 4 July 2014

D is for Doggy Brooch Collection

A few years ago I was a bit of a collector.  I collected all sorts of things, dog brooches being one of them.  The brooches I collected were mostly terriers, many of them Westies, but some other terriers too.  I particularly liked the ones made from old plastic or celluloid.

Here's a picture of my collection.  I put them on a tartan background as I thought it was appropriate to the breed of dog.


Some of them are brooches, others are just pins, some have moveable heads, others just have heads.  It is little surprise, that when we came to get a real dog, we chose a terrier.  A Cairn to be exact.  I must have subconsciously had a desire to own one.  Some of the brooches even look a little like her. 

I don't really still collect them, as apart from trying not to accumulate more 'stuff', when you see and walk a real live one every day, the need somehow subsides.  (In addition, they can be quite expensive.)   If I see one on my travels and it is inexpensive, I might add it to the collection. 

Here's a picture of the reluctant real live doggy, keeping out of the sun. (She's so hard to photograph, as she will never look towards the camera.)

Joining in with Mum at Mum's Simply Living in blogging using the Alphabet backwards.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Where did the week go?

It's been a bit of a hectic week this week.  Mondays are always a bit fraught, as I am here, there and everywhere, and as a consequence, no cleaning got done for a friend's impending visit.

Subsequently, I spent the whole of the afternoon and evening on Tuesday cleaning the house in readiness for my friend's arrival.  Luckily, I didn't need to meet her until 9pm, so I just about managed to do everything I needed to.  It was good to get it done, as I can now enjoy the rest of July knowing it has had a good clean.

After collecting my friend from the exhibition she was attending, in which some of her work was being shown, it was back home for drinks, food and a good catch up.

On Wednesday I was booked onto a new Zumba class (quite challenging, but good), whilst my friend enjoyed an impromptu visit to a local design museum, followed by a return to the exhibition.  Later, we all met up with her in the City for dinner, before dropping her off at the station to catch her train home.  It was a bit of a whirlwind visit, but I think she enjoyed it.  It was lovely to have a visitor and for us to catch up with each others' news.

Today, Little Bird had a big day ahead of her, as she was attending a taster day at her new secondary school.  She was a bit nervous and very excited at the same time.  She made her way there with a few of her primary school friends, who will also be attending the school in September.  She got to meet her new teacher and find out who her future classmates will be.  All very exciting stuff for her.  When she got home she had to make some buns for the School Fete tomorrow.  They turned out pretty well.

The dog also had an important day, as she was being filmed in a promo video that the dog trainer had organised.  OH gave her an impromptu groom, so that she looked her absolute best.  Film star dog, well almost, what next?

With the dog out all afternoon, I could get out in the garden and dig some more bindweed out of the borders.  It keeps coming back, but I'm determined to eradicate it eventually.  I took the cover off the greenhouse, so that if it rains whilst we're on holiday over the summer, the plants can get a watering.  I also planted up some more tomato plants in another grow bag.  Some of the remaining ones I'm sending to the school for the fete tomorrow and the rest, which were a bit leggy, will get put outside the house for anyone to take, if they want them that is.  It was nice to have the garden to myself for once and get on and do a few jobs uninterrupted.

Tomorrow, we're heading up to Yorkshire to watch the Grand Depart of the Tour de France.  The race is passing through the village that we're staying in, where OH's sister lives.  I might use the opportunity to take Little Bird on a little excursion in West Yorkshire, to one of my favourite tourist attractions, if the roads aren't too affected by the Tour that is.  I will blog about it should it actually happen.  OH should get to see the tour again when we get back too, as on Monday it comes to London. 

A busy week and the summer holidays are hurtling towards us at high speed.  I hope you're having a great week.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

A Year in Books - July

I've not done as much reading in June as I have in previous months.  I just don't seem to have had the time.  I managed to finish two of the books I intended reading.   This one by Lisa Jewell.

This book was a definite page turner.  From almost the minute I picked it up, I found it very hard to put down.  In fact, I finished it in just two days, so compelling was the story, and I haven't done that with a book in a long, long time.  It was a story about a girl, who after being dragged from a house fire at the age of 9, lost all memory of her earlier life.    Fast forward 25+ years and whilst on a first date, she goes to watch a hypnotist's show and is called out of the audience to participate.  Subsequently, her memory starts to come back and the story of her early life is unravelled.  I just couldn't help wanting to push on with this book and find out what had happened in her past.  This book was a great read.

Next, I read this book by Stephen Clarke, purported to be loosely based on his first year spent living and working in Paris, France.
I really enjoyed this book.  Some of his experiences working for a French company and boss seemed at first to be a little far fetched, but then I could also imagine them to be true, so it was ultimately very entertaining.  This book gave an interesting insight into the French work ethic and psyche and from this point of view, I found it fascinating.  The main character's romantic exploits also featured in this funny and entertaining account of life en France.  I believe the author may have written subsequent accounts of his later exploits in France which might also be worth a read, so I'll be looking out for them on the bookshelves of the local charity shops on my travels.
The final book I wanted to read in June was this book by Plum Sykes, about debutante divorcees in New York.
I'm currently a few chapters in and am finding it quite entertaining, if a bit frustrating, as the behaviour of the characters just seems so far from removed from the reality that I exist in, that the lives of the super rich New Yorkers it depicts, seem quite ridiculously self indulgent and frivolous.  I guess it takes all kinds to make a world.
Anyway, once I have finished reading this book, I intend to read the following books in July.  I'm sticking to reading books by authors unknown to me, as there are quite a few of them in my book pile.  Firstly, this one by Lucy Diamond.

Followed by this one by Carmen Reid,

and lastly this one by Abby Clements.

A bit of a 'chick lit' month for me which is perfectly fine, as July will include our annual holiday and I'm expecting some of this reading to hopefully take place on a beach or by a pool in the Italian sunshine.  I'm very much looking forward to these new reading locations, as opposed to reading in bed at home in snatched half hours before getting up or going to sleep.