Sunday, 27 December 2009

That’s Christmas done...

... New Year here we come!

I hope you all enjoyed the Christmas season, whatever your way of celebrating. You won't be surprised to hear that I woke up ridiculously early and sat all alone for a couple of hours, channel hopping until I came across that teen phenomenon 'Twilight' which I started to watch – I think I can see what gets those teenage girls excited! I just now need to find time to watch the other half on Sky+!

Traditionally Christmas Day is the one day each year when we all sit down for breakfast together which we normally eat around 10am, I gently woke the boys about 9.30 to give them the early warning they needed and proceeded to cook breakfast. Nothing to fancy – sausages, bacon, eggs & toast. John took over after he'd noticed that I was banging around trying to prepare the veggies for dinner at the same time – apologies to any men who read this but why did he have to wait until I was getting grumpy about it? Anyway, row averted but we had very crispy fried eggs – pan was far too hot but I mustn't interfere!!

After breakfast we progressed to our exchange of gifts – not so many this year, although I seemed to have more because I brought all of my work things home unopened. My present from John was a ring. An eternity ring, with rubies and diamonds to match my engagement ring. I knew I was getting it because I had pointed it out in the jewellers – I'd even had my finger measured in anticipation. You know what's coming don't you – it didn't fit! My ever gallant husband said "You must have put more weight on" note the use of the word 'More'. Son 2 immediately chipped in with 'It must have been labelled wrong in the shop'. I know I've put weight on. My wedding ring no longer fits and needs enlarging. I'm sure though that my finger has not grown a whole ring size in two months. It must have been labelled wrong.

Moving on we opened the rest of our gifts. I bought John one of those massage things that you attach to a chair. Purely for selfish reasons. Son2 and I had sat in the department store for over half-an-hour 'testing the merchandise'. I needed one. No doubt in my mind. I couldn't justify buying myself one. So I bought it for John. He loved it. Result.

FDIL arrived shortly afterwards and we gave our gifts to her. I love having girls to buy for, I can buy silly things like stripy socks, cuddly toys, smellies, PJs – so much more fun than buying for young men! Sadly Son2's GF wasn't with us – they're 'having a break' to sort things out, but she still had her gifts a few days earlier and sent a lovely text in thanks – we do miss her, I hope things get sorted between them. Son2 is sad and I don't like to see him like that.

If I say so myself, Christmas dinner was probably the best I've ever cooked. We had a turkey crown as nobody is really keen on eating turkey for a week after Christmas, served with home-roasted potatoes (I normally cheat and use frozen!), peas, carrots, parsnips, butter nut squash (which I grew myself from seed!!), mini sausages wrapped in bacon and the most delicious stuffing mix I have ever had. Followed by Christmas pudding and mince pies.

The rest of the day seems to have passed in a blur – Son1 disappeared to FDIL's parents, Son2 retreated to his bedroom with his TV and laptop, I dozed (no change there!) and John watched TV.

I decided to do something different for Boxing Day as the football was an away game and I bought tickets for the Cinema – we went to see Nine which you can read about here I'm not sure I was getting the plot but as we left and started to talk about, I think both John and I got the same idea – an interesting film.

Amongst all of this seasonal frivolity, my friend Grethic thought it would be a good idea to host a seasonal brain teaser and other challenges – take a look and scroll down to see what gems she has come up with! The first challenge was to elicit gifts from Santa, the next to work out how many legs she would have in her house after delivery of the 12 Days of Christmas gifts – let me tell you the fun that was had chez Sparkle with that one! And latterly the challenge to draw a 'miximal'. She suggested a cross between an ostrich and a tortoise. I am no artist. Below is my result. Please be gentle with your comments. I know it looks more like a penguin. Or an emu. Like I say – I'm no artist.

Sunday Stealing - The Final Week of 2009 Meme

Original title this week – check out the others over at Sunday Stealing!

  1. What did you do in 2009 that you'd never done before?

Sorry to be boring but I CRUISED – oh yeah!

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Don't make them so don't have to worry about keeping them!

3. How will you be spending New Year's Eve?

At home, possibly not even being able to stay awake!

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Not very close but my aunt, the last of that generation on that side of my family

5. What countries did you visit?

USA, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Mexico, Denmark, Germany, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Egypt & Jordan – when I CRUISED!

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?

Stupid answer probably but more sleep, but then I could probably say that every year!

7. What date from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Cheating again – 14 April (25th Wedding Anniversary) and 15 December (50th birthday)

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

That's a tough one, might have to get back to you....

9. What was your biggest failure?

What does that word mean? (lol)

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Thankfully not.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

I'm going to cheat and choose the best thing I was bought which would be my laptop.

12. Where did most of your money go?

Cruising J

13. What song will always remind you of 2009?

Nothing springing to mind – I'm not a great one for listening to music really.

14. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Cruising J

15. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Working L

16. What was your favourite TV program?

TV tends to be on in the background but I don't pay an awful lot of attention to these days.

17. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

Nooooo – hate is a strong word (de ja vu here)

18. What was the best book you read?

Going to cheat again, and choose the first two books of the Millennium Trilogy – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl who Played with Fire.

19. What was your greatest musical discovery?

See 13

20. What was your favorite film of this year?

I'm going to have to say Nine (it's the only one I've seen at the cinema!)

21. What did you do on your birthday?

Went out for a meal with the family.

22. What kept you sane?

Blogging! And the new friendships I've made through it!

23. Who did you miss?

Anybody that I don't see that often for whatever reason.

24. Who was the best new person you met?

That just has to be Janet!!!

25. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009:

Have faith in yourself and others will have faith in you (do you like that, I think I just made it up – if not apologies to whoever I stole it from)

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

An Inbox special...

120 degrees in Australia, it was so hot for a week that Koalas were asking people for water. It's never been seen before

One went to a house to try to hide from the heat and to get some shade and here's what happened when the owner gave it something to drink

Sunday, 20 December 2009

My answers to my meme!

I thought I ought to answer my own questions!

Choose three words to describe yourself

    Middle aged Mum!

What was your first job?

    First proper job was working in admin for the electricity board

If you could learn a new skill, what would it be?

    I'd really love to learn to play the piano

What is your favourite ever film?

    I'm not a great film lover but probably Four Weddings and a Funeral – it's one I've seen more than once!

What one wish would you like to be granted?

    Tough one, not original but I think for people to live alongside one another in peace

What would you choose as your last meal?

    A nice piece of steak!

What are you most passionate about?

    Mmmm, my family I think

Who are your heroes?

    I don't think I really have any (you can see I didn't pick these questions 'cos I'd find them easy!)

When are you happiest?

    After several good nights sleep!

What really irritates you?

    Where shall I begin...drivers using mobiles, drivers not indicating...I could go on...and on...

What's your biggest indulgence?

    I love handbags ( I think I've mentioned that before J)

What keeps you awake at night?

    Oh, I wish I knew the answer to that one!

Be honest, if you live somewhere that has snow – do you really like it?

If I didn't need to go anywhere and had the luxury of just sitting and watching, it would be fine, sadly I do need to go places and it's horrible.

And finally, just to make a contribution to the festive season, how do you expect to spend Christmas day?

The four if us will spend most of the day together, Son1 will be home overnight and FDIL will arrive some time during the morning. After we've opened presents and had dinner the day will be just like any other non-working day – except that we'll be at home!

The current scene

Being cowardly and wanting to keep warm, I stood on various door steps around the house to bring you the various views of our snowy environment. Take a look over at Just Jotting Along to see some really gorgeous scenes.

I took these yesterday morning when the sky looked full enough to burst, but thankfully it contained itself!

Not your usual Sunday Stealing

Apologies to Judd over Sunday Stealing but I really couldn't identify with any of the questions this week so instead I've 'stolen' a few questions from various sources that wouldn't actually ever identify themselves as memes – play along if you're inclined to and leave me a message so that I can check out your answers (I haven't got one of those linky things as I am creating this but may have later!)

I know that other memes will have used some of these lines but I can't always be original!

Choose three words to describe yourself

What was your first job?

If you could learn a new skill, what would it be?

What is your favourite ever film?

What one wish would you like to be granted?

What would you choose as your last meal?

What are you most passionate about?

Who are your heroes?

When are you happiest?

What really irritates you?

What's your biggest indulgence?

What keeps you awake at night?

Be honest, if you live somewhere that has snow – do you really like it?

And finally, just to make a contribution to the festive season, how do you expect to spend Christmas day?

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Big Chill

What a week – where shall I start? That's a good idea, I'll start at the beginning...(sorry – it's turned out to be a long one...)

You probably don't care that might have noticed that I didn't even do the Sunday Stealing meme last week – you know what? I took one look and thought, emphatically – no, I have too many other important things to do. My resolve held tight and I resisted.

On Sunday morning our good friends from Colchester were coming up for coffee and of course I had to provide nibbles to go with it so I ended up making my mince pies – for my transatlantic readers (apart from Kathy!) I don't know if you have pies made with sweet mince meat (a misnomer – no meat is used!), it's made of dried fruit and sugars and lots of other sweet things that don't readily spring to mind! We don't usually entertain on a Sunday morning – generally I sit around in my PJs for far too long so I had to make an effort!

I cannot even remember what I did on Sunday afternoon! Probably dozed and crocheted and mentally prepared myself for Monday, which saw the start of the first full week of my interim role – clearly nothing special happened because I can't remember (anybody spotting a theme here?)

That takes me nicely on to Tuesday – which was my birthday, a big birthday. I'm generally quite shy about birthdays and tend to keep them quiet at work but this year a few people had found out, thankfully nothing embarrassing happened and the day passed quite discreetly. We went out as a family on Tuesday night – just the four of us. Son 1 volunteered to drive which was great and we were really grown up and went to a bar for drinks before dinner! We had dinner in one of our favourite restaurants which serves mainly pasta and pizza dishes but has recently started serving more chicken and steak, which I think personally is a shame. We really enjoyed ourselves (I think I speak for all of us) and had a lovely evening. Oh I almost forgot my dear friend Janet wrote this for me I was so touched, it made my day!

Wednesday – nothing special, but Thursday brought the first snow of the winter. I left work to go home not having looked out of the window for a while, to find snow in the car park! John and Son 2 were both going out for the evening with their respective work colleagues, before he left John asked if I would pick him up – as this was early evening and the snow was already falling thick and fast and laying on the roads I was a little bit reluctant to say the least! Son 1 came to the rescue and offered, as long as it was before 10pm he would pick him up. Fortunately for us, he got a lift. Which took over an hour and half to do a ten minute journey. John said the town was gridlocked, police were stopping drivers going to the town centre and all of the side roads were virtually impassable – which then led to the question 'Where was Son 2?' Attempts to speak to him on his mobile phone were fruitless he either hung up or couldn't hear so John decided to go look for him in the hope they would meet fairly close to home. He was closer than any of us realised. He was actually laying, in the snow, in the road – in our street – making a snow angel! You know – children usually do this by laying down and moving their arms and legs from side to side and leaving an impression of an angel behind. He's 19 and to my knowledge never done this in his life before! But then alcohol played its part.

We woke up on Friday morning to the heaviest snow I can remember for a long time (I think I read somewhere that it was 18 years ago that it was this bad which I remember quite clearly – John and a neighbour went to the supermarket with a sledge to get the shopping!) I can walk to work so set off at my normal time and John gallantly walked with me – it was not an easy journey by any means but a lot easier than some of the team who couldn't get their cars off of their drives. Team spirit won through and those that had got to work covered their missing colleagues without any fuss.

When we woke this morning there was more snow which had fallen on top of the slush which had frozen – as a result of yesterday's snowfall my grocery shopping couldn't be delivered so I had to brave the elements and shop myself – I'm still trying to work out how I spent twice as much in person as I would have done on line – ahh, temptation!

Sadly we were unable to go down to Colchester today to see our lovely God daughter in her latest production, we've been planning it for months but today the roads were still not good and the sky were full of more of the white stuff – John, who is normally more than happy to drive in bad weather was very reluctant to venture away from home so reluctantly we decided not to travel. The inevitable happened this afternoon – the sun came out and no more snow fell. I slept, John wrapped and the afternoon passed.

As I write this we have just finished Son 1's birthday dinner – he and FDIL are now upstairs packing up his bedroom in preparation for the big move out. How do I feel? Strange. I don't know when the ultimate move will take place – probably not until after Christmas, although they will spend some time in their new home whilst they wait for delivery of furniture and installation of the satellite TV and internet access. He'll be home for Christmas!

If you've managed to get to the end of this, thank you for bearing with me! May even do the Sunday Stealing this week!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Long time no blog

It's been a mad week! Preparations for the boss leaving and actually saying goodbye on Wednesday took up the first half of the week and getting down to work took up the second half!

Although it's been mad it's also been good – I know that the next couple of months are probably going to be the most intense work-wise that I have ever encountered because it's budget setting and business planning time (bad timing, huh?) but saying that if I can get through that I can probably get through anything. I have been hampered because the plans I put in place to take my old job have fallen to pieces due to sad unforeseen circumstances, the mother of one of my right hand people has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and understandably, V needs to be with her Mum at this difficult time. The best laid plans and all that...

On the home front son 1 and FDIL are close to finalising their move – completion takes place this coming Friday so it's a hive of activity at the moment. Trouble is he can't have any time off work between now and Christmas and is working nights the week leading up to Christmas so we're not sure when they will be able to move in. I think it will probably be piecemeal – one box at a time!

Another busy week ahead as well for all sorts of reasons, work diary is bursting, I haven't even started writing Christmas cards or wrapping presents, I need to make my mince pies (one tradition I can't swap for shop bought) and ice the Christmas cakes (minimal effort required for this one – ready rolled marzipan and fondant icing just need popping in place and trimming!!) – I'm already exhausted just thinking about it!

Before I forget, some of you know that I was feeling a bit under the weather and had blood tests last week – good news is that they all came back well within normal range, bad news is I guess I have to resign myself to the fact that I'm just getting old!

I'll leave you with a picture of our Christmas tree – we went very minimal this year and haven't put anything from the ceiling but I think the tree looks good! I even managed to get some peppermint candy canes!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Sunday Stealing The Can’t Sleep Meme

Sleepless in Seattle Pictures, Images and Photos

It's that time again, I know I often say this but I was going to give this one a miss but changed my mind! So here's this weeks Sunday Stealing – with my tongue planted, well and truly, in my cheek for a lot of them!

Would it be hard to kiss the last person you kissed?

- No – strange question, is it deeper than I'm thinking?

When is it hard to kiss someone?

- When they're not there, doh!

You're trapped in a room with your most recent ex for three days, what do you do?

- No idea – such a long time ago. Perhaps compare notes on the past 27 years???

Does it matter to you if your significant other smokes?

- Yes – disgusting smelly habit

Have you ever regretted letting someone go?

- No

Where would you go if you were butt naked and locked out of your house?

- To pieces! I would have to have been sleep walking or something for that to happen!

Do you want to please everyone?

- No, sadly I can't.

Have you ever been called heartless?

- Not to my face

Someone calls you at 3:00 AM, who do you expect it to be?

- I hate phone calls at that time, it's generally bad news..

Does it matter if your significant other drinks?

- I hope he does, otherwise he'll dehydrate! Oh – I think you mean alcohol, that's OK in moderation!

Could you go the rest of your life without doing drugs?

- What is it with the drugs obsession? Never have done, never will do – stop asking!

Which is better, amazing eyes or an amazing smile?

- Oh, both equal I think

Do you want to get married and have children one day?

- Been there, done that thank you!

Are you easy to get along with?

- I like to think so

Do you ever want to go to sleep and not wake up?

- I'll amend that to 'not wake up until morning' and the answer is yes – every night!

Are you shorter than your Mom?

- I wasn't no.

Describe your life currently in one word:

- Good

Are you on medication for anything?
- Yep – High blood pressure

Who would you allow to read your thoughts for one day?

- Too weird!

Are there things in your life that you will never be able to get over?

- Probably – not sure I'd want to share them here though!

If you woke up naked next to the last person you kissed, what would your reaction be?

- Good morning!

Saturday, 5 December 2009

I am warm and social - oooh errr

You Are Warm and Social

You are thoughtful and contemplative. You enjoy spending time alone with your thoughts.

You are very outgoing and friendly. You feel very comfortable in a crowd, and you can get to know anyone.

Money is important to you in as far as you'd like to have enough to survive.

You tend to seek comfort, coziness, and stability in your life. For you, feeling at home is the best feeling ever.

Friday, 4 December 2009

A Fun Christmas Meme

I've picked this meme up from Kathy over at Emptynester I swore I would only do the Sunday memes but I've given in this week – have a go and share your answers as well! Check Kathy's blog for some fantastic photography from Texas!

1) What is your favourite Christmas movie?

I'm not a great movie person but I think I will plump for Home Alone – the original version. My youngest son (now 19) loved this so much the video tape wore out.

(2) What is your LEAST favourite Christmas movie?

I can't think of one in particular but if you trawl through the movie channels over the festive season there are some real turkeys (pun intended)!

(3) What is your favourite Christmas Song?

I love 'White Christmas' makes me teary just thinking about it now ;)

(4) What Christmas song(s) drives you crazy?

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (I left this the same as Kathy's answer because I agree!!)

(5) What is your favorite Christmas drink?

Nice glass of sherry before Christmas lunch – really warming oh – and bucks fizz for breakfast (how decadent)

(6) What is your favorite Christmas memory?

Ahhhh – coming home from hospital on Christmas Eve with my first son (22 years ago – where's the time gone?)

(7) What is the best toy/gift you've received on Christmas?

For our first Christmas together my husband bought me a food processor – I still have it although I don't use it as often as I used to.

(8) What is the worst toy/gift you've received on Christmas?

That would be the cosmetic bags that I was given every year by somebody who should have made more of an effort!

(9) What do you LOVE about the holidays?

Coming home from work on Christmas Eve, everybody else is usually home when I get there (strange that!) the house is warm and the atmosphere is just different from usual nights. Although the boys are older now we still do the whole sit around and share the gifts round thing!

(10) What annoys you about the holidays?

The festivities start too early – shops start decorating and pushing sales in October – far too early in my opinion. Also I really hate the fact that the stores are so busy when I need to shop! Oh – and food shopping, do people think that there will never be anything else in the shops again and that they have to buy the biggest pack/jar/box of everything on display?

(11) Do you prefer star or angel on top of a Christmas tree? Or something else?

We have an angel purchased from a craft fair many years ago, she's seen better times but she'll still hop up there this year!

(12) What is your family favorite recipe at Christmas?

That'll be my rich fruit Christmas cake I think!

(13) Are you a Grinch or a Who at Christmastime?

Had to look this one up – never seen the Grinch - OK I'm back, I think I'm a Who!

(14) Christmas light displays - Love them or Hate them?

Here in the UK people have only decorated the outside of their homes in the last 10 years or so and it's a novelty still for most people. I love to see the lights and like Kathy I prefer white lights.

(15) Santas at the mall - Fun times or Creepy?

I think fun overall – there's always going to be odd Santa who could be more suitably employed!

(16) Christmas cards - do you send them, yes or no?

Yes – but no longer in huge numbers, for work I make a donation to charity, I see these people all the time, they know I'm thinking about them!!

(17) What is the best thing about Christmas, in your opinion?

Spending time with loved ones – friends and family. It's probably the one remaining day that most people still make an effort for no matter what else they do through the year.

(18) What is the worst thing about Christmas?

I hate it when the decorations come down – the house is so bare

(19) When do you put the tree up and take it down?

Second weekend in December and down for 6 January which is twelfth night.

(20) Out of the 12 days of Christmas, which day and item would you want your truelove to give to you?

Five gold rings (lol)

(21) Why do you think that Grandma got run over by a reindeer?

Sorry – that one has thrown me completely – anyone care to explain?

(22) Who is your favourite reindeer?


(23) Do you believe in Santa Claus?

Are you suggesting something here??

(24) What is your favorite smell at Christmastime?

Pine needles. We don't have a real tree but I love it when we go to friends who do!

(25) What would make you happy at Christmas this year?

For son 1 and FDIL to have been able to spend Christmas Eve in their new home together – equally it will make me sad because he won't be here on Christmas morning for the first time. Baby steps though because he's said they'll both go to their respective parents for Christmas dinner!

A little redesign

snowflakes Pictures, Images and Photos

Well – what do you think of the new background? Let me explain that Julie (remember her?), noticed snow effects on another blog and thought I should follow suit – problem was, the old background was too pale for the snow to show up. I spent the whole of yesterday evening fiddling around to find something that looked a little bit seasonal and would show the snow. Trouble was, you know who over at Just Jotting Along had picked the nicest (in my opinion) background from where I normally pick up my backgrounds which left me searching the multitude of other sites for something else. There are some cracking backgrounds out there but a lot of them have very pale centre panels – no good for snow!

When I settled on the current choice (blue and spotty in case I've changed it when you read this) her over at Just Jotting Along couldn't read the text so I had to change the colours because the new design hadn't changed any text colours with it. So there I am reading through the HTML in the template looking for something that resembled text colour, when up she pops on Twitter telling me to go to the Fonts and Colours tab on the layout page, wouldn't you think that, after all the hours I waste spend investigating the possibilities of blogger, I'd have spotted this before – I've never liked the paler colours on the previous templates either – I feel right stupid!