Monday, December 31, 2007

Last post of the year

Voila!!! We have couches! To sit on! Like real people! And we will not mention the chocolate which son no.2 ate on the couch while I was out this morning. Not if we want a Happy New Year type of post.

Daughter has beetled off to London to visit her friends and to spend New Year with her brother and sister-in-law, and I am trying to sort Mum for her visit to my sister and also attempting to catch up with the washing and other sundry essentials. It is grey and cold out, and I had a thoughtful, philosophical post written, but then decided that it could wait. I have no idea what for, but just not now.

2008 is just hours away now, and it is already the New Year in New Zealand. Time.... it is all relative. There are people being born, and people dying every second of the day. People laughing, people weeping, people celebrating and people suffering. Billions of lives being lived around the globe in different places and time zones right now. Tomorrow will dawn for each of us, wherever we are, and it will be a unique day for each one of us. How we choose to spend it is up to us.

We can't stop time, or slow it down. Nor can we make time, or stretch it. My hope and prayer for all of us for 2008 is that we use every minute we are given wisely, on the things that really matter, loving and laughing and living with all our hearts right here in the present.

THIS is the day that the Lord has given us. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Happy New Year to you all!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Sales, Sofas and Solutions

Once upon a time, I used to love shopping. Now? I hate shopping. I hate sales even more when half the population of Britain is in the same shop as I am. Well, it seemed like that at the time! Complete with baby buggies and wheelie baskets. In fact, one elderly gentleman came down the escalator a few people ahead of us, and stopped as he got off to look inside his wheelie bag in a leisurely fashion, completely oblivious to the mayhem behind him. One can discover a hitherto dormant ability to leap sideways like a gazelle (hahaha) to avoid catastrophe and I freely admit that I was a Grumpy Old Woman by this stage. All vestiges of the Christmas Spirit were sadly lacking and I was losing the will to live. I feel a New Year's Resolution coming up. According to the news last night, the same shopping centre we visited had crowds gathering at 3.30am for the opening at the Next sale at 5am. Marks and Spencers opened at 6am. What???? This is lunacy! I feel so sorry for the people who have to work at these stores.

Anyway, in the quest to find some clothes for daughter, we poddled off yesterday (and the day before, but that was relatively futile as half the shops were not open) and found precisely nothing. After a couple of hours of being pushed and shoved about, we emerged with 2 bottles of shower gel and some sandwiches for sustenance and some fruit juice. Last of the great sales shoppers, that's us. She did find a lovely coat, but as it was not on the sale, it stayed where it was.

We think we have discovered what makes her so sick on long distance flights. She has all the symptoms of altitude sickness. Great. One of the recommendations we found on the internet was not to fly. Gee, thanks. She will be on the slow boat back home, and should arrive in 3 months. I think not. There has to be something practical that she can do to stop the symptoms of feeling as though she is about to pass out, not to mention the nausea etc. Knowing that she has to make these trips alone is not something I am happy about. Especially when she has to change planes in strange and foreign places. When I am not there to look out for her. Any ideas, people??

And now I am sitting here awaiting the arrival of our new sofas. Sofas!!!!! Things to sit on! New! With springs which are intact! They were actually in position 5 on the Mythical Grand Order Of Important Things To Do When One Wins the Lotto, but leapt up to Number 1 when it became apparent that we would be sitting on the floor soon, due to the demise of all things one can sit on in this house. One's 82 year old mother should not have to sit on the floor. And relaxing in front of the TV doesn't really work when you are sitting on a dining room chair. And I creak way too much to spend much time at ground level.

That rest I confidently spoke about over the holidays? The one where I would have time to do the things I want to do? Not a chance. What is more, I wouldn't have it any other way. I am having the most wonderful time with my daughter home. She is a delight. And let's face it, if I were to be all sweetness and light 24 hours a day, she would think she had arrived in the wrong place, wouldn't she??

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Wonderful day

Christmas is always special. This Christmas was wonderful here. Just wonderful. From the Carols in the Sqaure to the opening of the presents under the tree. Arriving at church a "little" late. Eating way more food than usual. The Queen's Speech. There was a suggestion in the paper that most of Britain would be dozing by 4.30pm..... they were almost right. I made it to 7 before I nodded off in the rocking chair! Taking masses of photos, playing games, watching the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special. Building more memories.

So here are some photos of our Christmas......


I hope you all had as wonderful a day as we did!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

I have been up since 4.30, because I took my son to the station to get the train to work in London. A small price to pay for him and his wife to be here for Christmas. So I have had a lovely quiet couple of hours to catch up with my reading. I am on coffee no.3 as I speak!

Life is good right now. Very, very good. Everyone's reaction to seeing Diana has been the same as mine, and we have had such fun surprising friends! My 2 girls have been the cleaning elves around here, and as I finish baking, leaving a trail of debris in my wake, they have been cleaning and clearing. David joined in by sweeping the patio, and then there is the Playstation 3 which my son brought up with him. Oh my word..... Singstar...... we have laughed till we cried.

Carol services, biscuits, chocolate. Me, with the Christmas apron still on, whizzing about the village in the car, with David leaping out to deliver all our cards. Packaging goodies I have baked. Flopping in the rocking chair and just watching the antics of my family. Storing memories. Crossing things off the "to do" list. And now it is Christmas Eve. How thankful I am to be here in this place right at this moment.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!!!!!! Have a wonderful day tomorrow, and enjoy every single moment!

Friday, December 21, 2007

GUESS WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Christmas has arrived early here in middle England. (Please imagine huge grin and much bouncing up and down with excitement......And a plethora of exclamation marks!!)

There I was, wrapping presents, baking biscuits, and having just cleaned the bathrooms, not looking the most fetching, you can imagine, and Andrew and Ann arrived. It was lovely to see them, and they said please go to the kitchen while we bring in a parcel which still needed to be wrapped. So we did, and I carried on wrapping a present. Then I looked up, because it got REALLY quiet.

AND.........


LOOK!!!!! MY DAUGHTER!!!!! THE ONE WHO IS SUPPOSED TO BE IN NEW ZEALAND!!!!!


IS IN MY KITCHEN!!!!! AND I AM HUGGING HER!!!


I had NO idea she was coming, nor did I suspect that my children were so devious! This has been planned for months, apparently, and my son and his wife arranged for her to come home for Christmas. Can you imagine a better Christmas present for this mother?? I am beside myself with excitement and still can't believe she is indeed upstairs asleep. Here. Home. With the family. My family is all here together. For one unbelievably special Christmas.

As she says..... one word sums this up. JOY.

video

Pure unadulterated joy.

Just excuse the shrieks and house-cleaning garb. I am still in shock.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

One day to go....

I am so far behind reading everything you wonderful people are writing, that it will take my entire holiday to catch up. I am sorry I have not been about. One day to go and I am free for 2 whole weeks! Well, half a day really, as the kids go home at lunch time, and we stay on for the Christmas party. I think. It will be a brief stay for me, because I just want to get home, and start the real Christmas stuff. Like baking some more things, and filling the house with music and people and family and wrapping paper. You know what I mean. I want the house to SMELL like Christmas too.

We have been shrouded in freezing fog all day and the -5 of the morning rose to just 0 degrees today. Cold. Damp, revolting cold. The kind that chills the bones.

Two dear friends of mine in real life have birthdays today. Cheryl and Louise. Happy Birthday, girls! I was talking to Cheryl on the phone this afternoon....she lives in Scotland, and David and I spent last Christmas with her and her family.... and she announced that she needed to put on her glasses so she could hear more clearly. Hmmm. She is, of course, older than me. 6 months. But still. Older. I will, no doubt be needing my glasses to hear as well in 6 months time. We have known each other since we were 6 years old. Back when dinasaurs roamed the earth.

And then I popped in to see Louise, and eat some of her cake. It is my duty to help eat cake. I am a good friend. We have both been so busy, and we have not seen each other to catch up as much as we want to, so it was lovely to sit in her kitchen and chat. Hopefully we will have more time to do just that over the holidays.

My son and daughter-in-law arrive tomorrow, I think. Maybe Saturday, depending on the traffic out of London. "They" say that 14 million people will be on the move tomorrow. It is supposed to be the busiest day on the roads. And then the holidays will really have begun. I will be back.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Tour of Homes

Today is the day for Boomama's Christmas Tour of Homes, and I may be late, but I am here! I cannot tell you how many times I have tried to upload the photos and Blogger is being quite revolting. I am still trying as I speak.


Welcome to my home, here in Middle England! I came home from school today, and, after a diabolical working day, decided to make biscuits. Cookies to you all in the States. I would show you my kitchen, but the debris from the baking session is beyond belief and I am more interested in chatting to you all than in clearing the mess.

This is in my kitchen/family room, and I love the little tree and the fibreoptic lights. They change colour, and together with the garlands and lights on the rafters (which you can sort of see in a previous post) it makes the room really festive. Please note the Christmas apron hanging from the doorknob.



My sister made this snowman for me a few years ago.....

and this Father Christmas too. This one is in the lounge.

And here is the tree, complete with the gifts underneath, which have to be distributed to friends. The ones which have arrived for the family are under there too.

This is one of the reindeer corners of the lounge......


This is the door to the lounge with the snowman wreath on it. I put the cards on the doors, as they are all glass panes.

And this is the Advent candle wreath, which we light on each Sunday in Advent, at the same time as my sister in Switzerland.

And this is the snowman, which my sister bought me just after the Inquest. When I asked her what on earth I was going to do with a life size snowman, she said... Hey, Linds....every morning when you walk down stairs and see him, he will make you smile. And he certainly does just that. He started small, and is looking out the window, and every day, he "grows" a little..... I pull him up each day.


And this is how tall he will get by Christmas morning. The babes think he is wonderful!

Here he is with his friend, Rudolph, who has grown as well.

And here is my little nativity scene, which I love.



Looking at the photos, my home seems to have been invaded by snowmen, reindeer and penguins.... all sorts of animals. And even though I have no small children in residence, I have to say I love it all.

Thanks for visiting, and I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ramblings from the rocking chair

Four and a half working days to go before I am on holiday for Christmas. You may just note that I am counting. The weekend has come and gone and although a couple of vital essentials (like scrubbing the shower from top to bottom) have been taken care of, the more I do, the more I remember I should be doing. Oh well, she says, tossing the list over her shoulder..... what gets done gets done, and the rest can stay undone. Hmmm. It is just as well I am not obsessed with perfection. Hahahahahahahahahah.......

As people all over the place are saying, it is wonderful to think that, wherever we are in the world, we are all doing the same things at this time of the year. Preparing our hearts, minds and homes for Christmas. Remembering and celebrating the fact that one small baby born over 2000 years ago in a stable, has united us all together today. Wow.

I find myself thinking about that beautiful song.."Mary, did you know" every now and then, and really wondering if she had any inkling of what her baby would do to and for the world. As a mother, I look at my children, as I have done since they were born, and wonder just what sort of impact they will have on their world. What does God have in mind for them? Mary must have done just the same thing. Mothers do that.

We are getting near the end of the year, and soon it will be that time when I look back and try to see how far I have come in the past 12 months. Time to take stock and review the mistakes made, lessons learnt, and the dreams realised. And right now, as of last Friday, I have another set of decisions to make about work. Just like last year. New contracts to contemplate and challenges to consider. The timing could be better.

I have been posting very sporadically, I know, and I really have so many good intentions and then just run out of steam. I have been trying to keep up my visiting and reading, and I love meeting new friends, so to those of you who are new to commenting here, I am saying hello! Great to meet you! I will be over to visit in the next few days, I promise. Right now I have biscuits to bake and a family to care for. Christmas is nearly here!

I think I am going to tear up the list and just wing it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Midweek mumbles

It is Wednesday and there are now only 7 working days till we start the Christmas School Holidays. This week I have:
  1. Taught 14 Maths lessons.
  2. 1 Music lesson..... do not ask. 30 13 year olds murdered Silent Night at the same time. I am still recovering.
  3. Nearly required the Heimlich Manoevre after choking on a peppermint at a staff meeting. At least they all know who I am now.
  4. Tripped over a chair leg, which a 16 year old was rocking back and forth, and spectacularly crashed to the floor. One kind and concerned boy said.... Miss, you squashed my lunch. I informed him that I was a grown woman and not a feather, and thanked him for asking how I was. I am black and blue. The kids thought I was a great source of amusement.
  5. Finished eating the cake. I can now squash lunches with more vigour.
  6. Been to our house group Christmas Party. See no 5.
  7. Mastered the new work laptop which I have been given, which means I can work through lunch and break and leave earlier.
  8. Posted parcels to NZ and Scotland.

We have been having the most beautiful sunsets, but I am usually driving as the sun goes down, so have not taken any photos. Our whole village was glowing red last night as I came home, and it was spectacular.

Time to go and flop a while. But I am just loving all your news and antics out there! So many things I want to try as well. I have started making a shopping list for my bake and make session. At least that is a start!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The tree is up

It has been wet and spectacularly dismal weather this weekend, and, after waiting in vain for the rain to stop so that I could haul the tree out of the garden shed and not get drenched, I went and did it in the rain. Then I made son No 2 open it and go through every branch to make sure there were no nasty things with tails in it. (There weren't, thankfully.)
And so yesterday afternoon was a "lets construct and decorate the tree day". Translated, that means I did it.

Today, after baking another cake, I started to go through the presents and wrap, and get them under the tree, so I could tidy the rest of the house without standing on parcels all over the place. I should never have crawled out of bed today. I have been in a foul mood, and my family has been avoiding me. We needed milk, so I popped down to the village to get some, and broke my glasses in half. That meant a dash to the nearest big supermarket to get more high-tech (cheap) reading glasses, only they did not stock them. So I left through the revolving doors, which stopped suddenly as I was entering them, and I walked straight into the edge of the door, bumped my head, scraped the skin off my hand and could possibly have broken another toe. And burst into tears. As one does on a Sunday in a supermarket.

After an encounter with the manager, to have the accident written up, I limped out in the torrential rain and went to another giant supermarket, which had no parking available...you can see how the day was going really, can't you..... But I did eventually get the glasses. I can see to write the tags on the presents.
This is my kitchen. I climbed all over the counters and tables last night stringing up the garlands and lights. And it looks lovely without the big lights on. And this way you can't see the mess either.


This is a corner of the lounge, and those snowmen dance a waltz when you switch them on. I seem to have a great many snowmen about the house this Christmas. You will get to see more later.

And so here I am. Tree up. Lights working. Presents (those I have got) wrapped. Cards written. Shopping done. A little battered. And yawning my head off. Work tomorrow. More rain forecast. But I actually spoke to each of my children and my sister today. That was good. And my mother and son still love me, even though I have been a nightmare to live with today.

Ah well...... tomorrow is another day.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Butternut Soup

I am alive. I am so sorry I have not been about to visit for the past week, but I have no idea how everything just suddenly speeded up, and I am beyond exhaustion at the moment. The weekend looks as manic as ever too, so I will be the one snoring in the corner.

BooMama is having a soup extravaganza today, so here I am to FINALLY post the Butternut Soup recipe which everyone loves. It is a real favourite. Really. It is. Just try it.

Butternut Soup

1 butternut, peeled and sliced then cubed
3 Tablespoons butter (or marge)
2 large onions, chopped
3 Tablespoons flour
Dash of curry powder
3 Cups Vegetable stock (or chicken)
1 and a half cups milk
Salt and Pepper
sugar

Melt butter in large pan.
Add onions and cook over low heat till softened and transparent.
Add butternut and toss in the butter and onion mix.
Once butter is almost absorbed, sprinkle flour and curry powder over vegetables and stir until it is mixed in. It will thicken.
Add stock and milk, and stir .
Simmer until the butternut is soft. I usually leave it for half an hour or so, stirring now and then.
Liquidise (or use the whizzer thing which I love).
Add salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle a couple of teaspoons of sugar into the mix and stir. It brings out the flavour of the butternut beautifully.

Decorate with a swirl of cream and some chopped parsley or chives. Perfect. Serve with cheese scones or whatever fresh bread rolls you like. You can add a grated apple in as well, when you are cooking the butternut and onions, if you like, but I don't usually bother. It is even better a day or two after you have made it, but it never lasts long here. It is devoured with speed.

There you go. I feel the urge to make it right now, and I would, if I had an ounce of energy. After teaching all day for the past 3 days, with no free lessons, I am crawling, and need to get re-acquainted with my feet. I will be back.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

London escape

I escaped. Glynis and I LOVE tennis, and she and her husband gave me a ticket to the Masters tennis (the older ones) at the Royal Albert Hall as a Christmas present. Yesterday. YES!!! Glynis and I set of on the train in the morning, and after arriving at the new St Pancras Station, which is absolutely stunning (where Eurostar departs from) we managed to go through nearly all our spending money in the shops at the station. Sigh. Well, there was a Paperchase......

We bought some divine sandwiches from M&S Food and sat in Kensington Gardens eating our lunch, after wandering down the High Street, looking at all the shops. We had to fight off the squirrels. The rotten little things danced around our feet, pawing our bags. Do NOT get me started on squirrels. They are my nemesis. I wish you could see what they have done to my garden.
Here is Glynis, in front of the Albert Memorial, which is in front of the Royal Albert Hall.
Turn the other way, and here am I. In front of the Royal Albert Hall. Oh, the excitement! And just think.... I should have been at work. I had the day off (unpaid) as it was a pre-existing arrangement.

And this is what the inside is transformed into for the tennis. Amazing. We had perfect seats in the choir stalls, and we have sat there before, and really do think they are the best in the house. This is Henri Leconte with Jeremy Bates. We also saw Peter McNamara and Mansur Bahrami, and Chris Wilkinson, and Tom Gulikson (I bumped into him after his match....so I touched him!) and Guy Forget and Anders Jarryd. A real feast of tennis. Stefan Edberg was playing in the evening, and we were really sorry not to see him play. Maybe next time. And McEnroe.


And then we walked back to the tube station, in the dark, past all the Christmas lights. It was perfect. I had such a special day and I loved every moment. I told you I had great friends!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Advent



Today is the first Sunday in Advent, and so the first candle was lit. Please note, that arrangement was done in 5 minutes when I realised I had not got it ready for the co-ordinated lighting ceremony with my sister! (And the candles are really standing straight, not leaning at an odd angle.)

This has been a busy weekend. Yesterday, Mum and I did a whirlwind zap around the shops to get some vital essentials. Like presents for the friends from Scotland, who were visiting in the afternoon. That was after I made 2 visits to the post office to finally send off my daughter's parcels to NZ. Yes, Diana, they have gone by air, and not via the slow boat!

And after an afternoon with my friends, and the babes and Jackie, I was out at a party last night. The social whirl has begun, it seems. Lovely! And today, we went to the most beautiful service at a church in a neighbouring town, for the baptism of a young friend. I had never been to a full immersion baptism before, and it was so moving, and such a joy to share with our friends. And then we gathered at their home for a shared lunch as well. Beautiful day. The weather has been foul, but the day just perfect.

I am no nearer getting my decorations out and up and sorted, but there is no rush. And after a Saturday morning at the shops, looking at the manic frenzy, I am less inclined than ever to get involved in a spending spiral with money I do not have. It is not about money after all. It is about time and priorities and the meaning of Christmas. Or rather, the meaning of Christmas, and adjusting your time to take care of the priorities. My priorities are my family and my friends, and they do not have a monetry value. They are more precious than gold.

I don't want to be out amidst the jostling crowds. I want to be in my home, making beautiful things, and enjoying the company of the people who matter to me. I don't need presents. I love giving gifts. And I especially love the idea of giving time as a gift. I mean...... what do you remember most? The gift bought or the time someone spent with you?

I don't think back to Christmasses past remembering the stunning gift or the amazing present. I think back to the time when Auntie Myra started singing carols on Christmas night and we all joined in. To the time my oven broke while I had 20+ people sitting waiting for the turkey to be served. To Dad and Geoff monopolising Andrew's remote control boat. To Marge , Geoff and I constructing the playpeople circus on Christmas eve. To friends popping round for mince pies and sherry every Christmas Eve. To the children taking their favourite toys to the morning service on Christmas Day. To breakfast at Granny's after church on Christmas morning. To freezing while singing carols in the village square on Christmas Eve. To the magic of seeing the lit tree on Christmas morning , as a child. To the faces of my children on Christmas morning. To the times when Geoff was actually home for Christmas. So many special times.

It is the people I remember. The events. The memories are alive.

And the presents? I can't remember them.