Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Its nearly here!!!

This month seems to be flying by. I have finally finished the shopping and everything is wrapped and ready to go. Tom and I took a trip into St Albans and had a look around the Christmas Market in the grounds of the Cathedral. It was very pretty, lots of little stalls and lots of nice little shops to look around. It made for a very pleasant Sunday morning trip.

The market in the town centre was a general farmers market with the added bonus of a stall selling mulled Cider. It was very nice and warming!! 
Tomorrow will be the last one at work until next year, I must say I am looking forward to having a break. I suspect that it won't be too relaxed! The plan for tomorrow is to have our 'old' friends around for nibbles and alcohol. I like to go to Mass on Christmas eve, so rather than waiting for Midnight we are aiming to get to the 8.30 carol concert followed by mass, we should be home for 10pm!! I don't want to miss Father Christmas!!

I have had a great night out recently, I went to see the lovely Paul Hollywood, He of the Great British Bake off!!! My friend Karen, (in charge of all ticketed events!!) managed to get us tickets, we were expecting a 'restricted' view but it was in fact a perfect view!! Paul was quite an entertainer, kept a whole bunch of mainly women enthralled for the evening!! I think we were all so taken with his performance that it wasn't until afterwards that we realised that he only actually cooked one thing!! The rest of the show was Blue Peter Style...... here's one I made earlier!!!! That said it was a great evening and I actually managed to try a bit of his roulade Oooo errr Missus!!!!

The month of December is filled with nights out. I have had a fair few of them with friends. Our girls night was at The Crooked Chimney again. The pub is quite nice but the food is hit and miss. I went on line before we arrived and found a couple of vouchers, one offering free mulled cider and one offering £10 off the bill!! Our favourite waitress was there and looked after us well. A few years ago when we booked our annual Christmas dinner they were at pains to tell us that they would not be providing any table decorations or crackers, so that started our annual tradition of decorating our own table!! This year was not different, although we were provided with crackers!!

This month I decided to upgrade my phone, a foolish thing to do. It was the lure of a new iphone as the current one was doing what all iphones seem to do,that is reach the grand age of two and start to slowly die. The battery stopped holding the charge and I found that I was having to charge it overnight and during the day just to keep it going!! So stupidly I decided to swap service providers from O2 to Vodafone. I have been with O2 for years but they couldn't match the voda deal. I had really hoped that the transfer of my old number would go easily but  that was wishful thinking!!!
After speaking to half the people in India the swap finally happened today a full 10 days after they promised to transfer the number. Of course expecting that to go to plan was optimistic in the extreme!! Tonight by way of a change I ended up speaking to a chap in South Africa who finally sorted out the voice mail issue. The whole experience is not one I want to repeat in a hurry!!

I wish you all a happy and safe Christmas. May New Year bring you all health and happiness.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Decs are UP!!!!

Well it seems an absolute age since we were in Hamburg, where does the time go at this time of the year?? Last time I was stood in this spot the pavement was terrible covered in snow and ice. This time we managed to get away with it weather wise.

The markets were wonderful with lots of great stalls. Sadly a lot of the stuff we couldn't get in our suitcases, like the bunches of mistletoe on the above stall!.

We were lucky enough to have quite a spacious room, after a couple of drinks it seemed to grow big enough for us to stage our own 'strictly come dancing' contest. There wasn't really any competition, Sandra and Sue won hands down with their very expert version of the Argentine Tango!!!! 

Just look at the expert footwork and the wonderful line of their arms, I would have given them a 10!!!

All of the city was beautifully decorated with Christmas decorations and trees everywhere. On the last day we found the very best place to buy mulled wine, a small stall on the market which looked as if it was a permanent fixture year round. The lady sold polystyrene cup of piping hot mulled wine. We were a little peckish so we had some chips with mayonnaise and sat out in the freezing cold waiting for Santa to arrive!!

Last Sunday was the first anniversary of Mums passing, Tom and I went to Mass with Dad at 8am, where they remembered both Mum and my sister Val. We then went a laid some flowers on her grave. It was a strange day, a time to remember the good times and try to forget the sad times at the end. 

During the week we had a pre Christmas meet up, Madeline, Sandra and Sue, we tend to have our Christmas dinner at a local pub, where we know the waitress very well, so before we headed off I checked out the Internet and found a selection of vouchers which she applied to our order, so we ended up with a nice three course meal, a bottle of wine and four mulled ciders, only we managed not to pay for the cider and we had £10 knocked off the bill!! Result !!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Hamburg at Christmas.

After what seems like a few hectic weeks we finally arrived at Thursday and out weekend break to Hamburg. This time we were prepared having been there before. We had a plan of action!!

Tom dropped us off at the airport around 11.30 am, we had asked for special assistance because walking the huge airport distances is difficult for one of the party. As usual Luton can up to scratch and just inside the main doors we registered with the special assistance counter and our bags were whisked away . We went through security, two of us set off the alarms with our metal hips (we are so edgy, no drugs or guns for us just good old NHS replacement hip joints!!!)

Once on the other side we could relax and start our holiday!

Well, it would have been rude not to have had a quick Christmassy drink or two!!

We returned to the pre-arranged place and were loaded onto our special assistance 'truck' or as Gracie likes to call it 'The Pussy Wagon' in honour of the great show 'Come Fly with Me' 

The flight was a quick 75 minutes with just enough time for a drink and a pop to the loo, before we arrived in Hamburg. We were met at the other end by a very fit 'Red Cross; man with a wheelchair who loaded Madeline in and then set off at a heck of a pace while the three of us run along behind!! We retrieved our luggage and went outside to find a taxi. Sandra this time won the prize for the lightest suitcase, weighing in at a very skinny 9 kgms. She wanted to leave room for all her shopping!!

We arrived at our hotel and checked in. Sandra and Sue had exactly the same room as before, we had one around the corner!
We decided to drop our bags and head straight to the supermarket and stock up on essentials for the next few days (mainly wine and amaretto!!)

We went out for dinner at a nearby restaurant and had a warming mulled wine to protect us from the cold ! We planned the following day, we decided to head for the markets around 10am after breakfast and make a day of it. We also decided to take things as easy as possible so that we didn't over do things. We planned to build in lots of Mulled wine breaks!!!

Hamburg main square.

One of the many beautiful stalls

At one point we were so cold that we had to give in and go inside for a mulled wine, it was bitter. Most of the weekend the temperature was 0 on in the minus, if you added the wind in it was freezing. 

We had a fabulous time, I will share a few more photos and stories tomorrow.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas!!!

This year is really flying by, its nearly December already! I haven't written my cards yet so I was very surprised to receive a card from the Royal household, I have gone up in the world, I hope she is not expecting one in return!!!

This week has seen Beth reach a milestone birthday, it seems minutes since she was born after a long night in labour.

She weighed in at 7 lbs 13 ozs at 5.50am on a cold Sunday morning in November.
As she was our third child we were more experienced, she was quite laid back and easy. She slept well and fed well. She had a big brother and sister who both ran around after her from the word go! Carl used to love to give her a bottle which was a great help .

Now she is a young adult.

This year she was lucky to have two birthday cakes, both made by friends! She likes Stitch so Nicky made her a Stitch cake.

Barb made her a beautiful purple 18 cake.

On the evening of her birthday we went out for a Chinese meal with some friends and family.

Beth was excited to come of age, she got some beautiful presents and lots of money! Thank you to everyone who was so generous, letters are being crafted this weekend, but I know a lot of you this blog!! We managed to keep her surprise present a surprise right up until she opened it. I had wrapped a bag of little gifts, some of them were a clue to the surprise present, the penny didn't drop at all!! so she was shocked when she opened tickets to a long weekend away in Amsterdam (she knows it as well as I do!!) with her friend Hannah. (Thanks Wendy xxx)
Happy Days!!!

I have packed and I am ready to jet off on my winter trip to the Christmas markets. We fly from Luton (International Airport!!!) at lunchtime tomorrow. I think we will get there early enough to have a festive cider in the bar before flying to Hamburg. I can't wait!!

Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas.......

Take care

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Dreary couple of days away.

*******STOP PRESS*******
Forgot to add to the original post that I was lucky enough to have been in fine company!! Thank you Alison for your kindness and outstanding ability to find rose wine in an otherwise not terribly exciting few days!!!!

I have just returned from a couple of days away in Bristol, a city I have not visited before. I was attending a work related conference. To start with its a bit of a pain with three trains to get. I had to travel into London and then get the underground to Paddington before finally getting the train to Bristol. All in all it took me 3 1/2 hours! It wasn't even a very restful journey. The trains were all busy and I really don't understand why there isn't enough space for luggage. The other issue is accessibility it amazes me just how many stations are almost impossible if you have mobility issues or are travelling with a buggy. Even the signs confusing ! Because it was a work function they supplied me with train tickets, although they should have thought to allow some time to get from one train to another, I had one very near miss which would have added hours onto my journey!
We all stayed in the Holiday Inn in the centre of Bristol, which was very nice, standard Holiday Inn hospitality!

We were opposite a massive Premier Inn, I expect the view from the top was spectacular!! The view from my room was less so, I had the view of the car park and boarded up shops!!

In front of the hotel was a huge roundabout, which had an underpass which lead to a place known locally as 'the bear pit' guarded by a black and white bear statue, I am sure in the summer months it may well be an interesting place but it felt pretty dire in the rain :(
On the plus side there was a huge fabric shop opposite the hotel, so instead of having lunch I popped over there and managed to buy myself some sparkly fabric for my New Years eve outfit! Bargain at 50p a metre!

We ate on on the one night that we were there, it was prebooked by the course organisers, we went to new restaurant called Aquila. The surroundings were very nice, but the food was underwhelming and very expensive, big plates tiny portions and simply not very tasty, won't be hurrying back there!! 

Finally I headed back yesterday afternoon, left Bristol at 2pm and when I eventually arrived at Kings Cross there was only one train delayed, which was of course my train! There were hundreds of people waiting for the platform number to be posted up, once it was there was a mad stampede for the train. Considering it was late it was not going to hang around! I was lucky that I guessed the right platform and was towards the front of the queue. people were still trying to get through the ticket barriers when the train left!!

I am started to get excited for our Hamburg trip, I keep looking at the weather forecast last week it was showing a bit of snow for the day after we get back, but that could move, so I am getting ready for every eventuality!! I am also keeping an eye on New York in light of their snow this week, they also have forecast of snow on Christmas day so fingers crossed we get a nice sprinkling to add to the Christmas feel!!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Nothing to Report!

I have just had one of those odd sort of weekends, a weekend where I had plans but they didn't go according to plan one way and another!

Working full time during the week means that the weekend is the light at the end of the tunnel the whole reason for living!! So Saturday arrived and I woke at the usual time and decided to go to Lidls in time for it opening - I really know how to live, the pinnacle of my excitement!! So I did my shopping and was back home for 9.30am. - Can this weekend get any better?
After popping to see Dad it was back home to try and make a start on my Christmas wrapping. This year I am trying to be super organised because I have a couple of spells away coming up. business trip to Bristol and a girls weekend in Hamburg. 

(A couple of shots from our last trip, involving snow and Mulled wine!!)

I am particularly looking forward to the Germany trip, we last visited a couple of years ago and we really enjoyed it. We are hoping that this year we won't get any snow (its fine as long as you can just look at it and not battle your way through it!!). We are also hoping that the first weekend of the Christmas Markets will not be as busy as the ones nearer to Christmas. Last time we went we couldn't get near the stalls on the Saturday, we sort of got carried along by the crowds and couldn't actually stop to look at the wares. Worse than that we were right in the middle where the snow from the roofs of the stalls was slowly melting and dropping on us in huge wet clumps!!
This visit it is forecast to be cold and dry which is preferable to snowy and slushy!

Saturday afternoon we planned to go and see our friends Deb and Malc, their son Sam was appearing in my all time favourite musical, Jesus Christ Superstar. The plan was to go and spent a couple of hours before the show with our friends, it was not to be. It seems that our luck with all things water has rubbed off on them. We seem to lurch from one watery crisis to another. I think they were jealous of our watery antics and the variety of workman coming to our address to repair the vast array of issues. We thought that after our most recent disaster where the mains ruptured below the stop cock that they would give up and declare us the victors, but no, they went the extra mile. They went without heating AND water for two weeks and just when they thought things had returned to normal they discovered a leak in the replaced pipework leading to damaged ceilings and a lot of upset. 

Malc had got us all tickets for the last performance of the show, they were brilliant tickets, front row no obstructions. The plan for us to stop at theirs for a pizza went out the window when they again had to switch of the heating and water. Malc had to wait in for the plumber and ended up missing the show. The show was fantastic, it takes me right back to my youth, its the second time this year I have been lucky enough to see it, I can sing every single song and it always brings a lump to my throat when the final scene happens. The whole disappointment of missing the pizza was made bearable by a glass of cider and a chocolate ice cream at half time (Thank you Nanny Cate!!)

So what is happening this week? not a lot so far and not a lot in plan. If I get the inclination I am going to finish some furniture painting and finish the planning for Beth's birthday!! Happy days!

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Remembrance Sunday.

This morning I went into town to attend the Remembrance Parade. It was a sunny cold morning and the town centre was packed with people. While waiting for the ceremony to start it was good to see so many people that I knew, some people I hadn't seen for 30 years or more! 

There were hundreds of people including children, some of them on the parade were very little! We stood with our very own  little Rainbow, Bobbie.

She was very good, she knew a little about what we were all here for and considering Bobbie is usually so active and into everything, she was very respectful and quiet. A really good girl!!

Dad was there too, he was able to get in with his scooter, although speaking to him afterwards, he had found it hard to get through the crowds, particularly at the end when he was trying to get away from the town centre.

All the Forces were represented including Police and Fire service as were all the Scouts and Guide groups.

There so many people marching that they went all the way around Howardsgate.

It was a very moving ceremony, the 100th Anniversary, the Last Post, all the people who made it such a memorable event. I think that its vital that we remember exactly what was given up by those that enabled us to live the life of freedom that we now have.

Saturday night the weather was horrible, pouring with rain and cold, not a good evening for a firework party!! None the less, I made the supreme sacrifice and  attended the local three school Firework extravaganza with my mate Jane. I took the precaution of taking flasks of mulled wine with me, I really didn't want to catch a chill and it seemed the only way to avoid it, that and I had earlier in the day had my flu jab, so thought it wise to further protect myself with the healing properties of mulled wine!!!

By the time we had walked home we were thoroughly soaked but warm on the inside!!!

I hope you all have a wonderful week, don't work too hard and remember, I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here starts on the 16th of November, its what Winters were made for !!!!!