Sunday, 27 May 2012

Pre-Holiday Concerns

Well it's a gorgeous, sunny Sunday.  I expect everyone is getting nice & brown in their gardens.  What have I been doing? Ironing, packing, weighing the case, unpacking, re-organising, packing, weighing .... and so it goes. And I'm still overweight! My case, not me - OK I am too but that's not the priority at the moment.  Are we the only ones that have this problem?  We have an allowance of 20 kilos each & 5 kilos hand luggage.  I am obviously taking too many clothes!  But I can't decide what to leave behind, I like to have my daytime outfits then change for dinner.  And of course there has to be a choice of sandals in 3 different heel heights.  Oh & shorts & T-shirts for the pool area over the 2 or more swimsuit choices.  Then there's the toiletries, the SLR camera with spare lenses, the snapshot camera for emergencies, the iPad and the kindle (at least I'm not having to take 2 or 3 books anymore!) How come I take the same amount of clothes when I go for one week?  Although I am, this time, going for two.  Can I take this in my hand luggage? Have the rules changed again? Won't bother with perfume I can buy some on the plane. Trying to take all the sun cream adds weight too - It'll be damned expensive over there!  But will it be cheaper to pay when we get there and not have to pay for being overweight in our luggage?

I just wonder if everyone does the same?  But then I don't suppose everyone takes as many clothes as me.  I like my choices you see?  Dresses, Skirts, Trousers, Leggings, Shorts. And then there has to be  Stylish, casual, & of course a couple of cardigans just in case of chilly evenings & tops to match all the bottoms!  It was so much easier going on a cruise, no baggage restrictions except they had to be easy for the porters to handle. Take as many cases as you like, no worries about putting hairspray in the suitcase & not in the hand luggage.  I knew there was a reason I liked cruises.  Anyway, packing is all done now - If we're over, were over!  I'll let you know when we get back.  In the meantime, don't have too much sunshine will you?  Or I may as well have stayed home and not worried about the damned luggage!  And can you have some rain while I'm gone too please or else all my yummy veggies are going to shrivel & die.

Take care my friends.  I'll see you in two weeks!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Banana Bag Review

Yes - Banana Bag! I discovered this a couple of weeks ago.

How many times have you stocked the fruit bowl with bananas only to go back a week later to find the bananas have gone black & are attracting fruit flies?  We all do it, buy a stack of fruit & then forget to eat it or buy a couple of extra bananas just in case the grandchildren come over, but if truth be told, when they come over they'd rather have one of nan's freshly baked cakes or that pack of sweets in the cupboard!

We all know you can't store bananas in the fridge as they go black even quicker because the skin gets too cold & the flesh inside ripens even quicker. If left in the bowl, a banana will last a week at best.

My problem is that not driving & living in a village 5 miles from town, I like to have a good supply of fruit, but hate it when the 2 bananas that are left in the bowl at the end of the week are only useful for making banana bread.  I like a fresh banana every day with my breakfast, either sprinkled with cinnamon or honey on toast or scrummy with a couple of weetabix & hot milk.

So how do bananas stay fresh in a banana bag? Well, it actually allows you to keep the bananas in the fridge! Sealed inside the bag, fresh bananas get just enough air to keep the flesh from over-ripening & the skin is kept warm enough through the right amount of insulation to stop it from turning black.  Bananas will keep fresh twice as long!

It was worth the few pounds paid out - definitely value for money!

I hope this was helpful - If you like bananas, you'll love The Banana Bag!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Escape to the Country - The Early Months

Previous to moving to a sleepy Shropshire village, some ten years ago, I'd had a 5 day week office job with my local council. This meant that most of my Saturdays were spent jumping on a bus (oh the joys of living in a big town or city!) and spending the day at the market or shopping mall. I'd while away the hours in a coffee shop or browse the wares for sale, even though I couldn't actually afford most of them being a single mum to a growing teenage boy at the time!  However, these were my ways to relax. I had the freedom to come and go as I pleased.

Sundays were spent alone as my son would be either in bed until midday, out playing football or refereeing a local league match.  It was therefore my housework day, cooking later in the afternoon and then relaxing in front of the TV.  There were some Sundays spent on trains and buses for a couple of hours to visit mum & dad who lived about 15 miles away.  Having never passed my driving test, trains & buses were my mainstay and I took it for granted that they were just at the end of the road!

Oh how it was all to change when I met my 'Shropshire Lad'.  When my son reached 18 & had made all his plans to go to university, there was just one thing for me to do.  Sell up and move lock, stock and the proverbial barrel to live with my new found 'internet' love.  On 19th July 2006 the company van was loaded with my posessions and we made the long journey from Dagenham to Hinstock (a village in North Shropshire). My son decided to stay 'darn sarf'(1) with his mates living out of a suitcase (or rather, holdall) until it was time to go to Uni in Sheffield he then came up to stay with me for the week before his adventure began.  But I digress.  This is about my move from the smoke to the sticks and all the culture shocks I endured at that time.

I was really looking forward to escaping the hustle & bustle of city life and being able to work from home & choose my own hours. At first I busied myself doing all the country house wifey things, cooking, baking, enjoying the quiet of the countryside.  Then it hit me!  I was living in an old farmhouse down a country lane a mile from the poorly-stocked village shop and 6 miles from the local town.  I couldn't drive and there was no regular bus service except for the schoolkids!  I went days, sometimes weeks without seeing anyone except my partner.  Luckily, he'd decided to stop working on Sundays, so that we at least went for a drive or to the shops in either Telford or Shrewsbury for the day.  I would ring my mum and try to sound happy but I was oh so lonely!  Then at the beginning of December, while I was looking after my 13 month old grand daughter, came a call I'd been dreading.  My dad, who had been ill for sometime, had taken a turn for the worst & was in hospital.  I was advised that I should go.  I paced the floor & contacted my partner, who was working at our main depot.  We then made a manic journey, grand daughter in the back of the car to the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel.  The rest of the family were waiting.  My heart sank when I saw my mum and then all the guilt rushed in.  I had left them and moved over a 100 miles away to persue my own happiness.

By morning, dad was gone and I stayed at mum's to help her with all the arrangements for the funeral washing my clothes at night (I'd not had time to pack!) & wearing them over again for about a week until I felt I could leave her and come home.  The loneliness got worse trying to cope with my dad's death & the guilt of leaving mum, but she had told me I had done the right thing, and that I should never feel guilty as long as I was at the end of the phone.  I suppose she knew how I felt, having moved to England as a war bride leaving her family in Belgium, except she wasn't at the end of a phone.  Perhaps I'll tell her story some time.

A few months later, I'd  set up an eBay shop for the family business.  It took off big time & I found myself working more hours than I had for the council!  I suppose I enjoyed it at first as it kept me occupied and took my mind off my isolation.  I started taking driving lessons, only to fail my test 5 times in succession with 4 different examiners and for different things each fail! I gave up! Especially as the last failure had been for speeding!

We moved to our house in the centre of the village in November 2008.  Now, the poorly-stocked village shop was only a 3 minute walk away and town just 5 miles.  Did this make life easier? I'll tell you all in part 2!

(1) No I don't talk like that! I may be cockney but I like to think my accent is more refined ;)

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Easter in Pembrokeshire

The trip down was a pleasant one. I was firmly relaxed in the passenger seat of the Land Rover Discovery (it would have been the Merc with the top down, but the weather forecast put paid to that as a lot of rain was forecast that weekend).

We left home at around 9 am on Thursday 5th April and decided to take the slow route down through mid-Wales & round the Brecon Beacons. Living so closely to North Wales & Snowdonia, we were used to the rugged, dramatic vistas to be seen there and were interested to see how the countryside of South Wales would differ once we got past the Brecons. Pembrokeshire was apparently untouched by glacial ice sheets whereas the rest of Wales was affected by the movement of the ice so the geology would be very different. Below the Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire was more reminiscent of the gentle rolling hills of Devon & Cornwall. With soft sloping roads (or rather tracks) down to the sea. I say tracks as there were some very narrow roads to negotiate to see some of the undoubtedly beautiful views out across The Celtic Sea, & St Georges & The Bristol Channels.

The Harp Inn is situated just outside of Haverford-West in the village of Letterston. They'd not been doing B&B for long and I think they are still finding their feet. Whilst the rooms & beds were very comfortable, I found the bedding to be of gigantic proportions making it feel like you were being swallowed. If you like heavy quilts it's fine, but there was absolutely no alternative to the mound of blancmange that engulfed me every night. We ate at the Harp every evening mainly so that hubby could have a few wines & not have to drive. The food was tasty & well cooked by Giles Sandall & his team, whilst Giles' wife Becky ran front of house and was ready to chat at all times even though she seemed rushed off her feet all the time!

The highlights of our visit for me were our trips to St. Davids City (The smallest in Britain with just 1,600 inhabitants), The Pentre Ifan Burial Chamber & Castell Henllys Iron Age Hill Fort. You may have noticed a theme here... History! Yes, it seems to take up quite a large part of our trips away. We love archaeology and anything ancient!

St Davids was amazing because of the view of the Cathedral when you first see it. You wander down through the town, an unassuming little place (although there is a visitor's centre which tends to give a hint of it's importance). It occupies the valley floor below the village. As you approach from The Square, you can't see the cathedral until you get quite close. You pass through the gatehouse and there it is - magnificent!

Pentre Ifan is to be found near the village of Nevern near Fishguard. It is the best known & most impressive megalithic monument in Wales.

 It is a splendid burial chamber with a huge capstone balanced on three pointed and slender uprights . This capstone is said to weigh over 16 tons. It is 5 metres long and 2.5 metres off the ground. The name translates as Ivan's village and the monument dates back to about 3500 BC (the Neolithic Age). It is unusually oriented north-south & stands on the slopes of a ridge commanding extensive views over the Nevern Valley. It was apparently originally covered by a cairn thought to have originally been 36 metres long.

Another place that I would recommend all to visit is Castell Henllys Iron Age Hill Fort. 

It is a mixture of archaeology, reconstruction & experimentation. The foundations of the fort were originally discovered by archaeologists around 20 years ago. It is the only site in Britain where Iron Age roundhouses have been reconstructed on their original foundations and it's believed people first lived there in around 600BC & that the site was still occupied throughout the Roman occupation of Britain. The fort overlooks the valley of the Nant Duad stream, which flows into the River Nevern. There are footpaths & sculpture trails leading up to the site which is nestled in 9.5 hectares of woodland & meadows. It's a great place to take children as you can actually enter the roundhouse & imagine how the people would have lived all that time ago!

There were of course other places to visit, such as the St Davids Lifeboat Station where trips are possible to Ramsey Island to see the wonderful wildlife there.

There is also the majestic Victorian seaside resort of Tenby with it's Castle & Fort, sandy beaches and Palm trees - but that is definitely for a sunny day!

There is the Lighthouse at Strumble Head just past Fishguard where the old WW2 lookout post is now used as a shelter for bird watchers.

I did enjoy my trip to Pembrokeshire despite the drive home in constant rain, (which actually stopped as we emptied the car at home) but I missed the ruggedness of North Wales & the beauty of the Shropshire Hills.  Strange really, coming from a woman who was born & grew up in the City of London and lived in Dagenham in Essex for more years than I care to remember!  Since moving to Shropshire just 5 years ago, I seem to have become a country girl, relishing the beauty & diversity of the countryside around me.  I still crave a trip to Romford Market now & then, but I don't think I'd move back to the smoke now if you paid me!!

Monday, 16 April 2012

A change in direction

At first this was going to be a foodie blog, then I slipped in some poetry and now I'm changing course again! - Oh yes I can be fickle!
This time I want to tell you all about my trip at Easter with the other half to Pembrokeshire - so it will include some foodie bits as well as a hotel review and some fantastic pics hopefully of the scenery and amazing places we saw.  I will then probably change direction again and blog about something totally different! I do so hate being stuck in a rut don't you?

The Pembrokeshire blog will be next so watch this space.  It will cover 5 days including 2 travelling and I hope I will be able to make it amusing as well as interesting ;)

For now I'm off to get some lunch so could be blogging later x

Friday, 13 January 2012

Ode to Insomnia

Sweet sleep
You take the pressures of the day and turn them into dreams
And yet those same pressures keep you from me.
What choice have I but to dwell on those pressures here in my wakefulness?
For if my sleep denies me I must think how to suppress those pressures.
Yet with that thinking, do I not suppress the very sleep I crave?
Ah well
Tomorrow is another night.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Well the festivities have finished and I'm now feeling the need to get cracking with the weight loss! My gorgeous daughter is getting married in September and I'm damned if I'll be buying a dress for the size I am now! I want to drop at least 2 dress sizes and look like the stunning mother of the bride that I've always dreamt of being.  I've waited a long time for this moment! 11 years and 2 grand children long in fact.  So, I have joined a slimming club (Slimming World, if you're interested) and on my 1st day of dieting, I find that I have eaten so much that I am absolutely bloated! You see with this club you can virtually eat whatever you want to and there are certain foods that you are positively encouraged to eat stacks of! Today, I had a fried breakfast - yes, fried, but not in fat, in that magical spray oil. Their motto is as long as you eat the right quantities i.e. a third of the plate needs to be what they call super-free foods - basically fresh or tinned fruit & veg. Food that has low calories but is very filling.  I can still have chocolate, I can still drink my wine.  Just need to be a bit careful with my treats and stick to the programme's syn system. And it works! I've seen the results.  So I will probably keep you all updated on my progress each week when I go to club to get weighed. This week I have set myself a 3lbs target so fingers crossed I don't get carried away on the treats.
Also, a good friend has been accepted for the This Morning 12 week challenge to get fit on TV.  He is 20 years old and has been obese for most of his life.  He has already lost 2 stones by following the Slimming World programme in 10 weeks so 12 weeks of fitness training & his healthy diet should really shift the lbs. I will be following his progress closely.  
Well, that's all I have to say at the moment except to wish you all a very happy & prosperous 2012 and hope this new year brings you everything you wish for.