Monday, December 31, 2007

More projects

As promised some more craft projects. I WILL get more on here LOL Years ago I got these cones with little elf heads on them, no idea where from now but they come out every year and sit on the fire place.
Over the years they have slowly all lost their little heads though. I bought some foam balls about 6 years back meaning to mend them, but it wasnt until this year I actually did anything about it. Of course I managed to buy the wrong size foam balls so I only did a few. I am going to get some bigger 'heads' to do the rest. Maybe I will do them before the 6 years is up next time. LOL

What ever way you are seeing it in this even I wish everyone a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Busy busy crafting

This blog doesnt really show up the fact that I am really crafting away busily. I am going to aim to get more on show in 2008.

In a pique of madness I decided I would like a folk art kind of Christmas theme next year, we have been putting up the same decs in the same places for years and I would like a bit of a change. So I started by making this:

Its actually from a woodsaw pattern I found on the net but I have changed the quote, added the christmassy feel and taken off the season hangy bits to add stars. Oh and instead of wood I made it from chipboard. I'm quite pleased with it as a first attempt. I had the fun of digging out my acylic paints and using heaps of glitter.

I am also having a bash at cross stitch and am half way through a little angel pattern. I have a folky Father Christmas pattern to do too, and am hoping I will be able to put one in each of the little silver frames that Wayne's parents bought me. Watch this space but it could be some time as I am a slow sewer.

Friday I collected my brand new shiny KA car!!!

It was a bit sad to say goodbye to my poor old Astra convertible, it had done me so well over the 4.6 years I had owned it, and I loved driving round with the top down and the radio blaring. But it really was in a bit of a sad state and since none of us are particularly great at car maintenance, it had to go. We took it to get an offer on part exchange, I wasnt expecting any great shakes so was really surprised and pleased when they offered £450.

Anyway now my lovely new one is sitting on the drive. I have been to my mum's and back in it, and it is a really neat little run about, with a bit of a tiger under the engine once out on the open road.

I'm just waiting for decent light to take a photo.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Bring on Boxing Day

Kelly and Ollie, not wanting to miss out on a family Christmas with us, had asked if we could have a repeat day at 'Nan's' on Boxing Day, complete with the roastie dinner and all. This meant that mum and dad had to get up and leave Laura's early in order to get the joint of pork in the oven and the central heating on to warm up the house (Dad refuses to use the automatic timer).

We were all meant to go but sadly poor Wayne had a repeat attack of the flu bug and ended up in bed the whole day, so Laura stayed home to clear up and administer to his fevered brow :(
We nipped home, fed the cat and went to my Parents, where Martin decided to have a play with his new remote control indoor the garden!

Within minutes he was back telling us it had flown down behind the shed between the fence and the back wall, and he needed the fishing net and hoe to get it back safely.

Martin cooked dinner (family tradition) but although it was lovely, we were still so stuffed from the day before that it was a struggle. All we really wanted to do was curl up and go to sleep, but Kez wanted to play board games (another Christmas tradition) so we finally settled on Trivial Pursuits '90's edition.

Now maybe I am getting older, but I am sure the first ever edition was ok. hard but you at least had some hope of answering 7--80% of the questions. These questions were written so badly (gramatically) and were so obscure that even Ollie (who I am sure secretly holds a Masters degree in Board gaming) wasnt able to answer many. And those of us who never pick up a paper or watch the telly had no hope.

We struggled on and tried not to get frustrated but really we should have all stopped and got the playing cards out.
Exhaustion won in the end and Kelly took Ollie home because he wasnt feeling too great. We left soon after and I think we were all in bed really early that night.

Friday, December 28, 2007

So that was Christmas!

And such fun it was too. Well most of it anyway.

Christmas Eve its traditional for Mum and I to go to the
Christingle held in the little church hall at the end of her estate. It is usually a beautiful crib service containing the Sunday Schools attempt at a nativity with the Christingle combined and is very child orientated. Laura was going to come with us but Wayne had man flu and so she had heaps to prepare with 9 of us to feed at her house the next day. She kept phoning to say yes she would, no she couldn't, yes she would come. In the end she didn't come and I am so glad she didn't. We had forgotten that the family man Vicar had left the Parish since last Christmas and we were treated to a really boring, not at all child orientated, long service led by a lady Vicar, who really was well past retirement age. It was so disappointing after the wonderful services of the past 10 years.

Christmas day w
e were up bright and early, woken not by our children, now grown and flown the nest, but by the blinking cat! I'm not sure if he knew he had a stocking full of goodies, but he's not normally pesting us quite so early so who knows? Anyway Kelly and Ollie soon turned up to get us moving towards Laura and Wayne's house. Not that it did much good because just as Mum and Dad were leaving for the grand present opening, rellies in Oz phoned and held them up for an hour!.

Here is a list of all the goodies I got:

A stocking full of purple lushness from my Secret Santa Sto
cking swap (Thank you - I still dont know who you are, but sooo much stuff, wow!)

From Martin and Pumpkin:
An adventure game

Suffle sukara pens

Pink ipod accessory kit

Bead machine book

From Kelly:
2 of Jeromy Clarkson's books
The latest Terry Prachett hard book

A set of Aqua flo brushes

From Mum
Ice cream machine recipe book (yummy!)
Rummikub special edition

From Laura and Wayne (after 5 years of being on my list)

A 4.5 ft bubble lamp with fish

From Gra and Di
2 Oval
shaped vintage sinlver and sparkly photo frames.

From Jan and Trev
Body shop bath goodies

We only unwrapped the ones from each other, as Di and Graham (Waynes parents) were coming on later and we would open more pressies after lunch. Ollie and Kelly left for Jemma's and we started in on the sausage rolls, played chrissie music and chatted.

Lunch was superb. Wayne made pawn cocktails, with melon for Laura and I. Then it was full turkey roast with all the trimmings and a ton of veg, followed by Christmas pud and mince pies AND vienetta ice cream, cream , custard and milk. Ending with After Eight mints, and coffee/t

Then suitably stuffed, we opened more pressies.
We watched TV while Wayne and his parents went off to visit Wayne's nan and brother who was suffering from the one day flu Wayne had had on Christmas Eve, and who had had to stay home in bed instead of coming to join us.

As if we hadn't eaten enough, Laura then faced us with salad, cold meats, pickle, bread rolls, sausage rolls, and a huge trifle with cream! And even when we had all eaten as much as we could Laura's fridge (a huge American one) still looked like this!

Di and Graham went home around 10.30 but we were sleeping over, so we sat up until gone one in the morning playing a hilarious game of Beetle drive!

Thank you to my family for making it a wonderful day.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Whirl of Christmas preparations

I'm not sure where the last week has gone to. I havent really done much of significance but have done shopping, baking, and general preparations for the Big Day. Martin has had to work the last two weekends so he is really tired and not up to going out much.

Last Thursday I had to sign on, the lady got quite stroppy . Despite the fact that I have been doing this for several months, and I even had a star for 'good job hunting' I dont seem to have got it right this time. I had to sign off and sign back on because I had done 3 days supply in one week (you can only do 2.5 without this happening) so I had been for a new claim intereview and this was my first sign on back. You have to do three things each week to show you are looking for work. I had filled my form in as per. However suddenly looking on 3 web sites wasnt enough. Suddenly looking on the web counted as only 1 thing even if you look at a zillion sites! Looking in the paper only counted as 1 thing even if you went through every publication known to man. So I had only done 2 things not 3.

So the first person to let me know what else I can do to find a teaching job please tell me, because I am damned if I know. You cant phone or write or cold call schools. Its the one thing guarenteed to get you on a 'dont employ this person' list with Heads. So what's left? Even the Job Centre person couldnt tell me, so she just right on doing the 'broken record' you must do 3 things routine. Eventually she said contacting the supply agency counted - err and this week when they are shut for the holidays?? We will see.

If that wasnt enough I then took my mum to the new Vue cinema to see Mr Magoruims Magnificant Emproium (great fuzzy film by the way) were we had more problems. Bailey the dog had chewed up Kelly's Christmas present. Too late to order a replacement I had promised to go by one in the shops for Loz, so mum and I arrived with 2 hours to spare, in order to go shopping and have a bit to eat first. We checked on the poster outside the cinema that the internet had given me the wrong times, only to find the first showing wasnt for another 6 hours!!! Ooops.

Anyway we did our shopping and then walked back to the cinema. The foyer was still locked but other people were turning up. One lot of lads, drove off again, and one older dad with his grown up daughter started making a right fuss, about how this wasnt the first time blah blah blah, he was going to write to the Managing director blah blah. It was better entertainment than any film so we hung around for a bit. A young mum with her two kids turned up and politely tapped on the window to the staff inside (yes there were staff, just all the doors were locked.) "Can you come here and talk" she mouthed, but the staff wouldnt budge. "I just want to know what time you are opening, I have two young girls and its freezing" still the staff wouldnt come talk to us.

Eventually we all sneeked in when the contractor putting in new chairs left the door open! I asked the young lad by the ticket booth what time the film was, turned out the net was right, the poster wrong, so I explained and he asked me (really politely) to show him the mistakes. I took him outside and he thanked me for helping out. Then the Manager turned up. He laid into me as if it was my fault. I hadnt even complained, just pointed out it was causing them to loose customers, but he still went on. "Why cant people look on the net, its not his fault the poster is wrong, what was he supposed to do about it" rant rant! Mmm good job the film was ok.

Friday I spent all day with Laura baking mince pies, cheese straws, and vienesse biscuits. Then we snuggled up to watch 'Its a Wonderful Life' (Love that film)

Continued to open my advent swap and being spoilt rotten.

19th day - a small note booklet with a large cut out heart shape on the front
20th day - more flower buttons (blue)
21st day - Lush hair and body gel
22nd day - an Ikea Christmas cone tree
23rd day - Lush Happy Pill

And yes I have scrapped!!

I got held up on I because it took so long to make the little acryilic mini book (there was a lot of glittering that had to dry) It has three pages but since it is so hard to scan and they are all more or less the same I have only put one up. The colours are way off - the 'i' on the front is not white but green.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A new Ka!!!

Today was Martin's day off, so we decided to go out looking for a newer car for me. This follows on from the other day when I went to turn the lights on and the knob came off in my hand!! Since now the window leaks big time when it rains and I noticed a hole over the wheel arch, it really is time to say goodbye to the old lady and get something a little more practical. As much as I will miss my convertible. :(

Now I never want much in the way of transport. As long as it starts ok and gets from A-B safely I am happy so my criteria looking round was 'blue, def not silver or white, a working radio, and under £3000'
Well we didnt see anything we liked and most decent cars were about £4500, so we ended up in the Ford garage and are now signed up for a brand spanking new Ford KA!

To be collected 2 days after christmas.

It has a
cd radio, and it is sort of blue - deep blue which in my eyes is black but there you go! I've never had a new 'new' car before and am quite excited!!

Crafting news:
On 16th day of christmas my SS sent to me some little tiny flower buttons

On 17th day - Cosmic shimmer regal artic aurora embossing powder
on 18th day a silver gel pen to match the gold one I got earlier

I am still doing the prompts for the girls A-Z albums, they say they are enjoying them and Scrapdolly is doing some fantastic pages. I am still plodding on with them, and last night managed to do H

Saturday, December 15, 2007

On the 15th Day of Christmas

This blogger needs an extra few hours in the day to keep up!

My Secret Santa has been sending to me:

Day 13 - some Crate Paper ribbon on a little reel
Day 14 - some Ikea star tree decorations
Day 15 - a packet of Woodware tree ribbon brads

I am being treated so generously by my SS!

So what have I been up to?

Sadly Kelly's bunny had to be put to sleep because it had Myxi. Kelly was very upset, and there wasnt much I could do to comfort her. My parents went over to visit her and offer tea and sympathy.

I went to Canterbury to get the last of my Christmas pressies, taking mum along with me. We were doing quite well on her list until she suddenly came over very grey and looked really awful. She complained of pains like a knife cutting slices off her legs, and needed to sit down. I was really worried, but aftere a coffee she recovered and we then took a very slow stroll back to the car. I did manage to get nearly all the last bits though and today sat wrapping them up, attempting to get the DVD to work so I could watch a few christmas movies. No luck there but the house is looking really Christmassy now with all the decorations up, the tree twinkling and piles of presents under it. The finishing touches, a table cloth for the little table and a table runner for the dinning room table made by yours truely from an Ikea sheet this afternoon, make it really cosy.

The girls on the pad say they are really enjoying my A-Z promps although not many of them are managing to keep up. I cant complain as I have only managed to get to F myself, despite promising today I would speed scrap a few pages. The middle bit opens to tell the embarrasing story of when I thought as a child I had seen Father Christmas fly past the window, and begged to be put to bed so as not to be missed.

Last night Wayne, Laura and I went to the new Vue cinema at Westward cross to see The Golden Compass, which we all throughly enjoyed. Not up to the standard of HP but still good, and it does get most of the plot from the book in, all be it not in exactly the same order, and it does finish before the book does, which is a bit odd. Still looking forward to the next two! Its a nice cinema too, and much better than having to traipse all the way over to Ashford.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

On the 12th day of Christmas

Cosmo Cricket, Scrapdolly's transparency Deck the Halls, various computer fonts

Gosh a busy few days. I had to stay in for the dishwasher engineer to come and 'repair' the dishwasher. Every now and then the heating element furs up from our hard water, and shorting the machine out. It takes seconds to reset but it really needs a new element so its bound to break again. I went to Ikea with Kelly yesterday. Only my second ever visit. I wastn too impressed the first time but managed to spend over £100 this time round. Then we went to Lakeside, had lunch in Nando's and went clothes shopping. We didnt do too badly although the Christmas party clothes are pretty dull this year.I stood in the door of one shop and all I could see was a sea of black, grey, brown and dark purples with no colour at all! Today Martin was off so we spent time putting all the new Ikea stuff together (new blinds, wine racks) and Martin went out to the farm shop and bought our Christmas Tree. So I decorated that this afternoon. I put the first 150 string of lights on but it is such a huge tree they looked lost so I sent Mart out for some more. It was only after I put them on that I discovered our other set hidden behind the sofa!

From mt Secret Santa I got

Day 10 - a mini book kit full of lots of little bits and bobs
Day 11 - a turquise sharpie pent
Day 12 - some Lush soap

And I managed to find my missing photos and do tw
o more album pages!!

Cosmo Cricket Winterland papers, Heidi Swapp ghost star and play word, Stampendous fluffles stamp.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

On the 9th day of Christmas

my secret Santa sent to me... some flower stickeez, just right for the thousands of microbeads I still have hanging around.

Sky Broadband went into meltdown again and refused me internet access until 11.30 am!!!

And my daughters have finally sorted out who is doing what where when for christmas and it seems we are at the younger one's for Christmas Day, with my parents and Wayne's parents (plus one huge puppy dog) but Kelly is calling in to open pressies and say Merry Christmas before lunch, and then its down to my mum's o
n Boxing day where Kelly will spend the whole day with us, Laura, Wayne, my parents (and one huge puppy dog).

I am giving the prompts to the pad girls for an A-Z christmas journal. So its really expected that I keep up to date. But this morning I spent the entire time hunting through backup discs for some Christmas photos I know I have but just cant find. So I have only made it to day 3 (shame on me).

Here they are.
BG Blitzen, overlay free from Scrapdolly's blog, Deck the Halls, selection of QK dies, doodlebug frill

Cosmo Cricket Winterland collection, velvet ricrac from my Secret Santa, more QK dies, and Dolly's overlay again.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

If Santa is to come ....

you must tidy up all your toys!! Did your mum ever tell you that? Well mine did, and part of my brother and myself's advent was to turn out the toy cupboard and sort everything out, putting it back neat and tidy.

Today I got up at 6.30 to sort out my toy cupboard - my scrap room actually. I use the wire cube system to store most of my stash, but for some inexplicable reason it has taken a definate list to the right over the past week. So before the whole lot came crashing down around my computer chair I decided to empty it and move it into the corner of the room, allowing the radiator to prop it up.

Now my daughters will both know that Saturday's in our house do not start until eight, nort, nort! Starting this early on 'housework' is a real No! No! but I really do have so much stuff craft wise to get done in the next few days it was really a necessity (plus I really would like Santa to come).

When I was a kid, tidying that toy cupboard, it was always those small last bits that used to frustrate me so much. You know, you got all the board games and puzzles back on the shelf, the boxes had all been mended with far too much sellotape at the corners, all looked spic and span, but there was this pile of playing pieces, jigsaw corners and other assorted 'junk' that required you to open ever single one of those boxes neatly stacked on the shelf to put them away.

Thats where I am at in my stash room.

So I've stopped.

For a cuppa.

Readers you will no doubt be over the moon to know that those missing scissors? the lost ruler? the awol christmas card from my christmas card swap? Not one of them has turned up while I have sorted and cleaned and tidied :(

Kelly you will be pleased to learn that I have finally piled up the small amount of stash you have left here ready to take back home with you, and after christmas I will be sorting out the stuff in the attic too!

Of course the land of spare 'oom is totally trashed!

But I think I stand a good chance with the Jolly Elf in the Red Suit!!

On the eighth day of Christmas my Secret Santa sent me some lovely Doo Da stars!

On a sadder note, one lovely, strong, generous, funny, kind lady left us yesterday. Jan I never got to meet you but through the forums we shared I got to know you and came to like you alot. You will be missed by so many, including me. So goodbye lovely lady, Godspeed, and hugs to Beth and her family who are left behind and are coping so well at this hard, sad time.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


How did I ever manage working full time?

This week I have been doing supply work every day except today (had to go to an appointment with the job centre instead) so am finding it really difficult to get on top of everything. I spent today getting my christmas cards in the post to their overseas recipricants, my christmas kit swap and stocking swaps in the post, and a heap of other little jobs that seemed to take all day.

I still have a zillion christmas cards to write, my journal only has the letter A done and someone has now pointed me in the direction of Tim Holtz's blog where he has tuts for some really zingy christmas tags I would love to find time to do. Hubby had to do the washing yesterday because I just hadnt found time to do it and as for blogging! Well.

Any way, even though I have no crafty stuff to put on here (cards I made last night are now winging their way to Australia and I forgot to take photos of them) I still want to make a record of all the lovely goodies my advent swapee has sent me so far.

Day 1 - A Woodware Tag board book
Day 2 - A gold gel pen
Day 3 - A Bar of Misteltoe kisses
Day 4 - Pink Porcupine lflipper study cards book
Day 5 - A plaid wooden word 'family'
Day 6 - A reel of brown velvet ricrak

Sunday, December 02, 2007


December, and the countdown for Christmas begins. Somehow I have volunteered to give the prompts for an A-Z book of christmas that the girls on the Pad are taking part in as an alternative (or as well as for those with lots of energy and enthusiasm) to Shimelle's journal. Last year I kept up by cheating a bit and throwing in a few digi LO's. This year I am already behind, despite being the one with the prompts because I spent the entire day yesterday either cleaning the house or making a copy of our family traditional advent calandar for Laura.

Then because Wayne is away for the weekend on a stag 'do' and she is 'home alone' I went over and stayed the night and we had a lovely 'girly' time watching movies (Christmas to-do, Love Actually and the Alistair Sims version of Scrooge) plus a little card making, some wine drinking and mum/daughter chatting.

Today I did a heap of food shopping a
nd have just spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning out all the kitchen cupboards whilst Martin has moved all the furniture to its 'Christmas position' ready for the decs and tree.

So finally I get to play with paper. Here is page A for my journal.

Basic Grey, Debbie Mumm stickers, and some Autumn Leaves stamps. The journalling is hidden behind the red and the square cut outs and tells about the angel we had for our tree when I was a child, and the beautiful angel (in the photo) we now have, sadly chewed by the cat as he thought it was a real bird with those geogeous feathered wings.

Monday, November 26, 2007

And ....

So I got meself all dolled up and trundled off for my interview. 2 years ago this would have been a dream job and I would have killed for it. Today I really wasnt bothered if I get it or not. There does actually seem to be more reasons NOT to take it then Take it. Anyway I answered most of the questions, admitted on a few that there were huge gaps in my knowledge, and waffled my way through some others that I only half knew about and now have to wait until Thursday's post to see how I did.

In the meantime I am still getting a steady trickle of supply work from the agency so am not too fussed as that at least means I can have plenty of time off to play (or even do housework if the mood takes me!)

And ....

I made some more christmas cards - really cant get into scrapping this close to christmas with so much to do to prepare for that so......

This is NOT my own design, but one I scrap lifted from here only having no Kelly Panacci stuff (isn't it all lush?) I attempted to make my own. The tree is stamped with an Autumn leaves swirl stamp and then eembossed with lovely green sparkly powder, the Joy I printed out and hand cut then added glitter to it.

And ...

This is one of the magnolia images from the image swap I took part. The same autumn leaves swirl stamp, again embossed, some really old paper from one of the first 12x12 scrap book mags and...yes I admit, a peel-off Happy Christmas!

Ok just discovered the battery is flat in my camera so only two for now, will upload rest tomorrow.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A nagged blogger

My youngest daughter has had a little moan about my lack of blogging updates lately (*little wave to Laura*). I mentioned in a little email to the supply agency that more supply would be nice and suddenly they are phoning me with work at every moment of the day. Now I would have thought a supply agency would know when you were actually in the classroom teaching and not ring you on your mobile, but the young ladies running my SA don't seem to be worried about how unprofessional answering your mobile in the middle of a lesson is. Mine is a really old Nokia, despite being a computer wizz I just cant seem to get the hang of mobile phones, their menu logic doesnt work for me, so even with my simple antique there are still features I cant get to grips with, and the silent ring is one of them. I like to have my mobile on because only my direct family (and the SA) have my number so if it does ring it is likely to be for a family emergency.

Anyway all that was to say why I hadnt blogged, I am either covering other teachers or too tired to be bothered to blog. Plus the end of the cold is still hanging about, making me feel down in the dumps so I havent even taken glue and scissors to paper in any meaningful way. I have started projects, but the minute any thinking is involved, I have pushed them to one side and surfed the net instead.


Today I am not working.

Today I feel much more positive.

Today I am going to start organising my Christmas shopping

And on Monday I have an interview for a full time job!

Friday, November 16, 2007

SAD - its winter

I think I have been suffering a bit from SAD this week, I have felt really fed up and not really been able to set my mind to much. I have done some supply work at several schools this week, suddenly I am Miss Popularity at the agency and they not only keep offering me work but also want me to write a testimonial for them. I have just finished two days at a school with, shall we say, pupils with somewhat challenging behaviour? So as well as being down in the dumps I am now exhausted. And i still cant shake the last of this cold.

And to top it all on Monday I have to go have my 13 week interview at the Job Centre, who have asked for loads of paperwork I dont have. I'm not sure when I am supposed to look for jobs and fill in application forms?

On the plus side Martin is really enjoying his new role at work so thats a positive. He definately looks much happier and healthier.

Anyway my images from the second Magnolia Stamp swap arrived today, and that jolted me into making a fe
w more cards. These are not from the image swap but are actually my own stamp.

Background papers Barbara Schiefer snowflake collection, DMD Joy stamp, lots of stickles and peewee glitter, glittery paints from The Works and snowflake die is a thincut I think

Background paper K Teague Berry Days (2 peas in a bucket), more glittery paint, Studio g stamp, holly leaf punch, more peewee glitter and staedtler triplus fineliner pens.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Hurrah for Laura!

Its been a rotten kind of week.

But it ended really well!

This cold is a particularly nasty strain and will not let go. I spent most of my birthday, Tuesday and Wednesday in bed dosed up on cough sweets and painkillers. I didnt really feel much better on Thursday when the supply agency phoned to ask me to go work in the same school as last week again. I pulled myself together and headed off, only to spend 40 minutes in a traffic jam as they were resurfacing the main road out of Thanet!

By the end of the day I had lost my voice and felt like death warmed up so when my phone went half way through Friday morning I was glad the battery was flat, as I was sure it was the Agency asking me to cover Friday afternoon. I managed a Tesco shop with my parents but that was all I could cope with.

I'm not sure what was the matter with the world on Friday. Tesco was packed to the rafters, worse so than Christmas. I think they were panic buying because of the flood alerts. Similar conditions prevailed to those in 1953 when most of Whitstable ended up under water so perhaps they were all barricading themselves in with their Tesco goodies? We had been to the seafront and seen the huge huge waves crashing over parts of the sea wall. At Hampton the car park was already flooded and at HerneBay the tops of the waves were hitting the bottom of the pieir! Of course Dad's camera - as usual - was in the boot of the car and it was far too windy to get it out. We saw one rather substantially large lady loose her footing so we knew how strong the gusts were!

Saturday the girls were organising a little bonfire party for my birthday, a small affair with just the family. That was all I had wanted. So after I struggled to cook baked potatoes, and make a few pots of homemade veggie soup, and Martin (no better than me because of the cold) struggled in the same way through the hoovering, I was sent up to my room by Laura to put on makeup, listen to music and mainly keep out the way.

When I was finally allowed down I was met by a room decorated with balloons, and banners, a table full of sweets and party nibbles, a caterpillar shaped cake, and sausages being cooked. What a honey she is. So with Mum and Dad, Kelly and Ollie, Laura and Wayne, we set too munching, drinking, chatting and laughing. They finally gave me my birthday present. They had all clubbed together to buy me two tickets to see Lord of the Rings, on the stage in London, plus an overnight hotel stay so we dont have to rush back on the train. Wow!!!

Then we all traipsed outside to light our boxes of fireworks. A running joke because eversince I was tiny ALL my parties have consisted of lighting boxes of fireworks in the garden, even if they are naff. As we stood there waiting for Ollie and Kelly to find the fuse on the rocket, the air was suddenly rent by a lone bagpipe playing 'Happy Birthday'!!! Laura had managed to find and phone my friend Val from Uni who plays in a pipe band. Not that practiced herself on the pipes, her other half (who I had never met) had agreed to come play for me. God alone knows what the neighbours thought as he played 'Congratulations' into the night air.

Val had bought another friend from Uni along and we left the men in the conservatory as we chatted and caught up with all the news.

Thank you Laura, it was a lovely surprise and a lovely evening.

I am just waiting for Kelly to post her photos now, as for once I didnt take any. In fact, I went through all my photos last night and as the family's official photographer, it would seem I never do take any on my birthday as I could only find 2 photos to cover 50 years worth of celebrations

Monday, November 05, 2007

Happy birthday



Half a century today.

And I feel like death warmed up as I sit here in bed surrounded by birthday cards, suffering from a really bad head cold :(

So far the postie hasnt been yet but I have had a few hand delivered cards, phone calls from both my daughters, a text from my sonin-law (congratulating me on getting to 40 at last, bless him) and gifts of a box of tissues and two packets of soothers from my mum and dad.

It can only get better LOL

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Signs of Autumn

Last night we gained that extra hour of zzzzz's because the clocks go back - well we would have but my cat doesnt understand GMT so woke me up for his breakie at HIS usual time. Still it got me to thinking about signs of autumn.

When I was working full time it used to be learning songs fo
r harvest festival, daily sweeping leaves off the classroom patio and most things school related.

But now its celebrating dad's birthday. It fell last wednesday and all the family came round for roast dinner, including the dog. Had a lovely afternoon even if I was worn out from cooking 2 joints (dad wanted pork, Laura doesnt like pork so had to do a bit of beef too) 2 apple pies and a plum crumble.

The poor dog got shut in the garden while we ate but I think he was happy as I had just mended and washed his toy teddy which he has had from birth and lo
ves so much he trailed it round for the whole afternoon. He has caused us a bit of heartache this weekend, well not so much him but some annonymous 'well wisher' who thought they should report Laura and Wayne to the RSPCA for shouting and beating him.

Now eversince the two of them found their plot of land and started buildi
ng their house, this 'well wisher' has been helping them and the council out with reports of every little move they made - builder too noisy (this is one bricky using hand tools), use of the 'wrong building materials' so that Wayne had to cart a bit of every material being used in the build around to the council offices; roof a millimeter higher than the plans (how the hell he could tell I dont know). Anyway the list goes on, but this really was beyond the pale. This dog has got to be the most spoilt, loved and lavished pouch in the world. And the biggest irony is that for the time they were supposedly abusing this animal, it was actually kennelling at my parents while Laura and Wayne had a night away in Oxford.

Of course the RSPCA guy took one look at Bailey and knew at once that no way was he being mistreated.

Anyway, just the last day of our holiday in Orlando to write about. Like all last days it started with the mad rush to pack everything and check out of the hotel by 11. There was plenty of room in the cases for all my scrappy stuff. So as I checked the room for any last minute or left items Martin took the cases down to put in the hire car.

When he came back I wasnt really taking that much attention of hi
m, but suddenly he blurted out 'Someones hit the back of the car!

I went down to look with him. Indeed someone had ploughed into the back of the car with such force it looked like they had actually moved it forwards about a foot (we could tell by its proximity to the ant hill we had noted the afternoon before when we par
ked. There were dents under the numberplate and one part where the fibreglass body of the car actually had a hole in it. I was so worried, as on our first day, an old Scottish bloke we had shared the breakfast table with had been telling us how he never hired a car because they catch you on the damage waiver for big bucks. Martin was very cool about it all though as he kept telling me we had paid extra insurance and were fully covered.

Well there was nothing we could do for now, we had quite a lot of hours to fill before our 10 pm flight. So we left the car where it was in the car park and decided to use ou
r I-trolley tickets to go visit the posh shopping mall we had intended visiting the night we had purchased our passes.

The trolley is quite an experience. The drivers have a pa system and the one we got considered himself quite a wag, telling his well practised jokes all the wa
y along I-Drive. Unlike coaches or buses, they are all wood veneer and fancy glass windows, and quite comfortable to journey in too.

Interior of I trolley
The mall was a resounding dissapointment. Most of the units weren't open yet. It took us ..oh... 3 minutes to walk around it. So we stopped for a drink and tried to think of some other way to fill the 5 hours left until we could make our way to the airport.

In the end we decided to take advantage of our 14 day passes and visit Sea World again. It took as a bit of a while to get there on the I-trolley but we still got 3 full hours in the park, and I am so glad we did this. We took in the penguins again and then tried to go see the baby dolphin in the nursery. This one had been a day old on our previous trip so public visits were not allowed, we hoped we would be allowed in now. When we got there it was still shut. Turns out they had had another delivery the day before and yet another baby dolphin had made his way into the world only hours before we had arrived. Wow! 3 dolphins born in one week.

Then I asked Martin if we could go see the Polar bear again bec
ause he had been asleep before. Not only was he awake but he was a she and she was a mum with a baby.

A whole troupe of scouts were on an education trip and were asking lots of questions while the baby showed off in the snow just by our feet. We discovered that the Polar Bears are the only animals in the whole park that the trainers dont interact with directly but work with from above the enclosure. Not because they are aggresive but because they are so powerful and in play simply dont know their own strength.

These photos are not brilliant, partly due to the low light levels and pa
rtly because in the dark I had grabbed the wrong lens and used my soft brown tinted one by mistake.

Baby Polar bear rolling in snow by our feet.

Time passes so quickly in the parks, and all too soon it was nearly time to catch the trolley back down I-drive for the final time and go catch a plane home. One last look at the dolphins as we passed and then onto the bus stop. But what was wrong with that dolphin?

One dolphin had got himself up onto the flatter shelve in the pool and was acting very angrily towards all the other dolphins who kept coming over to see what was wrong with him.
There was a trainer paddling around the pool in a kyak but he didnt seem bothered. I stood and watched for as long as Martin would let me before he dragged me away to the bus, so I never did discover if the dolphin merely wanted some quite time, or was playing a game of hide and seek or was in genuine trouble.

Traffic was backed up all the way along the high way until about 3 miles from the airport. Yet we still arrived with plenty of time to spend a fortune on presents in the Duty free shop and to have a drink in the bar! As we pulled up to hand in the hire car, my stomach went tight as I remembered the damage. But why I worried I dont know, they didnt even look round the car, simply checked the milage, and told us to make sure we removed all our belongings, thank you for using them!

To make up for being an hour late getting to America, the pilote got us back to Gatwick in 8 hours instead of 9. Trouble was Gatwick was experiencing freak fog conditions so we had to go on stack for half an hour. And then another 3/4 of an hour waiting at luggage reclaim. Didnt really matter though as Wayne and Laura(who were picking us up) had slept through the alarm and were late anyway.

Its wonderful to go away, but ooo so great to be home and back in your own bed!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Bush Gardens

By paying £20 extra on our Discovery Cove tickets, we had free 14 day passes into both Sea World and Bush gardens. It would seem that, by accident, we had hit on the best week to visit Orlando as the parks are not as busy and there are plenty of deals to be had. If we had not already got our tickets, both parks were doing buy one, get another day free passes anyway. So today we were off along to the coast to enjoy our third playground, Bush Gardens.

We didn't really know what to expect. On the Internet all the info gave us was that it was an African experience with a video showing snap shots from colourful African shows, animals and rides.
Bush Gardens, unlike Sea World and Discovery, which are both situated at the end of I-Drive (along with the new soon to be opened Aquatica). Bush Gardens is to be found an hour's drive away in Tampa Bay. This time we knew the way, and once you get used to the strange traffic light system, and the way you suddenly find yourself in an exit only lane, driving in the U S of A is not that difficult. With max and min speed limits, which unlike here are stuck to in the main (probably to do with the amount of sheriff cars littering the highways) and traffic is far more sparse, moving much slower. So really the only dissappointing thing is the steep parking fees the parks charge for those using their hire cars to get to them. The hotels and the parks themselves all run coach shuttle services, so I suppose I can understand why.

Bush Gardens is much like a version of Chessington in England only much bigger, better, with more animals and the opportunity to get much closer to the creatures you had gone to visit. And you really do need more than one day to enjoy all the fun, shows, and things to do/see. Its a shame it was an hour away and that we hadnt known this before we went as we certainly would have liked a second visit.

We started off getting lost! Surprise? Not!

The park is divided up into countries of Africa, Egypt, Kenya, etc. each area having its own white knuckle rides, shows and flavour. So to get an overview we took the overhead ski ride across the 'plains' where the animals were allowed to roam free, just as they would in the wilds. This gave us a spectacular view of what was to come.

At the end of that ride, we had intended going to the 4D pirate show but got side tracked onto the log flume ride, and by the time we got back, the show was one minute in and we couldn't enter. Instead we went to watch the elephants, my favourite animal. I could happily stand and watch these magnificent beasts for hours, especially as these were Asian elephants, a beautiful mottled pink and grey species I had not encountered before. I took heaps of photos of them playing in the water fountain but loved the one of the two taking a share best.

Sad to say at this point I managed to loose my lovely blue straw hat! I was so happy it had gone, now I wouldn't feel guilty about abandoning it at the first opportunity, but Martin insisted in going to look, and then reporting it to the powers that be, and they have promised that should it turn up they will mail it to me. Please not postie!

OK time for the 4D pirate show. Ever done this before? Well strange. Wearing sexy 3d glasses you sit in a giant cinema where the characters flickering on the screen appear in 3d right before your nose when wearing the glasses. Scary enough when facing cutlasses and swarms of bees, but then you are subjected to jets of warm air, or warm water (to simulate presents from the overhead 3d seagulls) dropping on you. A surreal experience.

Next up the white water rapid ride. 12 people sit on a round boat with a huge hover skirt on it. Strapped in with seat belts and sent along the wild fast flowing river ride. Now this was fun, and given time one I would certainly have done again even though I am not a ride person. To start the fun one of our party of 12 was a rather portly - OK fat person who didn't fit the seat belt and embarrassingly had to ask for the extension bit. Off we went.

The first part through a water cannon run where people on dry land have the chance to fire jets of water at you. Martin had spotted this before and knew it was coming. I didn't, and got the first shot full in the face. The portly gent also got the last spray but everyone else still seemed relatively dry. Not for long. Each drop in the river level meant a white rapid surge, and as it spun the boat at the same time, each overflow or splash hit a different person in turn. All but one young lad were rather wet as we hit the last part, under some caves and out through the waterfall. Who would end up under the water fall? A bit like Russian roulette, we tried to guess as the boat spun round and the water got closer. Well it was an easy bet. Yes both Martin and I got totally drenched! But still this young lad was bone dry, and there was only yards to the finish with no visible splashes to go. Except as we approached the off ramp, a final jet of splashy cold water hit us from nowhere, dousing this lad to the skin! The whole boat was in uproar with load guffaws and peels of laughter.

A fantastic way to spend 10 minutes with a bunch of complete strangers. I will say that by 4 o'clock, even though temperatures were in the 90's Martin and I were still damp, and it didn't do my poor blistered feet much good walking round in wet trainers all day, but wow! Did we have fun.

After that the day just got better and better. The ride on the jeep that 'looses' its way through the jungle, and ends up in the water floating downstream (on tracks you are not supposed to notice I hastily add) is recommended, as is the train

which takes you through the plains, and close up to any animals standing by the rails (such as the rhino who were grazing feet from our hands).

Many of the animals are separated from the public by no more than a plate of thick glass so you can safely get really close. That is Martin's foot inches from this sleeping hyena,

and wow! Look! I am close enough to stroke the lioness.

We rounded one corner and unbelievable as it seemed there was only a chicken wire 4 ft high type fence between us and the Mere cats! I was stunned and just stood going 'look, real live mere cats' to Martin. They are little so-and-sos though, they actually do pose for the camera. Every time I moved, this little lad moved around to get his best side shot!

There were plenty of eating establishments dotted around the park, but I didn't really want to waste time sitting and waiting to eat, so we ended up with a snack and then carried on having a great time. We took in one show, which I didn't really understand as I had trouble with the sound system and hearing words clearly'

The shows were obviously not as popular as the ones at Sea world which had been packed to capacity, and maybe we should have noted this but you don't want to miss any of what is going, so we went, even though Martin had promised himself one go on one of the scary rides. By the time the show, which was very colourful and had good music even if I didn't follow the plot, was over, it was park closing time and we had to say goodbye to the animals and make our way home.

That evening we were exhausted but we cant recommend the three parks highly enough. I am so glad we opted for these and didn't do Disney. A few times when out we had heard people talking about the DW parks they had visited and no one we heard was that impressed. Not to put anyone off. We didn't go to them so we don't know. But if anyone wants a good grown-up alternative, these three parks are it. I have looked on the web at the artists impressions of the 4th park being built in this group and it looks like it is going to be just as magical. Will we ever go back? Mmmm, well Martin still wants to see the Keys and I still fancy New Orleans so who knows?

Oh and we ate in Chilli's again. I was quite addicted to those baby ribs and hoped we would get the really nice waitress Billie again, but alas we got Ray who I am sure is one sandwich short of a picnic, bless. The night before I had asked to take my desert home with me in a doggie bag (common practise in America) and the kitchen had put my large flapjack type cookie, my two fudge flavours of sauce and my ice cream in separate boxes so I could carry it home, put in the fridge and eat later. It hadn't been a problem and worked. I asked Ray for the same again. As he handed me the bag he said, 'I was worried about the ice cream so asked them to leave it out' Thinking he meant like it had been packed the night before I just nodded and smiled. Imagine how I was shocked to find, when we got back, that my desert consisted of just the flapjack!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Disappointed in The Space Coast.

By Wednesday morning, it was very apparent that the blister, and the monster bite were not responding to the expensive creams and apart from my trainers, none of my footware was comfortably wearable. Today the itinary had been to go shopping anyway. OK we had bought dad's Jeans in the first hour of shopping on sunday, and there wasnt any more we really wanted to buy, but I had to have something on my feet. We ended up in the Premier Outlet, a very swanky looking place full of designer names, most of which we had never heard of, so it was no surprise that I (literally) fell in the Clarkes shoe shop, happy to recognise a brand I could trust. (I had been hoping for some flyflots but of course they dont sell in outlets, only on line or mail order). I eventually found a pair that, at the time seemed to touch most of the healthy parts of my foot without agrivating the rotting parts. Later, my feet swelled up in the heat. So once again I was left bare foot and fancy free!

We then moved over to the Florida Mall where I was determined to find The Scrapbook Boutique. Now on all the forums I had been assured it was easy to find, right next to Joann's but we had been there twice and still not found it Eventually, fed up with my hobbling and moaning Martin found an info desk where they gave him a map with the shop marked. No wonder we hadnt found it, it is tucked away around the back, not easy to spot at all. And the Joanns was so small I struggled to see it even when we pulled up in front of it. As it turned out, the Scrapbook Boutique sold mainly paper, which I had decided was too hard to take on the plane and wasnt buying anyway, so I came out having spent only $11 on some stickles and one sheet of chipboard diecuts.

Martin was still insistant that he wanted to go to Cocoa beach, so we snagged a quick lunch and headed out. This was supposed to be a 45 minute drive. Of course that is for people with sat nav, maps, or the savvy to follow the road signs. But for Martin, who assumed that Cocoa beach was at the town of Cocoa, this turned out to be an hour and a half drive, through very deserlate march land, all looking a bit like Romney Marsh on the way to Dungerness Power station. The military notices signposting Kennedy Space station didnt quell my fears much either. And not one sighting of a space shuttle.

Eventually we did reach the beach - well not the beach front because that has all been bought up by hotels and you run along a road with large hotels between you and the sea, but we did finally find a road we could turn up, parked and got out to cross onto the sands.

I was so dissappointed. What I had hoped to do was take the water bus out to a thousand islands to see the manatees. What I got was a large 4ft x 4ft sign listing all the things I was NOT allowed to do on the beach, and then the most miserable looking beach front I had ever seen.

This is not my photo., its one I have borrowed from the net. I didnt bother to even get my camera out. We stayed all of 6 minutes, I didnt dip my toes in the Atlantic, and then we were back in the car and heading back to Orlando.

That evening we thought we would try the famous I-trolly that travels up and down International drive. Its a cute little bus, that has a thamas the tank engine type face pointed on it, and runs about every 20 minutes. You can travel as many times as you like in a 24 hour period for $3. I wanted to try some of the finer eating houses at the top of I-Drive where all the hotels and the conference centre were. We checked out the numbers of our stops, bought our ticket in the hotel lobby, and headed off for the trolley stop immedietly outside our hotel. Where we stood patiently and waited.......and waited.......and waited. After about half hour a trolley pulled up, but it was obviously well overloaded so the driver wouldnt let us on, telling us there was another right behind. So we waited... and waited,,, and then decided that even if one picked us up now, we wouldnt be able to eat and get back before the time the trolleys stopped working. The tickets dont actually start the 24 hour count down until you first use them, so we stowed them back in Martin's wallet and went off to enjoy our third meal at Chilli's. Well I just couldnt get enough of those baby back ribs smothered in brown sugar and chilli sauce.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sea World continued

There is just so much to see in this Theme park, much of which I didnt photograph because light levels were difficult without a tripod but setting up a tripod to catch moving animals is just plain stupid. So some of these photos are mine, others I have 'borrowed from the seaworld site. From the dolphin show we went to see them being fed. You have to pay for food and the queue was very long. Its sold by the amount of fish not the amount of people in line so we didnt bother, just watched as others fed them.
Then we continued on to see the Manatees. I had been looking forward to this as I thought they were likened to dolphins, but I was less keen on them. They are very large bloated looking creatures with small heads and they move very slowly. Most of those in the park had been rescued so had chunks out of them from where they had been caught in propellors or attacked by other animals. It was a bit of a rush to cross the park and get to the Shamu show, but we still got reasonable seats. Americans can be very sentimental and this show was very full of 'stand up for our Millitary Heroes' and 'go for your dreams'.

Quite powerful but not for 'the British stiff upperlip' really, so we found it all a bit squirmy and embarrassing. The Whales were good though.

We snagged a quick snack of hot dogs and chips (crisps to us) and then went to see the rest of the park. We were actually heading for the sealions but ended up in the Artic World where the Baluga whales, and the polar bears are housed. Here the light is kept really low and the temp really cold so that the animals think it is the real thing. The theme is an artic research station so you walk through corrigated iron corridors full of mock 'supply' boxes and old fashion machines run with valves using old wind up handles. Its difficult to see the Baluga's in the dark and they move pretty fast.
And as usual the Polar Bear was asleep somewhere behind the icebergs - although we did see his nose.

Back ouside and the park is getting ready for Halloween. There is an additional evening show (which you pay more for) to see Shuma in the scary show. These displays were all over the park.

After that , it was a quick walk through the tunnel to see the sharks, and coral fish, time to see the sealions and then we opted to go back once more and see the Dolphin show as we had enjoyed it so much before heading out the park.