Welcome to family, friends and visitors. Here you will find interesting (hopefully) pictures of my part of the world, news of our household and probably, long ramblings about anything that catches my interest.

Saturday, 31 December 2011

Bitter Sweet Day.

And so came the day of departures, a time I always find difficult to deal with. Knowing that it will be months, many months sometimes, before I see my boys again. It was harder this time because I hadn't been too sure when people were going and then all of a sudden, by lunchtime, the house was empty. It doesn't help that I look forward to these visits with such anticipation, thinking about things we can do and places we can go forgetting that limited time, poor weather and kitchen duties usually mean that they don't happen. However we enjoyed our meals together, watched some films and played some family games so we did have a good time. Linas was the first ready to go and waited fairly patiently through all the hubbub of everyone else getting organised. Vytas and Sally were going to drop him at the train station on their way back to Leicester.
There was heavy rain from the ground level clouds but I still got the youngsters to pose for the usual picture. L to R: Alex, Linas, Vytas and Sally.

And true to tradition, at the last moment Milo snuck through an open door to make his 'escape' around the garden. It happens nearly every time and all he does is run around hoping people will chase him. Now that he is older it wasn't long before he ran too closely to someone and got caught to be put on the lead and taken for a walk up the hill before being driven home with Sam, Kate and Alex.

The rain got heavier so Peter and I changed our minds about going out for a walk. Instead we had a quiet afternoon, the Christmas tree is now down and the second table taken out of the kitchen and brought back into the sitting room. So now Christmas is officially over. Peter cooked up some of the many left-overs for our supper and we watched the extended edition of Two Towers. We had hoped to see in the New Year by going into town where there is always a great party atmosphere with many people dressed up in fancy dress and live music in the Square before a firework display at midnight but it is so wet and windy that we have decided to give that a miss. So my flashing light shoe laces will have to wait until next year.

Friday, 30 December 2011

A Wet Day.

We've had yet another wet day. Peter went off rowing, not so early as the other day so he didn't get back until lunchtime. Most of the household went off for a wet walk along the beach at Saunton while I stayed home mainly working in the kitchen. I also discovered that one of out 3 hens had died, most probably from old age as we have had them for a few years. I spent some time working in the stream sorting out the flow of the water and clearing the start of a dam/bridge that must have been built by Jack.

When the wet walkers returned and had dried out we had lunch and then in the afternoon we looked at Sam, Kate & Alex's photos from their recent holiday to Rome and Pompeii. Both Peter and Sam are interested in Romas history so every ruin and arch was knowledgeably discussed as they appeared on the TV screen.

Back to cooking in the kitchen; sausages, red cabbage, potatoes, sprouts, parsnips & gravy followed by Christmas cake (again) and this cute gingerbread house which Vytas and Sally had brought along.

After supper we all played a game of charades and then some of us watched a film. Right now we are all doing our own thing and Sam and Vytas are playing a scaled down game of 40K with much rolling of dice and checking of the rule book. As it is past midnight I should really be heading off to bed as these late nights are getting me into bad habits.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Already Leaving.

There are still a few roses and other flowers hanging on in the garden but everything is so wet I don't feel too inclined to get any gardening done. There are still a couple of trees which need pollarding asap but I don't think I can expect the boys to go out in this weather. Yesterday Romas climbed up into the old loft and stuffed more chicken wire in the gaps by the gables, possibly that will keep the jackdaws out next year.

No sooner does the house fill up with family and friends than there are farewells to be said. Romas had to go back up to Stoke today as his band are playing a gig tonight. I had hoped he would stay a little longer but he does have his own life to lead.

Brotherly affection between Vytas and Romas.

Vytas and Sally drove Romas to the train station and did some of their own shopping. Sam, Kate, Alex and Linas also went into town to do some shopping and check out the sales. Peter and I stayed at home. With so many people in the house clearing up from one meal merges into preparation for the next even when people pitch in, plus tea making goes on continously.
The finishing touches are being made to the woodburner doors and as the boys fitted the new t-piece to the flue yesterday we should be able to have a blazing log fire tonight.


Wednesday was grey and windy. Peter was up before dawn for an early row out on the river. It wasn't too cold so later on the youngsters went off for a walk to the Valley of the Rocks. They did get caught in a sudden hailstorm and had to shelter under some rocks to eat their sandwiches.

I stayed at home to make bedrooms ready for the next group of visitors and prepare food for 9 hungry people.
Our friends arrived after dark so now the house is full once more. Speedy has never encountered a dog in the house before so there was a lot of growling (from Speedy), and fur standing on end. The other cats take no notice of Milo the Jack Russell and continued to steal his food or swat his nose.

Our evening was taken up with a long and silly game of Balderdash.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

More Arrivals.

We went into reasonably early this morning laden with another load for the dump, all stuff cleared out of Peter's study. The incentive of having to clear it for Vytas and Sally to sleep in has resulted a good bit of cleaning up.You get 2 hours free parking if you park at Lidl's and walk acros the bridge which is what I generally do unless it is pouring with rain. Not all the shops were open but there were plenty of people wandering about the High Street looking for bargains. I stocked up on half price cards for next year and a few small things. I picked up that red mug again but still put it back because we have so many mugs at home. Linas and Romas came into town with me and went off to look at computer parts etc. Linas got a good deal on a new power supply. We called in at the Co-op on our way home and got quite a few bargains. In the car park someone had left 2 part used extra big rolls of wrapping paper. They were clean and dry so I took them home for next year.

Vytas and Sally arrived in the afternoon bringing more yummy presents having driven down from Sally's parents in Leicestershire. Linas has taken over cooking the supper so that will be something spicy and I can relax. Suits me.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Sleepy Day.

We've had a typical laid back Boxing Day, doing nothing much at all. Peter's back is much better and he had a clear out of his study which will be needed as a spare bedroom when Vytas and Sally arrive tomorrow. Smudge decided to join Elwen sleeping in the big pan.

It has been a sleepy grey day but luckily not raining so Romas and I decided to go for a walk. All the eating and sitting around was beginning to take its toll and we needed some fresh air.

We walked up to Bowden Corner and then to Rookabear Lane where we had a glimpse of the distant sea. We finished our walk by cutting through the fields which were very muddy especially around the gateways. We are now set for an evening of film watching, the heating is on and the chocs are to hand.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas Day.

How sad to hear this evening of the bomb attacks on church goers in Nigeria. Our hearts go out to the affected communities and we pray for reconcilliation.

I hope that today has been a good day for all of you reading this post. We have had a relaxed day with Linas and Romas, eaten lots of good food and exchanged gifts. Peter's back was too fragile for us to go to church last night so instead I watched the Midnight Mass broadcast from St George's Cathedral. It had the comforting familiarity of High RC church which took me back to my childhood. While the pomp and ceremony is not the way we have worshiped for many years the preaching was thoughtful and sincere and after all we are all celebrating the Birth of Jesus.
After putting the rib of beef in the oven followed by a leisurely start to the day we gathered to open our presents. Lots of treats for everyone, mainly edible ones.

The boys have been so helpful this year, helping with food preparation and even wrapping up presents for Peter when he was confined to bed. Peter has been up and about today aided by tablets and a back brace. Right now the boys are dismantling/mending some old speakers on the coffee table, things never change.

The present that touched me the most was this selection of chocolate truffles flavoured with a variety of liqueurs including gingerbread cream, toffee cream and raspberry vodka. The boys spent most of Friday night making these after I had gone to bed. What a lovely present. Also much appreciated from Peter was a replacement wing mirror for my little car. The mirror fell out a few years ago and I promptly ran over it. While it is not a legal requirement to have a passenger door mirror it does make life a lot easier especially as I have no rear spatial awareness and usually end up getting out of the car to see how much room there is left behind me.

The rain has been falling gently all day so no incentive to go out for a walk. Our day has been a little food based, preparation, eating and clearing up. The fridge is full of food that will keep us going for quite a while now and I shall have to think about dieting again in the New Year.

Cat moment- Deep growls coming from Elwen who was curled up on the mat in front of the Rayburn with Speedy. Reason - Speedy had her tail in his paws and was happily chewing on it. Even when the chewing changed to a conciliatory licking the growls continued until Elwen snatched her tail away and tucked it safely beneath her. Poor Speedy does not yet understand that the older cats do not want to play with him.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Christmas Traditions

I've had a fairly relaxed day today. Peter's back has been playing up all week and just as he thought it was on the mend an awkward turn has rendered him immobile, pain free only when lying flat on his back and dosed up with painkillers. Not a good start to Christmas for him, poor thing. I've spent the day preparing food for our traditional evening meal. Our families came from Lithuania where it is traditional to have a special meal on Christmas Eve as the main celebration of the holiday. There should be 12 courses or dishes consisting of fish or vegetables with no meat or dairy products being used. We compromise by having 12 dishes on the table as a mainly cold buffet. I always try and get marinated herrings as well as ordinary pickled herrings. We are also having smoked salmon, prawns, hot prawns in batter and the boys are concocting something spicy with king prawns, (we dropped into the supermarket late last night after picking up Linas from the train station and got some good deals.) Potato salad has been made and a mixed bean and beetroot salad. I'm taking a break while the boys take over the kitchen. This is the last day of Advent and when I think back on all the things in my life that I am thankful for I can see that I have a good life indeed and much to be thankful for.
Gift giving is always a part of Christmas and although we have tried to scale back this year focusing on treats rather than grand items there is still a sizable pile in the spare room waiting to be put under the tree tonight. Ah! the tree that we weren't going to have because it is a 'quiet' year. A tree was requested so once again we have our eco-tree fashioned from the top of one of the prolific leylandii and decorated with lots of glass drops and 'crystal' decorations. When the boys were little we only put the tree up after they had gone to bed on Christmas Eve and we have carried on with not putting it up until Christmas Eve.

We have always gone as a family to the midnight Service at our local village church but we will have to see how Peter's back is. Then it's time for bed so that 'Mother' Christmas can hang small stockings on everybody's bedroom door handle. Because the contents this year are mostly chocolates I shall not be wrapping each item. That used to take so long to do as I would buy small items all through the year for each of them. (Linas has just come in to say that they are sorting out all the rest of the meal.)

Looking forward to all the Christmas festivities - Merry Christmas to one and all!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Stormy Day.

We've had a lot of rain today. Even at 9.00 in the morning the sky was still hardly light. Today I am thankful that this holiday time is an opportunity for the family to get together. It is also good that the arrivals are spread out- Romas and I have had a couple of days together before Linas arrives tonight. Then it will be a relaxed few days before the rest of the party arrive. As we may not see the boys for months at a time these visits home are something that we look forward too.
Romas and I headed into town this morning for some last minute shopping, mainly food. The rain was atrocious and on our way home a big 30-40ft tree had blown over (up by the hospital traffic lights), with the top branches in the road. A police car was there to stop people driving into the branches. At the supermarket full shopping trolleys were being blown by the wind and the rain was reaching right into the store through the porch? that is supposed to protect the main entrance.

Comment from Romas as we were driving down a road that requires drivers to wait for oncoming traffic. (I had just made a comment on the rudeness of a driver who had failed to wave a thank-you and we had noticed that it was a little old lady who could barely see over the steering wheel.) Romas - " You know how they have booster seats for children, well they should have booster seats for old people too so they can see where they are driving."

We had a very brief spell of sunshine in the afternoon and then the clouds rolled in again. It does also seem to be getting a little colder, we have been having temperatures of 11C in the night.

The only other jobs done today were more tidying up, especially of Linas' room and bringing a second table into the kitchen so that we have a big table that can at a pinch seat 16. Romas also cut down the tops of some of the leylandii as he feels we ought to have a tree, which I hadn't planned for this being our 'quiet' Christmas. They are drying off in the conservatory and we shall put them up and decorate them tomorrow.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Winter Solstice.

It's the Winter Solstice today. At last we can look forward to lengthening days. A few times this week I have got up early, looked at the dark outside and gratefully gone back to bed. (Looking out of a back window the first daffodils are blooming by the stream!)

Today however I am feeling thankful for my little car and the freedom it gives me. I didn't learn to drive until I was 30 and expecting our first child. Living in London with its horrendous traffic and difficult parking there had been very little need to drive or own a car. London's public transport system and later my bicycle made getting around very easy and it was only the thought of having to include children in my journeys that sent me off to get my driving licence. We never had a car when I was a child, far too poor and although my mother drove tractors in her 20s learning to drive in later life was another matter. After a number of failed tests she wisely gave up. Now however I cannot imagine my life without a car though there have been times when we have only had 1 working car or had both cars trapped by the snow and ice. Walking the 7 miles to town or waiting until the weekend to use the car made life very awkward indeed. Shopping had to be carefully planned and consideration given to which items I would carry back in case I failed to get a lift. Yet only a generation ago it would have been the norm for people not to own a car, as for 2 cars - well that was extraordinary. I can even remember my mother hitchhiking with me , aged 6, all the way to southern France and back again. Now my car awaits any whim I may have to drop into town or go for a walk.

This morning Romas and I loaded up the car with some old servers and a few other bits and pieces for the dump. Romas met an old friend working there, they had been in the same class and it was through Mark that Romas joined the Sea Cadets where he learnt to sail and had many interesting weekends away with the Navy.

After getting rid of all that stuff we went on to Morthoe for a walk around the Point.

It was quite grey and a fine rain was falling for a lot of the time.

It was only as we headed back that the sun appeared. It was strange to be walking in bright sun and looking up at the low clouds and the sea mist that was being blown up the cliffs. The clouds persisted all the way home and the day has ended wet and mild.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Watching Paint Dry.

It has been much milder today. Even so it was not a good idea to paint those window shelves yesterday as they show little signs of drying. I had thought the kitchen was reasonably warm - but not enough to dry paint it seems. That spurred me on to clean up an oil filled radiator we had brought down from the loft and that is now plugged in next to the newly painted shelves. I worry that the cats will jump up there and walk white gloss paw prints around the house. Today I am thankful for my camera and for digital photography in general. In the days of film, printing photos was a lengthy and expensive process. I was lucky that Peter worked in a photographic studio when the boys were little so I have many photos of them when they were small. Even so it wasn't practical to take numerous shots looking for the perfect picture. Only professionals could sit there sifting through a sheet of contacts for the best angles and light. Because photography is my way of capturing the beauty that I see in my everyday world I don't use photoshop but I have seen it used to great effect. Not only do I enjoy taking photos and capturing my world I love to look at them and relive the moment when I looked through the viewfinder.
After more pottering around the house and baking another batch of flapjacks I walked over to the stables to deliver a card and a present for Jack.

That gave me a chance to view our valley from a different angle. The green trees are a reflection of the amount of rain we get (my sheds are nearly as green).

Instead of going straight back home I walked up the hill to enjoy the views.

The sky was a little lighter with patches of blue showing between the clouds. At the top of the road were horse boxes parked on the verge as Wednesday is hunt day. Sarah came riding home from the hunt on a lively dapple grey horse. She knows my views on hunting but we don't fall out about it. It is her upbringing and her livelihood (keeping livery horses) and she assures me that they hardly ever catch a fox.

This evening I shall be going in to town to collect Romas from the train station. He and Vicky have recently split up which is unexpected and very sad especially at this time of year.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Up, Up and Away.

A friend sent me this in an email.

Dear Santa,

I don't want much for Christmas, I just want the person reading this to be happy. Friends are the fruitcake of life.- some nutty, some soaked in alcohol, some sweet but mix them together and they're my friends.

Love Ya.

Today I am thankful for my friends. I only have a small group of friends, outside of work, and some of them I don't see that often but I treasure each and every one of them.

I spent most of the day in town today, meeting my friend for coffee and cheesecake then gently ambling around the shops and looking for bargains. Lots of things are already on sale but my Christmas presents are all sorted. Most of the things that caught my eye were things I would like for myself but don't really need- like a half price shiny, red metallic mug, but I shall wait until after Christmas before any such indulgences. I did buy some jewellery, one for me and some for presents, because it was reduced by 92%. Bought also for our traditional Christmas eve meal was some spicy marinated herrings which can only be bought from one fishmonger in town. I also bought fruit and veg from a stall in the Pannier Market including a red cabbage and local cooking apples. I have already cooked up a large pan of spiced red cabbage (with onions, apples and bacon). It freezes well and we shall have some with our Christmas rib of beef (no turkey - hooray!) and the rest will be eaten when our visitors arrive.

Out in the pedestrianised High Street, as well as someone playing the violin very well, was this chap promoting his balloon flights. I took a leaflet and shall leave it in a prominent position as this is something I would love to do. But at around £100 for a couple of hours it is quite pricey.

Tonight, once the cats were out, I gave the window shelves in the kitchen a coat of white gloss paint. I'll see what they look tomorrow to see if they need a second coat.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Not Working!

It has been a frustrating day today. The continual rain put paid to my first plan which was to walk over to our neighbours to deliver a card and a present for Jack and then walk to deliver cards to neighbours about a mile away. Never mind, I thought, I'll get on with some home repairs. When we moved in we saved money by simply rearranging the kitchen units and replacing the tatty worktops with smart beech wood tops. Over the years I have taken care not to use knives directly on the wood, to mop up any water around the sink and not put wet tins directly on the wood. Unfortunately my family continue to see this as an affront to their personal freedom, yet more of my 'rules' and confirmation of my need to control everything. The result is a marked and scarred worktop with blackened wood around the sink which has crumbled away in places. I have bought some special wood fillers which you blend together to match the colour but first I needed to sand off the stains and try and get below the scratches. It's far too big a job to do by hand so I got out the old electric hand sander only to find the motor grinding to nothing. No spare money left this Christmas so I'll have to wait and maybe get something in the sales. Also the washing I put in the machine before 8.00 was still swishing round at 12.00. I flushed out the water inlet and got it working but I fear that machine's days are numbered. After such a grumbly start to the day it was hard to think what today has made me feel thankful and then it hit me .......... just how trivial my 'bad' day has been. And I am truly thankful that all that is stressing me out is a careless family and busted equipment. My family's lives are not in danger through illness, lack of medicine or violence and we all have safe homes that are not threatened by natural disasters. There is just no comparison.
I got some more baking done, a chocolate cake for my sons and special flapjacks (with apricot and chocolate) for Peter.

The stream is flowing strongly and has risen and spread over the bog garden but I have been assured that the house is in no danger.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Sunday Stroll.

Today I am thankful for the fact that we live only 5 miles from the coast. Any time we want we can jump in the car and go for a walk by the sea. (Naturally it would be even better if we were within walking distance.) I feel the sea is in my blood perhaps due to the fact that even as a small baby I was taken daily to watch the waves. As a toddler the beach was my playground, most of the houses didn't have gardens so we children roamed from beach to beach, nominally in the care of an older child. How things have changed in the last 50 years. Can you imagine a 3 year old out on the streets on their own in these times?
Peter was out rowing earlier this morning. I thought he had the best of the weather but they did get caught in a couple of showers as well. They were watched by an inquisitive seal that had come up river. However he was still ready to go out for a walk at Mortehoe.

There was a cold northerly wind which made walking in the shade rather chilly but we had wrapped up well. We took the path straight to Bull Point Lighthouse and then walked back towards Rockham Bay. Very few people out walking today.

We found a fairly sheltered spot overlooking Rockham Bay to have our coffee before taking the shorter way back as Peter was tired from his rowing session.

On the way back home we called in at Tesco's and for once got some real bargains. Despite all the advertising Tesco's is not so cheap unless you buy the value range and their reduced section is generally a joke with not much being taken off the prices. Today we got some fresh salads and satsumas for pennies and cheap bread and buns to go in the freezer. These together with a cous cous salad and some lamb's liver were 90% off. There were bags of doughnuts for 3p but they didn't tempt me and couldn't be kept for when the boys come down.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Only Pottering.

Today I am giving thanks for the fact that we live in this beautiful valley. I have only to step outside the door and there is the glorious countryside. Having spent most of my life living in London longing for the day I could get back to the country this is something special indeed.

It has been a cold quiet day at home. I've just been pottering around and tidying up, wrapping a few presents and doing some sewing (sewing a cushion back into its cover and repairing another cover). Peter spent time in the conservatory, until he got too cold, working on the woodburner doors. They are getting a complete overhaul this year with new metal pieces so that I don't have to worry that the glass could fall out. With luck it might be ready for Christmas (so it's only taken 4 months- do I sound a bit peeved?).

I braved the chill wind for a short walk up the hill. Every now and again the sun would shine through the gaps in the clouds,

casting long shadows (that's me), across the fields.
As it's Saturday night we have put the heating on to watch the Strictly final in comfort.