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Sunday 31 October 2010

Thoughts on Autumn

Dear Blog, Well, here I am finding myself feeling all inspired again this morning.  I know, I know, this was supposed to be a day off, but at my age, you have to get these things down before you forget them.  Perhaps I'll have tomorrow off instead.
Well, the clocks went back here last night, and I have a feeling that this is going to be a very long day, as I was up at 7 a.m. this morning (8 a.m. really, if you see what I mean!).  This means that, this evening, it's going to be getting dark pretty early, especially as it's quite a dreary day out there at the moment. 
I never used to like Autumn, but, as I've gotten (is that a word?!) older, I find that I really do appreciate the beauty of it all, with all the wonderful colours all around us.  I intend to make the most of it before "the autumn leaves start to fall" (now there must be a song there somewhere!!).  I was out in my dressing gown this morning taking some photoes of the garden, which I thought I would share with you.  It obviously looks at its best during May/June/July time, but thought you might like to see it anyway.

You will see that I am trying to keep some colour, by planting up winter flowering pansies in the tubs and hanging baskets.  There is a large country house nearby and, every year, in their stunning garden, they hold an exhibition of work by local artists.  I bought the cockerell last summer for my husband's birthday.  It looks stunning when the sun is shining on it.

Anyway, going back to autumn, I love to make the house all warm and cosy, with the table lamps on and lots of candles glowing.  In a while, when it starts to get really cold, we will light the log fire (I love the smell!) and will be in our own little cocoon. 
Another reason why I'm liking this autumn in particular is that, last year, I lost a very close friend through cancer.  We always spent a lot of time together, going on our coastal walks and hitting the shops whenever the new season's clothes arrived.  We also had lots of lovely holidays together, and I miss her very much.  I guess, Doreen, that I should dedicate this blog to you.  There, now I'm typing this with tears in my eyes.  Anyway, I'm sure you will realize that I am just feeling lucky to be alive and to be here to appreciate this new season.
Well dear Blog, I think that's about it for today.  Wonder if we will find any new friends?
in memory of my dear friend Doreen - may light perpetual shine upon you

Saturday 30 October 2010

Having a Break!

Well, it's been a week now since I started my Blog, and I can't believe the number of lovely people that I have already met! I thank all those who have visited me and it's lovely to have people from different parts of the world - it's almost like when I was at school and had a penfriend. Having read quite a lot of Blogs during this past week, it is obvious to me that I am going to have to 'up my game' as it were. I think there are a lot of budding authors out there, as your posts are so varied and interesting. I shall try to improve, so please stick with me!!

I have decided to take Sundays off from blogging, so will be here again on Monday. It's Halloween tomorrow, so if you are holding parties or going to one, I hope you all have a great time, and beware of the ghosties and ghoulies!
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Verona Opera Festival

If you love opera and you also love Italy, you really have missed a stunning spectacle if you haven't yet been to see the Verona Opera Festival.  (Even if opera is not really your thing, you would not fail to be moved by the ancient setting of this particular Festival).  When I went, we decided to do it in style, and opted for the best seats in the house (Poltronissime) where the Italians turn up in full evening dress for the men, and long, elegant gowns for the ladies.
Before entering the Arena di Verona, it is a good idea to eat at one of the many restaurants in the small streets surrounding the amphitheatre.  This way, you can really make the most of the charged atmosphere, whilst doing some serious people watching at the same time.  There are lots of gorgeous, designer shops for you to feast your eyes on (I particularly remember the Louis Vuitton shop, which was immediately opposite the ancient arene, containing a huge selection of wonderful handbags - all at wonderful prices, of course).

Once inside the arena, be prepared to be blown away by the sheer scale and magnificence of it all.  The arena sits 20,000 people, from the best seats which are on the floor of the arena, right up to the unreserved places on the upper (very upper!) stone galleries, where you are perched high on the topmost ramparts of the original Stadium, which was built in 30 A.D.
When one thinks of opera, The Royal Opera House at Convent Garden, the Sydney Opera House, and La Scala all spring readily to mind, but you will find that Verona combines a quite unique setting with productions and performances of a consistently high standard.  Where else could you be watching, on a hot summer night, a performance of Aida (as I was) at the start of the second Act, when immediately behind the stage, a huge, full moon rose majestically above the ancient arena walls and literally hung in the dark sky, surrounded by glittering stars, for the remainder of the performance.
The Italians really do have a love and flair for the dramatic performance, and they are a very demanding audience, which always seems to bring out the very best in performers and musicians alike.  When the audience is particularly appreciative of a certain Aria, they will stamp their feet, cheer and clap and, even though they are in the middle of an Act, the performers will sing the Aria again, to even more spontaneous applause.
It really was a magical experience, and one that I will never forget!

Friday 29 October 2010

Some not very nice people in the world

Believe it or not, I'm writing this blog in my notebook, before I transfer it to my laptop.  I thought perhaps I would get more inspiration if I tried writing in the old-fashioned way!  I've been wondering how my fellow bloggers go about writing their (very readable!) blogs.  Do they start it at a certain time every day, or do they just sit down whenever they have a minute to spare.  It would be interesting to know.

Thinking of my three much-loved grandchildren, an article caught my eye in the media yesterday.  A damning report just published revealed that as many as 42 young children died last year while under the care of Social Services.  Dozens more, apparently, were physically and sexually abused because of failures by social workers and other Agencies.  Cases were discovered whereby children had been battered, starved and even drowned.  Time after time we hear the phrase, "lessons will be learnt" and yet  still this situation continues, with a new case coming into the public domain every couple of years or so.  It begs the question, what sort of society do we live in that allows this sort of thing to happen to these innocent youngsters?  They are being let down by the very people who are supposed to be looking out for their welfare.  Very sad.

On a lighter note, just before I started typing this, I caught sight of a Christmas tree on my dashboard, accompanied by Bouncin'Barb's post, so hopefully that will take my mind on to brighter things!

Thursday 28 October 2010

Nothing in particular really!

Well, I've just arrived home from the hairdressers, so I feel half decent again for a while!  When I opened the front door, the December issue of the Good Housekeeping was waiting for me, so I shall look forward to reading that shortly.  Think a cup of coffee and a pain au chocolat is also called for.  I hardly slept at all last night, which is unusual for me, so I am not feeling at my best, I must admit!  Probably not a good time to be writing this Blog, you might think, but here goes anyway.
Here in my part of the world, the clocks will be going back this weekend, so the evenings will start to draw in.  I can't believe how quickly this year seems to be passing by.  I thought I would type in a recipe for a heart-warming soup today and perhaps you might like to try it sometime.

                 Squash & sweet potato soup

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 medium red chillies, deseeded and chopped
2 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
1 butternut squash - around 750g - peeled and roughly chopped
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
2 medium tomatoes, skinned and diced
1.7 litres hot vegetable stock
A hearty, warming soup spiced up with chilli and coriander. Add some sour cream for extra depth and flavour (or I might use Creme Fraiche).

Preparation time:     20 mins
Cooking time:         35 mins
Total time:              55 mins
Serves:                    8 people
Course:                  Soups, starters & snacks

1 Heat the olive oil in a large pan and fry the onion until soft - around 10 minutes. Add the chilli and coriander seeds to the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes.
2 Add the squash, sweet potatoes and tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Add the hot stock, then cover and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
3 Whiz the soup in batches in a blender until smooth. Reheat until piping hot..
Serve with hot crusty bread, and enjoy!

Wednesday 27 October 2010

"Slow Dance"

Have you ever watched children on a merry-go-round?
Or listened to the rain slapping on the ground?
Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight?
Or gazed at the sun into the fading night?
You better slow down – don’t dance so fast.
Time is short – the music won’t last.

Do you run through each day on the fly?
When you ask “How are you?”, do you hear the reply?
When the day is done, do you lie in your bed, with the next hundred chores running through your head?
You’d better slow down – don’t dance so fast.
Time is short – the music won’t last.

Ever told your child, “we’ll do it tomorrow?”, and in your haste, not see his sorrow?
Ever lost touch, let a good friendship die, cause you never had time to call and say “Hi”?
You’d better slow down – don’t dance so fast.
Time is short – the music won’t last.

When you run so fast to get somewhere, you miss half the fun of getting there.
When you worry and hurry through your day, it is like an unopened gift …. Thrown away.
Life is not a race, do take it slower.
Hear the music – before the song is over.

Anyone for Tea?

 As, here in England, we are known for enjoying a "nice cup of tea", I thought I would share with you how tea first originated in this country.  (Well, I did say that my Blog was going to be random!).
 In 1706, the area between Westminster and the City of London was becoming newly populated with the aristocracy, who were re-locating there following the Great Fire of London. It was at this time that Thomas Twining bought Tom’s Coffee House, which was situated just off London’s Strand, which was then  right on the border of these two areas.  Although tea was available in other London coffee houses, Thomas Twining made a point of only selling the finest quality teas, which gave him a distinct edge over his contemporaries.  Coffee houses of the time faced stiff competition –at one time there were some 2,500 of them squeezed into a two or three mile radius of Central London!  Proprietors were always on the look-out for new and eye-catching ways to boost their trade.  A certain Mr Lloyd, for example, would display a list of ships that were about to sail, along with a list of their cargo.  This encouraged the underwriters to meet in Mr Lloyd’s coffee house to arrange the insurance, and Lloyds of London is, of course, still in existence today.
     Tea drinking in the 18th century home, was an occasion of great ceremony.  A locked caddy, for which there was only one key, contained the precious tea leaves, and once or twice a week, this caddy would be opened by the lady of the house, in order to serve the tea as a family treat or to impress an important guest. The family’s wealth was emphasized by the fine porcelain that was used to serve the tea, and the translucent purity of the porcelain enabled a refined woman to show off her pale skin and delicate bone structure whilst serving the tea to her guests.  Believe it or not, these two attributes were the way that a lady’s purity was measured in those days.
     An early London advertisement for the sale of tea occurred in Great Britain in 1658, when tea was advertised for sale at a coffee house called the Sultaness-Head.  This was followed later that same year by the Merchant , Thomas Garway, who advertised tea at his London coffee house, ‘Garraways’.  In fact, according to Garway’s advertisements, there was hardly an ailment known to man that this miracle leaf couldn’t cure!
“…. Maketh the Body active and lusty …. Helpeth the Head-ache, giddiness …. Cleareth the Sight …. Vanquisheth heavy Dreams …. Easeth the Brain …. Is good for Colds, Dropsies and Scurveys ….”  Wild exaggerations or not, the    drinking of tea certainly became a very popular past-time.
            New beverages are constantly being created to meet the changing tastes of consumers.  As with most things, ever more sophisticated tastes are being demanded by the British public).  Tea Producers now aim to quench the thirst of even the most discerning palette – from everyday, traditional and speciality teas, to fruit and herbal infusions (Mango,Camomile and Limeflowers, Echinacea and Raspberry, Blackcurrant, Ginseng and Vanilla, to name but a few of the host of varieties now available to us) as well as healthy green teas (green tea with mint, green tea, pear and apple etc ).  Iced teas are also available for the warmer months.. The wide varieties of teas and tea customs often disguises the fact that they all come from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis.  This plant can produce hundreds of subtle variations of aroma and flavour – enough, in fact, to make the world of tea as varied as those of us who drink it. Green Tea is certainly growing in popularity at the moment, being rich in flavanoids, which are substances with powerful antioxidant properties.  These antioxidants may help protect us from the harmful effects of free radicals and also help delay the ageing process.  On top of that, a cup of green tea contains hardly any calories (less than 5 calories per 100 ml when drunk without milk or sugar). More of our Tea Producers these days are committed to the ethical sourcing of tea, and this is done through their membership of a growing international organization, known as the Ethical Tea Partnership.This Partnership monitors the condition of tea production around the world, and ensures that tea estates comply with the relevant laws and union agreements of their own particular Country in respect of employment, health and safety, housing, maternity and basic rights.  Full details of the Partnership and its work can be found on

Tuesday 26 October 2010

To all those brave ladies ......

For a minute, I couldn't really think what I was going to write about today.  Then, as October is Breast Cancer month, I decided to dedicate this blog to one of my daughter's best friends (she is actually one of my granddaughter's godmothers) who is undertaking treatment for this awful illness.  She has a little girl who is only nine months old and, all through the Summer, she has been undertaking chemotherapy treatment, which, at times, has left her feeling drained.  They then found that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes, so, last week, she had a mastectomy as well as having all her lymph nodes removed (which is quite unusual apparently).  In a couple of weeks, she has to start a course of radiotherapy.  You can probably imagine how gruelling all this has been for her, especially as she hasn't been able to devote herself to the little baby, like most mums are able to.  I feel so sorry for her, because she had wanted to be a mum for so long.  I also feel terribly sorry for her mum and dad, who are in their eighties, and never thought that they were going to be grandparents.  Obviously, when the little baby girl came along, they were over the moon.  Then, just a couple of months later, they were hit with this.  I just can't envisage how it must be for a mum to see a beloved daughter having to go through so much suffering. 

My daughter flew over from Paris at the weekend, on a flying visit, just to go and spend some time with her friend after the operation.  It was a surprise visit, so very emotional for them both, but the friend was so thrillled.  I went along to see her as well on Sunday, and I have to say that she is being so incredibly brave and positive.  At the moment, she doesn't have any hair, but, hopefully that will start to grow back in the not too distant future. 

It's wonderful how, at times like these, the goodness in people comes out.  They were saying how friends and family had really rallied round, and they have visitors most days, which helps to keep their spirits up.  Also, they find that friends leave cooked meals on the doorstep, which is such a help to them at this time.

It is incredible to think that something like 140 women A DAY learn that they have breast cancer.  I pray that my daughter's friend will get through this and then be able to lead a normal life again with her beautiful little daughter.

I also take my hat off to all those women out there that are going through something similar.  Our love and positive thoughts are with you all. xx

Monday 25 October 2010

Friends, food, wine ..

Is there anything better than spending a leisurely lunch with a friend, catching up on all the latest gossip? Beautifully cooked food, a glass of wine and all in wonderful surroundings.  The Turtley Corn Mill at Avonwick is a favourite of mine.  Super, helpful staff and always a great atmosphere.  The original Mill is set in six acres of grounds, bordered by the River Glazebrook.  They even have their own small lake, complete with island,  just perfect for sunny days and idle wandering.  It was so pleasant today that my friend and I have decided to make it a monthly date and see if we can work our way through the whole delicious menu!  Happy days ....

Books on my Christmas pressie wish list (Book 2)

Elizabeth Buchan
My second book choice comes under the heading of Popular Fiction, and is entitled "Separate Beds" by Elizabeth Buchan.  I thoroughly enjoyed the hugely successful "Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman" and look forward to her latest novel.   This one is set against the backdrop of recession, which will be (or has already been) affecting so many people, especially in view of the Government's (very necessary) spending cuts.  The novel covers loss of a career and the lessening self-worth that this involves, the plight of the elderly unable to afford residential care, and the increasing number of twentysomethings who find that they have to return to live in the family home, as they are unable to find either a job, or somewhere to live. 

The plight of the middle-class, middle-aged woman, has long been at the heart of the author's best-selling novels, and I am sure that this one will head straight to the top of the best-sellers list.

Food for Thought

Passing the Purple Hat to You.... 

In honor of women's history month and in memory of Erma Bombeck who lost her fight with cancer. 

(written after she found out she was dying from cancer)

I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day.

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.

I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained, or the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the 'good' living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have sat on the lawn with my grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television and more while watching life.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil, or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, 'Later. Now go get washed up for dinner.' There would have been more 'I love you's' More 'I'm sorry's.' 

But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute.look at it and really see it . live it and never give it back. STOP SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF!!! 

Don't worry about who doesn't like you, who has more, or who's doing what
Instead, let's cherish the relationships we have with those who do love us.

   Maybe we should all grab that purple hat earlier. 

Sunday 24 October 2010

Wellie Boots - continued ....and fireworks...

As I was saying in my previous post (before I published it by mistake!!), my other half proudly brought home a Premium Display in a Box Pure Power fireworks display from a well-known supermarket chain - "every little helps" - It cost £80 and was sure to be a hit with the young grandchildren.  Then, on reading, the box, we saw that the display (advertised as "an awesome 272 shot choreographed aerial display) was all going to be over in 85 seconds.  Yes, that's right, 85 seconds!!!!  Blink, and we could all miss it!!

Wellie Boots

Hot off the press! Just spotted these fleece-lined wellington boots to keep your tootsies warm - ideal for Bonfire Night.  From the Daily Mail offers website.  Talking about Bonfire Night, my other half proudly brought home a

Books on my Christmas pressie 'wish list' (Book one)

 On reading through the weekend papers, I have found a couple of books that I would definitely like to see in my Christmas stocking.  The first one being the memoir, "And Furthermore" by Judi Dench (Weidenfeld & Nicolson £20).  Here we go again on the theme of "women of a certain age", and Dame Judi Dench certainly gets it right every time. Believe it or not, Dame Judi will be 76 this year, but certainly remains a woman not to be trifled with.  She is quoted as saying that she is  looking forward to playing ever more unlikely and daring roles in the future.

Saturday 23 October 2010

Women of a Certain Age

Thinking of "women of a certain age" (I have a feeling that this is a theme that I shall be visiting many times), you only have to watch BBC's Strictly Come Dancing to see how they are leading the pack.  Okay, Ann Widdecombe might not be the best dancer, but she is certainly providing the best entertainment value!.  Then there is Felicity Kendall ("Felicity, you are SO bendy!") and Pamela Stephenson, who is putting her heart and soul into it - so much so, that she almost threw herself across the dance floor a couple of weeks ago!
"Why don't you start a blog," my daughter asked, on one of her visits from Paris, obviously thinking that her poor old mum needed something to do to fill her time.  Perhaps I should point out that the word "old" is used loosely here.  Perhaps she had heard that I spent hours on Farmville and Frontierville via facebook, and thought that I should be doing something more constructive with my time.  Anyway, these will be the ramblings from someone who lives in deepest Devon, who loves life, family and female friendships, and as no-one will ever read my musings, I guess I can more or less write what I want.

Here's the random bit : Who to wake up to in the mornings? Chris Moyles on Radio 1 or the other Chris (Evans) on Radio 2.  Having tried them both on various occasions, I will have to plump for Chris Evans, who is coming along very nicely on his (fairly) new breakfast show.