Thursday, 28 August 2014


Greetings everyone.
I have been absent for a few weeks as we have been on a last minute family holiday to Kefalonia and it has taken me a while to get back into the swing of things. The holiday was lovely, although we seemed to leave the UK in Summer and, only a week later, return to find that it's suddenly Autumn. After temperatures of around 38 degrees, it suddenly seems very cold!

The holiday was marred by the death of a very dear friend 2 days before departure, but the girls had a great time and I was able to cross 4 (yes, count them!) new things off my 50 list:
1) Visit Kefalonia

2) Visit Ithaka.

3) Sea kayaking.

4) Try ouzo! Definitely an acquired taste.

I was also hoping to add 'drive a speed boat' to my list, but on the day we had booked it L was unwell, so I stayed with her at the hotel and R&E went off for the afternoon. Maybe next time for this one. I could at this point add 'hitch-hiking' to my list - our hotel was on a steep hill and whilst accompanying a rather wobbly L back from the beach, we stopped to catch our breath. I jokingly said that we should hitch a lift back up, whilst making the standard gesture with my thumb - blow me, a car actually stopped. Muttering "Never, ever do this on your own", we got in. It was an ex-pat English couple and they very kindly dropped us at the top of the hill. Inadvertent hitch-hiking it may have been, but it was still a first for me.

Sea kayaking was my personal highlight, especially when we were paddling along with an huge turtle swimming beside us. We hired double kayaks and spent 6 hours paddling around the coast, stopping for fruit and then a picnic lunch on a deserted beach (it was only accessible from the sea). I was with R and I'm not sure I was particularly helpful with the paddling - he seemed to do much better when I was resting and not "getting in the way". Apparently, the kayaks are otherwise known as 'divorce boats'! The same could be said for E, although she had the advantage of going with L who rows for her college and consequently has the arm muscles!

Back home and it's definitely autumnal.

I had hoped to make rowan jelly for the first time but the berries had all disappeared from our tree whilst we were away (the blackbirds are rather partial). I did, however, make Elderberry jelly from our newly discovered Elder tree (remember the cordial?). There weren't many berries remaining there either, just enough to make 3/4 of a pot. It tasted fine but I had setting issues - the wrinkle test proved positive and it was practically setting in the pan but, bizarrely, remained slightly runny when potted. I'm not sure what I did wrong and I can't be bothered to reheat it for such a small quantity, so runny it shall remain.

Just a few last pictures to remind me of our holiday:

Anyway, that's all for the moment. Enjoy the last week of the Summer holidays.
Toodle Pip for now. x

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Segway fun!

Greetings everyone. With R at work and L on a holiday work placement this week, E and I have been entertaining ourselves. In June, as a post exam treat, E went to Centre Parcs for a weekend with some friends. Apparently, they have segways which you can hire and E was very keen. Unfortunately, she was the only one of the group who was and they ended up going on the high ropes course instead. She had a fantastic time but was still a little disappointed about the missed segway ride. Moving forwards a couple of months and I saw an advert for 'Go Ape' in Swinley forest. Again, there is a high ropes course but they also do segway hire for an hour. It is eye wateringly expensive but, as it would just be the 2 of us, we decided to go for it. 

After an early picnic, it was time to try it out. Luckily, there were just the 2 of us in our group (we deliberately chose the 1pm session in the hope that most people would be having lunch round about then) and after a 5 minute safety talk and a trundle around the training area, we were off into the forest. The instructor took us to a central area from which 3 circular trails of increasing complexity led, and we were allowed to go off on our own, following said trails. There was only one dodgy moment, when I stopped to take a photo of E and forgot to hold onto the segway - they do tend to take off and you're left feeling foolish running after them! 

After about half an hour going around these trails, we returned to the instructor, who led us to some wider paths, increased our segway speed from 7 to 10.5 mph and led us up and down the hills through the forest. Expensive it may be but it was worth every penny. It was FANTASTIC  - I haven't had such fun for ages and we couldn't stop grinning. Despite knowing that the inventor of the Segway died when he fell off a cliff on one, you do feel really safe. You make them go by transferring your weight to your toes and stop by doing the same on your heels. It feels strange at first, but within about 10 minutes you're doing it automatically. They are really responsive, turning sharply and stopping quickly if necessary and the forest was a perfect place to try them out. The instructor was lovely and I can't recommend it highly enough. There are various forests around the country where you can do this, so save up and go and have a brilliant time. It would be great for a birthday treat. 

So, that was my 'new thing' for this week. Other happies include:

Sweetcorn fritters with mango and avocado salsa:

They were made from this book that I found in a charity shop a while ago and made a yummy supper.

A trip to Cirencester:

I was recently inspired by CJ's post at 'Above the River' about a trip to Cirencester. We live about 45 minutes away but had never been, so this week E and I went to explore. CJ was right, it really is a beautiful town. We followed the trail of hares, decorated by artists and destined to be auctioned off for charity in the Autumn. Here were our favourite pair:

We had a lovely time pootling around, stopped for a coffee and a shared panini at a dog friendly cafe where E was entranced by the sweetest whippet, and I managed to restrain myself from buying any wool at the 2 (yes, count them!) yarn shops. The only shop I found slightly disappointing was the fabric shop - I wanted to buy a quarter for my fabric stash as a memento of the day, but couldn't find anything suitable. At some point we want to go back and see the Roman bits but after spending a week at on archaeological dig recently, E was all 'historied' out!

Another 'new thing' for this week was Bubble Tea. A Chinese Tea Bar has opened in our town, L had seen quite a few in London and had wanted to try Bubble Tea, so we gave it a whirl. It looks like iced tea but with black tapioca spheres settled at the bottom; it was surprisingly refreshing with a taste something like Five Spice powder but not quite. It comes complete with a large diameter straw so you can have fun sucking up the tapioca - they are quite chewy and it's a bit like a drink and a snack all rolled into one! We may be doing a return trip as they also do lunches and their vegetable dumpling noodles looked delicious. 

Finally, an open air production by our local Masques group at Welford Park (where this year's Great British Bake Off was filmed!). After torrential rain earlier in the day, we were extremely lucky with the weather and managed to enjoy a picnic beforehand.

Anyway, have a lovely week whatever you have planned - these Summer holidays seem to be whizzing by far too quickly for my liking! 

Toodle Pip for now. x

Saturday, 2 August 2014


Greetings everyone.

This week we have been cheering England on in the Commonwealth Games. Usually, apart from Wimbledon, I don't tend to watch a lot of sport but I find that in big events like the Olympics or these games I quite like to dip in and out; watch a bit of gymnastics here, a bit of diving there etc. We do seem to be doing surprisingly well and some of the competitors are SO YOUNG! Another thing which surprised me was when they announced the National Anthem of England and then played 'Jerusalem'. I suppose with it being the Commonwealth Games we all have the same Queen and I do like Jerusalem, but I don't think of it as our anthem.

Anyway, possibly inspired by all the sport, my New Thing for this week was to attend an aquarobics session at the local leisure centre. There have been a few things on my Fifty List that I have loved and know that I want to keep up - crochet, quilting and pilates for example - aquarobics is another. It was a 'just turn up' session, so there was none of the remembering to book it 6 days in advance, the instructor was fit and friendly, the music great and the other women really welcoming. I had a whale of a time with the sponge weights and woggles (I think that's what they're called - sort of a long sponge sausage) and am now waiting for my arms to start aching! I'll definitely be going again next week and might try to persuade E to come too.

Also this week was our local Waterways Festival. When E was younger we had one day a week when L was doing an after school club and we had an hour to kill. We used to do a whistle stop tour to the library and then have a drink and a bun in a cafe overlooking the canal, watching the narrow boats. E decided that when she grew up, she wanted to live on one, so it was lovely to be able to see the narrow boats at the festival and even be allowed to go inside one and look around. It was compact and cosy with lots of book shelves and a really well stocked kitchen (including a pasta maker and ravioli tray!). I could see the attraction. You can hire them for the day or a week and in lovely weather I bet it's fantastic. Even if it rained a bit, the inside would be warm and cosy, but if it rained all week (as it could well do in the UK) I feel that we might get a little claustrophobic. Still, maybe I should put it on my 'To do' list.
The theme for the festival was 'Vikings' and some of the boat owners had really gone to town dressing up as vikings and decorating their boats.

There were lots of stalls and the odd fairground attraction but my favourite stall was the one selling second hand books. We got the impression that the husband was insisting on a clear out because the wife seemed a little reluctant and kept picking up various books and exclaiming over them. They did have a really good selection, however, and, promising to give them a good home, we overcame our guilt and bought a few.

The other thing I bought was this soap:

My hands have a tendency to have eczema and I have to use the most boring soap imaginable - no perfume or colour of any kind. This was advertised as being specifically for those suffering from eczema and psoriasis, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. With the lavender and bergamot it does smell really nice and my hands haven't flared up as much as with other soaps but it isn't really any better for me than my usual boring stuff from Tesco and it is quite expensive. So, sadly, despite the lovely smell, I doubt that I will be buying any more.

We are praying that the rain keeps off today - E is performing in an open air play with our local 'Masques' and we are taking a picnic to eat beforehand, so some more nice weather would be lovely. Enjoy your weekend, whatever you have planned.

Toodle Pip for now. x