Saturday, 14 December 2013


Slowly, slowly Christmas is creeping up on me.  Yesterday was the last Welsh class of the year, so after only half a lesson, we all walked down the road to a small country pub by the sea and had lunch.  I am very proud to say that we all spoke Welsh together even though we weren't in class.  We must be improving!  English took over in the end though, but we parted with hugs and wishes of Nadolig Llawen (Happy Christmas) and promises to do the mammoth homework Babs has kindly set us...

The weather is still quite mild but the wind blows strong; no sign of frost or snow any time soon.  Gloves and hats stay firmly in the drawers while blankets and extra quilts are folded up in cupboards instead of on our beds.  I am grateful that we don't need the heating on for many hours a day, so money is being saved there.  One of our long held Christmas traditions that we all look forward to each year is the purchasing of the double issue of the Radio Times.  People in Britain will understand!  I never buy or even look at a news paper or magazine of this sort at any other time of the year, but the Christmas Radio Times is as important to the comfort of our homely Christmas as presents, chocolate and decorations.

I like to sit down with it and a cup of tea and mark the programmes that we will all want to watch.  This year I am looking forward very much to Death Comes to Pemberley, an absolute must for Jane Austen fans I would imagine.  Six years after Elizabeth and Mr Darcy marry, something nasty happens at their gorgeous English mansion house, Pemberley.  Thankfully, neither Lizzie nor Darcy are the victims and it has a happy ending.  Phew, that's alright then.  Also looking forward to Alice in Wonderland and of course, the ubiquitous Wizard of Oz.  Yay!  I have seen this film almost every Christmas since I was a child and I love it.  The flying monkeys still give me the creeps though.

My friend gave me a jar full of chocolates for Christmas.  The jar is very old and heavy.  I love it.  She's had it for years so I was very touched that she gave it to me.  It looked gorgeous full of brightly coloured wrapped chocolates.  That didn't last long though, as I kept dipping into it all yesterday afternoon and once the boys came home, they went through it like a plague of locusts.

You can imagine how pretty it would have looked when full.  Well, you will have to imagine, as it's almost empty now.  The glass is quite thick and it has a really nice lid too.

I am a very lucky girl to have such nice friends.

This morning we all went shopping.  I bought a lovely dress that I shall wear over Christmas and beyond, H1 bought a new pair of jeans and H2 got himself some batteries for his new head torch thingy that Santa gave him yesterday at school.  H1 said he wanted to buy a present for his school friend.  'That's nice,' said I, 'What will you buy him?'  'A pack of bin liners,' replied H1.  Pardon?,' Did you say bin liners? For your friend? For Christmas?'  H1 rolled his eyes and said 'Yes, it's a laugh, everyone does it.'  Do they?  I hope no one does it for me.  In the end, after I told him not to be do darned stupid, he got a tube of Jelly Tots.  A much nicer present, I thought.  Sitting in the back of the car on the way home, I heard his brain clicking and whirring and sure enough..'Mam,' he said,'I don't think I will bother giving this to my friend after all, it's a bit girly for guys to give each other presents at our age.'  I was a bit suprised but said 'Oh, OK then, what will you do with it?'  Obvious really.  He barely answered before the wrapper and lid were off and he had several in his mouth.  'Nuf said.

 It is getting very busy out there in the real world, so I don't intend to go in it again until after Christmas, when things have calmed down a bit.  As I was reversing out of my car parking space, a woman walked right behind my car, not even looking where she was going.  I could easily have flattened her if I hadn't been looking either.  People become so focused on buying and rushing about, that they have no idea what is going on around them.  Concentrate people!   Pea is spending the afternoon in Llandudno cinema watching The Hobbit with her friends.  I took her to the train station on the way home and left them all huddled up on the platform together.  The weather has taken a definite turn for the worse since mid morning and is now howling a gale and raining hard.  The mild temperatures I spoke of at the beginning of this post have dropped somewhat, making us pull coats and jumpers firmly on.  I have to go and pick her up from the 8.05 train this evening.  Hate going out in this kind of weather.  I will be very happy when we are both back in and I can lock the door behind us and settle down for the night.

There is only one week to go until the children break up for the holidays.  H2 has a busy week with a school play on Tuesday followed by three days of fun; a trip to Llandudno theatre to see Sleeping Beauty and a school Christmas party.  H1 and Pea have internal mock exams; not the real mocks but a preparation for them.  Of course neither of them are impressed about any kind of exam or test in the last week of term.  Pea has been revising of course, but I haven't seen much evidence of H1 doing any.  Nothing new there then.  So I have one week to bake, make edible delights, clean, tidy and wash mountains of clothes.  Then I can relax, eat chocolate, watch films and walk the dogs; that's all I want to do really.

Love Christmas!xxx

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Winter Garden

I love gardens and I love Winter, therefore it doesn't take a genius to work out that I love gardens in Winter.  As we moved into this house only two months ago, I do not know my garden yet and have no notion of the secrets it holds within it's earth.  Far from being dormant, it still has colour and life even in December.  The mild days and sunshine have kept leaves on trees for longer and tiny flowers blossoming bravely on.  There is plenty to admire and plenty to look forward to.

This morning I had this lovely view to greet me when I opened the curtains.  The beginning of a beautiful day.  I have a mountain of dirty washing to get through, so the prospect of a sunny day with a light breeze to dry it all was a real delight, which just goes to show how sad and pathetic my life is.  It doesn't yet feel like Christmas though.  We have the tree and decorations up, there are Christmas songs on the radio and the children at the junior school are practising hard for the Christmas play.  But it doesn't feel like Christmas.  I have wrapped all my presents and Christmas cards are trickling through the letter box each day.  I have stacks of chocolate, flour, sugar and jam ready for a mammoth baking session next week and we are counting down the days to the Christmas holidays.  So what is wrong with me?  Actually I'm not the only one, others are feeling the same.  I think it is the weather.  Here in Britain we blame the weather for everything from our mental state to the clothes we wear, so I may as well blame it for my lack of Christmas excitement too.

I feel that we should be enjoying crisp, cold mornings with frost crunching beneath our feet when we walk and our frozen breath hanging in the air;  fingers numb in knitted gloves and scarves wrapped tightly round our necks.  I took the dogs for a walk this afternoon and got so hot in my  winter coat I needed a glass of water when I came home, rather than a steaming mug of hot chocolate.  It doesn't seem right.

H1 complained that he hasn't worn his hat and gloves yet but I have to tell him to put his coat on to take Puppy for a walk, despite his protestations.  It really isn't that warm, but he's a teenager, so what can I expect.  We are all feeling a bit worn out at the moment and seriously looking forward to the Christmas holidays when we can get up later, watch television during the day, eat Quality Street for breakfast and walk the dogs on the beach.  The children are doing their homework while I am writing.  Every few seconds someone sighs in a long suffering fashion, scribbles or rubs out their work and starts again.  I cannot concentrate either.  I keep writing rubbish, deleting it and writing more rubbish in it's place.  Sorry.

Maybe some photographs of foliage will take your attention away from the poor sentence structure.  Are things always this intensely green at this time of year?  I find myself getting excited at the prospect of ordering seeds, drawing a garden plan and finally digging and creating a garden.  One snow fall would send all that scuttling from my mind and into a dark, cosy corner to await the spring warmth.  I long for frost, the glitter of ice and the whisper of snow flakes as they fall slowly to the ground.  I long to be snowed in with my children (providing I have plenty of food, gas and dog biscuits of course) and spend days making snow men and dragging the sledge up and down the lane.  In reality I would do it twice and then collapse in a heap causing great embarrassment to my children who would probably walk off and leave me there, sprawled unbecomingly, pretending they have never seen me before in their lives.  Charming.

While the garden looks pretty now, snow and frost would add a completely new dimension and turn it into a secret garden from a child's story book, full of magic and promises.  It will come, we just have to wait.

In the meantime I need to do something to get me more in the Christmas spirit.  Any suggestions gratefully received!  Hope you are enjoying your December, where ever you are. xxx

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Silence of The Pheasants

We are half way through another week before I've even really got going with it.  H2 went back to school on Monday feeling much better, thank goodness.  The dark, chilly mornings are making it harder to get out of bed and all I want to do is to pull the covers over my head and ignore it all.  The dark evenings are getting longer and longer and there is nothing on the television worth staying up for, so the children and I eagerly await 9pm, which we consider to be a respectable time for two teenagers and a grown woman to hit the hay without it seeming too sad and pathetic. Love my bed!

I fully intended to check the septic tank on Saturday as I suspected we had a blockage somewhere, but procrastination won out and I thought of lots of other things to do instead and then it got too dark to look anyway.  But on Sunday I had the feeling that if I didn't investigate then I would regret it.  H1 was my reluctant volunteer and the two of us girded our loins and discussed our plan of action.  The lid of the man hole is extremely heavy and we just couldn't lift it up far enough to see down the hole.  H1 had the brilliant idea of throwing stones down it and then judging by the sounds they made as to what state the hole was in.  He did so and we heard them hit dry concrete.  Relief flooded through me. It was clean and empty; oh thank Heavens for that.  I shouted to Pea to run some taps and flush the loo so I could hear if the water was running through OK.  She did so, twice, but no water rushed through the man hole on it's way to the septic tank.  My recent euphoria took a nose dive as I realised the blockage was further back near the house.  I located the drain and discovered it was full of dank water and leaves, so I dug it out but the water didn't go down.  Not a good sign.  H1 happened to glance down and saw another man hole cover, partially hidden by leaves.  I knew what I'd find when I lifted the lid and sure enough I did.  It was full of....well, you know what comes out of bathrooms and goes underground.  Yup, loads of it, all swimming about in the manhole.  There goes my quiet Sunday morning.  H1 and I drove off to the hardware store and purchased a set of rods complete with screw attachment and a round rubber bung thingy.

Back at home, we kitted ourselves out with gloves and wellies and got down to the task in hand.  H1 poked the rods into the mess and located the outlet hole, accompanied by us both screwing our faces up and making elaborate heaving sounds.  It is a vile job.  I took over at this point and started pulling the rods in and out in order to get things moving a bit.  Sure enough, after a moment or two, the sloppy soup bubbled and gurgled and the level began to drop. Yes! We'd done it.  From then on it was just a case of swilling plenty of water down the hole and pushing the rods through to keep it going.  H1 did a brilliant job of going back and forth with buckets of water and eventually we got it as clean and sparkly as is possible to get a manhole.  At that point I began to pull the rods back out and to my utter disbelief, some of the rods and the screw bit  had come off in the pipework somewhere.  Believe me, the air was blue with my foul language.  I was so upset.  I had tried to do the job by myself, rather than bothering my landlord and I had done it, but then it had gone wrong.  Oh for God's sake, why? Why? Why?  I could have screamed.

I stomped about a bit and Pea made me a cup of tea to calm me down.  We spent the afternoon at mum's house and my brother, his wife and their little girl and baby boy were there too, so I consoled myself by playing on the floor with my baby nephew and forgot about septic tanks.  The following day I contacted my landlord who came out this morning and sorted everything out for me.  The best bit was when I was relating my story to him and his said 'You've got your own rods?' in that completely awe-struck way that little boys have when they play a new Star Wars game; 'It's got Light Sabres!' Wow, big deal.  'You're a bit of an action girl, then?'  he said.  Um, no not really, said I.  At least not out of choice anyway.

After he had fished out my rods from the bowels of the underground pipe system and laid them reverently on the ground, he was on his way and I was filled with such happiness as you get when a horrid job is out of the way.  I took the dogs a walk to relish in the new found freedom of lightness of heart.  I could hear the shouts and guns before I got to the end of the lane.  There is a small private woodland close by and there was a shoot going on.  There are no end of pheasants in the woods and fields round here and I love to hear the drum of wings and call of the males when they are staking claim to their territory and mates.  It sounded as if the beaters were doing a good job and earning their wages as the guns popped and men whooped and called constantly.  It is part of the country life that I love, but wholesale slaughter of beautiful birds is a tough one to deal with.  However, they will be sold and eaten so their lives will not have been wasted.  Better that than being mown down on the lanes by cars going too fast.

The homeward walk was quieter; no guns, no calls and no birds.  Flocks of geese and lapwings had flown over me calling in confusion.  They probably got scared by the noise and didn't know what to make of it.  I looked up and sent them a wish on the wind that they would arrive safe at their destination and be with their families.

While cleaning the bathroom this afternoon, I discovered that there is brown water coming out of the taps.  That's not happened before!  I rang my landlord again who in turn rang the water board.  Apparently there is some work going on along the main road which has caused the brown water.  As the main road is rather a long way away, it could take a while for the water to run clear again.  In the meantime though, we have to boil the water to drink, but it's OK for showering and washing.  Wonder what the children will make of that!   At least I can have a cup of tea, so all is not lost.

Do you like my new lamp?  I have wanted one for this corner since we moved here and I saw this yesterday while finishing my Christmas shopping, so after hopping about from foot to foot for a bit wondering if I should buy it, I did!  My brother gave me the little table and I used some of my old books as a stand.  The cookery book belonged to my nan and the gardening book was her brother's.  I bought the Charles Dickens book last year from Plas Newydd.  I like the look and no one would be in any doubt as to who lives in this house with all the books about!

H1 had a few exams this week; just internal ones to see how much they've learned so far.  In Tech Gwyb ( IT in English), he managed to get an F minus.  He didn't say much about it but casually dropped into conversation that he was having to re-sit one of his exams.  He complained that the whole marking system was a waste of time, as the teacher had marked something wrong even though he had it written down in his book the way she told them to do it.  Never mind, I said, just do your best.  Yesterday he excitedly told me that he had his results and he'd got an A.  How on earth did you manage to go from an F minus to an A? I asked.  I revised this time, he said.

Therein lies the answer!

I hope you don't have to mess about with mess and that your children revise for exams! Have a lovely evening and thank you for reading. xxx

Friday, 22 November 2013


It's Friday, at last.  What a long week it's been.  Poor H2 came home on Thursday feeling very poorly indeed.  He sat in the back of the car bundled up in his new winter coat, woolly hat and gloves and shivered while the tears rolled down his red hot cheeks.  Definitely not well.  I took him to the doctor yesterday to be told he has tonsillitis.  We came home clutching a small bag of medicine and a bottle of Lucozade that I bought on the way back.  Funny how just being told what is wrong can make us feel a bit better.  Now we know, we can deal with it.

MAL seems to know instinctively when one of us isn't well.  She stays firmly by the inflicted person's side and likes nothing better than snuggling up on the settee with them.  Puppy is good with cuts and bruises and MAL with bugs and viruses.  Between them, they have all eventualities covered.  To ensure the ill person sits down and does nothing, they walk about in front of you and stop when you least expect it, forcing you to hit the breaks or fall over them and lie sprawled on the floor, feeling worse than before.  I think this is their way of being cruel to be kind; no one can get better if they are constantly wandering about doing things.  In the end, you have to go and sit down, just to avoid breaking your neck.

Poor H2 has been having high temperature induced dreams these last two nights, so I have been up several times during the small hours, wiping his tears and stroking his sodden hair.  A sore throat and a cold are hovering around me, threatening to take hold at any moment.  I have been falling into bed at nine thirty each evening feeling chilled to the bone and aching all over.  No, no, no I refuse to be ill.  There is too much to do and I have H2 to look after.  Besides that, I don't much care for illness.  It is such a dismal waste of time and makes me very cross.  I hate feeling useless and not being able to care for my children properly and do the things I should be doing each day.  Usually though, they are still there waiting for me to do them once I feel well again.

One thing I managed to get done this week was to make my Christmas cake.  I usually do it in September then feed it every week with brandy until it's time to ice it.  This September though, I was too busy packing the cottage up to move house, so cake making didn't happen.  Mum gave me a recipe that I copied down from a television programme when I was about 15 years old, (about 100 years ago then) and it can be made up to a week before Christmas.  I always use the big mixing bowl that belonged to my nan when I make Christmas cake or mincemeat.  It reminds me of all the times I watched as she made cakes, pastry and puddings in that bowl.  I feel closer to her and I'm sure she ensures that my cakes turn out alright!  I adjusted the recipe to suit what I had in the cupboard; dried fruit can be so expensive, so I used bags of mixed fruit and peel that I already had and put in a whole pot of glace cherries and a bag of almonds.

Once out of the oven and cool, I gave it a generous drop of brandy and will keep feeding it up until a few days before Christmas.  It will be a miracle if it receives a whole slab of marzipan, as I am sure some will make it's way into my mouth.  Well, there's bound to be a bit left over...

The days are certainly cooler, although we have been lucky so far.  I met a lovely old farmer this week, who recently lost his wife.  He still has to come out and check his sheep and feed his cattle regardless of how he feels.  He said the animals keep him going.  He wanted to talk, so we talked.  He told me how his cows are still in the fields as it is so mild for the time of year and the grass is still growing a little.  This time last year, he had already brought them all in.  He said he always has a good breakfast as it keeps him going until later in the day when he has done most of his farm jobs.  His daughter is living with him for a while and looking after him well.  I was relieved to hear this, as a tiny part of my mind had already taken him home, sat him down by the fire with a blanket round his legs and a mug of tea in his hand.  What am I like?   What is this thing in me that wants to look after people who seem a bit lost or sad?  I think it's just the mother instinct and a love for making things and people cosy and happy.  I haven't as yet, got to the stage where I force people indoors and feed them.  I do hope the children don't let me!

Even on dull November days, with illness in the house, there are things to gladden my heart and make me smile.  Walking the dogs one morning this week, a rabbit shot out from the hedge in front of us and darted across the lane, it's cotton tail flashing white as it went.  A swirl of Lapwings rose from the damp fields and speckled the sky like bara brith, their plaintive cry echoing across the silence.  And a murmuration of starlings danced against the backdrop of grey cloud; they flew over my head, parting in the middle like a velvet curtain being drawn open, a hundred pairs of wings sighing as air rushed over feather.  They dropped down in a nearby field and at once set up a cacophony of excited noise and chatter.  Sometimes I think I like the countryside more in the colder months.  I love the security of the patterns of nature; the swallows have left and the geese have arrived.  Starlings group into ever larger families, wrens pack together in empty bird boxes and gold finches form flocks of twenty or so birds, all the better for finding food and warmth.  It reminds me that whatever happens in our human lives, the constancy of nature will always keep us grounded and assure us that we are most certainly never alone.  I must remember this tomorrow when I am investigating a suspected blockage in the septic tank....

Oh joy.

Enjoy the nature around you and keep warm on these damp

Tuesday, 19 November 2013


'You have been warned,' concluded the weather man last night.  He had spent the previous five minutes telling us all that we would wake to a world in the grip of an icy hand and to make sure we had a shovel and some blankets in the car, should we feel compelled to venture out.  So exciting, but not really likely on the island; or at least not just yet.

  I shivered as I sleepily shrugged off the warmth and comfort of my heavy duvet and pushed my feet into my soft slippers early this morning.  I remembered the words of the weather man and shuffled to the window in excited anticipation of a white world awaiting me.  I opened the curtains a chink and peered out onto the grey garden.  Nothing.  No snow or frost.  There had been a sprinkling of snow in the night as there was a tell-tale crust of half melted ice, clinging to clumps of grass like crystallised sugar.  The air nipped at fingers and toes and we dressed with warmth in mind; out came gloves, hats and scarves, thick socks and boots.

 The sky was dark as I dropped Pea and H1 off at the bus stop and drove back down the lanes to H2's school.  It cast a jaundiced light over the landscape and blotted out the mountains and sea.  As we drove, it began to rain.  Little droplets at first, nothing to bother about.  The clouds gathered overhead and birds criss-crossed the lane, back and forth, seeking shelter in the hedges.  The rain got heavier and turned to hail and sleet.  It swept across the lanes and gathered in little pockets against fallen leaves and twigs. It drummed on the car and we slowed down in order to witness the wonder of nature.  The sky around us was a dark, muddy brown and the clouds contorted and shifted their shapes as we looked. The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come trailed thin, black fingers over the horizon and gave the earth her chilly touch.  Branches of trees were slick with moisture and leaves clung on bravely, knowing their time was short.  Just ahead a split in the clouds gave a glimpse of brilliant blue and the promise of a bright day.  Later as the clouds lifted and parted, they showed what they had been hiding all morning.

As Night had lifted her inky black cloak, Dawn had carefully placed a blanket of white over the mountains, smoothed the creases and plumped up the edges.

In between hail showers and blue skies, I went off to town to do a bit more Christmas shopping.  I also needed to buy a new vacuum cleaner as my old one gave up the ghost on Saturday morning.  Having not vacuumed since then, I was going a bit mad over the amount of dog hair and bits on the carpet, so a new cleaner was imperative.  I purchased said item and carried on shopping.  There were more people out there than usual and they seemed to have a sense of urgency about them.  I want to buy nice things for the people I love and I want them to be happy, but I absolutely refuse to get caught up in a frenzy of spending too much money on things no one really wants.  I don't want to be responsible for cluttering up peoples' homes with tat they have no use for, therefore I am careful and probably spend far too long deliberating over whether to buy a particular thing or not.  I did the same over the Christmas wrapping paper and ribbons: do I buy what I like or do I buy what is suitable for the recipient of my gift?  Decisions, decisions!  Tough life, eh?!  Anyway, in the end I got red with snowflakes for the grown-ups and Santa and snowmen for the children.  Should keep everyone happy.

Next, I went in search of jumpers.  I love jumpers and look forward every year to the right weather to wear them.  Today it is here.  As I have lots of things to spend money on at the moment; some nice, some not, I thought I should probably go for a poke round the charity shops for my jumpers, rather than buying new.  I will buy new for my children, but not myself, not today.  I found one jumper and two cardigans that I paid £7.50 for, so that saved me a truck load of dosh that I then spent on two hunks of minted lamb at the butcher on the way home.  The boys will be delighted that I bought second hand clothes in order to give them a good tea!  That's what mums do.

Do you remember that I had ordered a copy of Harry Potter in Welsh?  Well, it came!  H2 had it as his school reading book a few weeks ago and I'd had a go at reading it then, but I couldn't understand a word.  Well, this time round I took my time and discovered that actually, it isn't all that hard.  Providing I have my dictionary and the children with me!  It's nice to read things in a different language and it is helping me understand Welsh more.  My ultimate goal is to speak Welsh with everyone and not care if I go wrong!

I recently met a friend of my mum's, who's daughter-in-law has written her first novel.  She lent me a copy and I sat down on Saturday afternoon, all wrapped up in a big jumper, chunky socks and a blanket and read and read and read.  I spent Sunday morning in my bedroom doing the same thing and snarling at anyone who came tapping on my bedroom door asking for things. It was such a good book and so cleverly written, I just didn't want to leave it.  It is a little odd to say the least, but now and then, I like to read something that isn't about real life and couldn't possibly happen.  It allows your mind space to wander and wonder, which I like.

I highly recommend it, if you like the strange and unusual.

The days are full of books, blankets, jumpers and snowy mountains.  Winter is here, as Puppy demonstrates so beautifully...

Enjoy your Winter evening and thank you for

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The Ups and Downs of Life

I had a super week last week and felt full of energy and enthusiasm.  It was a blissful feeling and I'm very glad I enjoyed it to the full.  This week has not started so well, unfortunately.  Nothing dreadful has happened, just silly things that drive me mad with frustration and all mean extra time and work to achieve the result I want.  Life eh?

I am currently having a bit of a tug-of-war with the island's council.  When we were in the process of moving house, I tried to find out where my children would catch the bus to school.  Eventually Pea discovered that the boy who lives at the farm next door is taken to and from school each day in a taxi, along with his sister and another boy, because they live too far from the bus stop.  I rang a man who appears to be in charge of the school transport system at the council to arrange for the same taxi to take Pea and H1 to the same school.  Guess what?  We don't qualify.  No idea why and he hasn't as yet given me a definitive answer.  He talks a lot but says nothing and I can't work out if it's because he doesn't really know what he's on about or whether it's a smoke screen to confuse me so I won't ask too many questions.  Either way it isn't getting me anywhere; another tactic must be employed.  So we are not allowed a taxi even if I pay; fine, but the 'bus stop' where they wait for the bus to come is a narrow strip of grass along the side of quite a fast, straight road.  There is no where else for them to stand, no street light or shelter and only my two children wait there.  There are two houses nearby but both are screened by trees, so no one can see them and the cars coming down the hill can't see them either.  In the afternoon they have to walk the 1.3miles home, as I have to go in the opposite direction to fetch H2 from his school.  The lanes they walk down are narrow and windy, as country lanes are.  The cars and tractors drive far too fast and there is no where to go to get out of the way of them.  There are no pavements or street lights and with the afternoons getting increasingly darker, the walk home is becoming a worry for us all.  This is my next request to the council:  if they won't let us share the taxi, can they provide a safe place for my children to stand while they wait for the bus. It must be well off the road for safety, well illuminated and sheltered from the wind and rain.  We will see how they react to that!

 On the up side of life, Sunday morning gave us this!  There was a layer of swirly, feathery ice patterns on my car and later on we discovered the first snow had fallen on the mountains during the previous night.  Only a dusting and it will probably melt soon, as the temperatures are set to rise a little this week.  But it's still a joy to behold and it lifts my heart and helps me to remember the beauty in life, which is more important than silly rules made by people in offices.  Can you see the tracks in the snow made by the sheep?

The four of us decided to take the dogs for a walk to the woods.  In all honesty, Pea and I decided and the boys had no choice but to tag along.  They seemed quite happy for once and talked about Star Wars and some other stuff that I don't understand.  It must have been pretty important, as each time Pea and I drew close to them, they told us to go away as they were talking.  Hmm, bit bothersome that.  Wonder what they were saying.  It was probably something I'm better off ignorant about.

The woods are privately owned and so we can't go in them, sadly, but there is a lane that goes through the middle so we have to be content with that.  The atmosphere and the temperature change so much when you enter the woods.  I love the sounds and the chill in the air where the sun cannot penetrate the canopy.  On one side of the lane the trees are deciduous and the other side mainly pine.  There are lots of beech trees and the leaves are just beginning to change colour from grass green to acid green, yellow and rust.

Pea spied this crop of tiny fungi clinging to a tree stump among a blanket of green moss.  I could quite easily believe in fairies when I see things like this!

Another of Life's simple pleasures: sheeps' wool caught on a barbed wire fence.  I know, I am easily pleased!  It took me a while to capture this image as I wasn't sure what to do with my camera, but I fiddled about a bit (no idea what I did) and magically, I got the picture I wanted.  Yippee!  This says it all really.

This morning I woke the children as usual then went to put the kettle on the stove for my morning wake up panad.  A few minutes later I saw H2 come out of the bathroom, clutching his right side and obviously in a lot of pain.  I went to him and he burst into tears.  I helped him back into bed as he was clearly not going to school like that.  He said the pain started when he went to the bathroom and he could hardly walk.  I got him a hot water bottle to put against it and sat on his bed and hugged him.  My first thought of course was appendicitis.  He hadn't been sick or even felt sick, which is something, and soon started to look himself again.  About half an hour later he wanted to get up but I told him to stay where he was until I could be with him.  When he did move, he took it slowly and managed to get dressed by himself.  He has eaten well during the day and watched his Garfield dvd and read books.  He seems fine in himself but his side is still sore.  He went swimming yesterday with school, which he hates, and he had to swim on his back.  We are hoping he may have pulled something and it let him know about it this morning.  I will be keeping a very close eye on him this week.

While H2 was munching honey on toast (his favourite treat) in the kitchen, I tackled the cleaning.  I could have murdered Puppy when I found he had dug my lovely violas out of the pots by the back door and strewn them across the yard.  He then had the audacity to trot through the house with mud stuck to his paws and transfer it to my clean carpets.  He is a nightmare.  When he's asleep though, he's adorable.  Wish he was asleep more often.

I am the proud owner of rather a lot of books and have been collecting them for most of my life.  Every time we move I get rid of a load, then once we are settled in our new home, I begin adding to them again.  This home is smaller than the last three houses we have lived in and there isn't much room for books that are not in the book cases.  I saw an idea on Pinterest a while ago that I loved:  hundreds of paperbacks all stacked up against a wall in a higgledy-piggledy fashion.  Not that practical if you want to read one, but a good way of storing and displaying beloved items.  This is what I've done with my photo albums and those books that I had as a child and some special ones my children used to love but have out-grown.  They are stacked against the side of a book case and are mainly hidden behind a chair, but they are there and I like them.  Thanks Pinterest!

One of the books I will be adding to my collection came this morning.

I flicked through it while having a break and a panad after my housework and it looks really good. Although I'm not sure about the sanity of a woman who can get excited about a dictionary.  Bit pathetic, really.  I'm still waiting for the welsh version of Harry Potter to arrive but once it does I will no doubt be using the above quite often!

The bathroom awaits my attention, but I think I will save that particular delight until tomorrow.  I have had enough fun for one day.

I hope you enjoy your ups and coast through your downs.  Thank you for reading. xxx

Saturday, 9 November 2013

The Good Life

After all those weeks of packing and sorting and feeling somewhat less than strong and healthy, I have finally had a seriously lovely week.  The children went back to school on Monday after a week of half-term and I cleaned through our little house in no time.  Well actually it took most of the day; even small homes have corners and cobwebs.

Having achieved a sparkling house, I messed up the kitchen and had fun making the first batch of mince pies.  I left them to cool while I walked the dogs to the top of Muddy Lane (as we call it).  It's a really nice walk with beautiful views and lots of sheep and cows to talk to on the way.  It takes about 45 minutes and is down hill all the way home!  The down side to this lane is the mud and the mess the dogs get into, which means they need a good clean up when we get back.  My reward for this was a cup of tea and a still-warm mince pie.  The first one this year and quite possibly the best.

  The next couple of days saw me wrapping soaps and candles ready for the Anglesey Winter show,that was being held today.  I grabbed some nettle and orange soaps just before I gave them all to Babs to take with her.  I wanted something for the men in our lives, as they can be so hard to buy for.  I wrapped them in a more masculine way and hopefully they look OK.  I asked H1 for his opinion.  He said 'They're alright,' and went back to his iPod.  Not the response I was looking for, so I just have to hope.  What do you think?  Would the man in your life be pleased to receive one of these?

I am really hoping all my soaps and candles sell well at the show, but as it is a new thing this year, there is no way of knowing how many people will turn up and how many will buy.  Well, it is over now anyway so I expect I will find out soon enough.  Gulp!

Thursday saw me Christmas shopping.  I made a start last week and managed to get quite a bit more done.  I am really pleased with the way it's going and hope to have it all done before December.  I have a small pile of tins of biscuits and chocolates hidden away and rather a large Christmas pudding.  I don't usually buy such a big one but as we all enjoy it and it is just as nice cold with ice cream, (and it was on offer!), we can be eating it for days.  It's a shame it's only eaten at Christmas because I think it's such a gorgeous pudding for winter generally.  Rib sticking and very filling; the perfect food for cold weather.

Friday is Dosbarth Cymraeg day; the day I go to my Welsh class.  I love going and enjoy the company of the other learners.  We support each other and have a good laugh, which is vitally important to relieve the stress of learning such a difficult language.  I have re-joined the class after a gap of almost two years and consequently I am quite far behind.  I had a right job on my hands to do my homework and have to confess to leaving a good chunk of it, because a) I didn't understand it and b) I couldn't be bothered with it.  Not the right attitude I grant you, but it's pretty challenging to catch up 14 units in 6 weeks.  Anyway, we are on the final unit now and the tutor was asking what we'd like to do next.  Do you know what they said?  Because I only got up to unit 6 before I left due to the misery of going through a divorce and moving house, they all said they would be happy to go back to that unit and start again!  What?  You can't do that, I said, Yes we can, they replied, We want to and it will help us as we've forgotten most of it anyway!  Gosh, I am so relieved and grateful.  I was worried I would have to find another course but now I can stay with my friends and continue where I left off.  To celebrate, I ordered  Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - in Welsh....Yep, I know.  Will let you know how I get on with it.

This morning, being Saturday, we all had a bit of a lie in.  It was blissful to hear the alarm going off at seven, turning it off and snuggling down in my bed again.  Not long after, I heard H2 get out of bed and go in the lounge to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or something.  From Monday to Friday I have to wake him and he complains about having to get up, but at the weekend when he can stay in bed he doesn't want to.  Typical.  I woke H1 just before eight as I was taking him to a National Trust place on the island where we were meeting with a man to discuss H1 spending a week next year doing work experience.  It was a lovely sunny morning, but rather chilly.  As usual for me, we were early, so we took a quick walk down to the beach to suck in a lung full of sea air.

I haven't really seen the sea since we moved to our new home, so it was lovely to stand there and soak up the sight, sound and smell of it all.  Wonderful.  No time to linger though as we had an appointment to keep.  We walked along the lane to the wardens' house and met with Gwynfor.  He took us into a gorgeous old building with low ceilings, huge beams, uneven stone floors and a wood burner complete with a stack of chopped logs, all ready for the cold weather.  We had a chat and he told us the kind of thing H1 would be doing during his week there.  H1 loves woodwork and carving so he was delighted to hear he would be doing some of that with children from a school who visit each week.  He will be having a go at fencing and dry stone walling, as well as strimming long grass and anything else that crops up along the 16 mile long coast line.  He will be out in the most stunning location surrounded by wildlife and natural beauty; what more could he ask for?

Later this afternoon, Pea and I were pottering about in the garden when we heard a man's voice call to us: 'Hello next door!' it said.  Along the track came a man and his daughter, both sporting double barrelled guns slung casually over their shoulders.  He shook my hand and introduced himself as my neighbour from the farm.  He is a very cheerful, larger than life character and proceeded to tell me we all look after each other here in the sticks and that if I wanted to borrow a car to just help myself; if I want any hens to talk to his wife first; if I want any herbs, she can let me have some and to absolutely not take the dogs to the vets until she has had a look at them.  He was very excited about my plans for a veg garden and he loved the poly tunnel.  He asked if I'd be upset if he shot any foxes on our track, then waved his gun in farewell and off they went leaving Pea and I a little shell shocked.  A small man with lots of personality and one we will no doubt see more of in the future!

Who says life is quiet in the country?

Have a lovely evening and thank you for reading. xxx

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Honestly Happy

The day dawned dull but dry.  The 'S' word has been mentioned by one or two people at the school gate which caused a great deal of excitement, giggling and jumping the mothers, not the children.  Being rather behind with my washing piles I bunged a load of bedding in the machine only to discover ten minutes later that it is raining.  Now I will have to drape sheets and duvet covers around our tiny house in the hope of getting them dry.  Hate doing that.  No snow then, just rain.

Some of you may remember that I dabbled in making soap and candles earlier this year.  I was recently asked if I would like to take a stand at the upcoming Anglesey Winter Show.  Um, no thank you.  Honestly, the idea of standing behind a table full of my lovingly made items fills me with fear.  Ridiculous I know, but there you are.  I thanked them kindly and apologised for being such a wimp.  I was really cross with myself for not having the gumption to just do it, but each time I talked myself into it, I knew deep down that it is not something that I could really do.  I'd probably be sick on the way there or something.  I was all set to waffle on for a bit and come up with all kinds of excuses for my lack of courage, but I didn't have to.  'Ok', came the reply, 'How about you give your things to us and we will sell them for you?'  Really?  Oh yippee!  Phew, such a relief.  And such kindness from brave people.  So this week I have been digging about in boxes, unearthing my creations  and getting them ready for the show.  Really, really happy.

These are my calendula and lemongrass coconut oil soaps.  We have been using them in the bathroom and they are lovely.  Our soft water means we get loads of bubbles and the oils in the soap keep our skin soft.  In the summer I bought a soap that was wrapped in pretty fabric and tied with narrow ribbon.  I couldn't see the soap inside but I parted with my money because it looked so lovely.  It turned out to be mass produced soap hacked into an oblong.  It was as hard as nails but eventually softened up a bit once we got it going.  It cost me £3.50.  When I was thinking how to present my soaps I thought of that bar of soap and decided to give them a seasonal feel with red and white fabric and ribbons. Berries and snow, can't beat it.  I have left the ends uncovered on those I have wrapped in fabric, so that people can see and smell it before they buy.  I don't want anyone to get home and be disappointed, as I was.

The beeswax, honey and oatmeal soaps have been given the blue and white treatment.  Frost and ice.  They look really crumbly but are in fact really soft and rich.  They have that much oil in them they couldn't be anything else.  I just hope people visiting the show on Saturday will like them enough to buy them.  I will also be sending some candles and maybe a few more soaps if I can think of another way to present them.  Maybe something for the men this time.

So that's almost done now and it has given me an idea to maybe try and sell some soap on eBay.  My brother told me ages ago to have a go, but I never did.  If these do well at the show it will give me more confidence to try.

November is well under way now and Christmas is most definitely coming!  Yay!  I have started my shopping and purchased a few things.  My brother and sister and I have decided to only spend £5 on each other this year.  There are six children in the family now and as Christmas is really all about them, I think it would take the pressure off us a bit.  We are lucky enough to go without very little and if we want a new pair of jeans or a book or something, we can usually afford to get it.  Christmas to me means being with my family, taking time to relax, go for walks, read and just enjoy each day as it comes.  Oh, and watching The Wizard of Oz while eating Quality Street!  Simple stuff that doesn't cost a fortune.  My £5 will include home made things of course and maybe something found or thrifted.  It takes more thinking about but should be fun to do too.  And it will be interesting to see what we can do with such a small amount!

The weather turned really chilly yesterday; maybe the coldest day we've had so far.  I bought the first bag of marshmallows for our hot chocolate this winter.  Squirty cream and sprinkles come in December.  The children have been limited to the amount they have as H1 has a tendency to stand in the kitchen and graze on them until the bag is empty.  He then puts the empty bag back in the cupboard and denies all knowledge.  I know it's him though as he always puts empty packets back in the cupboard or fridge and swears blind he didn't do it.  So winter cooking is the order of the day too.  I think it will be squash, potato and cheese bake tonight.  If I have time I will do a batch of mince pies too.  We could have them with custard.  Yum.

Getting hungry now, so I will go and make a start on the above.  What are you cooking tonight?

Have a lovely day and keep warm. xxx

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Wet And Windy Day

Autumn has arrived kicking and screaming.  The wind howls round the house and whines across the top of the chimney pots.  The rain batters against the back door, the trees moan and creak and their leaves and branches fall to the ground in carpets of  autumnal shades.  This is my favourite time of year.  Snug and warm in our little house; lamps glowing and curtains drawn tightly against the black night.  All is well in my world.

November brings colder weather, dark evenings and winter woollies.  I begin to dig out old recipes and cook and bake to keep my family full and warm.  I love it.  In the summer I don't do that much cooking as we mainly eat salads and light meals, but the change in season makes me want to start cooking wholesome food and fill the tins with heavy cake and spicy biscuits.  Halloween came and went this week.  I must confess to an absolute intense dislike of Halloween.  I think little children going out with their parents all dressed up and excited is lovely, but when teenage 'children' use it as an excuse to cause trouble, upset people, throw eggs and generally be unpleasant, that is a different matter altogether.  So Halloween is not something we celebrate in our house and we don't get bothered by anyone knocking at the door as no one would bother to come all this way in the first place.  The best thing about Halloween for us is the pumpkins.

 While the rain lashed down outside, we were snug in our little kitchen making roast pumpkin soup and ginger cake.  I used to make ginger cake in my bread machine until it gave up the ghost.  So, for the first time in years I made one in the oven.  I found a lovely recipe in my Farmhouse Kitchen Cookbook (had that for ever) and away I went.  I love making cakes that match the season and it was the perfect day for something that would stick to our ribs and keep us full for a long time.

Later on the sun came out to play, so Pea and I took the opportunity to plant up some pots for a spot of autumn and winter colour.

I know they don't look much now but hopefully, with vigilant deadheading, they will give us fresh little faces to admire and cheer the dark days for months to come.  We pushed some dwarf iris bulbs in the compost too, so that will be something to look forward to in March when the violas have exhausted themselves and gone to seed.  Even though the wind blew with a definite chill to it and our hands were blue and numb with cold, it was absolutely wonderful to be planting and trying to make the garden look pretty.  I have missed gardening and growing so much and I suspect that my now dormant passion will re-emerge with renewed vigour once the days begin to lengthen and we are heading towards the lighter part of the year again.

In the mean time, we have things like this to keep the smiles on our faces.  This gorgeous male pheasant spent some time in our garden the other afternoon as the light was fading.  There are a million male and female pheasants in the field opposite the house and along the lanes and surrounding areas.  I love having them about and feel very privileged if they choose to wander into our garden.  They can stay as long as they like and we get to enjoy their beautiful autumn colours.
We are now at the end of half-term and can honestly say it has been a lovely holiday.  It came at exactly the right time for us as we were all exhausted and a bit run down after moving house.  My alarm goes off every day at 7am and I force myself out of bed and on with the day, as do we all.  But half-term gave me the chance to be a bit lazy and stay in bed a while longer.  H1 and I let the dogs out in our pyjamas and then I settled down in the lounge with my cup of tea and lazed some more.  Bliss, and just what was needed.  We have been busy but not going mad.  Plenty of time has been spent in front of the telly (by the boys largely) and the house is coming together nicely.  The addition of a lamp in the hallway and light shades in the bedrooms helps it to feel homely.

We finally made it over to the mainland to see my brother, his wife, their little girl and new baby boy this week.  It is the first time I have seen him and he was in my arms having a cuddle before mum and the children even got through the door!  He is the most gorgeous bundle of baby and he smells yummy and feels lovely to hold.  Wow, I love babies, but would NOT want to have another of my own.  It's amazing though how those feeling all come flooding back when you hold a tiny baby again.  He is scrumptious and so quiet and calm.  Not in the least like any of mine were, nor as his dad was when he was a baby, although he is like that as a grown man.  I have to say that, he may read this.  We had a lovely day with them all.  Their pretty cottage is full of love and warmth and all the things of family life.  I love it.

But reality is knocking on the door again and soon it will be time for school and routine.  Booo!  Still, only six weeks til they break up for....CHRISTMAS!!!  And that's another story.

I hope you are keeping safe and warm this autumn.  Thank you for reading.  xxx