Friday, 23 September 2016

Hello Autumn! Hello 'Mucky Overnighter'...

Well, Mr G and I really are getting around of late.  Tomorrow sees the North Wales Crusaders End of Season Awards.  I would have wanted to go anyway.  But our Manager has left.  Several high profile players won't be with us next season.  The mascot has hung up his inflatable daffodil.  And it seems the Racecourse has priced us out of a ground.  I'm really proud of our team and what we have achieved this season, considering we didn't even have a full squad at the start of it.  Muzza has had a job and a half of it, but has built a decent team, who have done us proud considering the problems off the field.  The dual registration players from Salford have helped out too.  Ryan has had a lot to contend with for such a young lad, being constantly bombarded with questions from fans that there are no answers to, yet.  So, I have cast my votes, it was a hard choice as so many players have influenced games, but for me it had to be Robbie Massam for Player of the Year, they'll be lost without him next season.  For Try of the Year, it had to be Jack Hansen against Gloucester at our last league home match at Queensway.  Such a cheeky try, and when he looked at us fans just before grounding the ball, we were all screaming and cheering him on.  I barely had a voice left leaving that day.  So yes, more than ever, I wanted to go and support the team and show my appreciation.  It will be a good night, if a tad poignant.  Hopefully it looks like our new home next season will be Queensway, which isn't a bad little ground, if the stands are a bit far away from the field, a track coming in between.  But still, beggars can't be choosers, and it makes financial sense.  The applicants for the manager's position will be interviewed soon.  It's going to be interesting to see what happens now, and how the team moves forward in 2017. 

So, tomorrow afternoon, we are off to Holt Lodge Hotel in Wrexham for the EOSA night.  I don't know how posh it is, anywhere with the word 'Lodge' in sounds posh, doesn't it?  There is a two course meal too, Roast Beef Dinner and Apple Pie for dessert.  The most exciting part of it is that my brother said he will have the children overnight so thought we'd book a room and stay over too... as you do... well, it is the year of my 40th after all (yes, I am still milking that one, and will continue to do so until the 9th May 2017, thank you very much!).  If the weather isn't too bad, we're hopefully going to get an early start and go to the car boot sale in Chirk Airfield before we head home.  There's a woman there who sells free range eggs, they are like dinosaur eggs and every one we bought the last time we went were double yolkers.  The kids went mad for them.  Especially when I made homemade scotch eggs with them!  They also made the most divine omelettes too.  So we're hoping to catch her there and get a few trays.

Autumn is finally here.  We didn't really get much of a Summer, did we?  The heating has already been on in the mornings, and in the evenings we're now sat with the curtains drawn, lamps glowing and tea lights flickering from every direction.  Really cosy, really hygge.  I'm tempted to get my knitting box out and start knitting some mini tree decorations.  Christmas shopping is making headway, a few people are done already!  But that's going too far forward in time.  For first...

My eldest turns 21 on Wednesday.  It doesn't seem like yesterday he hit 18.  He's back in Uni now, in his second year, and to his delight he is living above a Dominos and next to a Lidl.  We are all going out for a meal on Wednesday night, I have ordered a cake from a local cakemaker, and we are going to photobomb the village as was done to me.  I think he will be going to see his father the weekend after his birthday, and so the weekend after that, we will be having a party in the house.  I have bought all six expansion packs for Cards Against Humanity.  And that is the plan.  A cracking buffet, plenty of homemade dessert, crateloads of beers and mixed age teams of CAH.  That should be such a laugh. 

In my infinite wisdom, I have decided to resurrect the annual Hallowee'n party this year.  I think the last one we had here was 2010 or 2011, so it's long overdue.  We're off on a week's holiday in December to a little village near Corwen, and we will do our Christmas shopping in Chester and Wrexham over that week, as we have saved for High Street, Primark and Amazon gift vouchers over the course of the year.  We're all really looking forward to that, it's another old mill, but not the one we have stayed in twice before.  There's room for eight of us so we're hoping my parents and Dan can join us, even if only for the weekend.  I think I've picked another cracker of a place to stay (I'm bloody good, me) and it even has a games room, so we won't see the children for playing pool or XBox.  Mr G said that if we were all there, maybe we could buy a small turkey and have a Christmas dinner together, which would be nice, but what he actually means is, he wants one of my Mum's Christmas dinners.  I don't know whether to be offended or agree with him.  It will be nice to get away at that time of year, we haven't done that before.  I will have no choice but to relax, at a time of year that I'm usually like a headless chicken!   Wrap the presents that I've bought, in the dark windy evenings, in front of the log burner, glass of red wine to hand, Dean Martin on in the background... sounds like my idea of wintry bliss anyway.  Mr G has declared that 'this Christmas we are going all out'.  Whatever that means.  Probably means expense for me, it usually does.  He's made a start by buying us new Christmas jumpers in our new smaller sizes!  He's hankered after an elf one for years now, the little sad case, and he now has one!  I wouldn't let him buy the elf hat to go with it though.  I have my limits.  Especially when I told him he'd be too hot inside with it on, and he said it would be to go out in.  Er, no...  

Our Norfolk Break - Part 3 - The Wedding

When we arrived back at the station, we were greeted by the Toastmaster, who welcomed us all in to the lobby, where we were served Pimms or orange juice in lovely glass milk bottles that had been decorated with flowers and lace.

We were told to locate our table numbers on the seating plan, which my friend had put into a montage of photo frames.  I've never seen this done before but it looked great!  We found our tables and were told we had about twenty minutes to grab a quick drink if we wanted before making our way to the steam train.

We went outside on the platform, and we were serenaded with old love songs.  This was a lovely touch and very in keeping with the day itself.

I don't know whether it was because I don't pay attention or whether I hadn't been furnished with the full facts of what was happening on the day (sorry M, you know me...) but for some reason (I don't pay attention) I was under the impression that we would be eating a cream tea on the steam train, as we had already ordered our meal for the evening.  I didn't know that the train would be moving... and I didn't expect what happened next.

We got on board the train and received another ticket to add to the memory jar.  Above each seat, there were hearts hanging with our names on.  I sat with Mr G and the boys and Cait went to sit with the bridesmaid and her parents.  

Everyone had a gift on the table in front of them, personalised to them.  The men had homemade wine, and the ladies had sweet peas to plant, in the wedding colours.  Better than sugared almonds!  All the children had gifts catered to what they liked, which was a lovely thoughtful touch, M to a tee.

And then this happened...

What the...

Mr G's eyes lit up.  He's been breadless for about 15 weeks.  And he knew that I wouldn't be able to eat the sandwiches as they were buttered.  Git.  I shrugged my shoulders and tucked into the pastries and pizzas instead.  I said that I must have got it wrong and M had said afternoon tea, not cream tea.  Either way we were famished and it was very welcome.  Waiters walked up and down the carriage the whole time as we made our way to Wymondham refilling our teas and coffees and juice boxes.  When we reached Wymondham we were allowed off to stretch our legs and once back on the train, this happened...

Oh. My. God.

The picture doesn't actually do it justice, the scones were massive.  We had one each with clotted cream and jam, and I can say without a word of a lie, we couldn't breathe after finishing everything.  Absolutely lovely tea.  

We arrived back at the station, and the organist was still there, but the evening band had come to set up too.  We grabbed a glass of champagne and went on the platform to listen to the speeches.  It was a little bit chilly at this point, so after we went into the railway cafe and sat down with a drink.  I glanced outside onto the car park and noticed that the fish and chip catering had turned up.  I looked at Mr G, and mouthed 'Oh my God.'  We hung on as long as we possibly could before going for ours.  

I don't know where we put it, but we managed it.  And it was exceptionally good fish and chips too.  

The band began to play a mixture of songs, old and new, and we began to dance.  Anyone who knows me knows I don't dance.  But I danced the night away.  We all did.  On the platform of a steam railway.  As you do.  Best dancefloor in the world.  Ever.  The more the wine slipped down, the more we danced and the warmer the night seemed to feel.

Oh, I also forgot to mention dessert.  Which I had to pass on.  Just to give you an indication of how full I was.  Both Mr G and I had to pass.  On dessert.  Unheard of.

Actually gutted because the flavours they had chosen, Rum and Raisin, Lavender, Salted Caramel, Honeycomb to name but a few... I really wanted to try the Lavender.  But couldn't even think of taking a spoonful.  I accused M of being a feeder, and told her that traditionally people are meant to starve at weddings hehe.

Me and my beautiful bestie and our fellas

Before we knew it our taxi was in the car park ready to take us home.  We'd had such a wonderful day that we didn't want it to end.  It was simply, the best wedding ever.  One that will forever be held up as a benchmark for other weddings we attend, and we doubt anything will ever top it.  I've never been so relaxed at a wedding, everything just flowed nicely, nothing was rushed.  The thought M had put into every tiny little detail was unbelieveable - to the extent that two people who have seen the pictures have said that she should be a wedding planner.  There was even this in the loos at the station, all manner of bits and bobs that we may have needed over the course of the day; sanitary protection, hairbrush, hairspray, deodorant, blister plasters etc.

All the staff at the Mid Norfolk Railway were so lovely and helpful and all walked around with huge smiles on their faces too.  Thank you M&A for letting us be a part of your big day, we will never forget it :-)  

In other news, I put on 4 kilos that weekend... FOUR.  Worth every gram.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Our Norfolk Break - Part 2 - The Wedding

Saturday morning came upon us very quickly, I had set my alarm clock for 6 am but woke about 5 am, as usual, so I made myself a coffee and had an hour sat in peace reading one of the many books in the cottage.  The children had bathed and showered the night before, I had done my nails, so it was only Mr G and I who needed showering.  I don't think we've ever been so relaxed getting ready for a wedding, to be honest!  I think we were all done by 9 am, and I just barked 'sit there, don't move, don't breathe, don't eat or drink anything!' at the boys.

I knew the colour theme of the wedding was purples and cream, so I decided to choose clothes for us that complimented the theme.  

Mr G looking very smart indeed

Me and the boys

My boys

As Mr G has lost so much weight his suits were literally wrapping around him!  He treated himself to a lovely blue three piece suit, and the lilac shirt and tie he wore were the ones he wore on our wedding day!  That was a nice touch.  The boys had lovely two-tone shirts from Debenhams, Cait chose a dress from New Look.

A proper young lady now

We scrub up well, considering

The taxi came for us and took us on the five minute journey to the Mid Norfolk Railway station.  This is a steam railway station in Dereham, and it is like an old fashioned station, its decor and everything.  Absolutely lovely.  I knew that the big day had been catered to M&A's likes.  Which I suppose is as it should be, how many people spend a fortune on their big day and it just isn't them?  Posh hotels, 'burp and you're hungry again' meals that cost more per head than you'd pay for a family of four to eat for a week?  I don't get why people do it, if they don't live like that anyway?  This wedding had incorporated what they liked and who they were as a couple.  

A big marquee was on the car park, and after greeting the groom and his brother, we went inside where the staff were serving mini danish pastries and tea and coffee while we waited for the transport to the church.  The marquee was kitted out in bunting and flowers too.

Just point me to the Maple and Pecan danish and I'll be on my way...

Decisions, decisions...

Then our transport showed up.  The church was so remote and with so little parking that everyone was requested to use the provided transport.  It would have been a no brainer anyway.  In a nod to A's London roots, they had hired an old red London double decker bus!  Who wouldn't want a ride on it?

We got on the bus and received a ticket each, which was a nice touch and something for the memory jar.  We decided to sit upstairs and the back seat was empty, so Mr G and I bagged that.  The first time we'd ever sat on the back seat of a bus together.  

Cheeky selfie

After about an hour, we reached the remote church where the marriage was taking place.  In the car park, posh portaloos were laid on, as we would have been about three to four hours without a loo otherwise.  I found the vicar and she gave me my printed copy of the poem I was reading out in church.  We took our places in the pews and the bride arrived, traditionally late.  I'm not one for crying at weddings, but she looked so beautiful that I teared up.  They had requested that no photographs be taken during the ceremony, aside from the official photographer, so I didn't get any inside the church.  

Bride and Groom with their readers

Once all the confetti had been thrown, and the photographs taken, it was time to go back on the bus back to the station for the reception.  This is when 'BeaverGate' occurred.

At some point over the last few months, I could have swore that Mary said to me that there was family coming over from Canada for the wedding.  So, upon hearing the accent, we decided to be friendly and speak to this chap.  Caitlin has a thing about accents, so the conversation went a little something like this.

Caitlin:  I LOVE your accent!
Canadian:  Thank you.
Me: You're Canadian, aren't you?
Canadian: Yes.  Yes I am.
Caitlin:  Do you have bears in Canada?
Canadian: Yes, we have bears, and a lot of deer.

Big mistake.  Biiiiiiiiiiiig mistake.  After a potted history of every single famous and noteworthy Canadian, including those who weren't born Canadian but who moved there and changed nationality... this then occurred.

Canadian:  Interesting story, which you probably won't know.  You know how the Catholics, on a Friday, they traditionally eat fish?  
Me: Yes?
Canadian:  Well.  It's not always so easy to catch fish in Canada during bad weather, so the head of the church, you know, the Pope, decreed that, as they generally congregate in water... if you were Catholic, you could eat beaver on a Friday.

As I stared at the Canadian, his words reverberating around my brain 'You could eat beaver on a Friday', I felt my body begin to betray me in the worst way imaginable.  I knew that sat to my immediate left, my husband would have an evil glint in his eye.  I could almost hear the cogs turning in his brain.  I was too polite to burst out laughing and so as I held it in, the mirth manifested by my body jerking violently, and my eyes streamed with tears, ruining my eye make up.  I turned to Mr G, who was, as always, deadpan.  Poker faced.

Mr G:  Ah!  That's interesting.  And have you ever eaten beaver on a Friday?

You'd think that would have finished me off.  But no, there was more.

Canadian:  No sir!  I have never eaten beaver, at all.

Said without even the briefest hint of irony or innuendo.  I was crying, properly crying at this point.  Mr G still deadpan.  But this still wasn't the end of it, oh no.

Mr G:  I'd imagine it tastes a bit... fishy?

That finished me off.  That. 

Our Norfolk Break - Part 1 - The Accommodation

Last weekend our friends M&A tied the knot in Norfolk.  We had been so looking forward to it for absolutely ages.  As the time started to draw closer, we all bought our new outfits, had haircuts, made sure the car was in good shape to make the journey there and back.  I'd had little hints of how the day was going to be, but the reality of the day just blew everything out of the water.  The best wedding both Mr G and I have ever been to, hands down.  First, the accommodation, because once again, I'd played a blinder and picked somewhere that just made us go 'Wow'.

This was NOT taken when we arrived...

The Coach House in Yaxham.  2.3 miles away from where the wedding reception was taking place, so we knew that we could get there and back without having to sell a kidney or remortgage a child or something.  The journey down was faultless up to Nottinghamshire... and once we'd made it to Grantham, plain sailing to Kings Lynn and down to Yaxham.  But... Nottinghamshire.  Remember the mucky overnighter at The Hand Hotel (if you don't, you can refresh your memory by clicking here).  Where the route was closed due to snow?  And regardless the sat nav was insistent on putting us back on that route and we ended up going round in a big loop for ages?  And knocked every turn out by at least 20 - 30 yards?  Yeah, that.  Because although the route may have been correct in 2011/2012, when we first had the sat nav and unfortunately back then they came with one free map update and we are too cheap to pay for more... come 2016, the route absolutely was not correct any longer.  The weather was lovely as far as Stoke on Trent, and then it started spitting, and the closer we drew to Norfolk, the harder the rain was coming down.  Mr G was terrified driving in it.  

We turned into a narrow lane and drove past a lovely church and up the drive marked Yaxham House.  Past a huge house, which the owners lived in, followed the drive further and there it was, set back in a massive courtyard of its own, The Coach House.  Despite only being about 2.30 pm it was almost dark outside, and you could see the inside lit up ready for us, several lamps glowing, it looked so cosy and inviting but we were trapped in the car for the foreseeable.  Mr G saw the owner coming out of the Coach House and he ran through the torrential rain to get the keys from her.  He had the tour as we sheltered in the car.  Getting our stuff in was fun and games, sheltering under massive umbrellas and passing bags along a human chain.

Once we were all in and stood dripping, Mr G told us that the owner Sue had left us (me... hehe) a bottle of wine, which was chilling in the fridge, a pint of milk, a pack of lovely cookies, and six eggs laid by her hens, which have the run of her large gardens.  We quickly unpacked everything, had a coffee, and then went off to search for something for our tea.

Boys room

Cait's room

Our bedroom

Kitchen with everything you could think of provided




Settled down for a cosy evening, rugby and a couple of beers!

We went to locate the station to check that we'd got the right place, bumped into my friend while there, which was a nice surprise, wasn't expecting to see her then, and then went to book a taxi, get fish and chips for us all, and retired for the evening.   Curtains drawn, heating on, wine in glass, rugby on the iPad.  Spot on.

Part two - the Wedding, coming very soon!  Including the conversation that shall now and forever be known as 'BeaverGate'.  This is something that could only happen to us.  We must give off a signal that only lunatics can pick up on.  Or the old sayings 'birds of a feather'.  'Like attracts like'.  Or something. 

M x

Friday, 2 September 2016

Frazzled Shell - Neglected Much?

Wow, over 2 months since my last post!  The children are back to school in a few days, and I haven't written one holiday post.  They would have been back in school yesterday if it wasn't for a friend of mine telling my son that they weren't back until Monday!  The school website had them back on Thursday the 1st September!  I have been really busy but that's no excuse really.  Looking at my blog stats, it seems that nothing much has changed anyway, people visit here for - a) the two chicken Doner recipes, b) the Doner recipe and c) the Chicken Tikka recipe. 

The big news, I suppose, the news that has been keeping me so busy, is that Mr G and I have been following a new diet since the 11th of June, very successfully too... It's called The Blood Sugar Diet, and it's devised by Michael Mosley, the creator of the 5:2 diet.  Basically, it's a diet devised primarily for Type 2 Diabetics, and eating this way reverses the disease (if that's the right word for it).  I know many people now who no longer need their diabetes medications, their bloods are normal in addition to coming off other related medications; high cholesterol, hypertension etc.  Neither Mr G nor I are diabetic, but the size we were, it was probably only a matter of time.  Anyway, one of the very welcome added bonuses of the plan are that there is very speedy weightloss involved... very speedy indeed.  The diet is restrictive, you would need balls of steel to take it on; no bread - not even gluten free, not even wholemeal, no pasta - no, not even wholemeal, no rice - no, not even brown!  No potatoes, no white flour, no couscous, no sugar except natural sources, no sweet potatoes, no junk food such as crisps, chocolate, biscuits, pizza... the list goes on and on.  Full fat dairy is encouraged.  Butter, not margarine.  800 calories a day.  For a minimum of 8 weeks.  But.  The weightlosses...

We are 12 weeks and 1 day into the plan, although we are no longer restricting ourselves to 800 calories a day since the start of this week. We are following a more relaxed version of the plan - still low carb but with a few extra daily calories.  I have lost over 40lbs and Mr G has lost over 32 lbs in that time, that's 5 stone and 3lbs between us.  In 12 weeks.  We have a son who is 5 stone 12lbs!  We're absolutely thrilled to bits and looking and feeling better than we have done in a long time!  This is us last weekend before our great nephew's Christening.

Shrinking slowly but surely

There are ways around eating naughty things on the plan though!  All is not lost!   Lovely cakes can be made with almond and coconut flour!  I even made the most divine flourless cake the other day, with peanut butter!  One of the nicest cakes I have ever made in my life.  And Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Olive Oil cake is to die for, and you can substitute coconut sugar there for caster sugar.  My kitchen cupboard is (probably) like Gwyneth Paltrow's... ground flaxseed, almond flour, chickpea flour, spelt flour, coconut flour, coconut oil, coconut sugar, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, all manner of nuts... There's only about three tins in my cupboard, and they are coconut milk, chickpeas and tomatoes!  What is happening to me???  We've also discovered spelt flour this week and I baked the most divine bread and bread rolls, tasted like proper bakery bread.  It is still high carb, so it will have to be an exception rather than a rule, but the high fibre content makes it much better for you.  The flour is endorsed by Bowel Cancer UK so it doesn't come better than that for me, if I am going to eat a slice of white bread occasionally.

How good does that look! 

We went camping, or rather glamping to Llangollen a few weeks ago, to our usual haunt - Abbey Farm.  Mr G looked online and they had a few pods available at a very reasonable price, including one night free.  We knew that we would have to take the trailer with us if we wanted to have any chance of taking even skeleton camping stuff.  So, without having to pack the tent and porch, we just about managed to get everything we needed into the car.  We loved staying in the pods, with lights, heating, electricity, it made things so much easier for us, and did away with being frozen at night!

Our pod

We went on the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct boat trip, which was a lovely way to spend an hour.  We were stuck on the Aqueduct for about quarter of an hour as it was really windy there.

 We walked miles along the Llangollen canal, I got my step count up while they played crazy golf...

We went off to Park Hall Farm in Oswestry again, the children had really enjoyed their day out there two years ago and requested to go.  There was a new exhibition there, where replica World War 1 trenches had been built on site.  It was both interesting and sobering to walk around there and imagine how life had been like for the troops back then.

Then we watched the pig racing...

Took a stroll through the maze, and got lost...

We went to Techniquest in Glyndwr University in Wrexham, which is a science museum for children, we all had fun there and it passed an enjoyable morning for us all.  Mr G is just as big a kid at heart as the children are!

The following week I had been asked to cater for my great nephew's Christening, for around 70 people.  I've been asked to help out with so many family parties by now that I whizzed through it, started 4.45 am and finished 9.15 am, giving everyone ample time to get ready, including me for a change! 

We went into Wigan on the Saturday for a wander around and Steve found a statue of one of his heroes - George Formby (yes, really) and Adam saw a T Rex walk through the streets.  

L-R Mr G, George Formby

T Rex

So not the most exciting of summer's that we have had, but you can't do it every year can you?  I really didn't think I would say this after last year, but I really think we missed our Devon holiday this year?  So, rather than leaving it the two or three years I stated after last year's disaster, we will be going back next year.  I just need to find a self catering apartment with a washing machine this time, as we have a much smaller car now, the amount of stuff we can bring is much less.  Especially clothes for five for a fortnight!

Crusaders play their last home game of the season tomorrow, so we're off to Wrexham for that, unusually on a Saturday.  I don't know where this season has gone.  After having two or three games held in Chester RUFC, which it has to be said was a really nice ground, this game is being held at Queensway.  We've been there once before for Stu Reardon's testimonial.  It still looks up in the air about where we'll be playing our home games in the future, but it looks like our days at The Racecourse are numbered.  Whether Cru remain a Welsh team too, remain to be seen if a suitable ground can't be found. 

Looking forward to my best friend's wedding in Norwich in a couple of weeks too!  Never been to that part of the country before and her wedding is so... different to anything I have ever been to in the past.  I can't wait to show you the photographs of that one!  If she doesn't mind, of course.   

If the next couple of months go as quickly as these have, it will be Christmas before we know it!  There's already a touch of Autumn in the air after our blink-and-you'll-miss-it Summer!