Tuesday, 23 December 2008

A Trip to London

Sunday saw hubby & I take a trip to London; the borough of Kensington & Chelsea to be exact. First stop the Natural History Museum where we took in the delights of the dinosaur and mammal exhibitions, before a quick zip round the museum shop where we lucky enough to find a fab Xmas decoration made from elephant dung. I kid you not. It's what every Xmas tree in the know is wearing this season.

(As an aside, do I look like I'm doing my best impersonation of the Mona Lisa in this photo? Perhaps that's what her enigmatic smile is all about - a pregnancy glow...! Note how I like to rest my hand on my bump in an attempt to ensure people know I'm pregnant and not just hugely fat.)

Next stop, Starbucks (natch) for a little light refresehment in the form of a gingerbread latte, and a hazelnut & chocolate muffin which tasted just like a Ferrero Rocher, which can't be a bad thing.

And finally, the piece de resistance, the Albert Hall for Carols by Candlelight, tickets for which hubby had bought me for my birthday. Admittedly, the 'candles' were electric ones, presumably a health and safety thing since the orchestra were wearing 18th Century costume, including wigs which could have gone up in smoke at the merest hint of a naked flame. But not to worry, we had bigger fish to fry in the complaints department. All started well, as the choir kicked off proceedings with something lovely and classical in Latin (I don't claim to know anything about classical music and so won't try and tell you what it was), plus there was a little musical interlude from the orchestra, again something classical and lovely. Unfortunately, it went a little downhill after that as the conductor tried to tell jokes and then invited the audience to join in and massacre pretty much all of the rest of the carols (except the Latin ones, which the choir kept for themselves). Now, don't get me wrong, hubby & I love carols as much as the next man; however, what we don't love is carols sung by the next man. We had gone along thinking that we would be entertained by a fully-trained orchestra and choir so we could sit back and soak up the atmosphere. Instead, we had to contend with Joe Public belting out the tunes to the best and worst of their abilities. Bah humbug. It seems we are doomed as far as live carols go - last year we went to the carol concert at the church in Henley where I was constantly annoyed by a man in the row behind me jingling the coins in his pocket during each carol; this year we decide to go up-market and are no better off; next year we'll stay at home and listen to a CD and be grinches in the comfort of our own home.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Introducing Aubrey Montague

Fear not, Delightful Child hasn't decided to make an entrance nearly ten (OMG, is it only ten weeks til I'm due to give birth??!!) weeks early, nor have we lumbered said child with such an 'interesting' moniker (although if hubby had his way it would be top of the list; but then he would counter that with my wish to call a girl-child Ariadne...)

Anyway, please be upstanding for Aubrey Montague Bear:

Isn't he just so proud? As am I, since he is the first bear I have ever knitted; in fact he is the first thing I have knitted since being a 'grown-up' (for those of you with good memories, scarf is still in progress since I had to wait for John Lewis to order me another ball of wool and it only arrived on Thursday.)

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

A Weekend in the Country

On Friday, hubby & I took a trip to Dorset to visit our dear friends GRachel & GGordon who have very recently moved all the way down to the deepest, darkest countryside (ie so deep there is no mobile phone reception - imagine!) from Old Windsor, to persue a new life of welly boots and shooting sticks, or whatever it is that countryfolk need to get by from day to day.

Unfortunately, as well as packing the usual overnight bag, I also took a whole host of germs and used tissues as I have come down with a real stinker of a cold. I did forewarn our hosts, but they were still keen for us to visit, and I hope they are not now regretting that as their noses stream and their throats feel like they have swallowed broken glass.

We had a really lovely weekend, mostly revolving around food and nattering, with a hint of shopping thrown in. Saturday morning we visited Bridport for the monthly farmers' market - always a dangerous thing as it is hard to resist home-grown and home-made goodies, especially of the cake variety and those made of driftwood...
We then spent the rest of the day relaxing; hubby & GGordon spent a while at the pub checking that the beer was as good as it should be while GRachel and I stayed at home, she cooked while I worked on the teddy bear (soon to be revealed in all his glory.)

Sunday morning we had to head back to the real world where everything seemed so much busier and noisier, although not until we had a hearty breakfast under our belts. I want to live in the countryside now, although not sure I could do without mobile phone reception, and there would also have to be a Starbucks in the vicinity, and some shops, and cafes, and restaurants, and that'll be what's called living in a town then...

Monday, 15 December 2008

Three Long, Oops I Mean Lovely, Years

On Wednesday 10th hubby & I celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary. One, two, three - ahhhhhh. For my pressie, hubby took me to Cliveden for afternoon tea, which was served in the library - sooooooooooooooooooo lovely.We had fabulous finger sandwiches with smoked salmon, beef, tomato, egg, and chicken; eight varieties of cake; and warm scones with jam and clotted cream.When we had finished eating we decided we didn't want to leave so sat out in the Great Hallwhere hubby indulged in a G&T while I wondered whether it would be possible to go in to labour there and then and give birth in the library. How fabulous that would be. Must book afternoon tea again for the beginning of March...
And since hubby is an international businessman I bought him a leather passport cover and a bottle of Blue Sapphire gin as his anniversary gift. Leather is the traditional gift for a third anniversary, while crystal or glass is the modern gift.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Yum, Moussakaloni - My Favourite!

Last night hubby and I finally got round to decorating the Christmas tree. It arrived in our living room on Monday, got festooned with lights on Tuesday, but has otherwise been languishing unadorned. But, last night was the night for boxes and boxes of ornaments to be unwrapped and gazed open with a mixture of awe and 'crikey, where/why did we buy that one?' Hubby & I have a tradition whereby whenever we go to a new city/country we buy a Christmas decoration as a momento of our trip. This means that each year as we unwrap the deccies wehave a little reminder of where we've been on our travels. We have deccies from Australia:

CambodiaCzech RepublicHungaryIndiaSwitzerland, Laos, Vietnam, Mexico, Latvia, the Netherlands, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, and approx 4 million from the USA and New York - including a large number in the form of Starbucks annual 'red' Christmas cups.

And our all-time favourite from Bloomingdales, NYC:

After we were finished with decorating the tree and house it was time for dinner - vegetable moussaka. When we had finished eating we had this short conversation:

Hubby: 'I really enjoyed that, it wasn't too pasta-y'

Me: 'That's because there's no pasta in it'

Hubby: 'What was it?'

Me: 'Vegetable moussaka'

Hubby: 'Oh, I thought it was cannelloni'

Friday, 5 December 2008

Alternative Advent Calendar

Some friends of ours have produced this most excellent musical alternative to the traditional Advent Calendar. Why not have a listen...


or, if you access it this way, they can count how many hits they get:


Where to Start? Part IV: Monday

Yay! A day off work to relax and recuperate from the weekend or, alternatively, to go shopping and get all tired out again. Which do you think I did? That's right, because I inherited the 'can't sit still for 5 minutes' gene from my father, I went shopping. Left the house at 9.30am and got home about 3pm. So much for a day spent with my feet up (to prevent the lovely 'I'm pregnant and I've got swollen ankles' look.) Still, what better way to celebrate the first day of VAT being reduced from 17.5% to 15% than to go out and shop?! Surely this was what the government hoped would happen when they decided to boost the economy in this strange way. So, I spent several hours in Boots and Sainsburys and came away almost £150 worse off, but with a mountain of food (well, I am eating for two these days), Xmas wrapping paper and some clothes for Delightful Child.

On the way home I had to go to the Post Office which is unfortunately situated near a Marks and Spencer's Food, so I ended up spending more money. However, there's also a charity shop next to M&S where I managed to pick up two pairs of knitting needles for the grand total of £1, thus boosting my knitting aparatus and adding to my charity karma all at the same time.

And still the shopping wasn't over. I then went and bought a Christmas tree - all 7ft of it, since the house we are currently renting has a beamed, apex ceiling in the living room which can accommodate a much larger tree than we are usually able to buy. For the last four years hubby has had to saw the bottom off every Xmas tree we have taken home due to slight miscalculations in height. But not this year. No sireee Bob. This year we could have had a 10ft tree and it would have fitted, but that would have been greedy and goodness only knows how we would have got the stuffed reindeeer we use in place of a fairy on the top.

And then I called in at Starbucks to get a gingerbread latte and, lo!, they are now 5p cheaper due to the VAT cut. All is well in the world.

Here's hubby doing his best impersonation of a tree hugger. And, yes, he is wearing a fleece and gloves for 3 reasons. 1) he had just been outside to drag the tree in from the car; 2) gloves are very handy (pardon the pun) when handling spiky Xmas trees; and 3) our heating still wasn't working, a week after it had broken.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Where to Start? Part III: Sunday

A trip to jolly old London Town. More specifically, Marylebone High Street which is my favourite part of London due to its compact nature and great shops including Cath Kidston, The White Company, Fish Works and Emma Bridgwater.

We met our friends Kesh & Kate and their little boy Rishi and had a fab lunch in Eat & Two Veg, a yummy vegetarian restaurant where I had a delicious butternut squash crumble, the thought of which is making me feel hungry. Over lunch Kesh showed us a text that hubby had quite innocently sent him the day before, which read:

"Am in bath with Jus, well it is her birthday"

Yes, indeed, what a treat for me. Note to hubby - do not share our intimate details with all and sundry. Further note to hubby - on certain occasions, capital letters are IMPORTANT - note the difference between 'bath' and 'Bath' and what using one when you mean the other can imply...

After lunch, the boys went to a pub to watch footy while Kate & I did what girls do best - we went shopping. I bought a lovely Christmas-y smelling candle in The White Company and the next Book Club book (Skipping Christmas by John Grisham) in the Oxfam Book Shop (have I ever told you how much time/money hubby & I spend in OBS, as we call it? It makes you never, ever want to pay full price for a book again.) We window shopped in a few places too, including The Little White Company which specialises in massively overpriced clothes and other things for babies and children. £28 for a pair of child's pyjamas! I don't think so, not when you can get them for £3 in Primark (or Primarni as my cousin likes to call it.)

When the footy was finished we all met in Patisserie Valerie for afternoon tea. I had a fresh cream coffee eclair, hubby had Black Forest gateau and K&K shared scones with jam & cream. But, would you believe, the waiter tried to fob them off with toasted scones? Whoever heard of such a thing?! Kesh said 'Scones don't come toasted', to which the waiter replied 'Yes, they do.' To which Kesh replied 'No, they don't', to which the waiter replied... etc etc. Well, it's the first time any of us had ever seen toasted scones and since the customer is always right, Kesh made the waiter take them away and bring normal (ie untoasted) scones in their place. We have decided to find a new venue for afternoon tea the next time we meet up.

Then it was time to go home (via Starbucks for a gingerbread latte for me.)

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Where to Start? Part II: Saturday

My BIRTHDAY!!!! Yay! I love birthdays - all those fab pressies and an excuse to do exactly what you want to do all day long. If anyone raises their eyebrows you just say, archly, 'Well, it is my birthday.' Of course, due to the excitement, I woke up early, eagerly awaiting my gifts and breakfast in bed. Well, I got the first, but had to make my own breakfast once I got up - clearly hubby still needs some training... Although he does do very well at buying excellent pressies. Due to my advancing years, my main pressie was a Nintendo DS Lite with Brain Training. At my first attempt, my brain age was calculated at 73 (!!!), but on the next go I had it down to 28 - much better! Apparently 20 is the youngest you can be, which must be a bit disappointing if you happen to be a teenaged brain trainer.

Other pressies from hubby included a necklace that he had bought way back when we were travelling in Guatemala, 'T is for Trespass' by Sue Grafton, 'The Careful Use of Compliments' by Alexander McCall Smith, 'Death of a Gossip' by MC Beaton, a Pilsbury DoughBoy Xmas decoration bought in Vermont, an Emma Bridgwater tea towel, some smellies, and tickets to see Carols by Candlelight at the Royal Albert Hall on December 21 - how lovely is that? And, last but by no means least, he baked me a birthday cake in the form of fairy cakes with chocolate drops. Isn't he just the bestest hubby anyone could ask for?

Hubby's parents got me two CDs - one by Take That and one by Scissor Sisters; my parents bought me some clothes, some smellies and sent me some money too; Tania got me a book all about travelling without flying; and Liz got me some smellies (anyone see a theme here? should I develop a complex re personal hygiene?), and an extremely apt mug which features the tag line 'I listed Starbucks as my emergency contact at work'. It would be true if I'd thought of it.

After a breakfast of yummy croissants we set off for Bath, via a tiny craft fair at Bix village hall. We got to the Park & Ride c 1pm and managed to squeeze the car on to a grass verge nearby since the car park was full. Luckily we didn't have to wait long for a bus as it was absolutely freeeeezing, and we were in the centre of Bath by about 1.30pm.It would seem that the entire western hemisphere had decided to go to Bath that day to help me celebrate my birthday, which was nice of them, although in all honesty I wish they'd all just stayed at home. The place was jam packed, making it nigh-on impossible to get to the stalls in the Christmas market - which was the main reason we had gone there.We managed to buy two hot dogs (a must at any Christmas event, clearly) and a Christmas tree decoration, but that was about it, apart from the free cup of mulled wine - yum! By about 4.30pm I was pooped so we decided to go home. On the way home hubby said I could choose where I wanted to go for my birthday dinner and, to his utmost disgust, I chose TGI Fridays! Poor hubby spent most of the journey home along the M4 trying to persuade me to go somewhere else, but my mind was made up. Let's blame it on the hormones... Luckily the food was served very quickly so hubby didn't have to spend too long in his own personal idea of hell, and we were home by about 8pm, and I was in bed by about 9.30 - rock and roll!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Where to Start? Part I: Friday

My, what a busy weekend! In fact, a busy 'long' weekend. I had to come to work today for a rest. But don't tell the boss.

So, all it started Friday with a day off work. I went in to Reading to attempt to finish off the Christmas shopping that I had started the night before - shopping is difficult these days as my capacity to carry heavy bags laden with goodies has diminished quite drastically. Not to mention my capacity for walking around. So the Christmas shopping has been spread over many evenings and days. Still, I came home with pretty much everything I needed and everyone is now fully catered for, except for the parents, who are just darned awkward to buy for.

Friday evening was the Henley Christmas Fair; Liz and her two girls came over and we spent a pleasant few hours wandering the (car-less) streets of Henley and popping in the shops to see what edible goodies they were giving away. We continued the annual tradition of buying a 'hot dog' as cooked by the fair hands of Anthony Worrall Thompson, and very good it was too.I'm sure hubby would like me to point out that we are not fans of Wozza's cooking in general but, with a Gabrel Machin sausage in his hands, he can do no wrong. After scoffing the bangers, hubby and I went in to the local 'department' store, Facy. Having lived in Henley for five years, this was the first time I had ever been in there, and what a revelation - it seems to be the sort of shop where you can buy anything from clothes to carpet, pinking shears to duvet covers. Talking of which, that was what hubby and I managed to buy - isn't that what everyone gets when they go to a Christmas Fair? We were so engrossed in choosing the duvet cover that we managed to miss the Christmas Tree lights being switched on, but we were in time to hear the Salvation Army band start the carols. Three Quality Street, one piece of cheese, a hot dog and a cup of mulled wine later it was time for us to wend our weary way home (and it wasn't even 8pm). Not only has being pregnant affected my bag-carrying capabilities, it also prevents me from staying up past 9.30pm - what a party animal!