Friday, 28 January 2011

A Pleasant Hour

New magazine which plopped through the letterbox just this lunchtime? check.

Mug of coffee (Starbucks Christmas blend)? check.

Box of lovely biscuits? check.

All sorts of rubbish on the Sky+ box ready to watch? check.

House to myself while hubby and DC go swimming? check.

All is good (for an hour or so!)
What would be on your 'check' list if you had an hour to yourself?

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Catch-Up Part III: Christmas

At some point in the run up to Christmas, not on one of the days when the snow brought the country to a standstill of course because we didn't get any post then, I came home to find a parcel on the doorstep. When I opened it, I found a whole selection of gifts of all shapes and sizes wrapped in gorgeous bright red paper:at first I admit I was a bit confused as to where these had come from but then I opened the accompanying card and discovered they were from my Secret Santa!!! How exciting!!! I don't know if anyone else finds this, but I find it quite rare now that I'm older to get a gift for Christmas or birthday that is a true surprise, but I knew these gifts would be, especially because I had no idea who they were from. My Secret Santa gave me the opportunity to find out who they were, but I decided not to find out until after I'd opened the pressies (which meant waiting til after Christmas - ie, ages!)
So, we left the last catch-up when hubby had finally managed to get home after a Planes, Trains and Automobiles-type nightmare. Our original plan had been to travel up to hubby's parents in Wigan for Christmas on the Thursday but we were a little nervous of what on earth could still happen with the weather so we decided to leave on the Wednesday instead. The snow in Reading was pretty much gone by the time we left, but as we travelled further north the snow on the ground grew thicker and thicker until in Wigan it was about a foot deep and showed no sign of melting. This made for plenty of sledging fun for the family over the following few days!

On Thursday my mum, who was joining us for Christmas, caught the train from Bristol to Manchester. I travelled in to Manchester to meet her and was able to enjoy a couple of hours before her train arrived having a look round the shops and savouring a Starbucks Peppermint Mocha - yum!

On Friday (Christmas Eve) hubby & I popped into Wigan and had a little time to ourselves while three grandparents kept an ear out while DC had his lunchtime nap.

In the evening DC got to put on his new pyjamas.
And then the big day itself arrived and there were gifts galore, food and drink a-plenty (I couldn't get enough of the Advocaat Snowballs!) and much time spent sitting in front of the TV. A typical Christmas, really!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Sold to the Lady at the Back

We've sold our house!

Well, when I say 'sold' what I mean is we've accepted an offer from a very nice lady who really, really wants to buy it. And she's sold her house to people who are cuurently renting, so there's no chain from her side, and there's no chain on our side since we've already bought our place in Somerset so, fingers crossed, everything will work out just fine.

We are so pleased at how quickly things have come together - the house has only officially been on the market for two weeks. Now comes the slow, painful bit with solicitors and local authority searches and banks and mortgage cos and endless pieces of paper and tedious questions about boundaries and certificates for this, that and the other.

Still, it won't be long til we'll be living in the land of the combine harvester...

Thursday, 13 January 2011

A Crafty New Book

I've had a WhSmith gift card burning a hole in my pocket since receiving it for my birthday at the end of November. This morning I had a few minutes spare in the Henley-on-Thames branch of Smith's after dropping DC at nursery. I ummed and ahhed over the fiction section, even going so far as to pick up a few novels and read the back covers. But a little voice in my head said 'What about the 100+ unread books already on your shelves at home?' So I put them back. Then I dithered around a bit more before chancing upon the 'craft' section (approx 2 shelves worth.) Cross stitching? Maybe. Card making? Maybe. Flower arranging? No. And then, tucked away between some big, burly hardbacks, I found this little gem

I know it's not exactly seasonal, but I thought if I knit one figure a month then by Christmas I'll have a lovely little nativity scene. Then I can set about teaching DC how to play the part of Joseph in preparation for all those years when, with his angelic looks, he's bound to be chosen as the leading man. Alternatively, there's always the back end of the 'ass'.

A mother can dream.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Thinking of Installing Revolving Doors

We had some fabulous news yesterday - planning permission has been granted for the work at our house in Somerset! Phew, that's a weight off our minds. Would have been a bit disheartening to have it refused and have to re-do and resubmit the plans. So, it's full steam ahead. The architect now has to draw up the building regs and the structural engineering plans (or something like that!) and then in mid-February he'll be putting the building work out to tender with a view to everything starting at the beginning of April. (Which seems ages away - why can't these things go more quickly?!)

So, that's the news on the Somerset house. As to the Reading house, well that went on the market officially last Tuesday. The estate agent had been very quietly marketing it before Christmas and we had three viewings in December. This week has been really full-on though - second viewing on Saturday, two viewings on Monday, one yesterday and another today - hence the need for the revolving doors! The great news is that the man who had the second viewing on Saturday made an offer! The bad news is that it's £5k below the asking price (which isn't that bad really), but he has yet to sell his own house so can't actually do anything until he does. But it's a start!

So, if you know anyone in the market for a lovely house in Reading, here's the link!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Catch-Up Part II: Post NY, Pre-Christmas

Take a deeeeep breath after that mammoth NY post and let us continue our journey back in the midsts of time....

My flight home from NYC was uneventful; attempted to watch Made in Dagenham but drifted in and out of consciousness and the film wasn't interesting enough to stop me. Landed at about 9.30am Tuesday morning and I was home by 11.30am - the joys of the M4 at non-rush hour.

We had arranged with Grandma and Grandad that I would collect the small boy from the service station on the M6 Toll Road (fear not, they would be there too, he wasn't being couriered and left to fend for himself) on Wednesday lunchtime, but it turned out Grandad was busy that day and they asked would I mind if they kept the little darling for an extra day. Would I mind?! Another whole day to myself to recover from jetlag, unpack, do the washing, do some work, and generally potter? No, I didn't mind at all. That's not to say I didn't feel a little bit guilty, especially when I found out that the little chap had been suffering from tonsilitis (albeit much, much recovered by this stage.) Typically he managed to fall ill while we were away (do you remember our last visit to NYC, when small boy accompanied us and we ended up in ER?), but G&G chose not to tell us as they didn't want us to worry and the miracle that is the antibiotic had him returned to his normal boisterous self within about 24 hours.

So, Tuesday & Wednesday were spent as detailed above, working, washing, sleeping, unpacking. Then Thursday I drove up to the lovely Norton Canes service station and was greeted by a small boy with an enormous smile on his face - clearly he was pleased to see me and I was more than chuffed to see him. We then spent the next 45mins running round the service station in high excitement.

Clearly, all the running round led to exhaustion when we got home.

The following day, Friday 17th, we had two Christmas events to attend - the Rhymetime Christmas sing-a-long at the Hexagon - look at that face! Clearly not impressed.and nursery's Christmas party in the afternoon. Cocktail sausage anyone?

I was getting very excited by this point as hubby was due to fly home from San Francisco overnight and was expected home about 11.30am on the Saturday. Unfortunately the weather has other plans for hubby and his flights. Firstly, he got to San Fran airport on Friday afternoon (US time) to find the airport mired in fog and his flight to LA cancelled. As a result there was no chance of him getting his LA-London flight later than afternoon/evening and, therefore, no chance of him getting home on Saturday morning :( With it being the run-up to Christmas lots of other flights were full so the best the airline could offer him was a flight to Houston the following day, with an onward connection to London. So hubby trundled back to his hotel and small boy and I settled in for another night and day without daddy.

Saturday 18th dawned and small boy and I got up at about 8am with plans to drive over to Henley or perhaps walk into Reading and have a look round the shops for any last-minute Christmas items we may have missed from the extensive list. But just as the weather had other plans for hubby and his flights, so it also had other plans for us. When I looked out of the kitchen window, this is what I saw

and our front path looked like this:

Eeek! Snow. Dastardly white stuff. Switching on the TV, the BBC news channel confirmed my worst fears - the entire country had ground to a halt, airports were closed, people were panic-buying, roads were gridlocked, children were happily building snowmen. There was probably close to 2 or 3 inches of the stuff in Reading, but it had stopped falling and the gritting lorries came out very promptly and cleared the roads, so actually very little of the town ground to a halt. That wasn't to be the case elsewhere though. I logged on to the Heathrow website to see that the airport was closed and thus nothing was taking off or landing. They kept promising it would open within 6 hours, but then that changed to 'Sunday' and I had a sinking feeling about hubby's chances of getting home.

To cut this long story a little shorter, this is a summary of what poor hubby ended up doing in his quest to get home:

Saturday 18th: flew from San Fran to Houston. Discovered onward flight from Houston-London Heathrow cancelled. Booked on same flight following day, spent night in Houston airport hotel.

Sunday 19th: headed early to Houston airport to find out situation. Flight to Heathrow cancelled again. I was frantically tapping away on the internet trying to find a flight from anywhere in the USA to anywhere in the UK that had an airport that was open (ie anywhere but Heathrow!) We came up with these options: fly to New York and try to get onward flight to somewhere in UK - possibly Manchester; or, fly to Orlando and get flight from there to Gatwick. Hubby went with second option and managed to secure one of the last seats on a flight from Houston to Orlando (in first class!) for that afternoon and then an onward overnight flight from Orlando to Gatwick. The only problem was he had just 30mins between his internal flight landing and the Gatwick one departing. Cutting it fine was an understatement. And then the flight to Orlando got delayed due to some issue with the air con on the plane. And the minutes ticked by and we thought all was lost for him getting the onward flight until I logged on to see that the onward flight was also delayed - praise be! In the end hubby got to Orlando with many hours to spare as his flight ended up being delayed til about 5am the following day (Monday) when it should have left at about 7pm on the Sunday evening. Poor hubby was absolutely shattered when he finally got on the plane but was chuffed to find he was sharing it with just 40 other people, including the crew! Plenty of room to stretch out and sleep. And so, finally about 90 hours after he first started trying to get home, hubby landed at Gatwick airport about 6.30pm on Monday evening just before the snow shut the airport for the night, and he got home at about 9pm. I was VERY pleased to see him, as was his little boy when he woke up the next morning.

And take another deeeep breath!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Catch-Up Post No. 1: New York

Let's rewind a little; take a stroll down memory lane with me to a distant, pre-Christmas world; all the way back to Friday 10th December. Yes, it's not that long ago really, is it? But can you remember it? I'm trying my best so that I can tell you all about our trip to NY, but my memory isn't what is was and things are a little hazy already. Anyway, here goes:

The alarm went off way too early - even DC doesn't get us up at the ungodly hour of 5am anymore! We drove to Heathrow, parked up and were settled in Gordon Ramsay's restaurant in T5 enjoying an early breakfast by 7am. Our plane departed at 8.20am and I made the most of the in-flight entertainment by watching Toy Story 3 (excellent), Eat, Pray, Love (very enjoyable, makes me want to go back to Bali) and Tamara Drewe (dreadful, but still watched all the way through.) We landed at JFK about 10.40am NY time and hurried as fast as our little legs would carry us to the immigration area - we've learnt from experience that the queues can be very long so it pays not to dawdle when disembarking! Not too long a wait, then it was a case of grabbing our bags and heading for the airport train. We'd decided that since it was just the two of us we'd get the train/subway rather than spending $100 on a taxi. Seems we made a good decision as it didn't take too long, was very little hassle and only cost about $20 each.

We were at the apartment we had rented on the Upper West Side by about 1pm; we pretty much just dumped our bags and headed straight to the nearest Starbucks to refuel and decide on a plan of attack. One Pumpkin Spice Latte and a Peppermint Choc Brownie later, I was ready to hit the shops. First stop was Harry's Shoes where hubby treated me to a fab pair of *Ugg* Adirondack boots for Xmas:

Then it was onwards and downwards block by block from 83rd Street along Broadway to 71st Street, across a block to Amsterdam and back to the apartment to deposit our goodies. Then we walked down Columbus Ave to Alice's Tea Cup for a spot of afternoon tea to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. Feeling slightly sluggish, we stumbled into a taxi it over to Bloomingdales for even more shopping (from the Clinique counter mostly, and the lady there was very generous with the freebies!), then it was a taxi back to the Upper West Side and 'dinner' (ie bar snacks) in the local Irish bar before crashing out about 10pm.

Saturday 11th December was spent shopping again, but this time in Greenwich Village and SoHo.We managed to visit the Apple Store without buying anything, although we did look longingly at the iPads... Old Navy was a different matter - I came out laden with goodies for myself and DC; same in Lucky Brand. We fortified ourselves with some lovely sweet tartlettes and a drink in Pain Quotidien before pushing on through the crowds. We got the subway back up to the Upper West and went for dinner in Sarabeth's - yummy meatloaf, then on to the cinema to see the latest Harry Potter installment. I must admit I fell asleep, but didn't think much of the bits I managed to keep my eyes open for, it feels like it's lost the "magic" if you'll pardon the pun.

Our plans to meander through Central Park on Sunday 12th went out the window when we awoke to pouring rain, so we started the day with a very leisurely brunch in Cafe Lalo. (Apparently it features in You've Got Mail, but I've only just found that out when I googled the link to put on here!) Their brunch menu is somewhat amusing - I had the 'Irish Breakfast' which I'm pretty sure if I was in Ireland would have consisted of a good old fry up, but here was a bowl of porridge (or oatmeal) with honey and fruits. The 'English Breakfast' consists of steamed eggs with herbs plus a scone with jam and cream - which is, of course, exactly the sort of thing us Brits like to start the day with.

Afterwards hubby went to get a shave while I had a manicure and we reconvened in my favourite bookshop in NYC - Barnes & Noble @ 82nd and Broadway. Then it was a quick subway ride down to Lincoln Center so we could do some more shopping... Is there a theme developing here?! Hubby got a few things in Banana Republic then it was on to Gap where I got a few (more) tops for DC; then we called in at Duane Reade so I could stock up on Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and other sweet delights, before we walked back up to the apartment so hubby could pack his bags ready to head to the airport for his flight to San Francisco.

I walked with hubby to the subway stop and then made my way, lonely and alone, to the nearest Starbucks to seek solace in a White Chocolate Peppermint Mocha and a good book, while gazing out the window at passers-by struggling against the wind and rain - nice weather for a weekend break... Then I went back to the apartment to get ready for a night on the town. Well, a meal with a blog-land friend who I'd never before met in person - how adventurous! Caught the subway down to 14th Street and finally found The Standard Grill, in the oh-so-trendy Meatpacking District. My friend, Catherine, said the last time she'd been there, Bono was there too and this time I'm pretty sure Bob Hoskins was on the table next to us - it's a celebrity hotspot, clearly! We had a great time, chatting away as if we'd met hundreds of times before and going home time came far too quickly.

Monday 13th December, all alone in NYC. Just a credit card for company. Dangerous. Very dangerous. My first stop was Rockefeller Plaza where I picked up some gifts in a great card store - Christmas-opoly anyone? Before heading to Anthropolgie for more goodies and on to Saks for a make-over (!) at the Clinique counter and came away with a few items and some freebies (the photo below shows the result of the Bloomies + Saks + airport duty free counters, plus the freebies...)Then it was up 5th Ave, with a small detour to Gap, and along 57th St to my favourite stationery store, Kate's Paperie. Funnily enough, I didn't actually buy anything. Then it was over a few blocks to Columbus Circle and the Time Warner Center where I plundered the shelves of Williams-Sonoma (I got hold of some fantastic Star Wars shape pancake cutters for hubby) before settling in for a coffee and cookie in the Dean & Deluca cafe inside Borders; I needed to refuel before perusing the 'cozy crime' shelves. Then, laden down with bags, I caught the subway back up to the apartment. It was time to start packing. Took a while to cram everything in but when I realised there was still a bit more room I decided to take a trip to Barnes & Noble for more cozy crime. This was the result.

And then there really was no more room in my bag and it was time to leave the city that never sleeps and head to the airport. The End.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Happy Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Holidays!

Ayyyeeeeeeeeeeeeee, I'm so behind with my blogging!! I just haven't had the time to sit at the computer and indulge in a bit of wittering. Firstly there was New York, then came the snow which left hubby stranded in the US and me home alone with the small boy and a snowed-in car, then hubby finally managed to get home and then we headed ooop north for a week over Christmas and then we came home and I fell into a post-Christmas stupor and now here we are, 2011 and I've so much to catch up on! Deeeeeep breath.

Anyway, this is simply by way of saying - I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and here's to a healthy and happy 2011.

I promise to do some retro-blogging very soon to catch up on what happened in December, if only to get it straight in my own head.