Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

I do hope you all have a lovely Christmas (and a Happy New Year, in case I don't get back here before 2014 slips into 2015.) We've had a lovely festive time so far in December with tree-buying, decorating, DC's school Nativity play, a night away for our wedding anniversary, mulled wine, Snowballs, lots of chocolates, neighbourhood parties, carol services, present wrapping, tropical fish-buying, shopping, cooking, jigsaw-ing and it's still two sleeps til the big day!
Our main Christmas tree
Home-made decoration
Tree no. 2: sponsored by Starbucks...
Festive drinking vessels and teapot
DC decorates the Christmas cake
The Treat Trolley - an annual tradition!
Decorated mantle
My little Nativity sheep
Elf brought this present a little bit early as Santa couldn't carry it on the sleigh
Fish - as requested by DC
The annual Christmas jigsaw gets under way!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Book Review No 13: A Crafty Killing by Lorraine Bartlett (cozy time!)

I've read several books by this author under the name Lorna Barrett and her Booktown Mystery series is one I have consistently enjoyed, so I thought it was time to give this other series, 'Victoria Square', a try.

Here's the blurb from the back:

Murder is right up her alley... The last thing Katie Bonner wanted was to become the manager of Artisans Alley. But when her business partner, Ezra Hilton, is found lying at the bottom of a staircase, bludgeoned to death, she has no other choice. A collection of booths for artisans and craft sellers in a renovated apple warehouse, Artisans Alley is the main attraction in the quaint Victoria Square shopping area. But business under Ezra had been faltering - enough to provoke someone to murder?
Katie has had more than her fair share of death - her late husband (and Ezra's former partner), Chad, died in a car accident six months ago. But as she digs deeper into Ezra's murder, her husband's death starts to look suspicious. While the cops are proceeding by the book, Katie is investigating by the booths - for the answer to the killer's identity lies in the hidden secrets of Artisans Alley itself.

First things first, the name Artisans Alley really doesn't trip off the tongue. And when it's used in conjunction with the possessive (ie Artisans Alley's), it becomes even more of a tongue-twister. Well, it does for me; perhaps the author could have the new manager rename her business venture, just to make me happy. So, that's my first complaint. Secondly, I'm not sure I really liked the characters; however, I already own the next book in the series so I'm willing to reserve judgement for now and give them one more try (kind, aren't I?!)

But, on the plus side, the story is strong. It's not a light-hearted cutesy cozy, having its dark moments and that certainly helps it stand out from the crowd a little. The characters, although possibly not to my immediate liking, are strong and certainly look like they have plenty of room to develop as the series continues. The setting is interesting too, even if the name is awkward.

So, it's probably a 6.5 out of 10 for this one, with some judgement reserved til I read the next one in the series, which will probably be some time in 2015!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Late to the Party!

I'm so behind with blogging these days; there just doesn't seem to be the time to get to the computer any more. And then, when I am at the computer, I'm either busy doing other things (compiling an allergen list for the tea room menu, for example - gaaah) or I'm tired or I have no inspiration.

Anyhoo, it was my birthday at the end of November, so here's a little round up of what I did: The day before my birthday I took myself off to the mall at Cribbs Causeway in Bristol (my fave 'high street' shopping destination); I managed to spend 7 hours there, and could quite easily have managed another one or two, but I wanted to get home to see DC before he went to bed. I did a fair bit of shopping, picked up a few Christmas presents and a couple of things for myself, so all was good.

My actual birthday was somewhat hijacked by the school Christmas fete; hubby, DC, my Mum & I had volunteered to run the Home Produce/Cake stall for the morning, which wasn't so bad as it gave us first dibs on the lovely cakes!
Father Christmas and his helper arrived by helicopter, like you do!

And best of all, when it was all over we went back home and indulged in this fantastic giant Peanut Butter Cup that hubby had made me for my birthday cake. And once again (see last year's Red Velvet cake), it was really only me who liked it so not too much sharing to be done; several weeks on and I'm still making my way through it...
In the evening DC went for a sleepover at Granny's while hubby and I enjoyed dinner at our village pub. Hubby's wearing a neck brace because he had an operation for a slipped disc at the beginning of November.
Fish and chips for me, belly of pork for hubby. YUM!
The birthday celebrations continued apace as the next day we went to the Mount Somerset hotel for afternoon tea.
DC took the photo below, which helps to explain the angle.

And I forgot to take a photo of the food until we'd pretty much finished - so here's a delightful photo of the detritus. You can see there really wasn't much left, which clearly suggests we enjoyed it very much!
As per tradition, I took some photos of my birthday gifts for posterity.
Quite a eclectic mix this year, including a hot glue gun ('does it shoot glue?' asked DC), some antlers, a Christmas jigsaw tree decoration, a vintage tin featuring the name of my old school, a Streamline pot and a Starbucks Christmas mug to add to the collections
 money, vouchers, coffee, chocolate and a cheese-making kit which my dear friend Liz believes will add another facet to my 'country wife' lifestyle
and lots of smellies (is someone trying to tell me something?!)
 And that was the end of my birthday weekend!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The Poppies at The Tower of London - finally

Everyone knows about the wonderful poppies at the Tower of London; yours truly really wanted to see them and, indeed, to buy one, but I was late to the game on both counts. London is a bit of a trek from where we live (2.5hrs on the train to Waterloo and at least that in the car, not including congestion...), not to mention a pricey trip whichever way you choose to travel, but when dearest hubby said he had to go to the Big Smoke for work one day and suggested I tag along, I decided to go for it. Granny was brought in to collect DC from school and put him to bed, so we didn't have to rush back (a 5-hour round-trip on the train doesn't make a quick trip to London particularly feasible.)

So, off we jolly well went. Hubby and I parted ways at Waterloo and I caught the tube along to London Bridge station. Popped out, crossed the road and there I was besides the mighty Thames. It was a lovely day, bright, sunny and crisp; perfect for wandering and taking in the sights.

I felt quite the tourist taking all these snaps.
Up over Tower Bridge
And finally, what I'd come to see.

These were all the poppies that were left in the main moat (the one that was most shown on TV/in photos) as the volunteers had made a cracking job of clearing them. And it was very difficult to take a decent photo due to the height of the wall that runs along the pavement on this side.

But it was a different matter around the other side of the Tower; this is the moat on the side facing the river.

Here's the 'wave' section

I'm so glad that I finally made the effort to see the poppies before they were all removed. It was a wonderful sight, very poignant and actually incredibly hard to comprehend when you actually stopped to think that every poppy represented a life lost - poppies as far as the eye could see, too many to count.

And then I came back down to earth with a trip to Oxford Street. It's almost as if they knew I was coming!