Sunday, 31 January 2010

First Tag Book Completed

Those of you who have been reading my blog long enough may remember this post where I told how I was going to do my photo a day as a monthly tag book. Well, today is the 31/01/2010 and I have completed the first book. I'm pleased that I've kept up to date with this project. It's been so much easier than making layouts to show the photos and, this way, I do my journaling each evening and add my photo to the back of the previous day's tag. Simple!!

Front cover

A couple of the pages
Today I've punched holes and added book rings and some ribbon to finish it off. I've now printed out February's pages and am ready to start the next book. (Another thing with this tag book is that you get to see my handwriting whereas I really don't like writing on layouts - don't know why, but that's the way it is!)

Cat update

The kittens had a good night last night, though they did wake Emily up a few times by licking along her jaw line while she was sleeping (which then woke her up!). This morning they seem perfectly happy and have been purring away. I spent a little while in Emily's room trying to take some more photos. They are quite happy to have people around them and I'm hoping later on today that we might bring them downstairs in the cat boxes for Tom, Charlie and Cloud to meet them. I think the sooner we can get them integrated into the household the better.
Bellatrix is very relaxed and quite happy to have her photo taken
Mac is curious about the camera but does sometimes stay still long enough for me to get a shot.
Upstairs and Downstairs
They've taken a shine to Emily's chair, taking turns to sit up on the seat or below on her computer lap cushion. They were acting like true brother and sister earlier and having a play fight while in this position - quite amusing!
I wonder how amusing Charlie (above) and Tom (below) will find them later on??
Could be interesting.

Thank you to Liz / Chicago

This first picture shows the goodies sent over by Liz for us. We weren't expecting anything because we never know if Simon will get down to see us or not while he's here on business. We were so chuffed with our package - Thank You Liz!!!! We love you :) We love Ranch Dressing and although we can get some here, it's not the same as the American one. Goldfish are Emily's favourites - and if Claire's lucky, she may be allowed to have some too. Hershey Kisses are just so American - though I still don't think their chocolate touches the British chocolate ;). And then, magazines - they always go down well :) :) Scrapbooks etc., Better Homes and Gardens and People Magazine. It feels like Christmas all over again ;)
However, as is usually the case once we've seen Simon, we reminisce about our holidays in Chicago. Each one has been wonderful and we always love spending time with Simon, Liz and the children. Liz and I had our children around the same times - Helen is 4.5 months older than Hugh, Richard is 6 months younger than Claire and Henry is 9 weeks older than Emily. They've always got on like a house on fire, no matter how long it's been since they last saw each other. The photo above was taken on our second trip to Chicago in 2001 - just before Emily started school.
This second photo was taken in 2006 when Emily and I went on our own to Chicago. Emily and Henry hadn't seen each other for at least a couple of years but as soon as they met at the airport again they clicked and didn't stop talking all the way home. That holiday was so relaxing, we spent time in the garden, the children swam in the pond, we went to Barnes & Noble (as often as we could get away with it), visited Craft shops and just enjoyed being together. It was how I think summer should be spent!
However, looking back at some of the photos on my computer they were showing 2008 and I knew we hadn't been to Chicago that recently. I pulled out the scrapbook I'd made to check the dates (2006) but noticed that I haven't actually finished the album and I thought I had. I'd seen a folder with the papers I used in this album, and some notes, while I was tidying up my craft area recently. Now I need to find where I put them so that I can finish the album (and re-live the holiday again!)
A few pages from the album
We loved "The Bean" in Millenium Park
And this is when I realised that I hadn't finished the album :(
I wasn't expecting to be posting about Chicago today but it's been fun going through the old photos again.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Family gathering / kittens update

Jon had told me earlier in the week that he was meeting up with his brothers, Martin and Simon, at lunchtime today. Simon is over from Chicago on business and although he comes over fairly regularly we don't always get to see him. Emily and I decided that we would pop down to The Broadway today and see both Simon and Martin.
Simon Mike and Martin
It turned out to be a bit of a family gathering. Deb and Dave said they'd pop in to see the guys, Mike usually meets Jon on a Saturday anyway and when Claire heard we were meeting up she said she'd pop down in her lunch hour. In this photo from left to right going round the table are:
Emily, Deb (Jon's sister) & her husband Dave, Mike (Jon's brother), Martin (another brother), Jon, Claire and Simon (another brother). That wasn't bad going, 4 brothers and a sister in one place - we just needed the other 3 brothers and their sister to complete the family ;). Jon is one of ten (nine still living). As I'm one of five children, if we wanted to have a party we'd just need to get all the families together and we wouldn't need to invite anyone else lol!! Just a pity we're not all close enough to do that.
Martin and Simon were heading back up to London just after two and after saying our goodbyes, Emily and I headed down to Cats Protection. We'd had our house visit at 12 and everything went well so we were able to go and pick up the kittens. Mac didn't particularly like being in the car but, fortunately, we don't live that far from the Center. They are now settling in to Emily's room and she is finding out that although she had done a tidy up, these kittens are still likely to cause havoc! They are having great fun exploring everywhere and can reach even the higher up shelves - she may be hunting for what she wants as the days go by. We're hoping we'll only have to have them shut in for a few days and we'll be starting to introduce the kittens to Tom and Charlie as soon as they seem a bit settled. I did try and take some photos this afternoon but they didn't want to stay still for long.
Emily with Bellatrix (one way of keeping her still)
Mac with a couple of little toys the CPC sent home with them
I told you she was quizzy ;)
Now I need to go and sort out dinner before the family come asking what we're having. Saturdays are more laid back but from next week I'm hoping to have a menu organised so I don't have to keep thinking about what we're going to eat. I did it for a while last year and it made life so much simpler. I just need to be more organised!
Have a good weekend

Chocolate Brownies

This morning I decided I should use up some of the Bournville chocolate I had so that I don't eat it all. Everyone seems to love Chocolate Brownies and these ones are delicious. Please note that they are on the cake stand :) Thanks Deb!!
For those of you who may like to try these out, here's the recipe
Makes about 16 large and 25 small ones
180g (6oz) butter
180g (6oz) good dark chocolate (though I use Bournville and they're fine)
3 eggs
250g (9oz) caster sugar
110g (4oz) plain flour
100 - 150g (3.5 - 5.5oz) chopped walnuts or muesli (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Line the bottom of a 20cm (8") square tin, or a small 23 x 33cm / 9 x 13in) swiss roll tin, with greaseproof paper or tin foil. Carefully melt the butter and chocolate in a pan on a low heat.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and sugar. When the chocolate has melted, let it cool for a minute and then mix it with the eggs and sugar in the bowl. Stir in the flour and nuts (if using) and beat to combine. Empty into the prepared tin and place in the oven. Cook for 32 - 42 minutes (depending on the oven). When cooked it should be crisp on top but still slightly dense and fudgy inside.
Cut into squares, and when it has cooled, take it out of the tin.
I line the tin with parchment paper and omit the nuts because Claire doesn't eat nuts. Please let me know if you try the recipe and if you enjoyed the brownies as much as we do.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Are we mad??? (Please DON'T answer that one!)

If you read yesterday's post, you'll know that today we were going down to the Cats Protection Center to see a couple of kittens. We got there only to be told that the kittens they had thought would be suitable, wouldn't be. They had come from an environment where there had been cat flu which means they are carriers. Because we already have two cats they said they wouldn't house the kittens with us as it could be detrimental to Tom and Charlie.
We were asked if we'd met Sally and Mac on our last visit. We didn't remember seeing them but they'd only just been moved from Maternity to the viewing area this morning. They're 6 months old and a bit older than Emily was hoping for, but we went to view them anyway. She fell in love with Sally (the tabby). When we asked if we could see her we were told that they wanted the two cats to housed together. Hmmmm........
I called Jon to see what he thought of that and he surprised me by saying if they were the ones Emily wanted, and I was alright with it, he didn't mind!! So, we agreed and asked to have a visit with the kittens. We were taken into a side room and spent about 20 minutes with the kittens and one of the staff members - who explained about integrating them into the home and introducing them to the other animals. After the visit Emily was more keen than before. We have a home visit arranged for lunch time tomorrow (because when we got Charlie and they did a home visit, we were in our previous house) and if that goes well, we can go straight down and pick them up!
Sally and Mac Mac was more reserved and happy to watch from the outskirts
We did get to pick him up and have a hold; he's so soft and cuddly
I think he wondered what the thing in front of my face was (the camera lens probably looked HUGE to him)
Emily got to hold Sally (who is likely to be renamed Bellatrix Echo Bronte !!!)
My friend Helena was holding her here and didn't want to be in the photo ;o)
This shot is just to give you an idea of how big they are, they're still quite little at 6 months
Love the little tip of her tail! This little lady was quite inquisitive and had a good look at everything that was going on the other side of the door.
So, fingers crossed that all goes well tomorrow and we bring the new additions home.
PS. Mum and Dad, I know what you're thinking, you'll just have to bear with us on this one ;o)

Thursday, 28 January 2010

A quick Thursday post

Claire had the day off today and Emily went back to school today. I spent most of the morning at home doing housework and then went in to town for another contact lens check. I've been having problems with my lenses smeering and not being able to see clearly. They've changed the solution I use which will hopefully eliminate the build up on the lenses. I'm hoping it works because I don't enjoy wearing them at the moment.
While I was in town there were three fire engines at the top of London Road. I needed to cross because I wanted to go into WH Smiths (a newsagents). The trucks were outside Smiths so I asked the policeman on duty whether I could get in to the shop. He said he thought so but then had another look and said no it looked like it was shut. As I was walking down the road I heard someone telling a friend that it was actually Smiths that had been on fire!! As Jon was saying with all the books/newspapers/magazines etc in there it would have gone up quite quickly. Not sure how much damage has been done but if it's closed for any length of time it's going to be sorely missed!
Hugh went up to London to see Sarah today and Jon took him to the station at lunch time. He suggested that we go to The Broadway for lunch and we asked Claire if she'd like to come with us. We hadn't eaten there since the pub changed hands but the food was still as good as ever. We had homemade burgers, chips and salad with onion rings and garlic bread on the side. It was so full I don't think any of us actually finished what was on our plates. Claire and Jon at The Broadway
There was a message from the Cat Protection Center on our phone this afternoon letting us know that they have different 4 month old kittens, who had been reserved before but the people are no longer able to take them. They were asking if we would like to go and see them - silly question! I tried to call back this afternoon but the Center closes at 4pm and we just missed them. Emily has an inset day tomorrow (a day off school for teacher training) so we're hoping to go down in the morning and see the kittens. No idea what they'll be like but we're looking forward to finding out. As we've told Emily, if they're not what she is looking for we don't have to take one. Last time we were there they told us February / March tends to be the start of kitten season so she wouldn't have long to wait.
At lunch time tomorrow, Emily is going to a friends house for a mid day sleepover ;o) They're going to put on their pyjamas, have duvets in the lounge and watch movies. Sounds fun to me!!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Very low key day

We've had a very low key day today. We put Cloud in her usual basket to sleep last night but it didn't go too well :( - she whimpered and barked on and off most of the night. I ended up sleeping on the sofa half the night because I was so tired and couldn't keep getting in and out of bed. Each time she barked I just called through to her to go back to sleep and she went quiet again. It felt like a long night though! I've been so tired today and am hoping for a better night tonight.
This afternoon I decided to make a beef casserole for Jon for tomorrow night. He goes out on a Thursday night and I like to have something ready for him to eat before he goes. This way it's ready in advance and I don't have to worry about it tomorrow. I've made curried sausages for tonight as it's cold outside and we need something warming. It's also one thing that most people will eat :)
This beautiful bunch of roses was dropped off for us yesterday by a kind friend. Thank you Kayley, it's so nice to have a splash of colour to brighten the day and make us feel a bit better!
Finally, before I end,
Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday, dear Jane!
Happy Birthday to you!!
Today is Jane over at Escaping the City's birthday!
Have a wonderful, fun packed day with your family :) I'll be checking your blog later / tomorrow to see what you've been up to!
Have a good evening

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Keeping busy

In amongst the sadness of yesterday, we got some good news. Jon had been for a job interview in the morning and later in the afternoon got a call letting him know he's got the contract. He starts work on Monday. This is wonderful news and we're proud of you for pushing on and not giving up. Well done Jon! Love you! We always felt that something would come up eventually but didn't expect it to take nearly 8 months. I'm so impressed with the way Jon has carried on searching day in and day out, never giving up. It's finally paid off (the photo of Jon was taken on his birthday last October).
We kept Emily off school today and have been keeping busy. This morning Jon, Emily and I went and had breakfast at Wetherspoons then walked up to see Claire at Waterstones and for Emily to have a look at the books. From there we went to the pet shop to buy some toys for Cloud.
We took Cloud out for a walk when we got back and popped in to see my Mum and Dad on the way round. I think the fresh air did us all some good (and this time Emily and I had our hats on so our ears didn't freeze as much as they had in town earlier).
Last night Cloud slept in Emily's room in the small cage but tonight I think we may try her back in her normal cage. We've found a big teddy that Claire no longer wants and have put that into Cloud's cage/basket. At first we thought she wasn't going to have anything to do with it because she kept lying on the opposite side to the bear but this afternoon Jon said she was sleeping next to it, so I crept up to take a photo. Wallace and Cloud always lay right next to each other when they slept so she's bound to be missing him. We're hoping the teddy may be some comfort to her. Doesn't she look so sweet lying next to her teddy!
One of the things Jon has told Emily is that she can get a kitten when she feels the time is right. Today she wanted to go down to the Cat Protection Centre just to see whether they had any kittens or cats which might be suitable. We didn't see anything this visit but they have said that there are three four month old kittens who are going to be coming available in the next week or so. They have our number are will call when we can go and visit. I don't know if any of these will be the right one for her but we're told that the kitten season starts in the next month and there should be a lot more available then. Because we already have two male cats in the house, we are thinking that perhaps this time we need to get a female. I know Emily would really prefer to have a kitten so that she has it from tiny and I'm hoping that is what will end up happening. I'm sure whatever happens, we'll let you know on the blog.
I now need to go and see what I'm making for dinner tonight. We have a full house, all children home for dinner as well as Claire's boyfriend, Craig.
PS I would also like to just say thank you to everyone who left messages for us yesterday, we really appreciate your support xx

Monday, 25 January 2010

Sad news

We've had a very emotional day today. Wallace was worse again this morning and Hugh and I rushed him up to the vet. After checking him over and discussing his problems it was decided that the kindest thing for him was to stop his suffering and pain. We brought him home for the afternoon so that everyone could say their goodbyes and spend some time with him.
Jon, Emily and I took him back to the vets this evening where he was put to sleep. Although we are all so sad, we have some comfort knowing that he is no longer in pain or discomfort.
Thank you Wallace for being part of our lives for 9 1/2 years. We're really going to miss you as you were very much a part of our family.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

A lazy Sunday

It's been a lovely lazy Sunday! Apart from doing some washing and hanging it out and doing the dishes when needed, I've ignored housework and just relaxed :) Hugh got home from Sarah's last night and Claire and Craig also came home yesterday so today we've had all the children at home and we're back to normal. Jon took Claire out for a driving lesson after Church this morning and I'm told she did really well. Jon had started teaching her a year or so ago but she didn't carry on with the lessons. She now seems to be in the right mind set and has set learning to drive as one of her things to do this year. Go Claire!!
When she got home she was making bacon sandwiches for herself and Craig and asked if anyone else wanted. She ended up making for all of us ;) Thank you Claire!
Hugh on his laptop in his room
And Emily striking a pose - she's been watching Canada's Next Top Model. Please note the wonderful jawline ;)
This afternoon I read the paper, did a few puzzles, had a short snooze and read blogs. Deb and Dave popped round later this afternoon and brought me a cake stand I'd been admiring when Deb and I went to Wakehurst last week. Deb and Dave went there for a walk this morning and Deb bought it for me. Thank you so much, I love it! I'll have to make a cake or cupcakes to put on it so I can take some photos ;)
Can't believe it's Monday again tomorrow and the start of another week. Looking forward to our Starbucks coffee - but not the shopping so much! Am hoping to sort myself out and start doing some exercise this coming week - nothing too strenuous as I'm hopelessly unfit! Thinking of starting with a walk up through town and back again. If I can do that three or four times this week that would be good. Let's see how I get on after the first walk lol!
Hope this week turns out to be a good one :)

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Saturday again!

It felt quite strange waking up this morning knowing there were only three of us in the house - Hugh went up to see Sarah,his girlfriend, in London on Thursday and will be back later today and Claire was "babysitting" Craig's younger brother last night (he's 11 or 12) and staying over then going straight to work from there this morning. Jon was up before 5am (I could hear him singing and doing dishes in the kitchen, as I drifted in and out of sleep) and Emily stayed in her room till about 9.30am though she woke up a bit earlier. I was up just after 7am - I think - and once showered, dressed, etc., I had a little tidy up spree. The lounge was looking nice and cozy so I took a few photos
It's not a very big room but we enjoy sitting in there. It's just not as big as we'd sometimes like when we have family over (though the stairs come in handy as extra seating).
After breakfast (Jon was giving a guitar lesson upstairs) I made some banana loaf but instead of making it into a loaf, I made it into cupcakes/muffins instead. I ummed and aahhed about putting some cream cheese icing on them but in the end decided to leave them "as is" as they're quite nice cut in half and buttered (different, I know, but I like them that way). While the cakes were cooking I got on and did the ironing, while listening to some Michael Buble, so that I had everything out the way in the morning leaving me free to relax in the afternoon.
I think I've mentioned before that Jon's daughter, Michelle, is getting married in the summer. They've set the date for 03 July and this week she asked me if I would take the wedding photos. I've taken photos at a few weddings before but always feel there is room for improvement - whether it's in photo quality or the poses - so I've started to think about what lenses might be best suited and I'm going to have a think about the type of photos we may want to take. (If any of you have any advice or ideas, I'd be happy to hear them. You can either leave a comment or send me an email - 'email me' is in the side bar.) I had a chat last night with Dad about his thoughts on what might be suitable and he said he has a lens I might like to have a play with. I popped round there at lunch time (and took some cakes too) and we had an hour or so chatting about photography and weddings. The lens I've borrowed is the Canon EF-S 17 - 85mm.
This photo was taken at 17mm focusing on the orchids on the sideboard
And then here taken at 85mm. I'm looking forward to trying it out some more and getting a feel for it. I want to know that during the service I will be able to zoom in or out without having to move around (in the registry office they normally like the photographer to stand still and a bit to the side.) I've got a few months to work on ideas but like the idea of starting early.
Mum seeing me off when I left ;o)
Emily had made herself some lunch by the time I got home so I made something for myself and got to watch Thurday night's Greys Anatomy while I ate. We've just started Season 6 over here and I'm so looking forward to it. Not good that I ended up in tears in the 1st episode though (I'm terrible and cry very easily!). Anyway, the series link is set to record and I just have to be patient enough to wait for each weekly installment! ;o) I wonder when Private Practice will be back too, I'm sure they overlapped a bit last year.
I hope you're enjoying your weekend, wherever you are.