Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Spare Pair of Knickers and a Laptop

The remaining bits of my new autumn/winter wardrobe are wending their way as I write. A girlie book swap also yielded nine new novels. If I keep accumulating 'stuff' at this rate I won't be able to squeeze into my house - an unacceptable state of affairs indeed!

So I set myself a challenge to rid myself of 100 of my own possessions that would have value to others. I would also offload some broken or worthless bin fodder. This assuages my guilt about additionally, yet again, squirreling away another load of Louis' outgrown toys and clothes after his room makeover. The items in the photo represents my finished efforts, minus the binned bits and bobs that will mostly be donated to a local charity shop. It proves the point that one man's junk could potentially be another's treasure.

But here's the rub. I always try to get rid of more stuff than I acquire. So if I keep on going for a few more years I might be left with just the barest of essentials. The title of today's post represents all that I might own in a few years time!

Monday, 30 August 2010

Favourite Chain


Silly me!  The topic for today is restaurant chains and not the daisy variety.  Still, it's a tenuous excuse to put a pretty picture on my post.

If someone picked a moment when my brain was not engaged and ask me if I visit chain restaurants I would say absolutely not.  It's seems that mentioning this term causes me to visualise scenes from  Super Size Me. But I'm not really adverse to the big chains on health grounds.  It's concerns about animal husbandry and ethical issues about staffing, sourcing and the like that put me off.   But hell, I'm sometimes a hypocrite and succomb to a burger or pizza every so often.  What I find though is that I rarely enjoy, what might be viewed by some as a sinful treat, because the food lacks flavour.

However, I was reminded this weekend that I do like Pizza Express - a lot!  Louis and I visited the Plymouth branch on Saturday and were greeted by wonderfully friendly and helpful staff. The surroundings were atmospheric spite of the restaurant being nearly empty when we arrived.  This was because we had an early lunch after a hunger inducing swim at the nearby Pavillions.  Although I haven't visited Pizza Express for about six years they still have my old favourites on the menu. So Pizza Fiorentina with an egg and spinach topping and their very acceptable baked cheesecake were washed down with a glass of Pinot Grigio (oops! Virtual Lent will resume shortly). The egg was free range and I was asked how I would like it cooked. No problems with tastelessness here although in an ideal world the olives in my topping would be a little more rustic and not the identically sized black pitted variety.

What made our visit really enjoyable was the way that Louis was treated. The kid's menu at £6.10 which includes dough balls, a salad, pizza or pasta, a ice cream sundae and a mock cappucino was excellent value. However, I would add a note of warning for the penny pinchers among you. This is probably a clever marketing ploy to encourage parents to order more courses so they can eat with their children - nevertheless it's a perfect excuse to have that cheesecake! Top marks to our waitress too for her efforts to please him. She chatted about Louis' view that the chef's was an onion johnny and their shared love of Michael Jackson and showed genuine interest in the seven eyed monster that he drew in his colouring book. Louis was so impressed that he pronounced it 'his best meal out ever' so maybe we won't leave such a big time delay before our next visit!

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Seeing the Light - Hygge!

I'm not being woken anymore by the chirping of our darling garden birdies or the sunlight seeping through the blinds which means that the darker months are rushing in. This is slightly worrying for me as there seems, at least in part to be a seasonally affective part to my depression when it rears its head. Being a self aware kind of gal I'm preparing to batten down the hatches and keep it at bay. So I'm planning a foolproof (ha!) exercise regime and lots of life enhancing activity which, no doubt, I'll share shortly. Last year I equipped myself with a light box that helps too.

An unlikely source has given me another idea of how, not only to survive the winter months but to enjoy them too. The highly enjoyable and informative television programme 'Coast' seems to be wandering off the UK shores and basing some of their programmes in neighbouring lands. This week's edition focused on Denmark and running through the programme was the theme of 'Hygge' (Catch it if you're quick on BBC's i-player).   This is a word that,apparently, is not easily translated into English but encaptures cosiness, wellbeing, comraderie and other fluffy nice things.   What surprised me that a land that has winter months that are darker than our own is viewed as one of the happiest on the planet.

So, the programme gave me a Eureka! moment and yet another plan is being formulated in my busy little head. It involves friends, fires, candles, cushions,  cosy textiles, winter festivals and  luscious food and drink.  This is just the start of my idea.   And if I follow the Danes' example and capture the essence of Hygge it might help sustain me through the winter months!

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Shopaholic?

Autumn is getting closer and a girl's thoughts turn to her winter wardrobe! For the last two years, instead of buying my clothing on impulse, I have twice yearly spending sprees at this time of year and early spring.

Thinking about it, 'spree' is not the right word because it seems to denote something involving frivolity  and lack of control. What I do is a highly planned exercise involving A: Setting a budget  which I then try to beat B: Deciding clothes for the next couple of seasons that I need/want and working out a figure for what I expect to spend on each item.  This includes tights and underwear. C:  Shopping!

 I try to avoid the lower priced retailers and supermarket clothes, not out of any sense of snobbery, but because I've found that I don't wear them for so long. This is either because they start to look tatty more quickly or I go off them.  Of course,   there are exceptions.  I like the fit of my George jeans and the same supermarket provided ther six year old £4 black stretchy long sleeved T-shirts that I regularly wear (lives extended by the dyeing process.

I have to be creative to buy better quality clothes that last and keep under budget so here's my plan.
a)  Look out for designer goods from outlet sources.  The tunic here is made by White Stuff but was sourced from Trago Mills at £11.99.
b) Buy new and secondhand on Ebay.  Make sure that I stick to what I'd planned to buy rather than impulse buying. I've just 'won' a Chili Pepper tunic on Ebay. It was tunic 1 with a item budget of £20 on my list but I've nabbed it for £6 including postage.
c)  Buy fabric so Mama Lovelygrey can make my own designer wear.
d) Avoid buying clothes that don't tolerate my brutal laundering techniques.  From experience I've learned that delicate woollens are a no-no.
e) Allow plenty in my budget for things that I know I'm going to wear lots and lots. There's another tunic on Ebay that will meet this criteria and I've just increased my bid to above my original planned expenditure as I know I'll get lots of wear out of the item.
f) Think thick tights that don't ladder on first wear and hence clothes that look good with 'beetle legs'.

I'm finding that by sticking to these rules the budget that I set reduces each season and I save time by not wandering aimlessly around shops throughout the year.  The occasional nature of this consumptive treat also seems to be more pleasurable than buying items singly.   However, of course, the odd impulse purchase slips in.  For example, Fat Face and Howies have items in their sales which it would be a crime not to liberate!  And sometimes I find things in charity shops that just need to be in my wardrobe. Buying things in a planned way does not fit when shopping in a secondhand marketplace.  Guilt is assuaged, however, by remembering that I kept below budget in my main shops!

Addendum: It's now Monday 30th August and all garment e-purchasing activity is over for another six months. Even though I added three items to my original list I still came within my budget of £250 by £6. For that I bought six pairs of thick cotton tights, a new black Gap jumper (pleased to see that they're on line at last!), a second hand Boden cardigan, two lots of material for Mama Lovelygrey to make dresses with (already have pattern so no extra cost, four good quality tunics and a pair of Crocs wellies!

Friday, 27 August 2010

Thought for the Day: Putting it Off

I've been meaning to write this article for a long time but........!

In fact, I jest. It was only yesterday that I came up with the idea to write about my personal failures to act promptly. So this opener on the subject of procrastination is merely a cheap joke.


If you were to ask Mr Lovelygrey he would affirm vehemently that I was an arch procrastinator.  As a current example he would eagerly point out the sloe berries in the fridge that were picked over two weeks ago that still need to be immersed in gin.   Further confirmation of the universal truth that 'Lovelygrey procrastinates' could be obtained from my electronic 'To Do' list where a couple of items have lingered on  'Personal Tasks - ASAP' for a year now.  I'm too embarrassed to admit what the are as they're trivial things that would take no time at all.  However,  I assure you that they don't involve extended lapse of personal grooming.  I cut my nails yesterday according to my three weekly schedule and my legs get shaved on a weekly basis thanks to a useful 'To Do' list entry that does not go unheeded.
 
Now I've had a hunch that putting things off may not be pure procrastination so I turn to my favourite preliminary source of information, Wikipedia. for help.  There, one of the definitions rings true.  There, it suggests that for behavour to be  deemed to be procrastination it must to be counterproductive, needless, and delaying.    I confess that, sometimes, what I do meets this criteria although this is nowhere near as much of a problem as it's  been in the past.  At the worst my life virtually came to a standstilll because of the multiple avoidance tactics that I was employing.  This is because 'a wall of fear' builds up in my mind. Further delay ,of course, causes the barrier to get bigger and bigger and obvoiusly compounds the problem.  However, often when I get eventually get round to a feared task I wonder what the fuss was about.   Now I'm aware of the mental mechanism that causes the distress I consciously take  steps to quickly do what once I would have put off.  Hence I describe a learned example of cognitive-behavioural mechanisms at play!

But other things get delayed, either because I'm too busy and there's only so many hours in a day or because I'm genuinely too exhausted to do what I need to.  These hold ups don't seem to meet the 'needless' part of the criteria which determine procrastination and demand different solutions to address the underlying reason.  For instance, mental plans to energise myself are being formulated as I write.  And of course these delays can sometimes reveal a terrifying truth.  Sometimes  we plan to do things with too much haste or even worse, which weren't really necessary in the first place!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Just finished reading: Out of the Ordinary: True Tales of Everyday Craziness



As a person who regards themselves as savvy and well read I'd like to say that I had heard of Jon Ronson before I started this book. If that were true I would have pounced on this book with glee during my latest library visit. But I have to confess that I'd never heard of the bloke. I chose Out of the Ordinary: True Tales of Everyday Craziness at impulse during one of my 'suck it and see moments'.

This collection of stories and columns, written for the Guardian's Weekend magazine was a superb find. The chapters that were started life as newspaper columns describing what Ronson terms 'domestic craziness' are hilarious. What I most admire is the fact that even though this chap seems to have an ego the size of the Empire State Building he doesn't mind portraying himself as a bit of a plonker when this is well and truly justified. His account of calling his cat in from the garden provides a fine example of this.  Part Two of the book brings together four longer articles about the 'Coughing Major', the trial of Jonathan King and an account of how a religious group, the Jesus Christians gave their kidneys away. These were all fascinating and thought provoking pieces of writing. However, I found the final article, about the contents of Stanley Kubrick's home, less interesting but this view is more down to personal taste rather than bad journalistic style.

I've already reserved What I Do: More True Tales of Everyday Craziness from Devon Library Service and added his other titles to my Amazon wishlist which serves as a reminder to myself about what I want to read. For my readers who are put off by the 'Guardian writer' tag I'd urge you to put your loathing of lefties to one side. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The Gallery


After completing my own piratey makeover in Louis' room I was pleased to visit one of the residential homes in my area which had also undergone its own transformation.  Their forward thinking owners have invested money to create a wonderfully bright and airy activity room and with the support of their wonderfully enthusiastic and commited manager have employed an  arty activity coordinator to facilitate what goes on in there.  It's a busy environment with its own kitchen facilities. a PC with a large touch screen and digital photography equipment and of course lots of arts and crafts materials.  Even though it's quite a new resource there's lots of evidence of productive activity already in evidence.  Wonderful mosaic tray, lots of needlework projects in progress and displays of reminiscence work.  Here's a gallery of finished watercolour paintings.




Not bad at all considering that most of the artists have picked up a paint brush for years.  The quality of this work is even more surprisingly when you consider that they are suffering from dementia that is severe enough to warrant a life in residential care.  Just another timely reminder for an occupational therapist, armed with fancy models that are supposed to predict what people might be able to achieve, that sometimes our expectations can be vastly under ambitious!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Sweet Cheap Teatime Treat

By lifting the restriction on only eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday your kids will love you. Just the faintest suggestion that they might be on the menu causes Louis to bounce with excitement. Or then again he may just need a wee. Pancakes form the basis of a great breakfast, afternoon tea or even can assume the guise of a pudding!

So, put the oven on at 100 degrees Celsius and stick a plate in there to warm it up. For each egg, take 50g plain flour, salt and a quarter pint of milk. I double this amount for a meal for three. Beat together for a few minutes and then add a ladleful of batter to a lightly greased frying pan and slop it around to make a rough circular shape. Toss after a few minutes if you're brave or, if accident prone like myself, carefully turn with a spatula. The little beauty will need less time to cook on the second side. Then put in the oven to keep warm.  The first pancake is always a bit of a disaster.

Okay, this is not the quickest process but it is a multi-tasker's dream. Whilst the pancakes are cooking I do odd jobs around the kitchen such as emptying the dishwasher, putting out rubbish, tidying up spare crisps, chocolate and wine etc.  Oh, and I prepare the toppings.  Five a day fruit if  I'm on a healthy kick, jam, chocolate spread and ice cream if not and a mixture for those in-between days  Please don't forget the lemon and sugar for the purists!

Monday, 23 August 2010

Days Out In Devon: House of Marbles

Okay, it may be an exaggeration to say that a visit to the House of Marbles constitutes a full day out.  I wouldn't recommend a long drive specifically to sample what this attraction offers unless you're a marble buff (it houses the largest collection in the world). For us, it's just two miles from home, an easy cycle ride, and is a a place where a couple of hours can be whiled away quite pleasantly even on a rainy day. There's also no admission charge which is alway a bonus! It is essentially a large gift shop with knobs and whistles, a glass blowing studio, displays and interactive exhibits. I'll keep mum about how the giant spider may be enticed to move down its web.

Until our visit yesterday, Louis would have said that he liked the marble runs the best. There's three small ones in glass cases but the piece de resistance is a gurt big iron structure on the staircase at one end of the building, the size and complexity of which means that its creator is forgiven for using pool balls rather than glass spheres. However, we have now discovered the outdoor games in the garden behind the cafe. There's skittles, giant chess and jenga, a marble playing area and the conical metal structure pictured above. Louis spent an enjoyable hour playing with other kids whilst I relaxed  and sipped my favourite non-alcoholic tipple, Luscombe's Fiery Ginger Beer, in the shade of the old pottery kilns.

If you're not tempted by the delicious looking meals in the cafe or the homemade cakes, there's a little known spot just down the road at Pottery Pond which would be ideal for a picnic. Continue along the road from the House of Marbles (away from the roundabout on the A382) for about 400 yards through a residential area until you see a house with red shutters. The pond, which used to be the water source that powered watermills for the pottery in the mid 19th century, is just it.  I hope that even for the directionally challenged, my instructions are sufficient to find this haven of tranquility which is refreshing after a visit to a busy tourist attraction.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Chirpy, Chirpy, Cheep, Cheep

Here's a post that I've been meaning to write for a while but techincal ignorance prevented me from doing so.  Today, though, I've finally grasped the bull by the horns and worked out how to access Mr Lovelygrey's photos on our home network.  Like most of the things that I put off, it wasn't really as difficult as I'd built it up to be in my fluffy little head!

Attracting  birds has become Mr Lovelygrey's forte, the feathered variety of course and not, I hasten to add, the yummy mummies, who are in vast abundance in the school playground with their fledging broods.  The visitors in our garden vary according to season but goldfinches, siskins, great tits and wood pigeons are common all year round and passers by have included fieldfare, blackcaps, redwings, nuthatches and long tailed tits to name a few.  Mr Lovelygrey swears that providing hulled sunflower seeds is the reason why our restaurant for avarians is so popular.  For the short time that they are available the ornamental cherries are a hit too.

However, the dining experience of our cute vegetarian friends can have a macabre twist. Very occasionally they can find themselves on the menu when the sparrowhawk is in town. Allegedly his presence is the sign of a healthy bird population. We have photos of him tucking into the raptor's version of a hungry horse meal, a wood pigeon, but I'll spare you the gory images. Instead I'll let you admire his wonderful plumage in this shot of him perusing the menu!

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Miserable Failure!

Maybe it was the sense of accomplishment at finishing  Louis' room makeover that did it or perhaps it was just a Friday night feeling.  But yesterday on day eleven, my plans to give up alcohol for a forty day Virtual Lent took a tumble.  There is a particularly wonderful Australain Pale Ale in the kegerator and the temptation to guzzle a pint and a bit was just too overwhelming.

The question now is what to do now that this lapse has occured.  I could:  A:  Embark on a cocktail drinking frenzy and give the whole venture up  B:  Wrap myself in sackcloth, beat myself with a cat of nine tails and rub salt into the wounds C:  Accept the 'blip' and carry on having an abstinence free-ish period for forty days.

In the old days I would have resorted to option A and then, as self punishment for being an abject loser would have enforced a mental version of B on myself (actual physical pain isn't my bag!).  But this is no more!  Although the cocktail swilling option is very, very tempting I'm going to get back on track and adopt an acceptance approach.   After all, I'm still hoping to fulfil my aims of getting out of the daily drinking habit and  losing a bit of weight.  Maybe I'll add extra days of absistence on end  in recompense.  This may not appeal at the end of the forty day period so the cocktail option may instead be adopted so that I can celebrate my near success!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Big Boy Bedroom Makeover

In earlier posts I wrote about my esteemed colleagues but carefully disguised their identities so that even their own mothers wouldn't recognise them.  Sorry guys if this hasn't worked!  They include Mr Metrosexual, my trusted in-house beauty consultant, Snobby Friend and the Consultant of Cool.  Feeling left out, another male team member thought up his own pseudonym.  Henceforth, of his own volition, he shall be known as the 'Master of Love', somewhat disturbing given that he assesses for the presence of delusions.

But fear not, wife of the Master of Love, there is no danger from me although I'd keep an eye out for lecherous old ladies. The pair of us have discovered that we are unresolvably incompatible, for he  favours brightly coloured  interior walls (cobalt blue for goodness sake!)  whereas I am firmly of the opinion that they should be pure white.  Thankfully Mr Lovelygrey shares my preference and agrees that a room should be brightened up by using colourful accessories.  Because as he's a bit tight too he might also be swayed by the fact that white paint is substantially cheaper than its coloured counterparts.

And I'm hoping to win over Louis. So even though I've got rid of the 'jade' walls, I think I'll be forgiven he sees how lots of green stuff has been incorporated into his new piratey themed white walled bedroom.

The cost of the transformation, including paint for walls and furniture,  fabric, wall stickers, mirror and a lovely metal lighthouse wallhanging, was just over £100.  Not bad considering the budget on Changing Rooms used to be £500.  Oh! I've forgotten to mention the flags too around the coving.  I was going to make these myself.  But,  bearing in mind these lovely (green!) Devonian emblems were only £4.99 a string and I used three to garland the room),  I decided life is too short for a full-time working mum to make bunting.

Now all that remains is to clear up the unholy mess in the other upstairs rooms that has been created during a week of decorating activity.  Oh, and Louis needs to name his yacht when he returns home so I'm all prepared with a stock of white felt so we can add lettering to the bed's 'spray dodger'!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Thought for the Day: Are Strangers B******s?

Bless Radio 4! I have been panicking since posting yesterday as I did not have a planned topic for today's offering and inspiration was not striking.   And then I listened to Radio 4's PM programme and EUREKA!  A story about two brothers and a donkey settling a bet about the kindness of strangers by undertaking a walk across Northern England with a donkey instead of their wallets.  See their blog (http://www.twomenandadonkey.moonfruit.com/) from where I've nicked this picture and click through to read about their journey and to donate to the Stroke Association if their trip inspires you.

And which brother do you think won the bet? The one who views fellow mankind with a warm and fuzzy feeling or his jaded sibling.  I have to say that it came as no surprise to me that it was the first.  In our guises of Grey Bear and Long Pig, Mr Lovelygrey and I  experienced this firsthand when we walked 650 miles of the Appalachian Trail in 1997. In spite of being equipped with cash and credit cards which we were more than willing to use, we frequently met 'trail angels' who fed and watered us and gave us lifts.  Oh, and I got a bar of soap as a gift from the particularly kind couple who rescued us from the middle of nowhere when Long Pig cracked a bone in the knee.  I'll forgive them their unsubtle hint about my dubious trail hygiene. Refusing to accept any payment they became our personal transport service for two days, giving us lifts between hospital and hotel and then driving us fifty miles to 'the Place' in Damascus Virginia, a hostel where we stayed (for free!) whilst Long Pig recuperated.

And so I urge you to undertake your own experiments to test the strength of human kindness.  You may not be disappointed as often as you think...or then again you could starve, dehydrate or get your lights punched out!  Oh...and resist the mean gremlin that lurks within us all and try out some acts of generosity towards strangers of your own.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Oldies but Goodies

The Observer Food Monthly that came with this week's Sunday newspaper focused on a subject close to my heart - cookbooks! It included a list of those that were, in their humble opinion, the fifty greatest of all time. In spite of having a large collection of my own recipe books, I was surprised to see that I only owned two in the list.   Even more shockingly I'd never heard of the Number 1 title, The French Menu Cookbook by Richard Olney, published in 1970.

To give lots of authors a look in, it seems that only one book per person was allowed in the list.  So while I own lots of Nigel's Slater's book I don't have The Kitchen Diaries which comes in at number seven. Nige is pipped to the post by Claudia Roden's The Book of Jewish Food at number two, another volume isn't in my possession, although I do have her excellent New Book of Middle Eastern Food which is a source of an amazingly favourful dish Meggaderra whose ingredients, apart from seasoning, are just rice lentils and onions.

But enough. The purpose of this post isn't to boast about my cookbook collection.  It is to inform about the more obscure titles that would make it onto my own favourites list, were I to compile one.  Sure, the likes of Nigel Slater, Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall are up there.  But the four titles above shown in the picture are used again and again.  Sarah Maxwell's Meze Cooking is the source of well explained recipes for delights such as crispybu fried courgettes, tiropittes - wonderfully crispy cheese parcels and a blinder of a sausage and pepper stew. The other books are sadly out of print but happily, Indian Cooking by Lalita Ahmed is still readily available in Amazon's Marketplace.  It has two reviewers, both of whom give it a five star rating which coincides with my opinion that this is an excellent book of delicious recipes with clear instructions.   Good Soup Book by Lindsay Bareham and Sweet Dreams by Josceline Dimbleby are excellent examples of the little paperbacks produced by Sainsbury's in the 1980s and 90s.  I have another book by Lindsay Bareham but the one here is my favourite and arranges its recipes seasonally.   And time after time the pudding cookbook has been the source of wonderful desserts.  Anyone for Coconut Ice Cream with Mango Puree,  Dark Chocolate and Lemon Tart or Chocolate Mousse Gateau? No?  Then perhaps you'd prefer the Cox's Creamy Apple Tart,  Walnut Mousse Gateau or Nostalgia Pudding.  Again copies of these two gems float around Amazon Marketplace which is a good thing to know as my books could well fall apart from overuse soon!

But probably my number one title is the New Art of Cooking created and written by the Stork Cookery Service  Yes! the margarine people.  This little marvel never fails me when I need a simple recipe.  Yes to  Yorkshire pudding, Victoria sponge, steak and kidney pudding and any type of sauce or pastry that a normal human being would care to make themselves.  It is entirely up to you whether you go along with the suggestion to use margarine in every recipe but in my experience substituting an appropriate trendier source of fat works just as well.

The book also gives a flavour of how times have changed with its illustration of unusual vegetables 1970 style.  However the ratatouille recipe is spot on.  Just substitute olive oil for the Stork!

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Perchance to Dream?

Not a drop of alcohol has passed my lips for seven days now and I am seventeen and a half percent through 'Virtual Lent' (see my earlier post).  By day three I was noticing the considerable benefit that avoiding the temptation of the wine bottle and the beer fridge was having on my ability to sleep.  After an uninterrupted night, Mr Lovelygrey managed to sneak out of the house at 6am for an early morning cycle without disturbing me.  This represents an almost unique event.

Insomnia has been a recurrent problem for me and it's easy to see how whether or not I am able to sleep affects my mood.  Avoiding booze is one of the most helpful things that I can do to help  myself.  Sleeping in an unheated room, curbing anxious thinking when I wake in the night, mindfulness practice and eating my evening meal early  are all useful personal strategies too.  Type 'sleep hygiene', 'insomnia' and other related terms into Google and there's a wealth of ideas. Personally  I spurn any suggestion that I should not read in bed though. This is one of life's greatest pleasures and to recommend giving it up seems like pure heresy.

But I've also suffered from unrefreshing sleep so even after what might have seemingly appeared to be a good night I woke exhausted.   Mr Lovelygrey was consistently pointing out to me that noise from my snoring was only just below the level that causes a sonic boom. So I sought medical help which ruled out sleep apnoea but resulted in a sleep study.

And so let me introduce 'Mandy', my mandibular device made by the lovely people at Torbay Hospital! Not the prettiest nightwear I admit but this piece of orthodontic equipment which keeps my jaw from dropping back and closing my airway makes a huge difference to whether or not both I and Mr Lovelygrey get a good night's kip!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Blank Canvas

Louis is growing up and has outgrown the cutesy ABC stickers in his bedroom.  His departure to Cornwall with Nana and Grandpa Lovelygrey has presented the ideal opportunity to undertake a 'Changing Rooms' transformation to surprise him on his return home.

After a quick trip out to buy decorating supplies, I spent yesterday listening to Radio 4 and painting.  My hard work has left me covered with snowy flecks and as stiff as a board.  Compelling evidence indeed that gym visits are not necessary to get fit.  Shedloads of hard manual labour will have the same effect.

I also have a clean white blank canvas for me to do with what I will.  It's now onto the interesting part of my interior design project.  By the end of the week I'm looking forward to sharing the results in a future post and with Louis too.  So, no more writing today - I'd better crack on!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

The Essex Sandwich

There's no easy way of saying this.  Mr Lovelygrey can be a bit, snobby.  Take for example, the conversations that he has with another of our friends who married a girl from a similar background to my own.  'You can take the girl out of the council house but can't take the council house out of the girl!' The boys sit with holding their glasses of wine.  You can almost spot their pinkies up as they nod in agreement!

What better encouragement is there to do something, wonderfully common.  Now  fur coat and no knickers or even black bra and white blouse isn't my style but, shock horror, I occasionally eat in the street and enjoy passing wind from either end, albeit relatively secretly.  And  making a great big cheese and crisp doorstep whilst on a French holiday in the land of haute gastrononie might be considered a bit plebby.   This particular example is made more abhorent because I used up the nicely chilled cheddar brought from home rather than  making it from a local fromage specially crafted by an affineur and served at room temperature.  And my version of the sandwich made from the French cheesy maize based snacks, croustilles might even be viewed as more down at heel.

But wait! I now recall that this idea is not entirely my own.  Doesn't the chef to the stars, premiers and royalty have a recipe for a beautful looking Double Decker Cheese Sandwich with Crisps in his book Jamie's Dinners?   Fellow Essex boy I salute you!  One day  our hearty peasant dish, which I suggest should be named after our county, might be de rigeur at the tables of the rich and famous

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Litter Picking

I start today with yet another shot taken at our 'secret aire de camping car'.  After three years of travelling in this fashion around France I still can't quite believe that it is possible to stay at such a beautiful place, and others like it, free of charge!

In order to go a little way towards repaying the local residents for their overwhelming act of genorisity in allowing us to use the site I pick up the litter on the beach. Seen as an extension to beachcombing this can be an enjoyable task.

And here's the fruits of my labour from one half hour session on a superficially clean looking beach.  Who knows if I've saved a bird from getting its feet tangled in fishing line or a marine creature from a death by ingested plastic?

This is not the first time I've carried out this activity. I've tidied other aires and the woods near my home and find that the task, although appearing abhorent to some, has noble qualities. And this is one that children can enjoy too. So, on your next walk I encourage you to take out a collecting bag, or even litter pick one on your travels, and do the same. It's not necessary to clear everything that you see, just take a bit of someone else's detritus away. And, assuming that you're not shedding litter as you walk, you too could easily experience that lovely glow that comes from making the world a better place!