Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Just a Cold?

For the first time in over a year I took a day off sick yesterday.  Let's see what today brings.  I have a cold.  It sounds so weedy when you give in to what is seen as a minor ailment that'll be over in a few days. Even if this is not a serious I feel pretty ill! No wonder men have the reputation of bigging it up to full blown 'flu.  They may have a point.

My cold  is the type where each sneeze is a tissue buster.  If I lie down I get congested and have a fit of coughing.  An upright pose and it's like the Niagara Falls have been redirected through my nose. The trips down to the kitchen to top up those fluids that I'm meant to imbibe liberally seem like a major expedition.  I'd like to stock up on Lemsip but a drive to Sainsbury's seems a step too far.


 I feel a bit needy but Mum lives a long way away.  There's nothing for it but to intersperse sleep with offerings from the BBC i-player.  I can't focus to study so back episodes of 'Cradle to Grave' have hit the spot.  The creators have got that whole seventies vibe just right.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

A Curry Free Zone!

I'm choosing some new bits and pieces for our new home, for instance, new lighting and beds and the IKEA stash to kit out Louis' room.   The visits to Asda at Paignton to pick up George homeware from the friendly Click and Collect staff have become a regular routine. There's some brilliant designs at rather reasonable prices.  Just what I like!  I'll get round to showing some of my finds off when I've done a bit of decorating.

Here's the favourite thing I've bought by far, unfortunately not at a bargain supermarket price.   Rugs were needed downstairs as it's too echoey living in a house with a bare wooden floor.  It's the poshest rag rug that I've ever come across and was designed by Sarah Campbell for Habitat's 50th anniversary.  There's even a video about it!  It retailed for £450 originally but mine was an Ebay purchase that was just a shade below £280, twenty pounds under what I'd budgeted.  I was really excited when it arrived yesterday.  It's something that I plan to treasure for years.


Here's a shot of it in situ under my retro Ercol dining suite.  They look like they were made to go together.  Sadly, it might not stay there for very long.  I'm rather nervous that something like a curry spillage might ruin my heirloom piece so its going to be moved into the living room when a floor covering that's more robust takes my fancy.  In the meantime I'll just have to go easy on the super staining turmeric!

Monday, 28 September 2015

Bristol Botanics


Now I'm no Alan Titchmarsh but I do love a gorgeous garden if it's been created by someone else. One of the plus points of that hunt in the summer for that effing sheep was that I discovered previously undiscovered parts of Bristol.  There was a Shaun outside the Botanic Garden and I vowed to return to have a shuffty.  Yesterday Red Mel and I did just that.  Now I know Rudbeckia comes under the common or garden variety but I find it such a happy plant.


This is a little more unusual. You don't see a big copper ball by a pond everyday!


I gave this tree a big hug...and a bit of a snog as I loved the colour of its snowy white bark.  Red Mel was a bit embarrassed but I'd already checked that no-one else was around to see me. I'm not completely unselfconscious.

It's mighty impressive how someone can create a Jurassic forest that looks like it goes on forever in such a tiny space.  It's like a T-Rex could come out of the undergrowth at any second.

Oops there's one!


Here's your botany lesson of the day.  This is the fruit of Billardiera Longiflore.  Isn't it pretty? And yes,it is edible  and takes like apple although it's apparently a bit seedy.  No I wasn't tempted to try it. I learnt from childhood that you don't go around eating strange plants.  I  seem to remember we did eat laburnum seeds at one time though.



One of the glass house had these big Amazonian Lilies with leaves the size of enormous pizzas.




And here's another type of lily with a gorgeous solitary flower.

It was a lovely visit to a quiet oasis in a big city.  And do you know what?  I was inspired to see if those previously ungreen fingers can get something to grow.  I think I'll plant some herbs and pretty veg in my own tiny space if I have a moment next year.


Sunday, 27 September 2015

Notes From A Runaway

I'm exhausted and home is not a relaxing place to be yet. There's so much to do and when I'm there I'm fidgety, always chipping, chipping, chipping away to get things straight. So I've made my escape for a weekend to see Red Mel in her new flat.  She's only been in here just over a month and yes, she too has unpacked boxes. But they're not mine so I'm not tempted to rush around emptying them.  Her place is going to be great. It has a huge balcony overlooking the river - a wonderful place for watching the world go by with drinks and nibbles. We played an extremely politically incorrect and childish game of giving the 'nice young men' that passed the thumbs up or down and giggled extensively.  Being silly is just what I need at moment. If the bloke in the bright blue T-shirt is reading this, I only saw your back view  as you entered the Crescent but I love you!

It's great  to be in Bristol and not have to scurry around looking for that 'Effing Sheep' as Shaun became after I'd seen about seventy weirdly painted versions of him.  We took in chi-chi boutiques where the price tags were massive, looking for inspiration for our new homes and went in masses of charity shops.  Didn't I say that I wouldn't be buying any clothes this year?  Ha! I lied.  My newly purchased pink dress and long grey White Stuff cardigan are all the more lovely for being illicit.  Louis has benefitted from my little foray as well. There were some great finds for his Christmas stocking that I've decided will be entirely charity shop sourced this year.

This was our lunchstop, the Mockingbird in Clifton that serves food with a southern US twist.  My last visit was before it opened and I was dying to see how it had turned out.  I'll come clean and say that it's owned by Red Mel's son, Oliver so this little review might be seen as biased but please take my word for it.  This place is superb.  If it wasn't I'd have stayed schtum and not told you I'd been there.  It has everything, beautiful surroundings, friendly staff, cool music and, needless to say great coffee and food.  The smashed avocado and goats cheese on sourdough was inspirational, something I'll try to emulate at home.   I might have a go at recreating the basil lemonade and peanut butter and jelly cookies too!


Saturday, 26 September 2015

God

The annual NHS Staff Survey is out at the moment.  I gave my employer a mixed review.  On the plus side, people of Devon who need to use mental health services will be very pleased to hear that I think my colleagues trustwide are a compassionate and skilled bunch.  I'm also highly satisfied with the training that I receive. After all my Masters degree is being funded. I gave my immediate team and manager top marks as well.  On all counts as they're the biz.

The minus side?  Well currently there's pretty much no career progression  for people who want to retain a clinical role unless they're a doctor or clinical psycholgist.  And  sometimes I feel that there's someone faceless at the top of the organisation who takes my goodwill a little too much for granted.  I do way more unpaid overtime to compensate for staff shortages than I'd like and this has increased year on year to a point where I'm mightily pissed off. I don't think Dave has taken this into account when he's decided to keep our pay rises during the last few years and for the foreseeable to a random figure of 1%.  During some weeks, when my freebies are taken into account, my pay drops way below that of a newly qualified nurse.

Anyway.....there was a bunch of those standard demographic questions at the end of the survey.  Yes I am white British, female - tick, tick.  I pause at the one about my sexuality.  Should I make up something weird and wonderful out of devilment?  No, behave!   As far as I know, I'm boring old heterosexual.  However, the religion one stumped me.  There was a whole list of the usual faiths. There was also a box for those with no religion.  Did that apply to me even though I speak to God and the angels pretty much on a daily basis?  I don't think so.  I pick and choose where I take my wisdom from.  I selected the 'other' category but it didn't seem  the right descriptor.  I wonder if lots of people had the same dilemma.

Friday, 25 September 2015

A Rabbit on the Radio


Pah! The embedded link to the page on  the BBC website that I wanted to share doesn't work so instead I've chosen this rather bizarre picture from Pixabay, the wonderful free resource that was my saviour when Microsoft withdrew Clipart and killed off all those dinky screen beans in one fell swoop.

Anyway I really wanted to draw attention to 'Bunny', Mark Haddon's  excellent entry into the BBC National Short Story Award.  It was broadcast on Tuesday and serves as a fine illustration of why I am so fond of Radio 4.  For the next few weeks you can listen to it on the BBC i-player or download it to save for laters.  Please take the time.  You know it's worth it!  I was stunned by its medical accuracy as well as being very moved.  Let's hope it's the winner!


Thursday, 24 September 2015

Slowly

One of the lovely people that I see through work was telling me the other day about her grandchildren's tortoise and the pleasure that she gets from being in his company.  Just thought that I'd mention.  If you need a bit of cheering up then Shelly* is your man.

This tortoise here is just hanging around whilst I explore the theme of slowness, specifically as it describes the progress that I am making on turning this house into a home.  It's not going fast enough for a person who likes everything done yesterday and needs to learn a little more patience and acceptance. Especially with myself.

After a hard day at the office and out and about, and believe me there's some tough ones at the moment, I can't expect myself to put in a good few hours of DIY...and study and feed me and do whatever needs doing in the childcare arena.   I'm often very knackered and good for nothing, least of all an arduous stint of home improvement. Louis' room still needs a lot of work and the spare room  looks like I'm a contender for one of those programmes that sort out hoarders.  What's more it seems to be getting worse!

But slowly, slowly things are changing here.   Walls get stripped, holes are filled.  We finally have TV and sufficient light to see ourselves eat in the dining room.  Flatpacks have been assembled and stuff put away.  There still seems to much to do.  It's rather daunting really.  But I keep reminding myself of what I've done each day and look back over the longer term.  I've really achieved quite a lot in the first two months of living in a 'big' house again.

* To preserve confidentiality, all names of tortoises in this post have been changed!

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Stretching Squash

Yesterday Cro at Magnon Meanderings, another blogger of the eclectic type, showed off the rewards of his squash harvest.   I so love this veg in all its shapes and forms and am truly jealous of his bountiful crop.  In order to rid myself of my inner green goddess I hurriedly popped over to Riverford's website to see if they were selling their  squash box yet. Alas!  None yet.  It seems that the veg season here runs to a slightly different calendar to France's.

Here though is a recipe for the soup that I made the other day from a humble butternut from Aldi and bits and pieces that needed using up.  It was easy-peasy, awfully good and made five portions.

1. Chop up a butternut squash, a wrinkly red pepper and an onion and soften in rapeseed oil in a big pan.
2.  Add salt, pepper and a healthy few shakes of good old smoked paprika.
3. Add vegetable stock made from a couple of cubes and a litre of boiling water.  I only went meat free in the juice department as Salty Dog, the first recipient of a bowlful of this stuff,  is pescatarian. A bit of the beefy stuff might have been my first choice.
4.  Heat through and blitz with a natty handheld blender.
5.  Serve with bits and pieces on top for a hearty meal.  Here's the bowl I served a famished Louis, just home from school.  He's definitely not adverse to a bit of meat.  I added garlicky croutons made from a stale loaf, bits of bacon and cheese.  He wolfed it down!

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

On A Day When I Can't Think About What To Blog...





...I'll let a wiser dude do the speaking.  I found some very thought provoking words indeed whilst looking for inspiration on StumbleUpon.  

Monday, 21 September 2015

A Sucker With A Smile

I like to give stuff away when I no longer need it rather than sell it on. Loads of stuff goes to the charity shops and larger items are freecycled. Friends are often recipients of my unwanted clobber as well. About eleven years ago I bought a cardigan that was much admired by Barbie Nurse so since I tired of it four years ago she's been wearing it. Now that I no longer have grass, my lawnmower and strimmer was donated to Little Wren as a welcome to her new home present.

But now some of the good karma from gifting has returned to me. Yippee! Red Mel had no room for Hetty in her bijou Bristol flat so I've adopted her. And I delighted.  My last two vacuum cleaners have been woefully inadequate in sucking up terms. Hetty does the trick though.  Her suction power is the biz` Not only is she highly efficient I love the way that she smiles at me around the door frame as I'm working.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

All 120!

I'm late posting today again.  Post jet lag my body clock is all out of sync.  Instead of my usual early bird waking time of between 5 and 6, I'm stirring at around 7:30am.  It doesn't bode well for getting Lou out of the house on time to catch the bus to school tomorrow.  I will need a big ring-ey alarm tomorrow.

Anyway we were still out of the house at the crack of dawn and headed to Bristol where we multi-tasked.  I became  very grumpy indeed in Ikea.  Remind me never to go there again on a Sunday.   I thought an hour and a half would be plenty to dash round in a leisurely strolly kind of way and then meet Red Mel for meatballs in the 'canteen' there.  Everything conspired against us accomplishing our mission in the time allowed. Our experience included two trips through those heaving checkouts and a visit to another building five minutes down the road to collect one item. Madness!  On the plus side we managed to fit three bookcases, a desk and office chair, two floor lamps, a kitchen stool and bits  and bobs in my tardis of a small side.   Salty Dog has new curtains as well. She'd put in an order.  I had doubts that it was going to fit but the trusty Citigo came up trumps.

The main aim of our day was to bagsie the last few Shaun the Sheep that we hadn't  managed to find on two exhausting days running  around Bristol. Time conspired against so we got tickets for the Great Sheep Round Up at Cribbs Causeway for our final sheep spotting spree of the year. Here's Lou with Buttercup, one of the eight we logged to complete the trail!



Saturday, 19 September 2015

Brixham Banksy


It has been the first weekend that Louis has stayed at the Brixham home since we moved in at the end of July.   The long summer break upset the usual childcare routine.  We celebrated with lunch at Rockfish.  I've promised that I'd take Louis to 'that posh restaurant near the harbour' for a long time.  Fritto Misto and a beer for me and half a lobster with garlic butter for a discerning twelve year old!


We wandered around town to look for works by a graffiti artist that hangs out here.  Whoever is it must be a fan of Banksy.....



...or perhaps the great bloke himself comes here for his holidays!

(Shame the snogging coppers got painted over)

Friday, 18 September 2015

No Weddings Or A Funeral

Have you got any plans?' asked Salty Dog when I showed her this picture of the centre piece from a Lego themed wedding.  Ha!  My relationship status seems well and truly set at single at the moment. When do I have time to look what with everything that work, a recent home move, university and an ebullient kid throw at me?  I told someone else that a blokey would have to fall into my lap. And he'd have to trip up very fast  indeed because I don't do much sitting around.

Apparently if and when I do get married again Louis wants to organise the whole shenanigan. Blimey!  He's watched too many of those reality shows programmes where the bride doesn't have a say in how the day is going to run.  As a fully 'fessed up control freak. the thought makes me a little nervous.  Twelve and fifty year olds are likely to hold entirely different viewpoints on what would make a romantic day.  But if he came up with a carbon copy of this cake  I wouldn't mind at all.  Those little guys rolling the icing are the cutest.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Defrazzling

I have been uncharacteristically grumpy and stressed since I got back to work on two counts.  Firstly bloody computers! We've got a brand new client record system with all the seemingly inevitable teething problems that comes with a technology update. To make things worse a glitch that I reported at work before my holiday is still be sorted. It means that I lose Internet connectivity about every hour and have to reboot my laptop over and over again.  In July my computer was taken away and 'fixed' two and a half weeks later.  The nice man on the helpline who sounded a bit like Leslie Philips told me that they didn't actually find a fault so snuck it back to me in its original state!

Driving is also getting me down.  All the roads in this part of  Devon seem to be bottle necked. There's roadworks absolutely everywhere.   It's exhausting even though I'm seemingly doing nothing in stop-start traffic queues.  As most of my visits seem to be at the furthest reaches of my patch I'm spending vast swathes of my time being unproductive and all that paperwork that is so hard to put onto the computer in the first place piles up even higher.

I've been having a think.  If I have to sit still in traffic it might as well be pleasant.  So I've decided to replan my diary.  If I schedule my Kingsbridge and Salcombe visits in the afternoon I can return home by the Dartmouth ferry.  And that's what I did yesterday.  Instead of sitting in the nondescript outskirts of Paignton waiting for the queue to move I watched the world go by from a boat.  Here's the view complete with reflections of  the stuff that I carry around on my dashboard.  A perfect end to a working day even though it was raining outside.  I arrived back in Brixham in a relaxed, happy state after a beautiful car ride that was a journey worth taking rather than a chore.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Yee Ha! Belly Pork and Beans

Let's have a recipe shall we?  I haven't done one for a long time. It's not that I haven't been cooking but I was dishing up old staples in the motorhome.  However it seems that all that extra kitchen space has triggered a surge of culinary creativity and encouraged experimentation.  Here's the instructions for last night's supper thrown together with what I had in the fridge and food cupboards.  If I say so myself it was bloody delicious!  I wasn't the only one to think that.  Louis wolfed down a huge portion.

1. Fry a medium sized chopped onion and a couple of crushed garlic cloves in a bit of rapeseed oil until softened.
2. Add four strips of belly pork cut into cubes and brown the meat.  Does that sound dirty to anyone else or is it just that I have a muckier mind than most?
3. Add a bit of salt and pepper and a fair thwack of smoked paprika.  I use this stuff by the ton.  Just a hint of any other spicing risks Louis turning his nose up at a perfectly tasty meal. However I can get away with this warming seasoning.  It adds a bit of colour to the proceedings too in addition to being dead tasty.  This was just as well (see 4 below!).
4. Pop to the cupboard for tins of butter beans and chopped tomatoes. Sh*t no tommies! How did that happen?  Now that's taking having a pared down stash of essential ingredients a step too far.  What could I use instead to bump up my five a day?
5.   Ah I know! Strip a corn cob of its  kernels with a knife.  Add these to the pan with the beans and the water from the can, a really good dollop of tomato ketchup and a glug of soy sauce.
6.  Simmer for another 10-15 minutes until the sauce has thickened to a sticky gloop.
7.  I was going to add some chopped parsley but I forgot.
8.  For a really authentic cowboy experience serve with hash browns. 

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Setting People Straight

Ah holiday memories! I'm working hard to keep them alive and not let them get buried under big pile of work.  It's mad here at the moment.  This is me and my boy by the iconic Inukshuk in English Bay, Vancouver.  We cycled there on our hired bikes and joined all the other tourists taking selfies.  Then to congratulate ourselves for pedalling right around Stanley Park and to make up those calories that we'd burned we ate ice cream at Bella Gelateria, winner of the people's choice awards at the world gelato championships in Italy.  Lou and I became regulars there in our short stay in Yaletown.  My twelve year old taster confirmed that their vanilla is the best that he's ever tasted.

What I want you to do is pay particular attention to my hair. I've had to be gentle but assertive with a couple of people in the last week. Someone, maybe in the fashion industry  has been giving them false ideas.  No, I am not platinum blonde and I have not paid a fortune to have it dyed this way. I'm too tight with time and money when it comes to beauty spending for that. Although that rarest of precious metals is incredibly beautiful and I would love to own some in jewellery form one day (and maybe work with it!) it is not the colour of my hair.  I am grey.  Grey and proud!

Monday, 14 September 2015

Bare Naked Bulbs: I've Got Them Covered!

With all the boxes and stray odds and sods now confined to the spare room with its firmly closed door, my house is looking and feeling much more homely.  Louis' attic area is being decorated as we speak and I'm hoping that I'll be able to show off my handiwork in the next week or so.  In the meantime I've spruced up the place by popping up inexpensive lampshades everywhere.  Nine of them in total. It's amazing the difference that replacing manky fittings and covering bare bulbs has made.

My favourites are three that I bought in a funky store called Make in Vancouver.   Now conventional pendant shades would have been jolly difficult to fit into a suitcase but these came flatpacked. They consist of thirty plastic pieces each.  I spent a couple of enjoyable evenings constructing them from the 'simple' instructions.  Of course , a few sweary words were to be had before I ended up with my knobly globes

And here's one of them finished and hanging in the bedroom.  I heartily recommend a trip to Granville Island to get some yourself if you're keen! For those who can't trek half way around the world to enhance their home decor, it seems that they're readily available on Amazon.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

On My Doorstep

After my first visit to Yellowstone National Park to celebrate the millennium I returned home and went for a walk.  It seemed lacklustre. There was no boiling water shooting into the sky, hubbling, bubbling mud or steam drenched rivers.  Just boring old Devon woodland.  It was beautiful but not putting on a show for me like an area of geothermal activity does.

Now I've walked a lot of the South West Coast path.  For instance, I've pretty much completed the stretch that hugs the English Channel between Gorran Haven in Cornwall and the Golden Cap in Dorset. However most of my jaunts were a long time ago and I think I'd forgotten just how jaw droppingly awesome those seascapes can be. Yesterday Salty Dog and I headed out west from the house to join the path which is  a matter of yards from my door.  This is one of the stunning views that we encountered on our way.  I'm pleased to say that this time  I was not disappointed with what the UK has to offer!

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Foodie Update

In advance of October's change in UK law when retailers will be compelled to charge for carrier bags I thought I'd again show off  one of my immensely capacious string bags.  Yes that is gin and chocolate in there.  I was preparing for a girlie night in with Salty Dog and these are essential supplies.  Look how much one of these beasties holds!  I caused quite a stir in the Asda queue but that's okay.  I like being the centre of attention!  For those of you who'd like their own just do a search on Ebay. There's plenty.  The lovely suppliers that I mentioned in my original post don't seem to exist anymore

Since moving out of the van my shopping, eating and cooking habits have changed.  The biggest difference is that  I have a whole freezer rather than a teeny ice box at my disposal.  Instead of one tiny tub of ice cream I now have four!   Buying in bulk applies to those yellow sticker items too. Yay! Four packs of smoked salmon, about £1.48 apiece went in there yesterday.  That'll be handy for those special weekend breakfasts.  And there was a decent chicken that had been marked down to around the £2.50 mark.

I'm starting to batch cook again as well.  Because I can! A shepherd's pie was portioned up the other day and frozen. Leftover soup was popped into another container ready to heat up on a day when I arrive home and am too knackered to cook properly. A big batch  of dal is planned.  I forgot how brilliant a bit of extra food storage space was.

What I'm not doing though is accumulating a vast collection of store cupboard ingredients.  I've worked out I don't really need twenty different oils, fourteen types of flour and an array of flavourings that wouldn't look out of place in one of those Middle Eastern spice markets.  Living in a smaller space helped me to learn to substitute ingredients without any ill effects on the finished product.  It would be a shame to lose this new found skill now I'm back in a proper house!



Friday, 11 September 2015

The Ashes But Not The Cricket Ones




Now here's a little clip from one of my favourite movies ever. It's given me the first laugh of the day. I have given instructions to my friend John to shove my cremated remains down Beehive Geyser in Yellowstone.   Of course, as we were reminded in a ranger talk, sticking anything down the thermal features is totally unlawful but he's game.  He says that he will sneak out to the geyser basin at the dead of night on his zimmer frame to fulfil my last request.  Now that's friendship!

Whilst in the National Park last week we saw an family standing on a cliff edge trying to scatter the ashes of a loved one.  Unfortunately  they had a  Big Lebowski moment too. 

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Treasure!

Unusually for us we brought back a fair amount of stuff from our recent North American holiday.  I even had concerns that we'd exceed our luggage allowance on the flight home but we arranged our bags so that did not happen   Some of our goodies were conventional purchases. For instance,  we are now the owners of a rather lovely National Parks Edition of Monopoly where Yellowstone replaces Mayfair on the board!  Its inaugural game was played on the balcony of the Old Faithful Inn.   I found some silver pinkie rings and Louis is the proud owner of a Seattle Mariner's baseball hat.

Other stuff came our way too.  Our friends were decluttering in a big way. 'Look around our house' they said. 'If there's anything you like please ask.  We may well give it to you!'  What an offer! We've come home with blankies that kept us snuggly on the flight.  There's a little glass bird and I've got a couple of snazzy new hats and a very funky camping stove that's fuelled with small twigs.  Call me geeky but I've been hankering after one of those for years.

John was brought up on a farm in Georgia. As we left he gave Louis a big bag of the  Native American arrowheads hewn from quartz that he'd found in the fields there.  These are three of them.  Now there's something very special that you can't buy in a normal souvenir shop!

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Lessons in Talking

A jetlag addled brain has meant that I am not able to produce a post today that is 'all my own words'. How did I ever think that I might escape it?  The mental mush has been made worse as Louis' body clock is out of kilter too.  He came down to see me and woke me up for a chat at the unfeasibly early time of 3:45am.  And again an hour later!

So I've borrowed an inspiring quote that I came across the other day that was attributed to Bernard Meltzer, a 20th century American radio host.   Now I am not always Little Miss Perfect with regard to comes out of my mouth but I do strive for self improvement. Communicating with integrity has been a theme that's been popping up in my thoughts recently. This serves as a little reminder to myself.  I hope others will ponder upon it too.

It appears that Mr Meltzer was not the first person to come up with these words.  It looks like he borrowed them from Sai Baba of Shridi, an Indian guru.  The full quote adds another line that  adds another dimension to these top tips.


'Does it improve upon the silence?'

'

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Commanded to Rest

I learnt a lot on my holiday about all sorts of things.  Of course I reckon I now know more about geysers and super volcanoes than the average Brit but it's more than that. There was experiential learning too.  One thing is that I worked out just how beneficial having three weeks off in a row was.  It really gave me time to wind down and recharge my batteries and I'll be booking an extended stretch off whenever possible in years to come.

More food for thought came via a conversation that I had with my friend Julie on the way to the Nudie Spa.  She is a devout Christian who takes her Bible study very seriously.  It's a different take on life to my own but heck! I'll take wisdom from anywhere.  One of the things that she spoke about was  the commandment that the Sabbath should be kept holy.  That's hard for her to do.  She's a self employed realtor and weekends are the busiest working days for this profession in the States.  But the idea that  this period of rest is compulsory and not an optional extra has grabbed her. Consequently she's made extra efforts to ensure that she abides by this law by building in compulsory times of chilling and worship.  A stretchy Sabbath with hours spread across the week. The spa visits make up part of this enforced relaxation.  Now that's the type of obedience that I like!

Aril from Gnat Bottomed Tower told me about a mindfulness course on FutureLearn that starts next week. It's free!  Now mindfulness is a big player in my own personal philosophy but formal practice has been patchy for yonks.  As a busy person with a full-time job that spills over in 'me time', studying, mothering etc, etc, etc it's easy to argue that there's no time for slacking off.  I'm a girl with over 40 tasks on my current to do list after all.  The argument never to stop until everything is done seems very compelling.  But who am I to mess with the big beardie blokie in the sky when he says I downtime is mandatory?  Doesn't he use that big thunderbolt when he's cross? I've signed up for the course to re-establish that habit of stepping back and sitting still. I'm proud to have convinced three of my Facebook friends to do the same Will anyone else join us?

Monday, 7 September 2015

House to Home

Perhaps I was going a bit over the top when I searched for a haunted house to use as the image to illustrate today's post.  As far as I know there's no ghoulies, ghosties or long legged beasties around here. Of course I'll let you know if any show up.  Maybe though it portrays my sense of feeling unsettled.  You never quite know how that deep unconscious brown stuff is going to present itself.

Louis was right the other day when he said that this place wasn't home yet.  His rationale was that it would be when all the boxes were unpacked but, for me, it's more.  It'll truly seem my own when I know where everything is and when I can walk around in the dark and find my way to the bathroom at night without waking up properly.   Reducing the 'To Do' list so that it isn't the length of the Channel Tunnel might also be helpful.  There's also something about having a better sense of the neighbourhood that's important as well.  I thought I knew Brixham well but it turns out that I'm only really oriented to the places  where I have fun, the beaches, pubs and restaurants.  Little struggles to track down everyday amenities, for instance the local sorting office and the school bus stop are all adding to that sense of disorientation.

Of course, I have no doubts that this will be a lovely settled happy home for us but let's get real.  Nest building has to be fitted around work, study and childcare commitments and, of course, is going to take time.  So what I've done since our return from holiday is given up the idea that our guest room is going to be operational for the next couple of months.  Any visitors will have to rough it a bit! Yesterday  I forced my now jet lagged carcass to lug all those odds and sods in there that are creating the chaos.  I've shut the door firmly.  They'll gradually be moved out as rooms are decorated, shelves have been built and a place is found for everything.  There!   I'm hoping that bringing a sense of order to most of  our living space will mean that we will both truly feel that this house is our home just that little bit earlier.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Built Memories: Building a Future

We're back from North America after a trip that involved multiple transport changes, trains, cars, planes....  John didn't want to take us into the centre of Seattle to catch a train as we'd previously arranged. A ball game was on. He hired a car.  How wise he was!  The whole town seemed to be gridlocked.  The journey wasn't without incident.   We got hit by the car behind and our driver, an upbeat Eritrean man,  who was keen to tell us about his family, a brother, his wife and children, that were in Europe, just like us. They lived in a place that sounded as if it was called Callaze  It seemed unfamiliar until the penny dropped.  'By the channel ferry port?' I asked. 'Yesssss!' said our driver with enthusiasm.  'My brother - he call me and tell me he try to cross again today. There is a big dog on duty.  Everyone knows that dog.  No-one gets through on the days that he is there'.

What will stay with me is that this man was working all hours and had saved tens of thousands of dollars to send to various members of his family to pay traffickers to ferry them from Egypt from where they were hoped to make the journey to the promised land of England.  What a mess!  I didn't know what to say other than expressing the hope that this man's loved ones remained safe.

Given that we have passports, our own entry into the UK was the conventional trip through border control, only inconvenienced by a bit of queueing.  I then drove back to the West Country whilst Louis slept for the entire trip.  Strangely I seem to have escaped jet lag so far. It must be something to do with the really weird sleeping pattern that I've had over the last few years.

And so we've come to the end of a fantastic shared adventure that will stay with us for the rest of our lifetime.  Both agree that it's been the best holiday ever. We are so privileged to have shared our travels with good friends and to have learnt so much. There's an especially strong shared hope that we'll be able to return to Yellowstone soon.  We only scratched the surface of what we wanted to explore.

For the next few months  though we're staying put.  My uppermost present plans revolve around making my new house feel like home and grounding ourselves in a new location by doing normal stuff.   Unless that is, some irresistible opportunity comes along!

Friday, 4 September 2015

The Nudie Spa

I've been out of my comfort zone a couple of times on this holiday.  Firstly it was driving that automatic vehicle.  Pah!  It was fine, that is once I'd actually worked out how to change from park to drive. I  managed it accidentally at the car hire place but then Louis needed to stop for a comfort break in a wooded layby and we seemed to be stuck.  We had to get the instruction manual out to work out that to disengage the gears you have to press the brake pedal.  All was easy peasy after that.

'How would you like to come to a women's only spa with me on the last day of your holiday?' asked my friend Julie.  John can look after Louis. Babysitting turned out to be an invigorating day of cartoon watching but I was okay with that.  After all my son had been without technology for a week.  'There's just one thing about that spa' added my friend.  You have to go totally naked. Gulp!   Mr Metrosexual and Salty Dog expressed their concerns that I'd was being lured into some kind of  girl only swinging experience but Julie is a wholesome Southern Belle who assured me that all was above board. 'Yes I'm cool with that' I said in the most care free voice that I could muster even though in my heart of hearts I totally wasn't.  Nudity isn't very British after all is it?

It turned out that  I had nothing to worry about. The Olympus Day Spa was lovely and comes thoroughly recommended. Lots of bubbling pools at different temperature and vast basins of tea-like stuff that you chucked over your  torso with abandon.  I was butt naked except for a fetching pink mop cap that wouldn't have looked out of place on a servant in a Victorian period drama.  My fear that it would be populated by lingerie models who'd barely hide disparaging giggles about my wobbly bits were unfounded.  In fact there was not a airbrushed naked body to be seen.  I learnt that lurking beneath clothes are a multitude of body shapes.

There were dry areas where I was allowed to don a dressing gown and lie around on comfy mats in rooms of different temperatures.  Bliss!  There was lots of smelly stuff too to sniff and slaver on my skin.  I came away smelling like a Norfolk Lavender field.  Louis grumbled.  He likes mum to smell like mum.   I think if he would have complained more though if I'd come away wearing one of  the 'I've been to a naked spa' T-shirt that were available to purchase.  That would have taken my embarrassing mother personna just a step too far!

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Hobbitland

I had a chat with the Ranger at the Old Faithful Visitor Center.  From a huge window, he had a  view of the most famous geyser in the world but was suitably impressed when I told him that my own office vista encompassed a Norman Castle.  'Now we don't have those'.  he said.

Historic buildings in the US are really young when compared to ours in Europe.  For the last two nights of our stay in Yellowstone, Louis and I were privileged to stay in one.  Construction on the Old Faithful Inn began in 1903.  A mere baby in architectural terms but nothing like I've ever seen before.  It is breathtaking in its difference to any other hotel I've ever seen.  There's no Premier Inn uniformity here. The public areas, a huge lobby with a big stone  four sided fireplace surrounded by balconies, are a mass of knotted wood that reach seven stories up to a Crow's Nest at the top.  Sadly only the bell hops seem to go up there to raise and lower the flags.   Louis was only able to scamper up to the second floor.
Here's our room.  Living in a Box by Living in a Box sprung to mind.  So much wood!  This is one of the original guest rooms. Wings were added to the hotel later in the 1910s and 1920s but apparently they lack the rustic-ness.  As I've mentioned already those windows had a premier view of the entire Lower Geyser Basin.  It got really steamy out there at dawn.


Plumbing was limited to a very pretty and efficient wrought iron radiator and an old wash basin. Having a bath necessitated a trip to one of the tub rooms with their claw footed baths. I took sleepy middle of the night wanders down the corridor for noctural wees!  Those dressing gowns came in very handy.





Here's what all the fuss is about and why people come here in the first place!

And to finish a view of the huge dining room from one of those gnarly balconies.  Musicians used to entertain the guests from here.  I know they'd been there as their names were carved into the wood!

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Being with Beehive!

Wow! What an amazing six days in my favourite place in the world. Louis says that it comes second after home. Apparently its Dad's house that comes first at the moment. Apparently mine will not pass muster until all those boxes are unpacked. Something to aim for when I get back to Brixham then.

Awe is the word that sums up our feelings about the world's first National Park.  We can't imagine how it must have been for those intrepid explorers who first came across this place that holds so much natural wonder.

Our wolf count was zero.  They seemed to be always five minutes ahead.  I didn't see a bear either.  Louis spotted one from the car but I was unable to stop to bag that one myself.  But no matter.  We've eyeballed elk, bison and a lone pronghorn antelope baby that just has to rate among the cutest thing that we've ever seen. Louis pointed out a pica sitting in a hole near Old Faithful. They're like a little rabbit with round ears if you're not familiar with them.

From our window in the Old Faithful Inn, our historic home for two days we could see the cone of my favourite geyser Beehive.  It's more impressive than Old Faithful when it goes off but less predictable. There's a nifty clue that let's you know when it's just about to erupt though.

We were staring out of the window of the other morning taking in the view.  'There's Beehive'.  I pointed out to Lou.  'And there's its indicator going off!' replied Master Sharp Eyes.  He'd spotted the tell tale sign.  A smaller spout to the right of the geyser lets you know when it is about to go.  Lou dressed with haste.  That sweatshirt is too big because it's mine.  We ran and got there in time to hear the roar of the water coming from deep underground and then the eruption with thousands of gallons of water shooting into the sky.  Forget those big meat eaters. They can wait for another trip.  We're already trying to work out how to save the pennies to return.  Call me a geeky geyser gazer but this is the one that I really wanted to share with my son!