Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Daily December Diary

30th and 31st December 2013

Wishing everyone a very happy New Year in 2014

Craft review

Completed in 2013
fabric flowers in April with my 7 year old niece
two mini hippos and a heart dishcloth in September
one male scarf in December
On looking back at my craft aims at the end of 2012, I completed none of them!

 Plans for this year
To try:  to finish two more scarves I bought wool for.
            calligraphy
            Chinese brush painting
            needle painting
           to try to complete a few of last years resolutions!!

Blog resolutions

Completed in 2013
Reading and reviewing 52 books in a year. Very enjoyable!

Challenges for this year

Read and review books in 52 genres in a year { 26 fiction and 26 non fiction} with the aim of broadening my reading range.

Learn more Mandarin,Cantonese and Malay

Try new recipes. It's very easy to stick to tried and tested recipes.

My favourite websites remain;

fifteen minutes of fiction
pinterest
postcrossing
memrise
ravelry


Monday, 30 December 2013

Daily December Diary

December 29th

Watched all three episodes of" Death comes to Pemberley" with my daughter which delayed their departure as she wanted to see all three parts.A delightful adaptation which we both thoroughly enjoyed.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Daily December diary

December 27th and 28th

As the end of the year fast approaches, one of the true pleasures of life is time spent with my family.

Friday, 27 December 2013

daily December Diary

Christmas Day

Our tree managed to stand up long enough to put the presents under it, with the help of a pack of bird seed on the wonky leg!! After opening our presents we headed to Essex complete with turkey{ in a cool bag} for a family celebration with my husbands sister and brother and families. Lots of food, then a game of Settlers of Catan, followed by the younger generation playing fast and furious games on Ipad. A fun and sociable day. No television was watched at all!


Boxing Day

A day of recovery . Lunch was turkey and left overs. In the evening my daughter and I cooked a roast pork dinner with a glass of bucks fizz to accompany, and watched Harry Potter. Enjoying watching the whole series in order. I also watched my dvd {Christmas present} of The Host, which had a lot of bad reviews. I have to confess to really enjoying it having  loved the book. I think the film kept to the storyline fairly well as not the easiest of books to translate into film.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Daily December Diary

December 24th

Wishing everyone a very Happy Christmas! My daughter was unable to get to work today so took a days leave.No trains until 11 a.m and when she tried buses, no buses either due to fallen trees and flooding after last nights storm. Frantically knitting today and managed to finish; wrapping more presents and putting up our tree hopefully, as my husband had to make a super glue repair as one leg of the stand broke off. Planning to have salmon scramble and mulled wine this evening .

Daily December Diary

December 23rd


Great to have both our son and daughter home for Christmas. Both working today. Braved the supermarket for the final pre Christmas shop. Very busy today. Managed to make it home before the rain and wind set in. Spent the afternoon knitting{ will I finish in time for Christmas } and wrapping presents.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Daily December Diary

December 21st and 22nd

Saturday was spent preparing for my sisters visit,clearing the ironing [ finally] and tidying and cleaning.

On Sunday, my son and daughter and my sister and family all arrived at the same time. We had a festive family day with turkey and nut roast and all the trimmings. Musical crackers and team scrabble followed and lots of chat and laughter.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Daily December Diary

December 20th

Our last Singing for fun session of 2013, and the last day with our current maestro Charles. Our former teacher who had a break to have her first child will return in the new year. We sang a lot of old favourites, We were then treated to a fabulous farewell song written by Charles to the tune of " Oh what a beautiful morning" another favourite song .Mince pies with our coffee today too!!

Friday, 20 December 2013

Daily December Diary

December 19th

Made fruit salad before heading  off for our choir Christmas entertainment and buffet. First we had the post mortem of our concert performance which was as expected. The entertainment consisted of seasonal readings , poems and songs performed by anyone brave enough to volunteer! The majority of which were very funny and had us all laughing and in festive mood. My poem was received fairly well, of which an excerpt here.


An ode to the choir

On thursday mornings, half past ten we meet
and all our friends are there for us to greet
the early birds set out the chairs by row
they know exactly where each one should go

.....

one liners fill the air when skills we lack
with repartee forthcoming from the back
the lively wit will always raise a smile
and cheer our spirits even for a while

some songs have power to raise us up so high
while haunting melodies can make us cry
the love of music is what brings us here
when voices blend, pure magic can appear

....

our repertoire is growing year on year
and all of us are happy to be here
to sing in choir is truly a delight
despite the fact our notes are not quite right.

Alilee 2013

Food was provided by each of us bringing a dish,from a list of who was bringing what ,with those unable to cook bringing a monetary contribution. A great selection of food,with good company.An ideal way to finish  the choir year!!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Daily December Diary

December 18th

Shopping today for my sisters visit on Sunday, and fruit to make a fruit salad for our choirs entertainment and Christmas buffet tomorrow.Supermarket was fairly busy but no queuing at checkout.Finally wrote five postcards,using some of my collection bought in Lille for Postcrossing.
The addressees have been waiting in my in box for far longer than I intended!!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Daily December Diary

December 17th

Finished writing my Christmas cards and wrapped a few presents. A day of sweet indulgence! Welsh cake and orange flavour kit-kat whilst visiting my auntie, and Chinese take away this evening when our son visited including banana fritters.Enjoyed a good chat and catch up on family news with my auntie.I was intrigued by her new bird feeder which is like a cage without a bottom.All the small birds can fly in and out to feed, but larger birds like pigeons and magpies can't access the food. As she says it saves money too as the bigger birds eat a lot of seed. She recommended the supplier for birdseed as well as feeders. www.vinehousefarm.co.uk  .Situated on her patio she can watch all the birds including robins and nuthatches. In the afternoons she sweeps out the remains which the pigeons can then enjoy!!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

daily December Diary

December 16th

Last Zumba gold session of 2013. We were all feeling the effects of the run up to Christmas so were pleased when Kat, our friendly trainer agreed we could skip the very fast song this week!! Looking forward to starting again in the New Year. Post office open today so able to post my three parcels.After a break from reading fantasy, am enjoying my reacquaintance with Raymond Feist's wonderful world. I also am continuing to enjoy{ to my shame} channel fives series of Christmassy films

Monday, 16 December 2013

Daily December Diary

December 15th

A quiet day of recuperation. My throat was sore on waking. Joint effects of too much singing and mulled wine I think!! Good to catch up briefly with our daughter who stayed overnight before she headed off for Christmas shopping. Finished my poem of which more later.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Daily December Diary

December 14th

Wrapped three presents for my niece, only to arrive at the post office and find it closed! Our Christmas concert was well attended. The first half went very well. The second half less so! We await the post mortem next week with some trepidation!! Afterwards invited for mulled wine and nibbles with some of the choir.The nibbles included Chilli con carne ,and the mulled wine was delicious. A great way to unwind.Good food and great company.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Daily December Diary

December 13th

Our singing for fun group were busking in our local town centre. Charles , our conductor wore a white elvish hat ! Lots of Christmas rounds were sung and Dona nobis pacem .This beautiful melody always stays in my head for days after singing it! We all enjoyed the experience and hopefully some of the Christmas shoppers who stopped for a short while did too. Afterwards, whilst feeling seasonal I whizzed through the last of my shopping for presents. My last expected parcel from the Book People arrived later in the day. In poetic mood in the evening I started to write a poem.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Daily December Diary 2013

December 12th

Dress rehearsal at the church for our concert on Saturday .One item taken out of the programme as our rendition of that was flat, otherwise a fairly successful rehearsal. The more challenging piece which was taken out of the London concert repertoire was much improved. I think more suited to the smaller venue. Took my written cards and two parcels for posting in the afternoon.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Daily December Diary

December 11th

Much more productive day! Food shopping; amazingly the supermarket wasn't too busy.Wrote and addressed most of my cards for sending and organized my music for our forthcoming concert. We now have a small tree in place .Have left the larger tree for my daughter to decorate when she next visits.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

China 2013


Hidden History: Smyth family memories


Daily December Diary 2013

December 10th

Procrastination!! Wrote a few Christmas cards, did a little knitting and ignored my growing pile of ironing! On the plus side, very impressed with delivery times from Presents for men, Rocket plants and Choc box via Amazon.Very fast delivery.Watched a very schmaltzy Christmas film on demand five.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Daily December Diary 2013

December 9th

Zumba Gold class after a long break due to my travels and a cough. Fun class - music, dance moves and a great bunch of ladies. I was easily persuaded to attend the Christmas lunch afterwards despite only finding out about it on the day .Eleven of us in a local pub. Great company and good food.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Daily December Diary 2013

December 8th

Dim Sum with our friends in Naturally Chinese,a restaurant which uses no M.S.G. Delicious food and unlimited Jasmine tea, then a riverside walk watching ducks, swans and a myriad of sea gulls on a crisp sunny winters day. Small sailing boats with their blue and white sails weaved their way down the river and a houseboat was decked with quirky Christmas decor. Afterwards back to our friends house for a large mug of coffee and Panettone cake. Finished reading Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth in the evening.The sadness and loneliness of Mr Collett made me cry.

52 books 52

Troubadour by Mary Hoffman

The last book in my 52 books in a year challenge.I read it in Lille, which was quite appropriate as it is set in 13th century France. I enjoyed both the story and the history.Life then was both brutally hard and very cultured.The horrors of the escalating war contrasted with the developing love story.Easy to read and absorbing.

52 books 51

51. Farewell to the East End by Jennifer Worth

Social history of London's east end in the 1950s combined with a myriad of eccentric characters, warmth, laughter and sorrow.I loved this series of books.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Daily December diary 2013

December 7th

Finished my online ordering.Now just need to hope it all arrives on time!! My knitting is slowly growing. I wrote my first Christmas letter. Although I also use email, I'm still a fan of snail mail and love the thrill of letters in the post and Christmas cards. There are such a wide variety of beautiful cards. It's a real shame that because of the high postage, less people are sending cards.I had a long phone chat with my sister and made some small inroads into my ever increasing pile of ironing!!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Daily December Diary 2013

December 6th

The concert was very enjoyable and the venue was very impressive. We were able to enjoy the whole concert for free as participants.The brass band,billed as the best in Britain were amazing especially their performance of The twelve days of Christmas.The Snowman played on steel pans, the children's choir with candles singing Silent night,  the pipers and drummers in full regalia marching into the hall as a surprise all contributed to a great family concert. I enjoyed a meal at Wagamamas afterwards with my son and daughter.They both enjoyed making an origami Christmas wish there too.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Daily December Diary 2013

December 5th

Very intensive rehearsal at choir.Sang through nearly our entire repertoire for our small part in the varied performances in the big London concert tomorrow, and our own concert a week later.We had a mini practice of our second soprano part in one of the songs we were struggling with which was really helpful prior to the main rehearsal. Group singing is a joyful if somewhat exhausting experience at this time of year.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Daily December Diary 2013

December 4th

Have now sourced suppliers for the gifts I want to give. Restarted my knitting.I bought wool to make three items but fear I will only finish one! C'est la vie!! Listened to my learning C.D. for choir as we have rehearsal tomorrow for our  performance as part of a family Christmas concert which is fast approaching!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Daily December Diary 2013

December 3rd

A relaxing day at home to rest my weary feet!  Coffee in bed to start the morning and greetings from a purring cat.My Amazon order had arrived while I was away. Despite recent bad press, I have found Amazon very reliable and their wish list provision is a brilliant idea to give people presents they really want. I also phoned to arrange a Christmas meet up with my sister and family, and our son visited in the evening so all in all a good day!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Daily December Diary 2013

30th November to 2nd December
 

My daughter and I took the Eurostar train to Lille for a three day sightseeing and shopping trip.

                                    Lille is a city full of beautiful architecture
 The Opera House
 The belfry tower
 The hospice Comtesse. Fascinating history and well worth a visit.Our visitors guide book had a wealth of information in three languages including English.
 The Kitchen
 nuns in the chapel
The giant Ferris wheel near the Christmas Market in place Rihour
 Place republique
 The free zoo near the Citadelle.We spent a very happy hour here.


Notre Dame de la treille





Our Hotel was budget Hotel Ibis in Vieux -Lille.The room was clean and comfortable and the staff very helpful.That we could store our luggage there before check in and also after check out for a small fee was really helpful as it meant we didn't have to carry our bags around until our train left in the evening.The situation of the Hotel was ideal as it was less than five minutes walk to a street full of great eateries.My meal on Sunday evening as below.The dessert which I shared with my daughter was equally impressive and delicious!

Opposite this restaurant was the instant Gourmand where we ate on Saturday evening.Our plates were  laden and beautifully presented.I had a salade Italienne and my daughter chose a regional dish.
Amazing food!! The free jelly beans while we were waiting for our food were enjoyed too!
    Our two lunches in a small cafe near the Hospice Comtesse were excellent too with home made crusty rolls and wraps and tall mugs of hot milk with a chocolate ball on a stick to make your own hot chocolate.mmn!
The meal we had near the main tourist area was not so impressive.My salad was smothered in salad cream and mayonnaise,and it was so busy the service was not good either.

This was an amazing craft shop in vieux Lille .We found the best and most interesting small shops here.The Sunday market at Wazemmes was well worth a visit too and seemed to stretch for miles!
 Lille is a great shopping centre. My daughter bought material,wool and french books as well as 
Christmas presents .The Christmas market was fun to wander round and not too crowded but neither of us felt very inspired to buy much.My daughter did buy some hand painted Christmas decorations.
 The presents I bought in Vieux Lille were beautifully wrapped.
Baby merino wool from the craft shop,wound from the hank in the shop!



 Great postcard selection!
Teas, cakes, chocolates and regional foods.A gourmets delight!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

52 books 50

Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami

Existence and the nature of reality and the dark corners of our mind. Detachment and suicide also feature in all of his books that I've so far read. I was excited when I started to read this book that it follows on at a later date from the wild sheep chase.The wild array of characters, all beautifully drawn and the engaging story, a delight and as always thoughts about the meaning will haunt you. I also loved the inclusion of a character whose name was an anagram of Haruki Murakami!!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

52 books 49

A wild sheep chase by Haruki Murakami
 

Seriously surreal dominated by the search for a sinister sheep, easy to read but difficult to understand. Murakami explores themes of love ,loss and transience of the human condition and a search for reality in an unreal and hostile environment.His novels are very thought provoking as so much is unexplained, and are underpinned by an underlying sense of sadness and loss. A truly original writer

Thursday, 3 October 2013

52 books 48

The Calligrapher's daughter by Eugenia Kim

My daughter went through a stage when she was younger when she was obsessed with Korean pop, boy bands and drama series ,some of which I watched with her. This book is set in Japanese occupied Korea and spans 30 years in the life of Najin Han.The culture, the hardship and the engrossing story and characters and the lyrical style make this book one to read.I loved it.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

52 books 47

Chinese cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah

An autobiography of the authors childhood and her struggle to overcome the cruelty of her stepmother and her father and bullying by her siblings, set against the background of a rapidly changing political scene. Sad and moving but showing how striving and education can change lives.
As someone who is trying to learn Mandarin, the chapter on the construction of the Chinese language
was fascinating.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

52 books 46

Sputnik sweetheart by Murakami

I've raided my son and daughters bookshelves for their collection of Murakami books despite being warned that Norwegian Wood is the most normal and least weird of his books! I was attracted by the title Sputnik sweetheart so decided to read this next. Murakami has a very distinctive style of writing and this book also has the same themes of loneliness , deep, meaningful connections and the isolation of the human condition,but also focuses on the metaphysical  nature of reality and unreality.This book was also very moving .I found it less dark than Norwegian Wood

Friday, 27 September 2013

Hidden History; Smyth family memories

These dolls are very tiny

Totally Thai 2013


Hearts and Hippos!!



I made these very cute mini hippos for my aunt and uncles' diamond wedding anniversary as they both love hippos, using Aine Marriots free ravelry pattern

and the  Be my dishcloth  free ravelry pattern by Kris knits. My aunty is using it as a blanket for her hippos!!

52 books 45

The sweet far thing by Libba Bray

Libba Bray draws the readers in to the worlds she has created and despite reading this for the third time I was still reading the ending with tears streaming down my face. In my opinion a very talented writer.

52 books 44

44. Rebel Angels by Libba Bray

Deception and lies. Nothing is as it seems either in the real world or in the realms, in this second book in the trilogy

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

52 books 43

A great and terrible beauty by Libba Bray

This book for young adults is one of my daughters which I reread.Gothic fantasy set in the Victorian era it blends fantasy and suspense within a repressive school setting.The flaws within the characters of the girls and their individual problems are mirrored in the imperfect nature of the magical realms with dark undercurrents running through both. Reviewers have pointed out historical inaccuracies but Libba Bray is a great story teller.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

52 books 42

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

With a backdrop of music of the 1960s this book stays in the mind long after reading it evoking the loneliness of the human condition and the need for connectedness and meaningful interaction. The themes of death, illness and loss run throughout the book together with friendship, sex and love
and the choices we must make in life. I think this book will speak to readers in different ways and can affect readers on a deeper level. Despite the hope and humour in the book, I was left with a feeling of deep sadness. A truly great writer.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Hidden history; Smyth family memories


Totally Thai 2013

The beautiful flower garlands can be hung in house or car to provide a natural and very fragrant air freshener.

52 books 41

The Rogue by Trudi Canavan

This is the second book in her Traitor Spy trilogy, also a reread. The first book in this series The Ambassadors Mission is currently on loan to my sister. This series has many of the same characters as the magicians guild.The third book is on my Amazon wishlist and I can't wait to read it and find out what happens next. My next read will be something completely different!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Hidden history: Smyth family memories


Totally Thai 2013

During our stay in Malaysia we crossed the border and with friends drove to Hat Yai, a city in southern Thailand. Their car insurance is rather worrying as it only covers you for an accident in which someone dies and not for injury! The roads in southern Thailand were reminiscent of the first time I visited Malaysia in 1979. Motorcycles carrying whole families with very small children and no helmets; Taxi vans full to the brim with people standing at the back, hanging on for dear life and huge open lorries with full loads of logs with people perched precariously on the top.

52 books 39

The Novice by Trudi Canavan

Second in the trilogy. Reread it in a day. How Sonea defeats the other students who are bullying her and slowly changes her views. Brilliant storytelling!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

52 books 38

The Magicians Guild by Trudi Canavan

Rereading this for the third time. This is one of my all time favourite books. I love this trilogy by Trudi Canavan. For lovers of fantasy,this is a must read book

Friday, 30 August 2013

52 books 37

The Art of Happiness  by HH Dalai Lama and Howard C.Cutler

This book was one my son had read. I realise this is the third book this year with the theme of happiness! As a retired psychiatric nurse it was very interesting from the perspective of mental health in the western world. I also found myself very drawn to the principles of Tibetan Buddhism and wanting to learn more. An enlightening and insightful read.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Malaysian moments 2013

In little India in Penang you can have a beautiful sari made for you

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Hidden history; Smyth family memories

Luke SMITHETT, a Pilot of Dover, Lower Book (Sketch of Dover by Ledger 1799)
Captain Luke SMITHETT: ..."Captain Luke SMITHETT, a Dover man, who was afterwards knighted, was Commodore, under the Admiralty, of the Dover
Packet Service, and in those days the vessels that he personally commanded nearly always made the quickest passages. Amongst the steamers on
the Passage, in 1846, the swiftest were the "Princess Alice", the "Onyx", and the"Violet". Captain Luke Smithett was very proud of the
"Princess Alice", and did not believe that she could be beaten. When the "Onyx" came on the Passage, in 1846, a race was arranged between that
vessel and the "Princess Alice", which had then been running two years. In a run of an hour and a half along the Kentish coast, the "Onyx"
proved swifter by nine minutes. The average time of the "Onyx" between Dover and Calais from 1846 to 1848 was one hour and twenty-five
minutes. (page 166 "Annals of Dover" by J.Bavington Jones, 2nd edition 1939.



Just found this reference to packet steamers and the Onyx.