Thursday 31 December 2020

New Year's Eve

 Good morning, everyone.  This cold snap is still around although we've only had frost, not snow.  Thankfully, the air is very still so there's no wind chill.  I hope that continues anyway.

Yesterday was a normal day - as normal as a day can be in these worrying times, especially when one lives in Essex.   I had a bit of a crash in courage on Tuesday - I really shouldn't have watched the news so much - so yesterday was a day for giving myself a good ticking off and getting my act together.

I had to go into town to pick up my meds, something I would infinitely have preferred not to do, but the large car park I usually use was empty apart from me, there were very few people around and, for once, the prescription counter was absolutely on the ball with no dithering and waiting.
I then got the car and stopped off at the M&S food hall on the way back (also pretty empty) and stocked up with fresh stuff so I'm pretty much set not only for this afternoon/evening but also for the next week or so.

Not long after I got home, Val messaged me and we had a real time chat.  I hadn't expected it so it was a real treat and we managed to talk on for around three quarters of an hour before setting a date for next week.

That was it really.  The rest of the day was spent catching up on sleep, TV programmes and magazines.  Very pleasant indeed and I have to admit, I felt a lot better by the end of the day, despite the less than cheering news.
Good news about the Oxford vaccine though, isn't it?

Yesterday's Twelve Days gift to myself as a selection of tea bags, nine different kinds, some herbal and some 'proper' with things like lemon and ginger, chamomile, Assam, green, breakfast, etc.  I'll start on them tomorrow and have at least one a day, in order, so they all get used (unless I dislike any).
Today's is  a nail seven way buffer block thingy so when I sit down with my mid morning coffee, I will attack my nails which are, at the moment, less than lovely!

Today, New Year's Eve, I'm having a chat with Chris in the morning and I'm glad these chats have resumed.  I've missed them over the Christmas weeks.  There's also some housework to do and the bin in the kitchen is smelling less than fragrant so that's top of the list.

Mid afternoon Beth and Alex are coming over for games and a buffet.  They're not staying late so they won't be seeing the new year in here.  Come to that, I won't be seeing it in either, I will dream it in.

Thank you all for your lovely, cheering, supportive messages through this year of unprecedented happenings.  Things may feel very dark at the moment but there is a small light on the horizon with the vaccine programmes and it is with a very full heart that I wish you all a cheerful and positive New Year.

Wednesday 30 December 2020


 I found these questions (and her answers) on Eileen's blog and asked if I could use them.

1.  Despite the weirdness of this past year, was it still a good year for you anyway or not? 
Yes and no.  I live alone anyway and have done for decades so I'm totally accustomed to it and, as a result, haven't had to cope with  the stresses of over much levels of contact with the same people because of Lockdown.
I wasn't able to take two of the three holidays I had planned.  One was deferred although the way things are going, I am starting to wonder about May 2021 now.  The other one resulted in a complete refund so no complaints.
The one I did manage was a week in a Warner's hotel.  It was nice to get away but wearing masks inside the hotel was, frankly, weird and quite a lot of the activities were curtailed.  Still - I got a holiday and that's more than many so I was lucky there.
I spent most of the year with dental issues which wasn't so nice but, as it wasn't painful very much, I bided my time and the year has finished with all but one of the issues resolved which feels very good indeed.
I think the worst thing has been the curtailment of contact with family and good friends.  I miss the hugs.  However, the knowledge that, as far as I know, everyone is virus free and being very, very careful is cheering and thank goodness for Zoom and others that enable face to face chats.  I've stayed in touch with friends, family and groups and that's been a treasure.
As I'm retired, there have been no work pressures, no worries about salary, no stresses about having to travel to work and expose myself to possible infection.
I've had time to knit, sew, generally create, read, exercise, watch TV, get much of the house reorganised, get to my weight target, and plenty of other stuff.
I've been very lucky and, yes, it has been a good year.  Different, and with plenty of stress and worry, but good, all the same.

2. How will you spend New Years Eve?
Beth and Alex are coming round early afternoon to play games (Scrabble, Yahtzee . . .) and we will have a buffet at around four.  It won't turn into a party of any sort, they will be off and I will be in bed pretty early.   No seeing the New Year in here.  Fireworks?  Well, there may be but I won't hear them!

3. What do you do on New Year's Day? Is football part of the agenda? 
Not a chance!  To be honest, New Year's Day is a day like any other.  It's a Bank Holiday but, as I had always taught, school was closed anyway.
This year, I will tidy up the kitchen which is bound to have been left in a mess and then I need to get down to some serious planning.

4. It's a Scottish tradition to kiss at midnight.  Do you keep that tradition? Does everyone get a kiss if you do? 
Not this year!  Beth and Alex, being my support bubble buddies, will probably get a hug when they leave.
As I'm well into the land of Nod by the time midnight strikes, it's never been a tradition.
My ex/late was Scottish by birth and we sometimes went to his parents' for New Year.  Now that was totally different and, to be honest, it wasn't my thing and really put me off.  Just too noisy, boozy and extrovert and I just wanted to snuggle up in bed and go to sleep.

Thanks, Eileen, for letting me use these questions.

Tuesday 29 December 2020


 Good morning, everyone.  After a cold, dry and sunny day yesterday, it's not so cold this morning - no frost, although there's fairly thick cloud so maybe that's why no frost!  No snow here - we hardly ever get snow worth getting excited about.

As expected, yesterday was a quiet, pottery sort of day.  Bit of housework, bit of clearing up, bit of cooking, etc, plenty of sitting and reading or watching telly.

I expect today to be the same, pretty much, with a chat with Dad in the afternoon to brighten things up.  

I haven't mentioned so far, but I'm doing a sort of 'Twelve Days of Christmas' with myself.  A bit like an Advent calendar but the other way round!  The first day was Christmas Day so the gift was a reasonably biggie one but since then they're been little.  I got them ages ago and had pretty much forgotten what each little parcel contained so they come as half a surprise each day.
The first, the bigger one, was some of my favourite perfume, then a bar of soap, followed by a miniature port, yesterday was a tube of hand cream and today's is a sudoku puzzle book.  I remember I tried to get things that I could use straight away, one way or another.  I think I will continue this next year as it's really rather nice to have a little treat each year.

Have you had snow?  If so, fingers crossed it isn't causing you too many problems.  xx

Monday 28 December 2020


 Good morning.
After dire threats of horrible weather from the weather forecasters, yesterday turned out sunny and calm and getting increasingly cold through the afternoon and evening.  There's a frost this morning and Beeb says light clouds and light winds today - and cold!  I'm very glad we didn't get the rain predicted yesterday; that would have made the roads very treacherous.

Not that I'm planning to go out today - it's going to be another stay in all day with a couple of cupboards to clear and tidy, books to read and programmes to watch.  Calm, gentle and very self indulgent.  Sounds OK to me.

Have a lovely day too.  xx

Sunday 27 December 2020


 Good morning, everyone.  After a crisp and cold Christmas (some places even had a bit of snow, lucky them!), it's turned horrible again with heavy rain and, I gather, there are strong winds a-coming.  The temperature is due to drop again later on and overnight too.  As I so often say, I am sincerely grateful for good heating and a strong and protective home. 

This will go down soon so one more photo.  Although some decorations stay up till twelfth night, from not until then I start dismantling some things and the nativity crib is one of them.  I polish it, carefully wrap each piece and put it all in a damp-proof box out in the garage.

Boxing Day was a good day.  There was rather too much alcohol floating around as my slightly muggy head testifies this morning, but I'm back on the old SW track again now, aiming to deal with my temporary gain and then to maintain.  We had another big dinner, me, Beth and Alex, with more turkey and vegetarian crumble, bubble and squeak, roasties and green veg.  The easiest meal of the week really; the only thing that I had to do was make the bubble and squeak.

The Christmas cake is still uncut, Beth has taken about two thirds of the Christmas pudding home for her and Alex to enjoy and I think I will cut up what's left and re-freeze it.  It's not meat so that should be absolutely fine.

As for the turkey - I'm dealing with it.  It was a very expensive piece of the Christmas table so I don't want to waste a single bit.
Yesterday I set to and stripped the cold carcass.  One and a half breasts became numerous slices and most of the rest came off in good chunks.
The carcass, stock, herbs, citrus - everything from the roasting dish - went into my Instant Pot for a slow bubble.  This morning I strained everything, stripped off the rest of the bits of turkey which will be perfect for adding to soups before putting the rest back into the instant pot, adding some fresh water to mix with the jelly stock clinging to the bones and bits and set it to bubble again for ages.
I don't do this second simmering with a chicken but I do with the Christmas turkey as there's still loads of flavour there.  Once that has been strained again, all the bones and bits will go out for council recycling and will eventually become potting compost or similar.  I love that absolutely nothing is wasted.

As for all that meat, some will be covered in turkey gravy and frozen for meals (some for Alex too), some will be frozen in chunks in stock for stews/hotpots (Dad lovely turkey hotpot so I will be taking some up to him as soon as it is permitted again) and all the little bits will be perfect for chunky soups.

Yes, it was costly, but making the most of it will produce quite a lot of meals and it becomes a bit less of an extravagance.  

Today is going to be a quiet and restful day.  I have no visitors, will be doing no housework and have books to read and recorded programmes to watch.  I suppose there's a bit more foody/drinky stuff to sort out but slowly and without any rush.  To go with my new Nigel Slater book (which is lovely), I brought down other Christmas specials - Jamie, Nigella and Christmas Bake Off.  I must go and get the Delia one too, they are such treasures and I can enjoy them now without feeling that I am searching for ideas.

So, yes, that's me today.  Have a great day, whatever tier you are in.  There's still plenty one CAN do and remain safe.  xx

Saturday 26 December 2020

Boxing Day

 Good morning, everyone.  Today is the day of clearing up, dealing with leftovers and re-heated meals.  It's cold but there's no frost, unlike yesterday afternoon when Beth had to defrost her windscreen.  Five hours later, in the dark, there was no frost so it must have warmed up a bit.  

The forecast for today is OK and it should be warmer by seven or eight degrees by the evening.  However, tomorrow is predicted to be really horrible; strong winds and heavy rain is not something we need!

Yesterday was a lovely day.  The turkey cooked a dream, the roasties were scrummy and dinner was thoroughly enjoyed.

(please excuse the light; the sun was so bright I closed the blinds - no complaints)

As is always the case, there's loads of leftovers.  Some are deliberate - I purposely did loads of veg for bubble and squeak - and some are just because we didn't have it yesterday.  No mince pies or Christmas Pud was eaten so that's today's dessert sorted out.

The family Zoom chat worked a treat.  The quality was good, everyone came along and it was so lovely to see everyone together (sort of).  There was plenty of laughter and it all did my heart good.  Later, Dad said in an email that he's expected to feel a lonely but he didn't, not a bit, thanks to neighbour Ann in the morning (coffee and mince pie) and the family chat in the afternoon.  I just wish I'd though of pressing the PrtScr button and got a screen shot of us all.  I just never thought at the time.

Today, Beth and Al are over again.  There's a whole lot of food to eat up and some food to sort out so they can take it home with them.  We have games to play and stuff to drink.
Getting back on track will have to wait until tomorrow!

Hoping your day was good too.  xx

Friday 25 December 2020

Christmas Day

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

The last Advent Calendar music:

Thursday 24 December 2020

Christmas Eve

 Good morning.  It's wet.  It's cold.  And it's Christmas Eve.  Yay!!!

Yesterday was one of those days where everything worked out really well

I have 'me new front teef' for Christmas and very nice they are too.  They feel a bit odd but not a bad odd, just because it's a new thing.    Also, my old teeth were very crooked while these are nice and straight so it is an entirely new feel.
As soon as I got in, I had an apple, not cut up first.  I've been looking forward to that for simply ages!

Bang on eleven the turkey arrived and, much to my relief, it isn't huge.  It looks pretty big for two, but it isn't as ginormous as I feared.  I couldn't remember what size I had ordered but, obviously, common sense had prevailed!
It's now all ready, in the roasting tray and sitting peacefully in the fridge.

Personal training with Lindsey was as much fun as ever.  We chatter such a lot as we work and it's always nice to catch up on what's been going on through the week.

And, finally, the cleaner (just one this time) came, did the necessary and departed, card and gift in hand.  Lovely.

Today, I don't really have an awful lot to do really.  I have some left over ironing to get out of the way, I will prep as many veg as possible this morning and this evening I have a fair number of things to get out of the freezer.

Apart from that I have a couple of Santa trips to make this morning and some recordings to catch up on.  The highlights are the Slimming World Zoom Christmas party, Carols from Kings and Jolobokaflod.  I know some of you have heard of this which is Icelandic and translates as 'Christmas book flood'.  The link below explains it simply.

I only decided to do it on Tuesday and was lucky enough to be able to order a book I have wanted on Prime one day delivery.  It arrived yesterday morning so that's me set.  Doing Jolobokaflod was impulse; the book was not!

So the party starts at five, Carols from Kings is at five thirty so I am going to have to record it.  I will celebrate Jolobokaflod in the afternoon as I'm having a day by myself.  I think it will all be lovely.

Today's Advent Calendar music is two of my favourite carols - In the Bleak Midwinter and O Little Town of Bethlehem.

The former is an arrangement of the Holst music by two of the Kanneh-Mason family, Sheku and Isata.  It's a theme and variations structure and is rather lovely, I think.  This wonderfully musical family is one of the best things to come out of this year - they are amazing.

The latter is a traditional performance of the Vaughan-Williams arrangement from - Kings, of course!

Both carols have two, equally popular melodies and in each case, I've chosen my favourite.

Have a lovely Christmas Eve.

Wednesday 23 December 2020


 Good morning, everyone.  Yesterday continued to be drab and rather dreary but, thankfully, no rain.  Not that I noticed, anyway.  Today is supposed to be the same before a sudden drop in temperature overnight into Christmas Eve

I'm very glad I made the early morning visit to Sainsbury's.  For early morning, it was pretty busy, although there were no problems with parking, even when I left, and certainly not when I arrived.  I felt there was a nice vibe.  Everyone seemed very pleasant, patient, un-pushy, happy to wait if there wasn't enough room to remain distanced.
To be honest, while I saw plenty of Christmas buying, I saw no panic buying (trolleys full of loo rolls, beans, pasta, etc) whatsoever.

I had quite a lot to get as I had a list from Beth as well - no point two shopping if one can do it, is there?  As a result, I started feeling a bit stressed as it became clear I wasn't going to get it all done in time for my appointment with Specsavers.  I found an assistant and explained and, bless her, cheerfully, she took me to a place where I could leave my trolley while I went and picked up my glasses before finishing off my shop.  Great customer service.

At Specsavers, they had one of my new pairs but not the other.   I took the pair they had and they will text me when the other pair arrives, with another appointment.  Again, they were very calm and helpful and as quick as possible so I could get back to my trolley.

Of course, I ended up buying wa-a-ay too much but never mind, I just won't need to spend much between Christmas and New Year.  We don't make a big thing of New Year anyway; personally, I can never stay awake until midnight.

Once home, I sorted everything out, putting Beth's shopping into a couple of bags to wait for her to come and pick them up.  I generally pottered around, taking things easy, staying out of the kitchen so I have postponed making the spicy fruit not-stollen loaf until Christmas Eve, probably.  When Beth came over, we had a lovely chat over coffee before she left and then I had a Zoom chat with Dad.  We've got it sussed now and there are no problems.  He seems to have got his Christmas sorted pretty well, even to the extent of roasting his turkey crown (he thinks it is a turkey crown, it is coming today).  We're planning for a family chat on Christmas day afternoon.  Beth and Alex with be with me anyway, plus Dad, Dave and Anna and my two brothers/wives/partners from Scotland and the USA.  There's a pretty good chance the whole world will have the same idea and Zoom will be overloaded, but it is worth a try.  Fingers are very crossed.

Today is quite a busy day.
To start with, I have - guess what - an early dental appointment!!  Yes, I am really hoping I will get my implant gnashers finished at long long last.  As my dear old grandad used to sing when I was little. 'All I want for Christmas is me two front teef, me two front teef, oh me two front teef.'  Well - I sympathise, except in my case it is me four front teef!
I am so looking forward to biting into a nice, crunchy apple again.

At some point during the morning, the turkey is arriving.  They will leave it outside if I'm not in, so that's not a problem.  KellyBronze turkeys need very little preparation.  Some onion, herbs and citrus up its jacksie, as our Essex lad, Jamie Oliver, so elegantly says and that really is about it.  I don't even bother with butter, etc, I just cook it upside down for half the time, then turn it over for the second half and everything stays lovely and moist.  I will boil up the innards to add to the gravy stock I saved from last Christmas and it will taste just amazing!
One of these days I will get round to giving brining a go a la Nigella but it won't be this year!

At midday, I have my usual hour of personal training with Lindsey.  We're back online, of course.  Tier Four has shut all the gyms, etc, good and proper, but it's OK.  I have the basics - a step, a balance plate and a balance ball, some weights and some resistance bands.  Lindsey is very creative in using what I have to develop a good programme of exercise. 

Then I have the afternoon to potter.  I'll get the turkey ready then, if I haven't already.   I have some washing to do too.  Really, anything that I can sensibly do today, I intend doing, so I can have a nice, gentle Christmas Eve

At around five-fifteen, my lovely cleaners arrive for the Christmas clean.  Really, it is just the weekly clean but moved forward a couple of days and they will come quite late but I am so grateful that they can fit me in, I have no complaints about timing whatsoever.  So before then, I want to clear any clutter and generally make it possible for them to do as good a job as they possibly can.  They have a well deserved week off next week.

Today's Advent Calendar music clips are:

Past Three O'Clock (which, knowing me, is the time I will be awake on Christmas morning)!

and, in complete contrast, the beautiful 'Shepherds' Farewell' from Berlioz' 'L'enfance du Christ'

. . . both sung by my all time favourite choir (as if you hadn't already guessed), King's College Choir.

Tuesday 22 December 2020


 Good morning!  The Beeb was right; we had rain and drizzle, drizzle and rain, and it felt chilly.  I ended up with T shirt, jumper and cardigan on top and I still felt cold!  Not nice.  Thankfully, the sun came out later on and this morning feels much milder.

I had a nice, busy time in the kitchen.  The stuffing is now frozen in the dish in which I will cook it, snuggling beside a bag of savoury crumble topping.  I gave the fridge a good old sort out (much needed) so it is now as organised as it is ever going to be with room for the extras including the turkey.  I used the scraps from the beef to make a nice beef meat paste thingy and I made a chicken curry to do two meals.
Busy busy!

Today I'm off out first thing.  I have to be at the opticians at nine fifteen to pick up my new glasses so will do my last Christmas shop in Sainsbury's, which is under the same roof.  That was the plan originally because I expected crowds later on but now I just don't know how busy it will be - it might be dreadful if people are panic buying or having to feed themselves over Christmas when they didn't expect to have to.  I'd prefer to get it all done and dusted good and early so want to be there before eight.

I have a list of things to get for Beth as well, so she will be coming over around ten to pick her things up and, I hope, have a coffee and chat as well.

Then, later on this afternoon, I'm hoping to have a nice chat with Dad.  That's my day as far as diary stuff is concerned and I also hope to get a load of washing done, dried, ironed and away and I might make a spicy fruit loaf, the same basic recipe as the stollen but without the marzipan because there's none left now.

Today's Advent calendar music is two carols that, as a child, I always linked together in my mind, probably because of the choruses.

Ding dong, merrily on high, sung by Libera.

and 'Angels from the realms of glory, from King's College Choir.

Monday 21 December 2020


 Good morning, everyone.  It's raining again - I've just dodged the raindrops to get to the shed for a few bits and bobs.  Beeb says expect heavy rain and a moderate breeze today so it's just as well I have absolutely no plans to go anywhere.  Tuesday and Wednesday I have 'essential' things to do but not today.

Yesterday was lovely.  I know I say that a lot and I know I'm fortunate to be able to say it.  After a restless night, I came down very early and got started on finishing off the stollen before I started the social mediating.  It came out absolutely lovely and already I am thinking I might make another one.  I think the (fortunate) slowness in rising was partly because it was an enriched dough but more likely to be because, when I checked, I saw that the yeast I used was ridiculously old.  Actually, it's lucky to have risen at all, in truth!
Anyway, it eventually rose satisfactorily, I baked it and it is absolutely lovely.  Of course, Beth, Alex and I sampled a bit and the rest is now sliced, wrapped and in the freezer.  It goes stale quite quickly son that's the best place for it.  Also - out of sight, out of mind.

Not the best photo in the world and the light is poor in the kitchen anyway but here you go - with icing sugar rather than a sugar icing because of freezing it.

The beef went in early to slow roast to its heart's content and, by lunch time, it was so tender it pretty much melted in the mouth.  Diane will shudder - I know she and many others prefer their beef rare!

The cake is now decorated.  I'm not sure but Beth says it looks lovely - and it will taste as good as it smells, I hope.

The extra bits either side(which I now wish I hadn't done but never mind) are a bit squiffy which is typically me but it's done now.  The container is a really old Tupperware cake box that has a sort of flat topped domed lid to keep the whole thing safe and clean.
So that's another thing ticked off the list!

Over lunch, we talked turkey and made plans for using up what will be considerable turkey leftovers.  Fortunately, turkey keeps for days in the fridge, properly covered/wrapped and equally fortunately, I really like it and have plenty of tried and tested leftovers recipes to enjoy.  We will now have just the one kind of stuffing.  Usually I do two, one vegetarian one for Beth and a meaty one for others.  However, Alex and I aren't fussed and Beth was given a very posh looking stuffing mix which she promptly donated to the Christmas cause so I'll use that.  They both requested 'loads of roasties, please' and Alex added 'with plenty of oil'.   I have to admit that while I really like the Slimming World style roasties, you get a much better crunch with a bit more oil.

We finalised the dinner which will be turkey, vegetarian savoury crumble, pigs in blankets, stuffing, roasties with roasted shallots, roasted parsnips and sweet potatoes, sprouts, broccoli, carrots, gravy and cranberry sauce.  Not bad for just three (but I really do want leftovers)!
Dessert is mince pie and/or Christmas pud and there will be a cheeseboard for any of us that has enough room.

In the afternoon we watched 'Miracle on 34th Street' followed by 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' until it was time for Beth and Alex to go home.

Today the diary is blank.  I think I will make up the stuffing and pop it in the freezer and ditto for Beth's vegetarian crumble topping which is just a mixture of flour, butter, oats and cheese with some seasonings.  The bottom is just a beany tomato mixture and it's one of her favourites.  The pigs are already in the freezer so it's just a case of getting everything out on Thursday evening and letting it defrost slowly in the fridge (if there's room) or in the shed, if necessary.

Phew, thank you for reading as I have talked this all out with myself.  Now I have it all settled in my mind and know what I'm doing, there's no pressure.

For the last few days of Advent Calendar music, I am going to mostly include traditional carols.  One of today's is the old Polish carol, translated as 'Infant Holy', sung by you-know-who (no, not Voldemort!)

The other clip is 'Lo, How a Rose e'er Blooming', sung by the Cambridge choir and conducted by John Rutter

Sunday 20 December 2020


 Good morning.  Today is the fourth Sunday in Advent and time for a change of banner.

Sadly, all my fond and lovely plans for a small scale family Christmas have been blown out of the water as the South East goes into tier four and Christmas is more or less cancelled.

 Dave came round last night to pick up the Christmas bits and bobs.  I disgraced myself by bursting into tears, silly me and poor Dave and Anna because, in all the faff, I totally forgot that Beth had bought their presents round so they could go under the tree so now they won't have them for Christmas Day

To be fair, I guess I am one of the lucky ones.  Dave and Anna are out of the Christmas picture but Beth and Alex, as my support bubble, can still visit, both on Christmas day and at other times, better than the very first lockdown in March.  For that, I am extremely thankful.  Thankful that for many people in my position, we can still have face to face contact and sorrowful that for many others, they are now entirely alone.   That is truly not good.

OK, I wrote the above yesterday evening (hence the divider) and, after a bit of a restless night working things out, I'm calmer and less upset. Of course Christmas isn't cancelled, it's just that plans have to change.
I suppose one should have seen it coming what with the new variant spreading rapidly and too many people being stupid and not following the existing rules. let alone the Christmas rules.

Most of yesterday was really pleasant.  I had a couple of parcel deliveries and I think, now, that's all my pre-Christmas orders done and dusted.

In the morning, I set to and got the Christmas cake marzipanned and iced so it's ready for decorating now.  It does look nice, I have to admit, and it smells gorgeous.

I just need to stop dithering and decide on the final design!

In the afternoon, I drove out to Writtle where Jen (Slimming World leader) was waiting by her car to hand out the new booklets, magazines and Hi Fi bars.  I took the opportunity to give her a card and little thank you for her support this year.  I'm glad we got that in because we couldn't do it now, nor can I now drive over to Jackie's on Tuesday afternoon to drop off her gift either.  Ho hum!
(first world problems, I know)

I had marzipan left over so got stuck in to making stollen, using an adapted Delia recipe to match what I had in.  I used Thermione on reverse spin so the blades wouldn't chop the fruit to bits and decided to leave the dough in the bowl to rise.   And then I totally forgot about it until I woke with a jolt just before three this morning!  Luckily, the long, slow, cool rise worked OK and it is now all made up, marzipan in the centre and sitting beside a radiator for its final proving.  When it is baked and cooled, I intend slicing it and freezing it in single slices.  Fingers crossed . . .

I was absolutely thrilled with the Strictly result!  I won't post a spoiler but just to say any of them could have won, it was in no way cut and dried but I have supported the winning couple since week one so - happy!

Let's move on to today.  Beth and Alex are coming round for lunch.  They will stay for the afternoon and, hopefully, we will watch Miracle on 34th Street as well as icing that cake you must be fed up of hearing about by now!  I'm doing us a good old roast dinner with slow roast beef, Yorkshires, roasties - the works.

I'll discuss The Turkey with Beth and Alex.  I can't cancel the order at such a late stage, nor would I want to but I ordered one big enough for six plus lots of leftovers (we love leftovers), assuming, when I ordered, that John would be down after Christmas and would bring Dad over for a second Christmas dinner, plus Dave and Anna, of course.  And Kelly's almost invariably give you more for your money than you ordered in terms of size.  
Again, first world problem!  Too much rather than too little!  I should be ashamed of myself calling it a problem but I don't want any waste.

I do seem to have gone on rather, sorry.  

I think today's Advent calendar music has to be cheerful - needs to be cheerful - so I've chosen the Sussex Carol; On Christmas Night All Christians Sing.


Saturday 19 December 2020


 Morning.  Well, we had our two nice weather days but yesterday was 'orrible.  Rain, rain, nothing but rain!  Today isn't likely to be great either - it's still raining.  Oh, well!

The day trickled along.  I got plenty of stuff sorted out, rearranged, tidied up, etc, before my chat with Jackie.  We fixed that I will drive over with her card and a little gift next week but, obviously, won't be going in.

Victoria brought her creations round.  Just what I had asked for.

A wreath for the front door and . . .

. . . a couple of table candle decorations thingies.

Later on, the cleaner (in the singular this week) came round and did his thing so everywhere is nice and shiny clean now.

Finally, I got a stack of ironing done so I'm up to date with pretty much everything now.

Today the diary tells me that I'm having a box of wine delivered.  We won't go short over Christmas now, will we.  I've got far too much really but that's life.

It also tells me that Jen (SW leader) will be in a certain place between two specific times, to hand out new SW booklets, sell the new SW magazine (it's cheaper when you get it that way), plus the new HiFi bars, etc.  Let's hope it doesn't rain too much!

The last bit of info in the diary says 'Ice Christmas cake'.  Hmm, I'd better look up that YouTube clip again.  It's not something I do more than once a year and last year was the first time.

So that's tomorrow.  It all sounds very pleasant and easy going, doesn't it?

Two pieces today in the musical Advent Calendar.
The first is the simply beautiful 'Nativity Carol' by John Rutter, performed by Kings College Choir.

The other is one I can't miss out - Away in a Manger.  It was a toss up between Kings and Libera; because the first is Kings, I went for Libera.

Friday 18 December 2020


 Good morning, everyone.  As hoped, yesterday's weather was beautiful.  That's two lovely winter sunshine days in a row.   Can't complain about that, can we?

Everything went pretty well.  Chris and I had a good old natter about this, that and the other.  I do appreciate these chats at a time when we can't be face to face.

I set off for the dentist p.m., checked in over my mobile when I got there and by the time I was out of the car and walking towards the entrance, the girl was waiting to check my temperature, make sure I sanitised my hands and to take me in.
I have to say, I have a real gem of a dentist.  Francesca, her name is, and she is so gentle and understanding.  She knows that I find the needle hard (just in my mouth, nowhere else) and although I know she's injecting of course, she sort of hides it with her other hand so I can't actually see it.  I know it sounds silly but it really helps.
Twenty minutes later I emerged with a new crown and a new filling and they feel great!  I can chew properly again.  I think the bill hurt more than the treatment.

The Zoom Slimming World meeting was great fun.  I wore my bauble earrings and had a mini Christmas tree on the desk.  We're going to have another meeting Christmas Eve but just the one for all the Thursday groups, with some games  Should be good.

Today I have plenty to do.  The cleaners are coming so I must clear up any clutter although it really isn't too bad this time.  I have a scheduled chat with Jackie and Victoria is delivering the Christmas wreath and two table decorations with candles.  Lovely!

Today's Advent calendar music is Peter Cornelius' wonderful 'The Three Kings' (Three Kings from Persian Lands Afar) with the underlying chorale, How Brightly Shines the Morning Star.  It's lovely.

Thursday 17 December 2020


 Good morning, everyone.  Yesterday started off really nice.  Lots of sunshine and breezy; enough breeze to make it feel a lot colder than it really was.  By the end of the day it was chucking it down, sadly.  The forecast for today looks good again though so fingers crossed.

Yesterday was a really mixed bag.  
It's been lovely having Alex to stay but the decorating is all finished for now and Alex has submitted his coursework so it was time to go home.  He's enjoyed his stay (he likes my cooking) but he has a stonking cold (just a cold, no worse) and home's always the best place when you're feeling a bit rough.  Beth came to pick him up and stayed for a couple of hours so we had a good chat.  They're coming over on Sunday so I need to have a good think about what to cook - something nice so close to Christmas.

The chat with Val went well.  I had been going to go over to hers (about a twenty minute drive) with some magazines and her card and a little gift but it turns out that she needs to come over here too so she'll stop off at mine - properly distanced, of course - instead.

Then I went over to Lindsey's - personal trainers are able to keep going, subject to certain restrictions - and had an energetic hour.  While we worked, we had a jolly good chat about this, that and the other; it's a good way of making sure I am warmed up and just a little bit breathless.  As they say, able to talk but not to sing.

Then I came home to a message from Sharon, our hairdresser who was scheduled to come on Friday after cancelling the last appt during lockdown.
It started off 'Don't hate me, Joy . . .' and my heart sank.  Poor love, both her daughters have tested positive for Covid-19 so she has to self isolate for however many days it is.  As she said, Christmas is well and truly cancelled for them all.  There are separate households so can't even all be together.  
I'm lucky that my hair style is not fancy, just a sort of layered bob so the only problem is the fringe.  I'll have a little chop at it myself next time I wash my hair and it will be OK.
I'm now really hoping she and her family will be OK.

Today, I'm doing my maximum of three things.  A chat with Chris in the morning, the dentist (again) in the afternoon and then the SW Zoom meeting in the evening.

I seem to be spending my whole life down at the dentist at the moment.  The problem is I have two strands of treatment going on in parallel.  There's the implant stuff which should finish next week and then there's the usual regular stuff which is what this afternoon is - one crown to finish off and a filling.  I will remember Sooze's advice which helped on Monday.

Just to clarify regarding the TV hearing gizmo, it wasn't that I couldn't hear the telly before.  I've had one for ages now but it was getting a bit old, the recharging cradle wasn't working properly so I had to take out the battery each time and put it in the extra slot in the side.  Also the batteries are quite old not.  I just felt it was time to replace it.  Dad is taking the round the neck receivers and the batteries as he has the same unit.
With something like this, you don't want to wait until it fails.

The Advent calendar music today is 'In the First Light', sung a cappella (I love a cappella) by Glad.  I first encountered Glad at a Spring Harvest when they did a slot at one of the evening meetings in the big top, got a standing ovation and were persuaded to do a concert the next day.  It was amazing.
This was one of the songs they sang.

Wednesday 16 December 2020


 Good morning, everyone.  What a beautiful day yesterday was, such a contrast to Monday and the weekend.  Wall to wall sunshine - proper sunshine, not that hazy, misty substitute we so often get in winter.

I did my Santa delivery and was pleased to find Dad well and cheerful.  I came home with sprouts picked from his garden which were delicious.

When I got home, there was a parcel.  Being hard of hearing, I have a few gizmos to help me and one of them is a small round-the-neck 'loop' type thing that connects with the telly so I can hear properly without deafening the neighbours.  The one I had was becoming somewhat unreliable so I had an online discussion with Dad, Googled, Amazoned, chose and ordered on Amazon Prime.

It took about fifteen minutes to set up, including actually getting the parcel open and I'm really happy with the sound quality.  Definitely a Good Buy.

Despite the fact that we're now tier three, today is a bit busier.  I have an online chat with Val followed by personal training.  In the afternoon, if possible, I want to do a bit more Santa delivery, local this time and I really ought to do some housework too. 
Alex should be going home around lunch time.

I did say 'a bit busier', not 'busy'!!  lol

Today's musical Advent calendar entry is a beautiful and gentle lullaby carol, another that I sang in the Madrigal Group/Chapel Choir at school.   Such very happy memories.
Sing Lullaby (The Infant King), sung by the Choir of Kings College, Cambridge (again!)

And another rendering, sung by the amazing Libera, just because it is such a beautiful carol and worth hearing more than once.

Tuesday 15 December 2020


 Good morning, everyone.  After quite a lot of rain yesterday and overnight, today looks like being much more pleasant, thank goodness.  It's not that cold either, which makes things more comfortable.

Yesterday's dental appointment was a long one, around forty five minutes but it was OK.  The whole process is still not finished though.  Yesterday he prepared a tooth for the bridge part of the whole thing, took loads of scans of my teeth (no idea why - not a pretty sight either), put something else into the base of the implant and generally took measurements and impressions.  I think he also took the opportunity to have a good look at the tooth that will be replaced by another implant early next year (covid willing).
So I have another appointment next Wednesday morning, nice and early, after which I will be able to show off my new smile - definitely; I asked him!
Sooze, thank you for reminding me of the paracetamol tip - it really helped.

I know it looks as if I do nothing but go to the dentist at the moment but it's because there are two separate things going on.  One is the usual fillings, etc, that would happen anyway and t'other is the implant stuff which should have been well over by June/July, were it not for lockdown.

Once that was over, I came home to find that Alex was awake and up so we had a chat before he disappeared upstairs to study and I baked some more shortbread as the first lot had gone down a treat.  This time I added cinnamon, mixed spice and cloves and added the zest of an orange and some orange essence and they are lovely.

The big news of the day was that, here being mid-Essex, we are going up to tier three from midnight tonight.  To be honest, it won't make much difference.  Lindsey can still keep her personal training going and Sharon can still do hair (I checked with her).  I'm just very glad that Dad and I arranged for me to go over to deliver Christmas goodies today and not later.  Just in time.

Slimming World will be going back to Zoom again an d I suggested that to brighten things up, we dug oput Christmas bling of whatever kind and gave the meeting some sparkly, an idea that went down pretty well.  I've found my clip on earring 'mounts' and will attach a couple of tree baubles to them and I have a bag of tinsel somewhere too.

Today's Advent calendar music is a jolly, sing along carol from John Rutter, Star Carol.  It sets the feet a-tapping and would make good music for a Strictly dance.

In my young mum days, I belonged to a ladies choir, the Sydenham Singers, and this was one of many pieces of Christmas music that we sang, set for female voices.  It was great fun to sing.

Monday 14 December 2020


 Good morning.  It's raining yet again.  Every time I've been to the dentist, it has been raining!

Yesterday was a very pleasant day.  I bustled around getting everything ready before Beth and Alex turned up for lunch.  We chatted and laughed and generally had a nice time before Beth went home to finish getting things ready for the decorator.

I sort of dressed up the table a little bit - after all, it's less that a fortnight until Christmas now, isn't it?

Today doesn't start off very well.  Dentist at nine fifteen.  I suppose there is something to be said for getting it over and done with first thing.
Once that's done and dusted, there's quite a lot of bedding in the ironing basket - yes, I do iron my bedding!
That really is about it.  Not a terribly exciting day really but, apart from the first thing, it should be pleasant..

Today's Advent Calendar music is the beautiful Bach harmonisation of 'Oh Little One Sweet', performed superbly by the Kings Singers.  There's no more to say really; it is just perfect.

O little one sweet

O little one sweet,
O little one mild,
Thy Father's purpose thou hast fulfilled;
Thou cam'st from heav'n to mortal ken,
Equal to be with us poor men,
O little one sweet,
O little one mild.

O little one sweet,
O little one mild,
With joy thou hast the whole world filled;
Thou camest here from heav'n's domain,
To bring men comfort in their pain,
O little one sweet,
O little one mild.

O little one sweet,
O little one mild,
In thee Love's beauties are all distilled;
Then light in us thy love's bright flame,
That we may give thee back the same.
O little one sweet,
O little one mild.

O little one sweet,
O little one mild,
Help us to do as thou hast willed.
Lo, all we have belongs to thee!
Ah, keep us in our fealty!
O little one sweet,
O little one mild..

Sunday 13 December 2020


Good morning!   It's the third Sunday in Advent today so I've changed the banner again.  Candles are so Christmassy, aren't they?

I braved the damp yesterday morning to get a few things from Aldi that I can only get from there.  Stupidly, I left my purse at home but, thankfully, I checked my bag before I started shopping, avoiding an embarrassing moment at the checkout.  Once I'd sorted that out, I picked up a parcel from the post office (Beth's Christmas present) and that's now wrapped and under the tree.

I made cinnamon shortbread (lovely recipe, I will definitely make it again in different disguises) and then some biscotti.  The biscotti recipe didn't work quite as well and the results are rather rough and ready but I bet they taste good; they are now bagged and frozen.  The shortbread is in a tin for Alex to make inroads into while he's here.

I was thinking about what I now have in the freezer ready.   Pigs in blankets, stock for gravy, one main Christmas pud and one mini pud (for Dad), mince pies, cheesy biscuits, gingerbread, biscotti, vegetarian sausage rolls . . . we certainly aren't going to starve, are we?  I do love home made Christmas food.

I must think about icing and decorating the Christmas cake this week.  Maybe next weekend, which appears to be pretty free, will work.  One I have done that, I will make some stollen with the leftover marzipan.

The nativity set is now out and looking lovely.

The stable (with an empty manger).

The shepherds and the angel which is not part of the set and isn't really an angel.  It is actually an Easter carving and was made decades ago by a dear and lovely man at the Church my parents went to.  Tom Meeling, his name was, and he had such a talent for carving.  This is relatively simple but in the church there are some lovely carvings depicting Holy Week.
Tom is no longer with us but I think of him regularly with affection and admiration when the angel comes out.

The wise men.

And the whole thing.

Everything n its usual and expected place - until the cleaners dust and then I have to re-arrange them again!

Today's musical Advent Calendar music is two for the price of one.  It's actually the same  carol, done in two different ways, both great in their way and both long standing favourites.

The first is the Pearsall version of In Dulci Jubilo, sung by Kings and favourite of good school choirs (which is when I first met it) and a regular in the Christmas Eve service from Kings.  I love it.
(I love that some carol clips have the score - I always sing along with the altos)

And the other is same carol, totally different interpretation, being very much a dance.  In Dulci Jubilo performed by Mike Oldfield.  I do love a good circle dance type vibe.

Saturday 12 December 2020


 Good morning.  I was wide awake at three thirty this morning which was a right pain.  I stayed in bed and started to read the Christmas Radio Times.  It looks like there's loads of programmes I would dearly like to watch over Christmas so that's good.
I haven't looked out yet but I expect it is pretty damp after the brighter weather faded yesterday and the drizzle started.  Today's forecast is not encouraging but that's life.  

Messenger seemed to be working fine again so Chris and I got our chat - until her signal started breaking up.  Never mind, we had half an hour of most enjoyable non-stop chatter and fixed a time for next week.

I spent the rest of the day very lazily.  After sorting out some piles of clutter (there are more!!), I stet to with my cross stitch which is coming along quite nicely.  I've reached the point where one starts to worry that maybe there isn't quite enough thread left (there always is!) so getting there.  It's the second of the three I bought so maybe I need to go rootling in my box upstairs and find another one to do when these three ate all finished - sadly, I do have quite a number so really should never have bought those three.  I'm glad I did though.

I finished watching the second Christmas Chronicles film on Netflix.  I've enjoyed both films in the series very much - soppy, sentimental but with more than a hint of grit in their own way, very good family viewing all round.  Worth watching, if you can.

There's another blank diary today but I do have a few things to do.  I must get the spare bed ready for Alex, I have a parcel to pick up from the post office, annoyingly.  It seems they need ID and I didn't hear the door.  I'll do that this morning.  Also I have some baking - Alex takes some feeding so I shall bake some bread, make some cinnamon biscuits and have a nosey in the freezer to see what I have for main meals.

And there's always the stitching.

A later edit.  I forgot the most important thing - today I am getting out the nativity set.  It's a beautiful wooden carved thing, bought when my two were very little so it has to be coming up forty years old and out every year since.  I love it and am hoping it will be valued when I am gone too.

Musical Advent Calendar number eleven is 'Thorns in the Straw' from the now fairly old album 'Rumours of Angels' by Graham Kendrick.  I just love this one.

Since the day the angel came
It seemed that everything had changed
The only certain thing
Was the child that moved within
On the road that would not end
Winding down to Bethlehem
So far away from home
Just a blanket on the floor
Of a vacant cattle-stall
But there the child was born
She held him in her arms
And as she laid him down to sleep
She wondered - will it always be
So bitter and so sweet
And did she see there
In the straw by his head a thorn
And did she smell myrrh
In the air on that starry night
And did she hear angels sing
Not so far away
Till at last the sun rose blood-red
In the morning sky
. . .

Friday 11 December 2020


 Morning, everyone.  It's damp out there but very mild.  Maybe today I will feel warm!

I meant to post this photo yesterday but forgot.  It's my advent candle, sitting in the dish I made at pottery last year (I still miss pottery) and I was looking at it and remembering . . .

I had fun ordering some flowers yesterday.  Dad's neighbour has been an absolutely fantastic friend and neighbour to him this year and John, Dave and I wanted to say thank you so I went online to eflorist and had a very pleasant fifteen minutes or so choosing something lovely and festive which I really hope she will like - a basket arrangement so all she has to for is find a corner for it and keep it watered.  I do hope she likes it.

Beth sent me a message asking me if Al could come and stay for a few nights.  The decorator, who she expected after Christmas, can come next Monday, which is great, but Alex is studying hard and tends to be distracted by that sort of thing so he's coming here for two nights, maybe three.  I'm looking forward to that.

Disappointingly, Messenger was playing up yesterday so Chris and I didn't get our chat.  Maybe today . . .

Today the diary is blank.  I was gong to have a chat with Jackie but she has gone away for a long weekend so I will potter again.  I have clutter to clear before the cleaners arrive and a pile of ironing to dive in to.  Also, a spare bed to make up!  It's made up with Beth's sheets which we decided to leave on because the chances of anyone else staying round before she did were very slight.  We should have known!

The musical Advent calendar today is a beautiful arrangement of the Coventry Carol, Lully, Lullay,  by Pentatonix.

Thursday 10 December 2020


Good morning, everyone.  I'm awake very early, before the street lights, so I can't tell what the weather is like.  Fingers crossed for a bit of brightness.

Well, yesterday happened.  Actually, most of it was good.  A lovely chat with Val followed by a good personal training session with Lindsey.

The dentist wasn't as much fun though.  The treatment isn't finished yet.  I now have metal bits sticking down from the implants but you can't see them as my dental plate fits over them.  I have another appointment for Monday morning so maybe it will be finished then.  Two appointments next week, one with Mr Clough the Implant Man and one with my 'normal' dentist, Francesca.  They are both lovely but yuck!

Today is going to be much easier.  A chat with my friend Chris in he morning and Slimming World late afternoon/early evening.  I think I might take a trip to a local garden centre that has a name for lovely Christmas things at some point.  If it is too crowded, I will just come home again, no point being silly.

That's about it really.  A shorter one today to make up for the long winded ramble yesterday.  Have a great day and be safe.  xx

Today's  Christmas music is very well known and, in this clip, rather beautifully arranged and conducted by the great John Rutter.  You'll be hearing more of his music in the coming days - I have several favourites.


Wednesday 9 December 2020


 Good morning, everyone.  It's chilly and dark and, by the looks of the windows, raining too.  Yesterday was dull for most of the day but we had a glorious hour or so of sunshine which was lovely.

I was most impressed with the Covid arrangements in Specsavers when I arrived at nine yesterday morning.  It's only a small place, unlike the one in town, but they had it all well organised and there wasn't a single moment when I didn't feel 'safe'.  Also, after I had explained about my hearing difficulties which have been seriously compounded by masks which not only muffle the sound but prevent me from supporting my hearing with lip reading, the optician replaced her mask with a face visor which was brilliant - no real problems after that, no more than I always have.  I was grateful.

My sight has changed but only slightly.  My distance vision is the same but my shorter vision is slightly worse.  Mind you, I knew that.  All the cross stitching I am doing should be a lot easier once I have the new glasses.  They were very careful to check that I was happy about having new ones; as she said, it wasn't strictly speaking necessary.  However, quite apart from making the close work things I do easier, my current glasses are getting a bit wobbly, the arms have lost their spring and they don't 'grip' so well.  So - new pairs.  Two new pairs (an ongoing offer they have) and as my prescription sunglasses are fine, I'm having two 'all the time' pairs.  No change in style as Beth wasn't with me to advise and I can never see properly what new frames look like without my glasses on - which rather spoils the effect!

I pick them up in a fortnight - three days before Christmas and parking will be a nightmare so what I will do is get to Sainsbury's much earlier and do a nice big shop to take me over Christmas and the New Year, go back to the car and wait (if necessary) before picking up the glasses at nine fifteen.  Killing two birds with one stone sounds OK to me.  I'll start the list today!

Once I was home and had sorted out the shopping, I made another sixteen veggie sausage rolls and they are now in the freezer, all bagged and ready to use.  It was just an assembly job; the pastry had been in the freezer and the filling was made the day before.

It was a good chat with Dad.  No connection problems now and we sorted out all sorts of bits and bobs.  I'm driving up to his next week, bearing Christmas goodies of one sort or another plus some Which? magazines that we share and anything else we think of before then.  It's not too far and I feel quite happy about driving there, dropping the stuff off and driving back again.  The car could do with a longer run anyway.

The rest of the day was spent wrapping more pressies, etc.

Today is busy.  A chat with Val, personal training and then the dreaded dentist will fill my time.  I think today is the day he finishes the implant work - I think.  I'm not totally sure but I do hope so.  I'll know by late afternoon anyway!  I must remember to talk to him about the other tooth.

Today's musical advent calendar choice is a big one - I mean long.  I couldn't decide which of Benjamin Brittens's Ceremony of Carols to share so I'm linking to the whole lot.  Feel free to forward to what you like.
I sang this while still at school and loved it, although Britten's style isn't my favourite.  I guess it is all wrapped up with happy memories.

I hope the quality is OK.