Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lace-cap hydrangea after rain..

We are certainly seeing some varied weather these last few days. This morning we had almost monsoon-like rain! In between the rain, when the sun has come out it's been warm and sunny.

Kate has friends round, so the house is full of young voices and laughter which is lovely to hear.

Yesterday evening Phil and I went to a pre-wedding meeting for a young couple whose wedding we are photographing on 5th September. The venue is a marquee in the bride's parents' garden and honestly, you could not have a lovelier location! The house is set in a beautiful, rambling garden, with a big lawn in front. It has a conservatory and a cobbled courtyard; a beautiful porch and sash windows. Inside it is a real home, cosy and comfortable and tasteful. It's my dream house, in short! We are spoilt for choice for places to shoot both inside and out which is a great situation to find yourself in as a wedding photographer.The bride made me very happy when she told me her transport to the church will be a horse drawn carriage! This is a first for us and I think it will be fabulous as it's a real country wedding - it won't be a Jordan-esque glass coach, thank goodness!

I have decided to repeat the five day first phase of my eating regime this week; I've felt a few sugar cravings resurfacing and I succumbed a few Minstrels in the cinema on Friday watching the new Harry Potter film and then to a chocolate brownie yesterday! It was really nice but a but like giving Dracula just a teaspoon of blood...I immediately wanted to eat the entire batch! So time for a little boost I think. I'm really pleased I've managed to stay off sugar in tea and coffee. It's really silly but I get a little glow of pride when I hear myself saying "white, no sugar" when someone asks how I take coffee :)

Phil has a small selection of photos on sale at the Grosvenor Garden Centre and we went along to have a look at the display. Here's a snap of a proud Kate standing next to her dad's work!

My sister in law and her twin daughters are visiting from New Zealand. They certainly picked a bad time for weather as it's actually warmer in Auckland (it's winter there!) than it is here in north-west England at the moment. I think they've really enjoyed their holiday despite the showers. On Friday we had a lovely trip out to Speke Hall

In this photo are my nieces, my sister in law, my mother in law and Kate. I will really miss H, R & S when they go home. NZ is so far away!

Yesterday we went to my other sister in law's home for a farewell party for the visitors. Here's a photo of my father in law just after blowing out his birthday cake candles.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

This is only the first week of the summer holidays and I'm already enjoying working fewer hours and having more time to "potter" at home. I'm a huge fan of "pottering". I like being able to potter around in the kitchen, then wander out into the garden to potter a bit there. I like being able to pop in and out to watch some of my favourite TV shows in between some housework and i get a real buzz out of being able to de-clutter and organise stuff that has been lying around bugging me for weeks. Just having a few extra hours each week to myself makes a huge difference to me. I'm so lucky to be able to be fairly flexible sometimes about the hours I work. I am however working an extra day on Saturday as we are short-staffed. With my normal job, the weddings and my volunteer work I usually have about one day to myself in the week to catch up on housework and garden chores and do the shopping. It feels such a luxury to have more time. I know that at some point in the future I may have to return to full-time work so I'm making the most of "now".

I've stopped going to the gym. I was paying £18 a month and not getting my money's worth. I've decided I'd rather do more walking and cycling and exercising at home instead of driving for 30 minutes somewhere to work out and then drive 30 minutes back. I will miss my aerobics class but that's about all.

I'm off out tonight with a friend; we are going to Pizza Express in Heswall. It will be interesting to see if I can stick to my regime whilst eating there; but if I can't I'm not going to stress about it. I am still finding it really enjoyable and easy to stick to and although I don't weigh myself I am finding my clothes are looser. Best of all, I'm feeling SO WELL (with no cravings to speak of!) apart from my lousy aching arm which is giving me hell, especially in the early hours.

I've just been moved to rearrange the dining room; Phil will no doubt hate it but i felt like a change!!

Time to go and get ready ...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I'm VERY grumpy....!!

Today was a really great day, until about 4.40 this afternoon. My sister in law and her twin nieces (11 years old) are visiting from NZ and they came to have lunch and spend some time with us. It was raining so after we'd eaten, the four cousins all charged around the house playing Sardines and it was really lovely to see them having fun and being together after 18 months apart.

My two nieces have loads of energy and as the rain briefly ceased they went outside into the road with Kate & Sian to have a game of badminton. A little while later they came in upset and embarrassed saying "X" had told them to go and play outside their own house instead of hers!

Well, I was LIVID! This is the same neighbour who complains bitterly if anyone DARES to park outside her house. Now, apparently, children aren't allowed to play outside her house either! I'm speechless....! I don't understand it AT ALL.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Karen and Rick at their daughter's wedding.

Today would have been Karen's 48th birthday. Karen was my very special friend. She lived in Canada and we "met" many years ago online through a penpal website called Cyberfriends.Exchanging daily emails and eventually phone calls, we rapidly became very close. Karen didn't enjoy good health and after a few years of misdiagnose it was discovered she had Primary Pulmonary Hypertension. As this can be fatal, I decided to go to Canada for a visit and flew out to Alberta for two weeks with Karen.

These were two of the happiest weeks of my life! We had such a fantastic time together.

Karen was cured of PPH when she recieved a double lung transplant but she became diabetic and of course had to take strong medication for life. But she enjoyed a period of reasonable health. We kept talking about me returning to Canada but we never managed it. Karen passed away last August 14th aged just 47.

I miss her and think of her every day. I have needed her advice so often. She was my soulmate and the sister I never had. I never truly appreciated just how much she meant to me until she was gone.I would give anything to hear her voice one more time.

I also know Karen would not want me to spend her birthday in tears! She never wasted any time being sorry for herself; she always discouraged me from wallowing in self-pity. So I'm ending this post by saying how lucky I was to have Karen as my friend, how happy she made me and how much fun we had together even when we were physically far apart. Karen, if I close my eyes I'm sitting at your kitchen table with a cup of coffee while we exchange news and gossip and have a good old giggle....

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

This is a little corner of my kitchen; with some favourite objects in it (no, not the phone!!)

I started this blog when I was getting in a real state of panic over the potential of bird flu to become pandemic. I was worrying myself sick so I decided blogging might just help me get some perspective on life. It's funny how the swine flu situation seemed to come out of no-where - I had actually stopped worrying about bird flu!

So, naturally, I'm worrying about swine flu and the media doesn't help. I can't NOT read the newspapers or watch TV or I'd worry I'd miss something important. Another worry is that's Phil's firm are shedding jobs by the hundreds; every month comes news of more job losses and apparently it's his department next! I am already having worries about the next couple of weddings I'm doing; about my bad arm which is no better (the pills hold the pain at bay but without them I'm in constant severe pain!) and I am also very anxious about a family member. I'm lurching mentally from one worry to another and I really need to get a grip!

Deep down I think I worry because I feel I'm doing SOMETHING with the act of worrying when in reality much of what I'm worrying about is stuff over whivh I have no control.

Anyway - writing it down has helped somewhat. At least for now I'm just WORRYING and not PANICKING.....
Can you smell it? A wholemeal loaf straight out of the bread maker!

I've been up and down a lot emotionally this week. I realised that Saturday would have been my friend Karen's 48th birthday and that in August she will have been gone a year! In some reaspects I still haven't adjusted to her going and I know i will always miss her!

I so miss her doses of bracing common sense and her advice and the way she always helped me keep things in perspective.

I have had quite an enjoyable day so far, battling with rampant bushes in the garden! I do enjoy gardening; somehow the results for your efforts are so much more tangible than housework.

Last night we had pasta sauce containing my first courgettes and I have a cabbage about ready to be picked!!! In fact i am off outside to take some photos for my garden blog :)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

This photo was taken on Kate's prom night and is a very rare shot of both my girls together: I think they look beautiful but then I'm a very biased by Phil Mann.

Thanks to Cheshire Wife for this really nice award! I'm passing it on to Mabe as I think both her blog and especially her poetry are very deserving of this award!

This week was pretty good up until Thursday evening when things went wrong somewhat and I was left feeling anxious and rather crushed. I slept really badly Thursday night and woke up thoroughly miserable Friday morning. You know that feeling that you've done something really wrong without ever intending to? Plus feeling you've let someone down AND lost faith in yourself? I had all those feelings in spades.

Since then I've gone over and over things in my mind but thinking and worrying and feeling anxious don't put things right. I've got no choice but to try to live with what's happened. I just wish I was a stronger character and that I wasn't so easily floored by "stuff".

Apparent from this situation; work has been fine and my new eating regime is going ok. I have started drinking the occasional cup of tea and coffee again, but with skimmed milk and NO SUGAR! I've tried to give up sugar in hot drinks before but failed. People always said if you could go two weeks without adding sugar you'd cracked it but that never worked for me. But I think because I gave up sugar totally on the five detox days and am avoiding it as much as i can in food, I've lost my taste for it. Anyway, the tea and coffee tasted really good without sugar for the first time ever...

I succumbed to some emotional eating of naan bread on Friday night with my curry (which as it's chicken shaslick was fine for the "diet") but apart from that lapse I'm doing ok. The strangest thing is I'm normally constantly thinking about food and suddenly I'm not. I didn't realise how much time I spent obsessing on food until now.

We had a nice couple come to see us today about their wedding in September next year but I didn't somehow get the vibe that they were going to book us.

Not long know until the school year ends. I have quite a lot of time off over the six weeks summer holiday and I'm really looking forward to having some time to do stuff at leisure instead of trying to cram everything into odd spare hours here and there....roll on the week after next!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Helsby Hill at Easter (photograph by Phil Mann)

One of my blogfriends wrote about her village in a recent post (Mrs Nesbitt)and it got me thinking about the place I live, which is Helsby!

I haven't always lived here. Phil and I moved to Helsby 21 years ago when we got married. Previously we'd lived in neighbouring "villages" on the Wirral. I use the term villages loosely here, as some parts of the Wirral are now so built up that villages and towns run into one another with little to define them unless you look hard.

We chose Helsby because it was around half-way between our respective places of employmeny; Phil works in Wythenshawe and I work for Wirral Borough Council. Phil and I are both either exceedingly loyal and dedicated employees as we have stayed working for the SAME employers since leaving Uni or (more likely!) we are too lacking in courage/enterprise/confidence/talent etc to try working for anyone else :) Well, I did actually apply to Cheshire Council twice for jobs and they rejected me both times! Fortunately, I love my job (most of the time) and am reasonably happy working for WBC.

I remember very clearly the day we spent house-hunting in the area; we looked at a modern house in Frodsham (nice but backing on the railway and with a chocolate brown bathroom suite!) and our current home in Helsby. Our house is nothing unusual (a 1950s semi in a quiet cul-de-sac) but as soon as I went inside it I loved it and that feeling has never changed. The day we heard it was ours was one of the happiest of my life. I used to make Phil drive me past it in the dark before we moved in so I could visit it! I remember when we took possession, how huge and empty it seems and how little furniture we had, mostly handmedowns from other people. For quite some time our dining room contained a small fridge freezer and nothing else!

Our sitting room had brown velvet curtains, a brown carpet and a brown suite formerly belonging to Phil's parents. I am not a lover of brown in that quantity. But carpet, curtains and suite were all good quality and we had no money to replace them. We changed the curtains when Kate was born, bought a new suite when Sian was born and eventually replaced the carpet too!

Now the empty spaces are full of "stuff" and with two teenagers and two adults it no longer feels large. We have built an extra bedroom/shower room in the loft and redone kitchen and bathroom but we are still here. We've thought of moving, looked at other houses, but basically we are content here. We like the road, the neighbours, the village. We are withing walking distance of schools and shops and friends' homes.

Helsby has changed over the years; lots of new houses and a Tesco supermarket which I have a love/hate relationship with!At the moment it has two pubs boarded up which is somehow sad....I've lived here longer than anywhere else and I love it. I love going out for a walk and always seeing someone I know. I like going to village events like last night's fashion show at the Ex-serviceman's club. I like the fact it is right on the edge of beautiful countryside and also close to the motorway so the Lakes, Wales, Yorkshire etc are not far away. We can get to Chester, Liverpool and Manchester easily.

Helsby isn't pretty or especially interesting; but it's HOME.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Today has been really great; we all went over to Liverpool and spent large amounts of money; mainly on the girls I hasten to add! My daughters are so gorgeous (excuse my partiality!) I just love buying them clothes as I know they'll look great on them. Whereas I hate buying clothes for me as I know I'll always look the same - horrible! Maybe that's why I prefer to buy jewellery, shoes, bags and scarves!

That took up most of the day; and now Phil has gone out to photograph a charity walk and I'm waiting for a phone call from Kate so I can collect her from bowling at Cheshire Oaks. Then we are all supposed to watch the "Shopaholic" DVD (very appropriate after today!) but the way it's going it will be too late to do that!

My new eating regime is going ok with only minor lapses. To my amazement, on day six I awoke feeling tons better, just as Diet Lady said I would! I have totally stopped wanting to drink tea or coffee which is so odd. I do still want chocolate so on the advice of the book i bought some Lindt 85% dark chocolate (very low in sugar)as apparently the odd square is ok to satisfy the desire for chocolate. It is really different from Cadbury's Dairy Milk but I have to say, one square tasted delicious and yet I didn't feel the need to eat half the bar the way I do with Cadbury's!!!

Breakfast was Alpen sugar free museli and again that tasted INCREDIBLE; after those five days of deprivation it seems my taste buds have changed in some strange way. I had some oatcakes on Friday with a smear of fruit puree and honestly, they tasted better than a McVities Chocolate HobNob!!I could really taste the oats; normally I'd put so much butter on all I'd taste is butter. It is also odd not to be calorie counting...

I have no idea if I've lost weight as I have no scales. Also, although I'd love to lose some weight my main motivation is to eat better, maybe help my IBS and to not have so many cravings for crap foods. My trousers feel looser however! If I can somehow carry on, I'll probably pluck up courage to get on some scales if my trousers start actually falling DOWN!

If I can stick to this regime until after our holiday in August I'm going to treat myself to a riding lesson on Bruno - just a one-off!