Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Three weeks to go!

It’s already the beginning of December and I haven’t blogged for ages.   I am typing this whilst cooking (multi tasking at its best) making minces pies and sausages rolls, some for us, some for the freezer and some for guests.
I was thrilled to hear the news that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting a baby.  I was thrilled that is, but since the news broke and the world seems to have gone into baby frenzy I am now already bored with it all.   How awful it must be to live your life under the spotlight so much when everything you do turns into an item of news.  I remember when I was first pregnant those first few months were so precious that we wanted to keep the secret as long as possible.  It’s such a shame because we need good news amongst the doom and gloom of other news items.   After the dreadful floods last week in St Asaph, which is only a few miles away, and the sight of water rushing through people’s homes, it makes us very grateful that we live on a hill.  It must be so awful to have your home flooded at any time but particularly at this time of year with only cold weather to look forward to and Christmas just around the corner.   I used to love the winter when I was young, looking forward to snow but now the thought of it horrifies me.  A sure sign of getting old perhaps!

But this time of year has so much to offer. Christmas for me has always been family time and I am looking forward to this Christmas particularly as it will be the first we have had at home for three years. Some of the family will be here with us and the most exciting thing is that our daughter will be back home.   She has been in Canada for nearly a year and I can’t wait to see her. Well actually I can’t wait to give her a cuddle.  I have ‘seen’ her every week via the wonders of Skype; we have been able to chat and see each other but to actually see her in the flesh and hold her will be fantastic.    
I have made the cake which is currently being ‘fed’ with the odd drop of brandy, most presents have already been brought and delivered and I even managed to get my overseas cards posted in time.  Les is busy in the ‘shed’ painting the doll’s house he has made for our great niece and with only three weeks to go till the big day I feel quietly confident that we will be ready.  Whether you believe in the true meaning of Christmas or just enjoy the holiday it is a great time to get together with friends and family, eat and drink too much and generally have a good time.  What would we do without it – it would be a long dull winter with nothing to look forward to.  Perhaps that’s why festivals, holidays and celebrations were created to give us the punctuation that the year needs.  Whatever the reason I hope it will be great for everyone.

Monday, 8 October 2012

A wet week in Whitby

Every year we spend a week away with good friends in our caravans. This year we decided to go to North Yorkshire, a part of the country I had not visited before. We booked onto a campsite at West Ayton just outside Scarborough and about 20 miles from Whitby, famous for fish and chips, Dracula  and Captain Cook. 

Last year we were away and had really hot weather so decided to pick the same week. How wrong can you be? In fairness the first two days were glorious and we secretly wondered if the weather forecasters had got it wrong and we would have a good week. But alas no,  it proved to be absolutely dreadful with terrible flooding. And the worst hit area of the country? North Yorkshire!


Despite the weather we had a good time and found the area to have both beautiful countryside and  friendly people. In fact we went to a National Trust property one day Nunnington Hall near York and found not only a delightful house but the best set of room stewards I have ever encountered at a NT property. They were engaging, interesting and friendly and really added to the experience. As someone who has volunteered in the past for the NT I hate to say it but it was the best experience I have ever had at one of their properties, mainly due to the volunteers.


We went to Whitby twice once on the weekend when the weather was lovely, visited the abbey and then tried to park in the town but it was impossible. We eventually found a 20 minute spot and ate some hasty fish and chips which were really delicious.

We wanted to try the famous Magpie Cafe but the queue was so long that it wasn’t possible due to our limited parking time. So we went back a couple of days later when the rain was pouring very hard, parked, and got into the Magpie Cafe without queuing. We had a wonderful meal which lived up to expectations.


Robins Hood Bay was a disappointment due to the weather – we couldn’t actually see it but we found Scarborough to be a great sea side town with lovely beaches and a really good shopping centre. The rest of the week was spent mainly hiding in the caravan or trying to miss the rain and flooding. On Friday we said goodbye to our friends and headed for the Yorkshire Dales for two nights on our way home.

We stopped at a really pretty spot not far from Grassington and had a lovely day driving around the Dales visiting Hawes and the Ribblevalley to see the viaduct. There was a great pub in the village where we had a memorable meal and again the friendliness of the people made the holiday. Well the weather certainly didn’t!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Butcher, baker, candlestick maker

I know I have said it before but you do meet interesting people when you run a B&B. I think the most fasinating thing is the range of occupations that people have. We all know about the standard jobs there are. We seem to get a lot of Nurses, Engineers and Teachers but that is because these are probably the most prolific occupations we have. But last week we had a group of people who went around farms impregnating sheep! Yes they visited farms 'tupping' the ewes. And yes I was a little speechless when they told me. Hey someone has to do it.

Friday, 31 August 2012

‘Let’s just tidy up the Laurel bushes’

Things grow so fast in the garden and this year it seems with our crazy weather; hot one day and wet the next, everything has gone mad. Les having trimmed the leylandii hedge at the back of the drive decided that we should also trim the laurel hedge. It had become a little overgrown I admit, but when the chain saw came out and branches started falling to the ground, I was a little concerned. But like a bad visit to the hairdresser when the once long tresses start getting shorter and shorter so the laurel hedge was trimmed. First this way and then that until – well it’s nearly all gone.

Two days of clearing up and 5 trips to the trip with the waste followed and we now have a short but tidy hedge. At least we won’t have all those awful leaves falling this year and the undergrowth has been cleared away for some new shrubs to be planted. ‘It will grow back again’ Les said. I’m sure that’s what the hairdresser said!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Can't wait for the Paralympics

For two weeks I have to admit I was glued to the TV. From the fantastic opening ceremony to the last note of The Who at the closing one I was hooked. London looked wonderful and our athletes did us proud. All those years of hard work and dedication paid off with our fantastic medal count. It’s funny really as we are not big sports fans; football never gets a look in on our TV, but we got caught up in the occasion of it all and for two weeks were part of a proud nation. Everyone we spoke to was talking about it, over heard conversations in the street or shops were about the Olympics. Close by in Flint we have a Gold medal winner in the shape of young Jade Jones who won hers for Taekwondo. I am looking forward to seeing the Gold post box that must have been painted in Flint to honour her and of course the stamps.
Following on from the Tour de France Les and I got our bicycles out and have attempted the odd ride or two. We didn’t think we could have been more thrilled than when Bradley Wiggins won the Tour and we weren’t expecting such excitement in the Velordrome during the Olympics either. Fantastic!
But now they are finished and everything is flat again. Why ? Not because of the end of the Olympics but because the newspapers and media have now reverted back to the usual depressing negative spin on everything.
Can’t wait for the Paralympics to start –we might gets some good news again.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Covering a window seat

Yesterday was a miserable day, wet and misty all day so I decided to spend it productively and recovered the window seat in the Rose Room. We are very lucky to have a great mill nearby called Abakhan at Mostyn where you can buy almost anything to do with crafts: knitting, sewing, crochet, patchwork, embroidery etc. You name it and they sell it. They also run great courses and we have had several ladies stay with us in the B&B whilst on them. One lady even brought her own sewing machine and set it up in the bedroom to finish her work.
A while back I managed to pick up some fabric for the window seat but put it away waiting for just a day to make the new cover.

I even made the piping to go around the top edges.

After a whole day and much of the evening it was finished – and I must admit I am pleased with the results. I still have enough to make a couple of cushion covers – but luckily today the sun is shining so the sewing machine has been put away for another day.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

'We had a nice March'

On our recent holiday we took the caravan over to France and then drove up to the Dutch/German border to a lovely little place called Well in Limburg. We camped right by a lake Leukermeer for about 8 days and spent some time with both my sister who was also visiting the area and my cousin who lives just over the border in Germany.

We had mixed weather – when I say mixed there was some sunshine mixed in with the rain and the thunder storms. And despite the weather we had a lovely time. Holland is so clean and tidy and flat so we took the opportunity to do quite a bit of cycling. Everyone cycles in Holland form the very young to the very old and it seems that bicycles have the right of way on most roads. Cycle routes are everywhere and every route that we took was well signposted and picturesque.

We also spent the last few days just south of Dunkirk; we were pleasantly surprised at this lovely part of France. We like most people had only previously driven through to get further south, but it is certainly worth a look. We spent a memorable afternoon touring the Blockhaus at Eperlecques close to where we were camped. This was the site where the Germans were planning to launch the V2 rockets during the 2nd world war. Luckily the Brits bombed it and stopped that little game. But it was an incredible place still full of eerie atmosphere and an engineering feat that has to be reluctantly admired even after all these years.

Back home in Wales I can’t say we have enjoyed any better weather than whilst we were away. Although I know it’s not my fault, but I always feel bad when guest arrive in bad weather. However I don’t feel quite so bad now. It seems that the weather is pretty bad throughout most of northern Europe. Everywhere we went it was commented on and in Holland we were told ‘We had a nice March’, ‘so did we’, I said. In German we were told ‘We had a nice March’ and of course in France we were also told ‘We had a nice March’.

Please can we have another nice month or even two? July or August or even September, but let’s hope that the whole of the year doesn’t go by without another ‘nice’ one.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Memories of another Jubilee

So it’s been a milestone weekend and apart from the weather a great success. We managed to fit a couple of Jubilee ‘things’ in over the weekend and of course yesterday was my birthday.
I always wondered why I was told that I was a Coronation baby – although it happened on the 2nd June 1953 and I didn’t pop out till the 5th, this weekend made me realise that such an important occasion would have had the country in a state of excitement for much longer than just the day.
However the Jubilee I really remember the best was the Silver Jubilee in 1977 when the street where my parents lived had a party. My Mum was one of the organisers and I remember weeks and weeks of planning by the ladies. The tables and chairs stretched all the way along the road and everything was decorated with red, white and blue, much like these last few days. We had sandwiches, pies, and sausage rolls with a fantastic cake, and jelly and ice cream for the kids and a barrel of beer for the men. There was a lorry parked across one end which played music and we all supplied our own LP’s, and took it in turns to change them.
There was also a fancy dress competition for the children and I remember my brother all dressed up as a Knight. I had spent hours painting a coat of arms on a shield for him and my Mum had made the costume. The annoying thing was that his friend won, he had also come as a Knight. But the judges didn’t realise that in desperation the day before he copied my brother’s idea and his Mum went and brought him his costume!! These days you can go into many shops and buy complete outfits for dressing up but then, a bought costume just wasn’t heard of – it must have cost a fortune. It still annoys me all these years later. It was a great day though and everyone in the street was happy – everyone was a friend and all the doors to the houses were left open for anyone to pop in and get more food, or go to the loo.
A lot has changed in the last 35 years but I think this week end we saw much of that British spirit on display again – long may it continue.
Next year it will be my 60th – can I call that my Diamond Jubilee do you think.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Jubilee Cup Cakes

Ok so its wet today after days of lovely hot and sunny weather. So I decided to start thinking about the Jubilee weekend and as we are full up with guests I thought I would try my hand at some Jubilee cup cakes. Here are the results. If you want to make them I just used a 4 egg sponge mixture with extra baking powder (half a teaspoon) and then played about with the icing. Hope everyone has a lovely long weekend and that the weather stays fine for all the many celebrations that have been organised. Happy 60th to Her Majesty.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Is being busy the key to happiness?

Have you ever volunteered for anything before? If you have then you will know that once you put your hand up it tends to stay up for a very long time. The last few weeks have been hectic it say the least!

Added to the usual business of running a Bed and Breakfast Les and I have been heavily involved in the local Twinning. We are ‘twinned’ with a small town near Rennes in Brittany called St GrĂ©goire. This year is our 10th anniversary and last weekend we had nearly 70 French people visiting Holywell to celebrate the fact. We had a fantastic weekend, but the organising has been incredible and all those involved worked so hard to make it such a success. Finding new hosts is always a challenge but this year we managed to find lots of new lovely people willing to give up their weekend to entertain our French friends. All of them have said they enjoyed the experience and let’s hope they develop lasting friendship like Les and I have over the years.

Unfortunately during all the excitement I have developed a bad knee and have had to curtail my antics at Erddig house volunteering with the education department for a while, which is a shame as I enjoy working with the children so much. I also help with Flintshire Tourism and try and keep their website up to date. It was Lucille Ball who said ‘If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it’. My days are full of cooking, cleaning, making beds, organising, planning, negotiating, chatting, shopping, typing, emailing, telephoning, checking and booking, meeting, greeting and ironing. Oh and trying to find time to knit and paint and garden and have time for friends and family. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. When you hear me moan that I am a little stressed or under pressure – don’t sympathise too much as really I’m having a blast.

Some years ago before working for myself I used to sit my office in Chester bored with the job I had been doing for many years. It had become repetitive but at the same time increasingly demanding and I felt resentful of the time I spent there - I constantly wished for something different. So when our life changed and we started running our B and B we also started getting ‘involved’ with more and more things locally.

I thought I was busy then – huh! Busy I maybe but enjoying the madness of it all! So be careful what you wish for it may just come true.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

A Day on the Welsh Highland Railway

My Dad is staying with is for a few days so we asked him yesterday what he would like to do. In typical old person speak (he is 83) he said 'I would like to go up Snowdon on the train before I die'. Well after getting the violin out and looking at the weather forecast we decided that the better option was to go on the Welsh Highland Railway.So despite the heavy rain this morning we set off with a sense of hope that there might be a bit of the day that would be rain free. Caernarfon is only an hour’s drive and we were quickly parked and purchasing tickets. Dad treated us to First Class returns and we boarded the beautifully restored steam train and settled into our comfortable arm chairs. It was still raining. After about half an hour the rain stopped and gradually the mist lifted from everywhere but the tops of the mountains. We had a fabulous trip to Porthmadog - it takes about 2.5 hours and then after a stopover of about 45 minutes it was time to make the return journey. By this time the sun was shining, we had enjoyed some surprisingly good refreshments and we were all really relaxed. The scenery en-route is breathtaking and even on a day of sunshine and showers (mainly showers ) it was a fantastic treat.
We stopped at the Black Lion at Babell for Pie night on our way home which really rounded the day off. Great day.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

A long overdue painting day

Joy what joy. Today I have had a full day of painting.
My blog is called ‘Living in Carmel’ Thoughts of family, friends, dogs, painting, bed and breakfast and whatever comes to mind! I have pretty much been consistent with all categories except ‘painting’ – mainly because all the other things drive my life. But painting is something that I want and need to make time for, not what I have to make time for.
It’s been many months since I picked up a paint brush and so I decided to go and spend the day with Ann Fellows a very talented artist and teacher who runs Brush Strokes and offers painting courses throughout the year, as well as having regular classes.

I was somewhat nervous when I arrived as I felt very rusty and not at all confident, but Ann soon put me at ease. I first met her when I went on one of her courses in 2003, all held in a lovely old chapel in the small village of Dolwyddelan about five miles from Betwys y Coed – in the Snowdonia National park - a truly lovely part of north Wales. Dolwyddelan has a wonderful castle which we didnt get to paint today but is definately something I want to try in the future.

We had a wonderful day and I produced quite a few pictures. I must get the gazebo sorted out and get back to regular production – I feeling inspired again.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Eggs as big as Eggs

We get our lovely fresh free range eggs from a small holding just up the road and when they dropped off their latest batch we were presented with an extra large one. A goose egg. So Les and I shared it for breakfast today - it filled the whole frying pan and tasted just like chicken (egg).

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Knitting Frenzy

Is knitting something to do with age? I have literally gone mad. Ever since my new niece was born last August and I started knitting again I seem to never be without a project. I have made loads of baby clothes for her and then went onto dolls for Christmas and now have started making little Welsh dolls as well – had no pattern so adapted one.
Also found some great patterns on the internet for other sorts of dolls and when I sit down in the evenings (Cos on some evenings I do) I pick up the needles and clack away like a demented person. Several people who stay with us have asked about buying Welsh dolls so the little knitted ones may appeal (I have already sold a couple).

Unfortunately my painting has taken a back seat again and but I am going to spend the day with an artist in April so hope to find some renewed enthusiasm.

The garden is looking lovely at the moment with all the spring flowers and with this lovely hot March weather it is making everything look especially wonderful. The water shortages in other parts of the country are worrying but here in Wales all seems to be well at the moment. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we had a long hot summer? I expect we will be back in sweaters next week!

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

St David's Day update

Phew! That's February gone. It’s been a busy month for us with the B and B picking up, a trip down South to collect our daughter, friends from France visiting and all systems go in helping to plan the 10th anniversary of the Holywell and District Twinning Association.

The garden needed a bit of a spruce up too and after only a few hours weeding and cutting back the spring flowers are looking lovely.

Our daughter Megan heads off to Canada on St David’s Day to work. She has a 12 month working visa. Hopefully we will be able to go and visit her later in the year. It was very sad saying goodbye but we know she will have a good time. Both Les and I (those of you who know us will have heard Les talking about all his travels) benefitted from travel when we were young and it’s just as well that we had no idea what our poor parents felt like saying goodbye to us. These days we have mobile phones, email and Skype to keep us in touch but back then it was just the odd airmail letter arriving on the doorstep which was then re-read many times. When Les’s mother died, 10 years ago, whilst sorting out her things we found all of the letters he had sent her when he was travelling. Rereading them had brought the memories back to life for him. Will we get the same nostalgia from Facebook in years to come I wonder.
Last weekend we had a visit from our old Au Pair who came with her mum for a few days. When Meg was seven, she came and stayed with us and since the first day we met her she became part of the family. We have spent many happy times with her and her family over the years, including her lovely wedding seven years ago and she now has two small children of her own. Several girls came to be Au Pairs as I worked full time, and we have kept in touch with most of them, little did we realise at the time what an impact it would have on our lives.
Getting to know and understanding people from other countries and cultures can only really be done by interaction with their daily lives – just going on holiday and seeing the face they want us to see tells us nothing really. I suppose its why Les and I got involved with the Twinning Association 10 years ago and here we are helping to plan a big anniversary weekend in May. The twists and turns we take in life lead us to many interesting places. And 26 years ago today on March the 1st 1986 we moved to Wales – so happy St David’s Day everyone.