I like to be in America!

I’m home! A few days ago now actually. Totally thought I’d have time to write and fill you in as I went along when we were away but the days were so packed that I didn’t get a minute. I’m still trying to decide whether to give you an overview in one post or several more detailed posts about what’s been going on over the last couple of weeks. Maybe I’ll just play it by ear?

Anyway as you know this was my first ever trip to America, in fact my first trip outside of Europe. I always enjoy going on holiday and seeing new places (especially when that’s accompanied by sunny weather) so I was expecting to like seeing the States (well one state anyway). What I wasn’t expecting was how much I LOVED it! Wow! California was beautiful. I was surprised that some of the landscape (mountains, lakes and coast) reminded me of home but with sunnier weather and bluer skies. Everything about the place was just a bit EXTRA if that makes any sense?

We arrived in San Francisco on the same day as our daughter. She’d been in Michigan for Christmas and New Year with a friend. It was SO good to see her again although as soon as we saw her it was like we hadn’t been apart. Naturally the best thing about being over there was seeing her but there were many other lovely things too.

Our first view of the city

San Francisco made a very good first impression on me. I loved the cable cars and Fisherman’s Wharf.

San Francisco cable car
Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf
Sea lions on the pier

We enjoyed a trip to Alcatraz and went on to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Alcatraz
The Golden Gate Bridge

We ate in restaurants that we don’t have back home and I confess I didn’t stick to my diet 100% of the time (probably worse for everyone else than for me 😝). On our first day there we had a delicious meal at an authentic Chinese restaurant in Chinatown courtesy of one of our daughter’s friends who was able to order for us in Chinese.

Clam Chowder in a Sourdough bowl from Boudin’s Bakery

We visited the Musée Mécanique which is like a museum of arcade games that you can play with quarters. It was pretty good fun as there were some really cool old games there.

One of the old arcade games

We enjoyed exploring the city and visiting shops (stores) that we hadn’t been in before.

My first visit to Bloomingdales
A public space in the city centre

I did pretty much all of the driving which was fun/slightly terrifying for my passengers. The car we hired was really comfortable and had some nice features and I’d forgotten how much I enjoy heated car seats. I think I coped pretty well with the driving and different road rules because I only had one meltdown with the ‘backseat driver’ 😂. I was pretty much getting the hang of it when it was time to leave. I never really got why anyone would want to take a road trip across the States before but having driven there a bit now I’d be up for it. It’s not like driving here. That would be a fun trip to plan – maybe for my next big birthday? 😝

I haven’t posted much about songs or music recently but some of you know that there is often a random song going around in my head. Perhaps unsurprisingly it was this song from West Side Story that was in my thoughts during my first couple of days in the States. 😊

I’m thinking that’s probably enough info for one post. So that takes us to Day 3 of the trip. I’ll fill you in on the escapades of Day 4 soon. Let’s just say it was a pretty hair-raising day. 😱

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Leaving on a jet plane

Right now I’m a little over half way through the longest flight I’ve ever been on (I’m somewhere over Canada in fact). It’s not the most comfortable experience – I’m definitely not used to sitting on my butt for this long and it’s been a bit bumpy in places. It will be worth it though. In a few hours I’ll get to see my gorgeous girl and actually give her a hug which I haven’t been able to do since she headed off to California in August. I can’t wait.

I’ve been keeping myself entertained. Got a nice wee pic of the sky this morning taken on flight number 1 to London.

I’ve got through a couple of chapters of the book I’m currently reading (Becoming by Michelle Obama). It’s a great story so far. Hopefully no one will think I’m making any sort of political statement reading her book on the way to Trump’s America! 😂 I’ve listened to a bit of an audio book (Blink by Malcolm Gladwell) and played a couple of games on the console on the back of the seat in front. I think that seat is actually broken. It looks like it’s at a bit of an angle and the man sitting there keeps shifting about to try and get comfortable. I’ve watched a couple of movies that I’d been wanting to see but not got round to yet – Wild Rose and Rocketman. Is it significant that I go for the music related themes? Anyway I loved both stories. Neither of these artists have had easy lives. I felt pretty sorry for Elton John watching Rocketman. I mean I know he’s loaded but it seems like he’s just a little boy craving love. I guess there are quite a few people with that story.

They said at one point that there was WiFi on this flight and I was thinking I could catch up on reading some blogs and stuff but it turns out the availability is limited and of course there’s an extra charge so I’ll just wait till we get to the hotel before I do that.

I was planning to sleep a bit first thing when we left and then stay awake to try to adjust my body clock and avoid jet lag. I didn’t manage to sleep much though so now I’ll just need to try to stay awake. It’s going to be a long day! 😝

The airline food has been pretty good although I didn’t request a special diet and now my stomach is a bit sore. I’ll survive of course. 😊

Well I guess I’m just rambling on a bit here and not saying anything that’s of much interest to anyone else 😂 so I should probably leave this for now. I’ll have landed before I can post it obviously. We have lots of cool plans while we’re in California (wine tour, visit to Alcatraz, skydive – yes you did read that right 😱) so I’ll fill you in when I get a chance.

If you have any ‘must see’ suggestions for our trip let me know in the comments. Talk to you soon.

Busy, busy, busy!

Hey guys! Sorry it’s been so long since I posted anything. Life has been pretty hectic since our return from Croatia. It’s not that I haven’t had thousands of thoughts that I wanted to blog about – I even started writing a few that never got finished – it’s just that life has taken over or I’ve engineered it that way. It’s a tricky one ’cause I like to be busy and sociable. I get bored if I don’t have much on so I’m inclined to fill every minute in my diary. The downsides of that are that I then have no ‘me time’, no processing time and I have to be careful not to use busyness as a numbing strategy ’cause I’ve done that plenty too.

Anyway I’d better fill you in on what I’ve been up to. There were a few big events lined up just after our return. Our daughter was leaving for California ten days after we got back so I was trying to help her with last minute arrangements and packing and stuff. She’s off to Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry for 10 months. I’ll miss her a lot but I know this is an exciting opportunity for her and I think she was ready for a bit more independence again.

We also had our local community fun day 8 days after our return. I’m on the organising team for that so I was busy with everything from signing the licence to occupy the site at the council offices to clearing weeds from the car park and picking up dog poo before we could get set up. 😝 Thankfully despite a lot of red tape this year it turned out to be a successful day and the sun even shone for us after what had been a pretty damp week. I think we must have had around 500 people turn up across the day – not bad for a small village. My boy’s band played a slot in the music tent and my lovely girl gave up three hours of packing time to face paint less than 48 hours before leaving.

We had a friend of my son’s staying with us from Australia for a few days while all of that was going on. I’ve looked after little B every week for a while and caught up with a few friends too. I went down to my parents new house and prepped and painted their bathroom ceiling for them one day. I’ve had a few fun nights out like one with my teacher pals to escape rooms and then out for dinner. That was such a good laugh. We’ve had some nice meals with friends and a trip to the spa with one of my besties K which is always so relaxing.

This last week or so I’ve been working a bit on my business again too. I’ve got a few classes lined up (and some supply days at my old school) but I need some more confirmed. Getting work set up is one of the hardest things about being self employed. I do have a few people interested just now I just need them to confirm. Hopefully that will happen soon.

In amongst everything else I’ve finally finished Skelly’s Square (started it towards the end of my holiday but I’m a slow reader at times) an excellent debut novel by one of my fav bloggers Stephen Black of Fractured Faith Blog . Totally recommend this. It’s a great read and I can’t wait for book 2.

If you’re still with me thanks for reading. That was a bit of a whistle stop tour of the last couple of weeks. Hopefully I’ll share some more soon. 😊

A few days in Europe

I’m just home from a few days away with my friend E. (Well I was when I started writing this blog – as usual it’s taken me a while to get round to finishing it 😝.) We took a flight to Brussels on the Tuesday morning and went to stay with her husband’s aunt. She’s such a lovely wee lady and we’ve stayed with her before (a couple of years ago now).

Tuesday was mostly spent travelling. We left home at 9.30 am and got a taxi to the airport. We started our holiday with a wee Prosecco and breakfast after getting through security at the airport. The flight to Brussels doesn’t take long but with the time difference and the onward bus journey we didn’t get to Auntie B’s until around 5 pm. We had another wee glass or two of Prosecco (I confess we drank a lot this week) and some crisps to keep us going before getting settled in and heading out for food. We ate in a Spanish Italian restaurant that night and had steak and fries with salad – oh and more wine (of course 😂).

Pretty streets in Bruges

On the Wednesday we took a trip to Bruges by train. I didn’t visit Bruges on my last Belgian holiday and I’d been told it was beautiful. It was! The architecture was typically Flemish in many streets, with their stepped gables.

Flemish stepped gables

We had a traditional Belgian lunch with beer of course after which we enjoyed a canal boat tour.

Lovely views from the canal boat

We got some amazing views of the city this way.

Bruges from the canal

After our tour of Bruges we headed back to the train station and travelled on to Blankenberge (where I have been before). Blankenberge has these awesome bars on the beach with really comfy outdoor sofas and seating so it’s like relaxing in your living room but out in the sunshine. I love it! We had a couple of cocktails there before heading back to Brussels for the evening.

It was a very early start on Thursday (4am) as we were off to spend the day in Paris. I was so excited! I’ve never been in the centre of Paris before. The closest I’ve been was EuroDisney (when the kids were much younger). We got a train there and arrived at 7.30am – just in time for breakfast in a cute French cafe.

What a day! I must confess my diet went to pot but you can’t be in Paris and not have croissant and baguette for breakfast, not to mention the best omelette I’ve ever tasted!

A Parisian breakfast

After breakfast we bought day passes for the metro. Only €7 for the two central zones and we really got our money’s worth hoping on and off throughout the day as we literally whizzed from one tourist attraction to another. We managed to cover most of the really famous ones although if you really want to see Paris properly I’d recommend going for a week.

Arc de Triomphe

The Arc from underneath

The tomb of the unknown soldier

Champs-Élysées

The Eiffel Tower (of course 😝)

We also took a walking tour to see some of the lesser known points of interest (I literally had blisters on my feet by the end of the day – but my Fitbit was happy ’cause I chalked up 29539 steps!)

The newest Metro station in Paris

Art at the palace

Artwork in the street

Parisian street

Window shopping at Laboutins 👠

Fountain at Jardin des Tuileries

The Louvre from The Louvre 😊

She needs no introduction

Venus de Milo

What’s left of Notre Dame from the front

Sacre Coeur

We were exhausted but really happy when we fell into bed that night.

Friday was a more laid back day. We had a little bit of a lie in and then headed into Louisa in Brussels to a couple of our favourite shops – Dillie and Kamille and Hema. Bought ourselves a few wee treats to take home and then caught the tram to the Palace Gardens to read our books by the fountain in the sunshine.

The Palace in Brussels

Palace gardens

We finished off our last evening with a Brazilian buffet at a local restaurant.

It was a fab trip. Can’t wait to go back! If you enjoy travelling and you haven’t been I’d highly recommend Bruges and Paris. Definitely my highlights. If you’re still reading thanks for staying with me. Hope you enjoyed my pics. X

It’s Pancake Day

It’s Pancake Day!  I have some lovely memories of pancake day as a child and also from when my two were younger.  I’m pretty sure that part of that is just to do with how yummy pancakes are; but it’s also about the fun we had tossing pancakes and having them stick to the ceiling or the floor or land on the hob 😂.

As you know, I’m no longer eating wheat or dairy but I don’t think it’s gonna be a problem. I’ve discovered that the small thick pancakes work just as well with gluten free flour and almond milk (at least I think I used almond milk but it might have been soy – I can’t remember 🤔). So do waffles. I’ve made both recently and they were really tasty.

I had a bit more trouble with the larger pancakes that I tried today. I used rice milk this time and they were pretty soft and didn’t hold together that well. Not sure if I should have put some xanthan gum in them? Can someone out there tell me how to fix them please? They still tasted pretty good though with a chicken and herby tomato topping.

Anyway here is the adapted recipe for my Granny’s Scotch Pancakes that did work if you want to try them. I forgot to take pics unfortunately hence the stock photo.

Granny’s Scotch Pancakes

Ingredients:
125g Doves Gluten Free Self Raising Flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
60g castor sugar
1 egg
150ml almond/soy milk
Oil

Method:
Put the dry ingredients into a bowl (or use a large jug like I do and you can pour the mixture straight into the pan).  Add the egg and milk and beat thoroughly.  If the mixture is too thick to pour add a little more milk.

Put a small amount of oil in a frying pan and heat gently.  Pour tablespoonfuls of batter on to the pan keeping them far apart.  When bubbles rise through the pancake turn it over and cook the other side.

These are great served warm with maple syrup and bacon or let them cool and serve with dairy free spread and jam. 😋

When was the last time?

When was the last time you rolled down a hill
Or chased a butterfly that wouldn’t stay still?
When was the last time you lay on the grass
And watched the cloud shapes slowly pass?
Who told us that growing older
Meant we had to grow up?

When was the last time you ran through the leaves
Or built a den among the trees?
When was the last time you climbed to a branch
And watched so still as everyone passed?
Who told us that growing older
Meant we had to grow up?

When was the last time you built an igloo
Or made some angels in snow that’s new?
When was the last time you got on a sledge
And flew down a hill with your heart on edge?
Who told us that growing older
Meant we had to grow up?

When was the last time you played on a swing
Or made daisy chains while the birds would sing?
When was the last time you flew a kite
And watched it soar with colours so bright?
Who told us that growing older
Meant we had to grow up?

When was the last time you just had fun,
Felt as free as a child playing in the sun?
When was the last time you did something daft
And didn’t care if anyone laughed?
Who told us that growing older
Meant we had to grow up?

I don’t want to grow up!

Party till you drop!

What a weekend! And it’s only halfway through 😝.

Last night we had a leaving party for our youngest who leaves for Australia in only three and a half days. I have really mixed feelings about that. It’s a fantastic experience for him. He’ll get to travel and experience a different culture and see some fantastic new places. He’ll make new friends and gain a new level of independence. No doubt he’ll grow heaps and get to know who he is and what his true values are. Part of me is a little bit jealous of him 😆. On the other hand I also feel a bit nervous about him leaving – not for him – I know he’s gonna be absolutely fine. I’m nervous for me! The house is going to be a whole lot quieter (probably tidier too 😉) with him gone. I’m not sure how I’m going to handle the almost empty nest. It will bring a different dynamic to our family. He’s often the one who notices if I’m a bit down too and comes to give me a big hug. I’ll really miss that.

The party was fun. It was great catching up with friends, chatting to lots of different people and having a few dances with my daughter and some of my son’s friends. I had been a little bit unsure whether some of the guests would be friendly towards me but it was okay in the end.

Today we had an early start after our late night to get organised for my brothers and sister and their families and my aunts and uncles all turning up at my house to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday. I kinda enjoy hosting parties but it can be a bit of pressure too. It’s been a long time since any of my aunts and uncles have visited with us (we tend to go to them). Yesterday I spent most of the day cleaning and preparing to make sure I didn’t ‘let the side down’ 😂. It’s so weird that even within families there are certain people you feel you have to make everything look perfect for. Everyone seemed to enjoy the day thankfully. I really enjoyed chatting with some of my nieces and catching up on their lives. It’s lovely having the little ones around who are so full of energy and fun but I also really enjoy ‘getting to know’ the young adults as they step into their own lives independent from their parents. It’s funny how they grow and mature and can be so different as young adults from the strange little creatures they were as kids 🤪.

Anyway two successful parties down, house tidied and glass of prosecco in hand. What can I get up to next?