Saturday, December 31, 2016

#2016bestnine


So, okay, I cheated! The website that picks the Instagram pictures with the most likes, didn't actually pick my favourites of the year. Some of the IG photographs was popular with a particular group, but not ones that I felt encapsulated my year. Here we go:
1. Ella at a school show, being a bride, and singing 'Flash!Bang! Wallop what a picture!'
2. My 3 boys all together, and if I say so myself, looking good :)
3. A Skype call with Jeff, Ella and me when he was in USA visiting the boys
4. Me embracing my inner hippy pagan witch outside a henge in Ireland
5. An IG initiative to show something you love - for me it's hugs with family and friends
^. Another from Ireland. The boys look like they're modelling for a clothes catalogue LOL!
7. This sweatshirt 'Family Always Has Your Back' also has the Winchester boys and their car (from Supernatural). One of the actors suffers from depression and  'Always Keep Fighting' is a initiative that he has started. Obviously very close to my heart
8. Got to include fostering, and love this photo of 2 siblings we had and they're wearing the Oompa Loompa outfits I made from scratch
9. Why fostering is worth it :)
Thursday, December 29, 2016

Earthquake!

Joshua and Benjamin are certainly experiencing life over in South Lake Tahoe.
Their first year they got used to the bears appearing from nowhere and walking way out of their way to avoid them!
Chasing chipmunks out of the house!
And this week feeling the ground shake from an earthquake! In the big scheme of things, they were about 30 miles away from the epicentre, but they still felt 2 shakes, each one lasting about 5 seconds! That's still experiencing earthquakes in my books :)
Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Presents !

Jeff and I usually buy each other something we need and not expensive. I mean when you have been together 26 years you sort of have enough of what you need. But this year has been a tough year so we decided to spoil each other a bit. As well as a few small bits I bought him a model car kit (eternal kid lol!) and a limited edition Sekonda watch made for Sunderland Athletic Football Club. His face was a picture and I can now update the post about the Garden Inn hotel we stayed at in November for their help in buying this without Jeff realising!

These are mine from Jeff .......

I love fountain pens, but have always had ones for a couple of quid, and a few Parker pens. But this Cross ink pen makes handwriting fun! The ink just glides across the page. So sometimes it is worth paying more (or getting your husband to pay more lol!). I have been advised though to use Cross original ink cartridges as cheaper ones will clog up the nib - small price to pay :)

The Hunger Games DVD collection - just YAY!
The tooth brush was something I actually needed, but when monies tight, and it can double up as a Christmas present, then that is what's going to happen. Likewise the Spiralizer. I have a good manual one, but this was in the sale and has got to make life easier - yes back to healthy eating in the new year. See, I'm not ashamed that one of my pressies were in the sales! (Maybe all of them were ..... still not bothered).
And the books! Result :) A complete mixture (and one that wasn't actually a Christmas present but it's sitting nicely with the others).
Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Day

Christmas was a mixed bag this year.

It was the first year we didn't have any of the 3 boys home for Christmas. I always knew that this day would come. We have brought up strong, independent children, and I wouldn't want it any other way. But still, as a Mum, I'm allowed to be selfish one day a year and miss them :(

And I cannot shift this hacking cough following on from all the coughs and colds we've had in the house the past few weeks.

But they were the only negatives :)

My brother and his family were over from France for the first Christmas in, I think, 8 years, so it was lovely.

Daniel and Shona popped round in the evening.

Because of the young fosterlings this year we got to see Christmas and all the excitement through the eyes of children again. Santa's footprints, leaving out milk and mince pies for him; and having the stockings put by the fireplace (instead of by the boys beds!)


And Nanny Saps (Jeff's mum) rosebush at the crematorium has been replaced for one that actually has leaves! Maybe in 2017 we'll finally get roses after17 years.

We bought Robert and his family a board game called 'Best of British'. Jeff and I won. But think we would have been dead embarrassed if we hadn't seeing as Robert, Jane, and the kids have lived in France for about 16 years! Sean was actually born in France, so getting a question about English nursery rhymes did seem a bit unfair LOL!

We also played Cranium - love that game - not sure everyone else did though :)

Dad and Sandra came up Boxing Day and Robert and co. came back so that was a lovely bonus. Love having a full house :) I must admit I thought Dad would have turned back - the journey from theirs to ours on an average run takes 1.5 hours ...... took them 4 hours!!!


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Willow Tree

Totally unexpected Christmas Eve pressie from my Fairy Goddaughter! We don't 'do' Christmas Eve presents any more. When the boys were young we used to let them open one Christmas present when we got back from midnight mass - just like I had done when I was young - but as they got older and we skipped midnight mass for Christmas morning the tradition stopped. So opening this today stirred up some good memories :)

 I love Willow Tree, very simple lines, but there's something appealing about them. I have about half a dozen, which shows how much I love them, when I've been de-cluttering with a vengeance this year!
Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Play Dough Fun !

All poorly :(

For the last 2 weeks the whole household has been struck down by this virulent cold/flu bug so apart from a lot of nose wiping and temperature taking, not a lot else has been going on.

So here's a moment between the poorlies! Thought we would get playdough out as the children love it - but this photograph shows Jeff enjoying it more than the kids and not wanting to share it LOL!
Friday, December 16, 2016

Poundland! (amd B&M)

Christmas - I love Christmas. Being brought up in the Italian Catholic tradition you can imagine we always did Christmas big, and it's something I've never grown out of.

Once of the traditions is a stocking that Father Christmas brings. We always felt uncomfortable that good old Santa could buy one family a colouring book and pens and yet another family a toy electric car! That's just us mind, each to his own.

In the early years it wasn't a big feat, 5 small boys, could always find plenty to go in them. However, as time goes on the stocking pile has grown - and grown - and grown! This year we have .........
Five sons aged between 31 and 21;
Five potential daughter in laws between 26 and under
Our Ella - 18 -  with her complex needs and limited likes!
And a 14 year old and 8 year old fosterlings!
13!! Jeff and me have agreed if and when grandchildren come along the older ones will have to forfeit their stockings - otherwise we'll have to start collecting for them December 26th each year LOL!
Thursday, December 08, 2016

Fostering

One of the young fosterling has been pushing boundaries for a while but this morning he writes this ......... :) Such hard work, but worth it.
Sunday, December 04, 2016

Ella's 18th Birthday

Ella celebrated her 18th this week. We adopted her May 2002, where did that go? I'll have a proper post in the new year - have my first little bit of writing being published then in SEN Magazine and I wrote about her coming of age. Although that's debatable - some say 18, I always think 21 - just because legally they're an adult, well, there's some 21 year olds that I'm not sure should carry that title LOL!

Suffice to say she had a great time - party at school, followed by a party at respite. Then the next evening even more birthday cake. And her Godmother came round the day after that - so her birthday celebrations spread out over 3 days :)
Thursday, December 01, 2016

SAFC

And the final part of our respite weekend! The whole reason we chose Sunderland was so Jeff could watch his beloved Sunderland Athletic Football Club. Which he did, as you can see :) I also got to find a couple more snow dogs so everyone's a winner! There was a complete power outage for about 10 minutes and the stands resembled a music concert with everyone lighting their phones. Coupled with a large number of fans singing "We're Sunderland, we'll play in the dark!" it made for a memorable match.
On the way home (well, 2 hours out of the way, but it was worth it!) we visited Lou and Mark and and had a lovely brunch :)
Pretty brilliant weekend - hoping we don't have to wait 15 years for the next one!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Hilton Garden Inn

Penultimate Episode :)

Jeff booked this hotel as according to the information we recieved it was quite close to the Stadium of Light (Sunderland Football Clubs home pitch). Understatement of the year! Took me longer to walk into the hotel and up to 2 flights of stairs to our room than it did to leave the hotel and be at the stadium! And, to complete it for Jeff, hotel cars are parked in the stadium car park. Can you see how close he parked - think he was in football heaven lol!

The hotel is lovely, modern and fresh - but then it is new so would have been surprised if it had been anything less than spot on. We had a safe in the room, but it didn't unlock so we had a word with front of house. By the time we got back from a stroll they had fixed it.The same employees suggested somewhere to eat on the Friday - the Italian Kitchen - so we all know by know what a success that was :) Taxi's. How to get somewhere. Nothing was too much trouble, Hilton should be proud of them. On the Sunday I was trying to buy a sneaky Christmas present for Jeff. They willingly went along with the subterfuge, even to the point of offering to post it out at no extra cost as they were having trouble finding it.

Will definitely be back next time we're up for a match :)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Karbon Grill

Part 4 .... amazing how much one can squeeze into a weekend!

Okay, so have to admit, this was the only let down of our long weekend break. On the Saturday evening we were planning to go back to the Italian Kitchen as we had enjoyed it so much the night before. But a friend who lives in Durham suggested the Karbon Grill and we thought we'd give it a go.

Looking at the menu it was a bit more expensive than the Italian Kitchen, but as it is within the hotel building there would be no travelling and therefore taxi fares needed.

However, that would be the only plus. I was waiting to ask for a table for 2. A gentleman turned up a few seconds after me and was served before. I let that one slide. However, a family of 4 turned up and when they had seated the previous gentleman proceeded to serve this family. Not impressed, I was I had to admit a little impolite and said "Am I invisible?" To ignore me once could be an oversight - twice not so much! I did apologise to the family as it was hardly their fault.

We were seated on a table for 2 in direct line of the door. I had to actually ask Jeff to go up to the hotel room and get me a fleece! Anyone that knows me knows I walk around in a tee shirt in December, so trust me when I say it was cold.

The meal was acceptable but not what one would expect. As an Italian I was horrified to eat chewy ravioli :( and the lemon tart I do not think was homemade.

To finish the evening they tried to overcharge us by £16 - and yes, for us that is actually a lot of money. If I hadn't overheard the next table complaining about an error on their bill I might not have scrutinised ours quite so thoroughly and would have paid the initial amount. Once we had the correct bill we then waited another 15 minutes to pay the bill until I managed to catch a server's eye.

And if you're wondering, yes I did complain - well, when someone asks if you've had a nice evening would be rude not to tell the truth ;)

So as I said at the beginning of this post it was the only downside of the weekend, very disappointing in fact.
Friday, November 25, 2016

Snow Dogs

We had read about the Snow Dogs Trail, and while we were strolling around a little corner of Sunderland, we managed to find a few of them :) As it turns out, it was the last weekend they were on show, so really pleased we got to take part, albeit with only a few of them.

This is the reasons for the multitude of dogs .....

Presented by creative producers Wild in Art, working in partnership with St Oswald's Children’s Hospice, Great North Snowdogs will bring together businesses, artists, schools and community groups to create a public art trail of beautiful Snowdog sculptures, based on the story The Snowman and The Snowdog, by Raymond Briggs.
For ten weeks during Autumn and Winter 2016, the North East’s streets, parks and open spaces will become home to a series of individually designed Snowdog sculptures, painted by both well-known and undiscovered artists.
This will result in a sculpture trail, sponsored by businesses and individuals, showcasing the rich cultural offer and wealth of artistic talent in the area. Local people can become ‘tourists in their own city’ with a trail map and dedicated app will lead them from popular tourist destinations to lesser known areas of the region.
 Once the trail ends, the sculptures will be auctioned at a glittering event in December 2016, to raise funds for St Oswald’s Children’s Hospice. A separate trail of smaller Snowdogs, created by local school children and community groups will also be exhibited, celebrating the talent of the young people of the North East.

If you want to see them all, follow the linky-link :)
Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Little Chef and Italian Kitchen

Our whole two days started with a 5 hour drive. Jeff suggested we stop at a Little Chef - he knows me so well! I worked at the boarded up Little Chef when I was 15 for about 3 years. This was back in the dark ages when teenagers were allowed to work while they were at school and college. I have so many happy memories of this place, some fantastic, some heartbreaking and a lot in between. Dale. Kezzy. Lynda. The 2 managers running off to Italy together with their children - 3 girls each! Major drama for a 16 year old! Losing a special ring and finding it months later at the bottom of the incinerator. Drawing lots as to who got to clean the men's toilets (only when all girls were on - we didn't touch that area when the boys were on duty LOL!) Being told I should have won Miss Little Chef South but couldn't because I worked at the LC attached to the Head Office. And 101 other memories.
Part of this Little Chef address is Black Cat Roundabout, which is so cool when you think we were heading up to watch Sunderland, who's mascot is a black cat :) Lovely staff, had a good laugh with them. The menu is what it is, one of the pluses of a LC is that you always get what you expect. For me griddled eggs and jubilee pancakes every time......... although not together ;)

We had intentions of getting up to Sunderland about 3, go shopping in Newcastle or sightseeing in Durham. But the traffic was not on our side and by the time we got there, registered with the hotel, and unpacked, it was nearly 7pm. So the obvious choice was more food. and we were recommended Italian Kitchen on Thompson Road, Sunderland. We were squeezed in at 7.30 - and I really do mean squeezed, it was heaving. In spite of how busy the staff all were, they were very professional, friendly and the food was prompt. We had 3 courses and couldn't fault any of them. The pasta was so light, and the sugo almost perfect (well, let's me honest, no-one will ever make it as good as my Nonna!) If you ever end up in Sunderland I would suggest a visit, you won't be disappointed :)

Monday, November 21, 2016

Time Away?

Part 1 ....... For the first time in 15 years Jeff and me had 2 nights away just the 2 of us. We both love Ella dearly, but most couples by our age and/or having kids over 17 are enjoying whole holidays together. We don't get that luxury, and most of the time that's fine, but just sometimes it makes me a bit, I suppose, jealous, which I know isn't a pretty thing but it is what it is. So this post is a huge, huge, huge shout out to Lynn, Don and Amy for giving us the opportunity to spend some time together.

If you're new to my blog, the following posts will give you a picture of our complex Ella:
E is for Ella, Having a Holiday with a SN Child, Respite? Don't make me laugh and Social Services, School, Sleep, Sadness
Friday, November 18, 2016

Water water everywhere....

...And not a drop to drink!
Not how we planned to spend the last few days!
Saturday - came home after a busy day. Took younger children upstairs to change into pyjamas. As we walked under the stairwell Jeff felt a drip, then we realised there was a lot more than just one drip. Initially not worried as it wouldn't be the first leaking pipe Jeff had repaired. On inspection it was the tank. Cue start of hassle. Jeff cuts a hole in the stairwell to release water. Now worries it's so damp that the tank might fall through the ceiling. Turned water off. Phoned insurers. Explained situation re Ellas complex needs and fosterlings. Noted as a priority. This was about 6pm. Phoned OOH for the fosterlings. Start looking at emergency respite just in case. Phoned insurers at 9.30pm again. Half hour wait on the phone. Told yes we are still a priority. Phone OOH and say let's not worry tonight, we'll cope.
Sunday - 2.30am the emergency priority plumber arrives. Agreed it is the tank. Said putting the hole in the ceiling was the right thing to do. And he couldn't do anything different! So glad we stayed up till 3 in the morning to find that out! In the morning phoned OOH again, agreed fosterlings will need temporary homes, but Monday would be okay. Jeff went to the launderette to get all the school uniforms washed. Took all the kids round to mums in the afternoon for showers then The Old Manor for dinner (so not all bad!)
Monday - Between plumbers and sorting children, didn't stop till 10pm. No water, hot or cold, in the house at all. So no showers, washing machines, cups of tea or even flushing the toilet.
Tuesday - Jeff had thought we should have the boiler changed as well as it is only time until that goes and that a combo boiler is the way forward. I agreed until we found out it was going to set us back best part of 4K
Wednesday- my hero finally empties the tank through siphoning as the tank has no tap! Then diverts all the pipes, rejoins and we have running water, little things :) Couple of gas filled heaters and the house is warm too:)
Thursday - every attempt Jeff has made to find a replacement tank was a 2 week wait :( Then he struck lucky and found a company that had had a cancelled order - yay! Hot water and central heating here we come!
Friday, November 11, 2016

LTCC

It's the second year for the boys studying and playing football abroad. Joshua is stuck injured again but Benjamin is loving life on the California/Nevada border up in the mountains by Lake Tahoe. I have a feeling he's not going to want to come back to England when his 4 years are up, got mixed feelings about that. So pleased he's happy and confident, but might miss him a little bit :)

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Eating Out

Half term and we had a bit of time to spend just with Ella. So we did her favourite thing - going somewhere to eat LOL! This is the newly re-opened cafe at The Sanctuary Barn. Freshly cooked, simple menu, friendly staff and Ella gave it the thumbs up! We'll definitely be back :)


Sunday, November 06, 2016

Always Keep Fighting

You're only as happy as your unhappiest child'. I had never heard this expression, but I completely relate to it.

I'm not a great sweatshirt lover, if I really need one, then I just borrow one of Jeffs. But this one has been designed for the Winchester brothers in Supernatural, so that alone makes it more interesting. The clincher though was #always keep fighting. One of the stars, Jared Padalecki, is drop dead gorgeous, has a beautiful wife and children, and yet suffers from depression . You never know who or when this bas***d illness is going to strike. Apparently some of the proceeds of this sweatshirt is going to charity, so I'm now the proud owner :)

The first photo is what's on the sweatshirt; the second is info for anyone that doesn't understand mental health illnesses; and the last is if you're in that zone right now, a few positive words for you xx


Thursday, November 03, 2016

Throwback Thursday

When we went to Dublin at the beginning of July we had arranged to meet Kerrie's parents. Ended up at this amazing restaurant. The best Thai Green curry I have ever tasted - really :) And Kerrie's parents were just as lovely - Joe is so lucky to not only have a great girlfriend, but the extended family are super too. And that's just special to me, to know that others are supporting him in a new country.

The restaurant is called The Geisha Restaurant in Ashtown, Dublin, if you're ever nearby :)
Saturday, October 29, 2016

October 31st

No fireworks again for us :( I love them, but Ella, and one of the fosterlings, would have just had meltdowns from the noise so quiet evening in watching other people's through the windows!

Haven't got a photo of Ella with her pumpkin as she made hers at school - 2 weeks early (note: do not freeze carved pumpkins, they do not thaw well lol!)

But a lovely photo of fosterling carving his pumpkin :)
Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Healing

Quiet morning post-op healing and recovering. As always Jeff is being a superstar - I honestly don't know how I would have coped the last 3.5 years without him. I suppose I should keep him around a little longer ;)
Monday, October 24, 2016

Football Watching

In 1995 our Joe was 4 and Joshua was only 3 when they started to go to Sunday football, 21 years ago. Then Benjamin joined in as soon as he was old enough. Since then we must have stood by a pitch thousands of times in the sun, rain, blistering heat, torrential rain. Have sat in pop-up tents, have balls hit me in the face (don't think it was intentional lol!) and was once awarded at their annual presentations the dubious honour of the loudest mum - no, I didn't care :)

And here we are in 2016, with one of the fosterlings, by the side of the pitch. Are we bored of it yet? absolutely not! In fact, when this one's training finishes Jeff rushes off to watch the older fosterling in his football match!
Sunday, October 23, 2016

Another Operation!

My third operation since May. You'd think I'd be a bit more relaxed about the process by now, but no. When I went for my pre-op check on Wednesday my BP was 189/114 - seriously!!! So lots of readings between then and Friday, all of which were absolutely fine, and then back at the hospital on Friday it went sky high again. Definitely a case of White Coat Syndrome :)

So this one was again relating to my accident, more work on my foot. Let's hope this one will give me the movement to walk on the beach - rocks - cobblestones again without giving up cos of pain and swelling.


Monday, October 10, 2016

Girls Weekend Part 4

Friends. Chocolate. Hot tub. Swimming pool. Good food. Cider. Sweets. Games. More chocolate. Perfect weekend as always :)