18 October 2017

A Good Read

Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
Artist Elaine Risley, in her late fifties is revisiting Toronto for the opening of a retrospective of her work. This rekindles vivid memories of her childhood and teenage years. Her strongest memories are of Cordelia, who was the leader of a trio of girls who were both very cruel and very kind to young Elaine, in ways that tint Elaine's perceptions of relationships and her world, not to mention her art. 
Elaine’s early years were nomadic but not unhappy: the family moved around with her entomologist father. When she was seven, he took a university post and they settled in the Toronto suburbs, but her family was rather eccentric, and she didn't quite fit in, exacerbated by her being a tomboy and the fact she never really had the opportunity to make friends before. 
As children Elaine and her brother played marbles; Elaine kept a prized cat’s eye marble in her red purse. The cat’s eye later appears as a common motif in her paintings. 

I think Atwood is a very good writer, having a keen sense of human experiences but I sometimes struggle to understand her books. This one I enjoyed and understood it!

10 October 2017


Menopause, oh dear what a state to find oneself in. Defined as the end of of fertility, it is a natural biological process that occurs most commonly between the ages of 45 and 55. For many women it heralds a new era of relief because they no longer need to worry about pregnancy. But for others it represents a time of misery and discomfort that can last for a year, two or three years or even longer. Years of hot flushes, disrupted sleep, low energy levels, and, for some women, anxiety or feelings of sadness and loss. It has to be the worst design flaw in the history of design flaws, I mean, I get that the child bearing years are over but if I had designed the female body it would just settle into comfortable retirement without all the side effects. WHAT IS THE POINT OF A HOT FLUSH? 
It starts with a few seconds of feeling pleasantly warm, but that pleasant feeling is swiftly followed by the face turning lobster pink and the body temperature gauge spiralling out of control from cold to roasting, resulting in a barely controllable urge to tear off all your clothes and dive into a freezer. I have seen a cartoon of a couple outside their home with snow on the ground. The woman is lying on the middle step of three steps leading up to the front door, the snow has been cleared from the door to where she is and her husband is telling her to get a move on and thaw the third step before her hot flush passes!! That sums it up very well. 
Thank goodness for HRT. I was taking it for 16 years until, in 2008 my doctor persuaded me to come off it. I struggled for the following eighteen months. I tried Red Clover, Soya products, Black Cohash, St John’s Wort, Sage, Ginseng. I even bought a strong magnet that is worn next to the skin, but nothing worked, the hot flushes were relentless. A pink face and perspiration dripping down the side of my face isn’t a good look in any environment, so my doctor agreed to put me back on a very low dose. It keeps the symptoms nicely under control.

Polly x

6 October 2017

Birthday Treats

I had a wonderful weekend in Birmingham celebrating my birthday. Earlier this year I decided I wanted to go to the Miniatura Dolls House and Miniatures show at the NEC over the weekend of the 30th Sep and 1st Oct. My daughter then said she would like to come with me, not because she is into miniatures (she had a look around but isn't passionate about them) but because she had thought of a surprise birthday gift to add to the weekend. My youngest daughter and grandson knew what it was and said I would love it, "It is so you" said my daughters. So on Friday we set off. I had been going over all the things I like, my interests, books I read, theatre trips, days out, I just couldn't think what the surprise was. When my grandson was younger I could get him to tell me secrets by tickling him, but now, aged 13 and 6' 2" that doesn't work anymore!! Besides I did like the idea of a complete surprise. As we neared our destination my daughter asked me to close my eyes so as not to see any signs, which I duly did until ...... turning off the main road she said "ok mum you can open your eyes now", we were driving into ........

Related image

Oh My Word, I was like a 6 year old, I was so excited, of course what better place to take a chocoholic than Cadbury World. On arrival we were each given a Curly Wurly, a Chrunchie and a Milk Chocolate bar. 

The tour around the factory tells the story of the beginnings of chocolate when the Maya Indians and the Aztecs used it as their special chocolat drink and coca beans as currency.  

Christopher Columbus is said to have brought the first cocoa beans back to Europe but they were ignored in favour of more exciting treasures on board his galleons. 

The Spanish Conquistador Don Hernán Cortés was the first to realise their commercial value. Emperor Montezuma had introduced Cortés to his favourite "chocolat" drink.

The humble cocoa bean was to become the downfall of the Aztecs. In 1520 they perished at the hands of Cortés when the Spanish attacked a peaceful Aztec festival. Montezuma was killed and despite forcing the Spanish out of the city and regaining their strength, the city fell, marking  the end of the Aztec civilisation. Cortes was made Captain General and Governor of Mexico.  When he returned to Spain in 1528, he loaded his galleons with cocoa beans and chocolate drink-making equipment. 

Some of the earliest cocoa makers were apothecaries who became interested because of cocoa's supposed medicinal properties. Apothecaries founded by Fry's of Bristol and Terry's of York, later became well-known names in chocolate production. 

John Cadbury began by dealing in tea and coffee in his Birmingham shop. Mr Cadbury not only provided employment, he bought a substantial amount of land around the factory and created Bourneville which provided housing, a school, a hospital and leisure facilities.

After more freebies - Double Decker bars (mmm love them) we boarded  a lovely little train for a ride through a winter wonderland grotto, and then onto a chocolate making demonstration. More chocolate - chocolate sprinkles in a small cup with a choice of two toppings, we both chose popping candy and mini marshmallows - mmm divine.

It was about this time that my phone rang, it was my surgery saying that my doctor wanted to arrange a telephone call to talk about my cholesterol!! Oh dear, I suspect it is quite high, the last couple of weeks have been a bit stressful, we are having a new kitchen fitted, I don't like upheaval and I have been comfort eating. I will be talking to my doctor on Friday, I know what she is going to say.

Back to the tour. 
This lady was showing us how chocolate was prepared prior to putting into molds. Before mechanisation it was all done by hand and was quite a long process. The liquid had to be cooled by scraping it back and forth over a cold slab, then all air bubbles had to be removed. If it isn't prepared properly the chocolate will stick to the molds.

Decorating chocolate teapots for sale in the shop

The tour ended with an excellent animated 4D show taking us around the Cadbury site. Sitting in inter-active seats that made you feel you were really moving and wearing 3D glasses it was very realistic. The rollercoaster was so realistic that when it broke and plummeted downwards my daughter closed her eyes! 

All good things must come to an end, our fabulous day ended with a scrumptious cream tea

We couldn't finish it all, they put some of the cakes in a box.

This was my first visit to Birmingham so we drove into the Bullring to have a look around.

By the time we got back to our hotel we were ready to polish off the cakes with a lovely cup of tea. 

Saturday was the day of the miniature show. 
I wasn't disappointed but it wasn't as big as I had expected it to be, 
but there were still lots of lovely miniatures.

A retro 1960's house

I am in awe of anyone who creates 1/24th scale

This diorama was truly exquisite
The terraced houses at the back were made from tough cardboard document boxes, 
with just the fronts decorated and holes cut out for the doors and windows

How clever

Sit in the park and watch the world go by

or have fun on the beach

Isn't it all absolutely gorgeous

I always ask if I can take photos and most people say yes. 
This lady said yes if I would put a donation into her Air Ambulance tin, 
which I thought was a very good idea.
I have heard of people taking photos and then passing the work of as their own.

I didn't find the bathroom or kitchen furniture I want but I did buy another lovely chandelier

this one is for the library.

I'm waiting for the call to tell me how bad my cholesterol is :-(

Hope you have a good weekend

Polly x


27 September 2017

A Good Read

Crimson China by Betsy Tobin
On a freezing night in February 2004 twenty-three illegal Chinese migrants perished whilst picking cockles in the deadly waters of Morecambe Bay. Only twenty-one bodies were recovered. At a memorial service for the victims, a member of the local community offered the hope that one or both of those not found had somehow managed to survive. This is fact. The rest of the story is based around what Tobin imagined might have happened to one of the survivors. 
The novel begins with a drunken Angie wading into Morecambe Bay expecting to confront the spirit of her dead mother who drove her car onto the treacherous quicksand and successfully committed suicide. Angie wants to die too, instead she sees the head of Wen bobbing up and down in the dark water and rescues him. In doing so two worlds collide, East and West, both desperate and despairing, hopeless and hopeful. 
This is a story about the buoyancy of the human spirit and the powerful undertow of love. The novel also sheds light on a hidden dangerous world that runs parallel to our own.  
I enjoyed it, it’s a nice story. Good characters, good writing and a happy ending!

22 September 2017

How Fit Are You?

Just lately I've been giving some thought to how fit I am. I think I'm pretty healthy and thought I was fit because I walk the dogs for over an hour at least 5 days a week, surely I must be fit doing that. But what does being fit mean? Is it about being able to climb the stairs without getting out of breath, going away for a weekend of hill walking, or an afternoon playing with the grandchildren in the park? It means different things to different people. According to a Google search being fit means: "Maintaining a healthy weight with diet and exercise relative to the amount of muscle, fat, bone, and other vital parts of the body", and being able to fulfil your daily needs and requirements without pain or stress. My weight and diet are usually good, with the occasional lapses, but the reason I've started thinking about fitness is because of something that happened about a week ago whilst walking the dogs. 
We were doing one of our usual routes alongside a field. The crop has been harvested and the field is now bare so you can see way over the other side of it, and way over there was a rabbit. Buster took off first swiftly followed by Rufus. There was no way I was going to get them back, they were focused on the chase. I knew they would give up and come back soon but my worry was that this particular field runs alongside a road and if the rabbit headed that way and ran into the road R & B would follow, they have no road sense. I started running, well a bit of fast walking and a bit of running, to cut a corner and try to get ahead of them. After a couple of minutes I saw them coming towards me, I was so relieved to see them and to stop running as I was very out of puff, my heart was going like the clappers. 
So the conclusion to this is that yes I'm fit enough to walk 1.5 miles a day but the pace of my walking doesn't exert my heart therefore do I need to start upping my activity? I've always been fit and enjoyed physical activities. I was a very good athlete at school and loved PE. In my 20's I went to exercise classes, and then gyms, did a bit of jogging, cycling and swimming, walks with the ramblers and hill walking, but dog walking is my only exercise now.  I would quite like to join a gym, but unless one opens next door to where I live I know I won't make the effort to drive there. I would like to start cycling again but the traffic on both country and main roads scares me. So ...... I have a few alternative options - I could start jogging around the village; I could go back to swimming; I could join a gentle keep fit class ......... but as a starter I am now walking at a faster pace, it isn't a route march but I can feel my heart rate working. I want to enjoy a good state of fitness for as long as possible.

10 September 2017

A Good Read

The Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson
The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest

Lisbeth Salander lies in a critical condition in the intensive care unit of a Swedish city hospital with a bullet wound to her head. She is fighting for her life in more ways than one: just two rooms away, under guard, is Zalechenko. Also, if and when she recovers she will be taken back to Stockholm to stand trial for three murders. With the help of Mikael Blomkvist, she will not only have to prove her innocence, but also identify and denounce those in authority who have allowed the vulnerable, like herself, to suffer abuse and violence. She plots revenge against the man who tried to kill her, and against the corrupt government institutions that very nearly destroyed her life. 

The last of the trilogy. An excellent novel, a stunning thriller, didn’t want to put it down, but didn’t want to finish it, brilliantly written and totally gripping. The hefty 743 pages didn't flag at all.
The trilogy are the best books I have read. They score top marks on every front - character, story, atmosphere.

8 September 2017

WI 100 Years On

Last November I joined the Women's Institute. We have a small group in the village, just 11 of us. We are of similar ages, we get along and like the same things. This year marks the centenary of the founding of Essex WI and of our village group. 
A few of our members can remember their mothers, aunties or neighbours belonging to the village group. 
We decided on two celebrations - back in June we had a lunch on our normal meeting day for us, and a larger do in the village hall a couple of weeks later. 

Our tables looked very pretty

One of our ladies made these lovely jars of flowers using doilies, ribbon and netting

We all contributed towards our meal

My contribution - a bacon quiche

Desserts were Eton Mess, fruit salad and the best tiramasu I have ever tasted. 
I forgot to take photos - too busy eating them!!

The sun was shining, the doors were open, the birds were singing.
It was a truly happy afternoon. 

And an added bonus, I won the raffle, this little bag of WI goodies

A tea towel, pen, coasters, notelets, a centenary celebration book, a notebook and a lovely
WI cook book which not only has lots of delicious recipes but tells the story of how it all began, 
with details of WI resolutions and historical facts from home and abroad from 1915 to 2015. 

I love my WI brooch   

For the larger party guests were invited from WI  headquarters including our county Chair, trustees and advisors, 
members from other institutes in our group, past members, and a few people from the village

In true WI style an afternoon tea of M&S sandwiches, lots of homemade cakes, 
and cups of tea were available for everyone to enjoy.

We had some lovely gifts in the raffle (I wasn't lucky with this one)

A display of skills learned at institute meetings over the the past 100 years along with kitchen memorabilia.

I think every household in the land had some of those yellow Tupperware containers

My mother had scales like these, she threw them out in favour of plastic, being lighter and easy to clean!

Displays of past and current ongoing projects

our award winning tree from a nearby village Christmas festival last year

with a tea party theme

Handicraft projects. 
On the left, the mauve with white spots square is part of one of two quilts I have made, 
and top right is a yellow knitted lap blanket, one of eleven I have made!  

The Essex Chordsmen entertained us with us their barbershop harmony

 Madam Chair cutting our birthday cake

Everyone had a most enjoyable time.

I've had quite a busy week, working on my allotment, a funeral, WI meeting and my book group meeting. 
Today I'm feeling a bit out of sorts, I have a slight a headache. 
The weather is wet and  miserable so it's a sofa day. 
I'm going to try to catch up reading the blogs I follow.

I hope you are well and have a good weekend.

Polly x 

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