Thursday 31 July 2008
Ever the blogger I then got his permission to share one of the songs with you all...I mean it is FRIDAY!!!! ENJOY
Who could have thought that the day could have got any better? Not me....I was looking forward to our final hockey match, but also kinda sad as it is the end of the summer season and I have absolutely loved playing, it is a mixed league and there are some really awesome players, men and women......and then me!
Last week I had a shocker of a game, so bad I could not even find anything funny enough about it to blog...now that is BAD. Last night I redeemed myself, I stretched and ran after every ball, made myself available and actually managed to intercept a few opposition passes too, I was in top form and then the fabulously juicy cherry on top....I scored 3 goals....3!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That is a first for me, I was in such shock after each one that it took me a couple of minutes to get back into the game but I think I got away with it!!! Thanks team for all the passes, obviously could not have done it without you!!! Mmmmm and Malcolm the little traitor...he took along the camera and got some sneaky shots of me playing hockey as per Tracy's request...flattering? I think not!
Monday 28 July 2008
Anyhow...I had to place ALL the batter in the tin, bake and pray...that it did not get burned by the required extended cooking time. The cake came out of the oven lovely and large and I was rather pleased with the result.
Sadly when it came to cutting the cake in half for icing and sandwiching back together purposes things went a litle awry. I did not do a great job cutting in half...more like 1/3 - 2/3 ratio, then I iced it and discovered that the cake had a mind of its own and had decided that sliding and sloping was the game it wanted to play. I did actually contemplate baking another cake but considering 350 grams of good quality chocolate had been used for the icing alone I decided I would ply my guests with mojitos and any other form of alcohol they showed an interest in and then the impact of my lopsided cake would go unnoticed.
Of course the day was a great success, food was plentiful...South Africans have a TERRIBLE habit of bringing at LEAST 2 different kinds of meat to a braai, and generally 2 people bring enough to share...when everyone does this the meat pile grows horrifically...the alcohol supply depletes while the men braai and the women chat and we all go home happy.
Just LOOK at all that meat...a casserole dish AND a lasagne dish both FULL.
I walked into Spar, luckily 15 metres along and looked for some cleansing wipes which I found. Then against my better judgement and my brain telling me NOT A GOOD IDEA I reached down with my hand and touched the wetness on my leg and then sniffed it...I have a terrible personality trait, I do not like NOT knowing, so of course I had to try and find out what the heck it was. It smelt disgusting, thank goodness not the bodily fluid stench I was dreading, still have no idea what it was...kind of smelled like Thai fish sauce. I cleaned up, used the wipes and luckily the Spar has 2 exits so managed to vacate the Spar without going past the PLACE again!
So today I had my worst Dublin experience to date.
Saturday 26 July 2008
Last night I was NOT disappointed, my star sign was right on the money; the drinks at Mulligans went down well, far too quickly if truth be told and it was great to meet a few of the people that M works with, now I know why when he goes out with them he stumbles home between 03h00 and 04h00!!
At 20h30 we found ourselves racing up Grafton Street to catch the Luas to Dundrum for our dinner at Siam Thai. Their were 12 of us at the dinner and the food,company, wine and conversation was all excellent. Louise and i decided to fore go dessert and opted for a Fuzzy Duck cocktail each...rum, peach schnapps, pineapple juice and cranberry juice, if my memory serves me correctly...
After dinner we hit Winters - the pub at Dundrum only to discover that it was closed and so then foolishly went to Parkers - a nightclub at Dundrum, where Louise, Malcolm and I all had another drink before deciding that perhaps it was time to call it a night. Malcolm and I opted to walk home after seeing Louise into a taxi - she lives a lot further from Dundrum than we do! The walk was pleasant and it was awesome to walk home at 02h15 in the morning without a worry.
Friday 25 July 2008
"A fantastic day for your social life, with plenty of new faces and fun vibes around. Just as well it's Friday - looks like it could be a late night. Dress to impress as you never know who you might meet"
As it happens I am going out to the pub tonight, the company that M works for has initiated a drinks night to coincide with the end of month pay day, so lots of new faces, as for you never know who you might meet...well I do...my hubby and then later on we are off to a Thai restaurant to meet all the summer hockey people for our end of season dinner!!! Party on it is going to be a late night!!! I have been trying to load a Friday song on to my blog and You Tube is refusing to cooperate...the song is Secret Garden by Bruce Springsteen and Siobhan and I have been listening to it at work all morning.
I am looking forward to a 'me me' afternoon, no kids, staying in Dublin for the afternoon, a spot of people watching at Stephen's Green Park, some lunch and perhaps I will even dabble in a bit of shopping too!!! Down time before the BIG night!!!
Thursday 24 July 2008
I will have to make my chocolate cake...(well Nigella Lawson's if truth be told) any excuse will do as it is probably THE best chocolate cake EVER...must be my skill in the kitchen...watch this blog for the post on the flopped cake after that comment!!!
Of course this means that my leisurely Saturday morning will now be spen flying around the supermarkets, luckily a pleasant experience first thing in the morning as most of the Irish are still hugging their pillows!!! Roll on Sunday!!!
Wednesday 23 July 2008
The kids and I were driving through Booterstown this morning and we saw the apartment we very nearly rented and it got me thinking.
If we had rented that apartment...I would never have met Irene, never had the most amazing land lord/lady/neighbours, would never have joined Three Rock Hockey Club (GULP!) and then would probably not have found out about the school Jess goes to now...there are so many more and it amazes me how small decisions in our lives can have such a huge knock on effect down the line. Everything happens for a reason is one of my favourite motto's and the reason we did not take Booterstown was clearly the work of a higher power!!!
Tuesday 22 July 2008
Monday 21 July 2008
Malcolm dropped us and all the luggage off at the train station and set off for the airport 1.7 km's away to drop off the hire car. I went ahead and used the ticket machine, handy because it has a lovely little British flag which when pressed magically turns French into a more understandable language. I soon realised that our late departure had some bad consequences, we had missed the 09h48 rain and would have to catch the 12h14, nothing a cappuccino sitting in the sun wouldn't cure right? I also discovered that the tickets would be €250.00 OUCH. I decided to venture into the ticket line, perhaps I would get lucky and "Parlez-vous Englais" would be greeted with a smiling "Oui" and I would discover that there was a family discount. Mmmm €250.00 and a confused looking lady later I walked out tickets in hand.
Sitting in the sun drinking very average cappuccinos added to the bitter taste in our mouths so we wondered back into the station and settled down for a long wait. At 12h00 we headed for platform 2 and came up with a cunning plan to send Jess in first to try and nab 4 seats...until I looked at our tickets and found something rather disturbing...carriage number 19 and seat numbers.... 21, 22, 64 and 86 mmmmm. We gave the kids the seats together and Malcolm and I took the other 2. Sinister music followed and an announcement which we did not understand, went and had a look at the board..our train was delayed by 40 minutes. Now even lunch in Paris was looking unlikely, never mind a walk down Champs Elysees (spelling?) A little later...delay was at 50 minutes, I went back into the station and bought lunch from a place called "Paul".
Finally our train arrived, full to capacity so seat options were as stated on the ticket and no more. I sat in a section for 4, a bunch of tanned teenagers travelling to Paris together took up both sets of 4 bar my seat... realised when I saw them all that I had not got a tan at all...and there I was thinking I had done rather well on my lounger.
Finally arrived in Paris and we were very relieved when we discovered a French woman who could speak English at the customer service desk. Travelling Ryanair has its downside, far flung airports being the major one and so we got directions to BVA airport, about an hour outside Paris. So it was that we got to experience the Paris Metro and got to admire the Eiffel tower as we headed for a station near the bus depot where we could climb aboard a luxury coach to the airport. Paris is beautiful, and I will definitely be keeping my eyes open for any specials because I HAVE to go back and spend some time there....once I have had a few French lessons that is!
After an hour on the bus we finally arrived at the airport with about 3 hours to spare and once all the luggage had been weighed and re-arranged according to Ryanairs exacting standards we collapsed at Chez Tony and gulped down G&T's and shared a pizza.
Our plane was delayed. Surprise surprise, but the warm fuzzy feeling from the G&T prevented me from getting too upset and I sat reading my book and people watching which is always fun.
Finally boarded and all was going so well, we were heading down the runway and EVERYTHING...when the pilot announced that we had a piece of luggage on board that did not belong to a passenger from our flight and so we had to turn around and go back so that they could remove the sneaky bag. Oh well...G&T still coursing through my veins...settled down to read A Thousand Splendid Suns and kept going as we winged our way back to Dublin and finally touched down at around 22h00.
Sunday 20 July 2008
Look at the SIZE of the cup!!!
The afternoon was spent back at the house enjoying all it has to offer, the loungers. the river, the badminton and I made a salad with HOMEMADE croutons, avocado and bacon lardons which Malcolm even asked me to photograph...okay it may not look as good as the things in the display cases....but still.
We got home and had some breakfast and then I did my daily ritual of donning my polka dot bikini and heading for the sun lounger with my book for about an hour. Then it was back to the shower and off to Dixieland for lunch and we hoped that the chateau would be open for visitors. The menu at Dixieland was unexciting but we decided that we liked the setting and settled for one of the few options they presented to us and then spent a pleasant 40 minutes waiting for our lunch and enjoying the pleasant surroundings. After lunch we chatted to the waiter and discovered that the chateau was not open to visitors so we walked around the town for a while before heading home again. The afternoon was spent playing badminton, Malcolm and I had a great game and a good bit of exercise too.
Dinner was easy...I found a hand held blender, abused the ratatoiulle from the previous evening, added creme fraiche and served it over tomato, basil and mozzarella tortellini - delicious! Quaffing of more wine followed and a pleasant evening of Rummikub rounded the evening off.
I had bought crepes on our first grocery trip and brought them out for breakfast on Bastille Day, the kids took great delight in eating them with all manner of sweet toppings...what the heck we are on holiday!
After breakfast I took advantage of the loungers on the patio and the sun and grabbed a book and got lazy. The kids went off on the boat again and after being a lizard for a little over an hour I got called up to the badminton court for another round of shuttlecock whacking.
At 13h00 we decided to head for Ruffec, a town 10 km's away to find a spot for lunch and to get a few things we had discovered were necessities...like mosquito spray and water.
We discovered a ghost town upon arrival and drove around marvelling at the quietness of the place. There was only ONE open restaurant and so we decided to drive to a bigger town, Angouléme 30 km's away. Again we were greeted by deathly quiet streets, it was so bizarre. We did manage to find a small convenience store and bought some water and candles, the only things on our list we could get hold of but it was still progress! We also found a boulangerie that was open and bought a boulle and a baguette, the baguette we could not resist ripping pieces off of it as we walked down the eerily quiet streets.
We did not see any open restaurants and so we headed BACK to Ruffec where we knew at least one place had been open, only to discover that he was closing, and we thought the French were ruled by their gastranomic habits. We were also very quickly learning that it is very frustrating not being able to communicate and that French lessons would be a top priority if we ever plan another trip to France - or take along somebody else who CAN speak French...free holiday anyone?
On our way home I remembered reading that there was a restaurant/pub called Dixieland in Verteuil with an English speaking owner so we dicided to make one last effort at actually eating out and headed in that direction.
After a breakfast of smoked salmon and baguettes - yes odd I know but I had been hankering after salmon...(need the oils to keep the brain functioning) we all climbed aboard the little green boat and went for a ride with Jess at the helm, okay then - the OARS. She used to do rowing in S.A. and has certainly not lost her touch, her confidence and handling of the boat is impressive. Of course I could not resist having a go myself and I was not too bad although my facial expressions apparently made for a good laugh and the kids spent most of my rowing time in stitches. Kirstin was delighted at getting a few candid pictures but I got to them and managed to oblierate them - thank goodness.
At about noon we got back to the cottage and I prepared bruschetta with a twist for lunch. i ahd no basil, olive oil or garlic so I used a jar of pesto with the tomaoes and onions and it actually turned out pretty well.
After lunch Malcolm and I donned our walking shoes and headed off to explore the village of Chenon and beyond. Chenon is literally a few homes, not sure if it even qualifies as a village because there is not one single shop there. The walk was lovely though and we vowed to have many more during our week long stay.
When we got back to the house the kids were playing badminton and they managed to cajole us into joining them for a game, the joys of older kids!!!
When in France do as the Italians do....pasta on the menu for dinner! I made spaghetti bolognaise as it is so easy and always provides left overs for another day. The kids went for another boat ride, took the fishing rods and tried to catch some fish, it was absolutley awesome to see them making the best of their surroundings, besides meal times I do not think they se a foot in the house!
We had hired a car and to Kirstin's delight it was a Toyota Verso WITH the extra seats in the back. We got Molly out and plugged in our destination "Chenon" and discovered that before we even began to tackle driving on the wrong side of the road we had to figure out how to start the car without a key, finally figured out that you have to push the clutch in and then push the button that says 'start engine'.
Anyhoooo...off we went and Malcolm soon disregarded Molly's gentle direction to turning in 100m and turned in 10m and she started recalculating...but then I saw what looked like a mall and we needed groceries so we carried on ignoring Molly and made our way over to see if it had a grocery store. The first good sign was an advert for specials on the door to the mall, and then the beautiful sight of a family unpacking groceries into the boot of the car! Yay! Food. The grocery store - Auchan was enormous, I think I would have preferred a small store, less confusion! We managed to fill a trolley with what we felt would be needed for a week and only after paying considered the fact that we had no space in the boot...oops. Somehow we managed to get everything into the car and this time followed Molly's instruction and found our way to the cottage. We arrived at 20h30 and the evening was so marvelous we decided to light a fire and have a bbq. I got to work on salads, the kids headed straight for the boat and before long we were all sitting at the long dining room table enjoying our first meal in France.
We had a plan for getting to Stanstead which involved catching a 10h40 train in order to get to the airport on time for our flight to Poitiers. We bolted into the station to buy tickets with about 5 minutes to spare and of course there was a QUEUE. I stood patiently (NOT) and waited my turn, one eye on the railway line watching for the train. My turn just could not come quickly enough and when it finally did I breathed a sigh of relief and ordered the tickets...he made some kind of mistake and had to void all the tickets and reprint them again, by now I was in low grade panic as the train was arriving and finally £80 please. (to get to the airport...so much for cheap Ryanair tickets.) I only had £60 on me so I produced my laser card which was not accepted as payment. Thank goodness Rob walked in just then and like a knight in shining armour produced a £20 note and I grabbed the tickets gave hugs and kisses to Rob and Kyle and we all made it onto the train by the skin of our teeth.
When we got to Clapham Junction we disembarked for our next set of tricks, we thought we had to catch a train to Tottenham Hale, but it turned out that it was actually a subway ride so down into the underbelly of London we went, dragging all our luggage along with us. At Tottenham Hale it was back up to the light and onto a train headed for Stanstead.
Friday 11 July 2008
Sadly we had no camera for the day as it was in Malcolm's luggage so the memories will just have to remain in our minds for years to come....or we can do it all again...
Malcolm was supposed to be with us but the radar at Dublin airport was down so his flight was cancelled and he had to go home and organise another flight for Thursday. It was so frustrating and such a waste of time, he finally arrived in London at 18h00 on Thursday evening.
We took Rob and Kirsty out for dinner and the kids stayed home, ate pizza and watched TV which was just what the doc ordered for them.
Today we found ourselves back on a train heading for London, this time with Rob and Malcolm for company. Rob had managed to organise tickets to go and see South Africa playing at Lords and Malcolm was enormously chuffed as he has wanted to go to Lords for many years.
The kids and I were heading off to The London Dungeon - a history tour with a bit of a twist. The queue was LONG - we waited 2 hours!
Tomorrow it is back on trains and planes and off to rural France for a week of R&R so this reallyIS my last blog post for a while...keep well and come on...play in my comment box...I dare you!
Wednesday 9 July 2008
By 05h35 we were all in the car on the way back to the airport, when I did all the booking for our visit to Holland I remember saying 'You only live once' and I sat there thinking...I am dead, so much for all that living! Malcolm was saying he wished he was travelling with us, he had opted to fly in the evening in order to have an extra day at work and I was saying...I wish I had booked for the evening!!! He still has to go through the joy of the Luton to Surrey journey...ha ha ha ha (evil laugh)
ANYWAY...settled on train after catching the bus from the airport to the train station and marvelled at the 90 minutes I had to relax, not sleep sadly, too scared of missing my stop...but sadly someone decided it was 'pick on Natalie' day and the train terminated in the middle of nowhere, well that is not quite true, there was a subway stop. So luggage and all the kids and I had to experience London Underground unprepared, AND with all the luggage because we took it so that Malcolm could fly with hand luggage only! Luckily I shone at my navigation skills and I managed to get us safely to Victoria without a hitch where we finally managed to catch a train to our destination, of course we had to have one more mini event. The train was delayed for 15 minutes due to signalling problems grrrrrrr but we finally arrived at 13h30. Shattered may begin to describe how I am feeling. Of course I cannot sleep so while K took her kids to an appointment she has, I am blogging to stay awake! The kids were exhausted too and are now having an afternoon nap, wow, it has been many years since I used that particular sentence!
Sunday was Marianne's birthday.....we had breakfast at the hotel, went to Masstrecht -too tired to remember the spelling -SORRY!!!!! It is a very old Roman city in the south of the Netherlands and because I am exhausted you will need to Google for more information! We did wonder around, enjoyed lunch there and then made our way back to Kerkrade because we were having dinner at a Greek restaurant for Marianne's birthday....a GREEK restaurant with pizza and pasta on the menu...??? NOT that I am complaining because Jess was very happy to order a pizza! I was craving vegetables by this stage of being on holiday and ordered a VERY traditional Greek meal.....Baked vegetables in roomsous (cream sauce) - a mix of broccoli, cauliflower, peppers and spinach....YUM. Traditional....NO.
On Monday we went to Snoworld to have a look at options and discovered that we could have a 4 hour snow pass for €23....we wanted a lesson but the instructors were fully booked and as Marianne is a good skier we opted for a lesson from her!
Well....I really do not want to bad mouth myself BUT....I moaned like a baby about the ski boots. I have never been more uncomfortable in my life! I did ski, I DID fall and I DID have fun...but I still need a little convincing that a ski holiday is a good idea....I mean I wear CROC's!!!! Comfort people....
Anyway, the skiing was great, I stayed on the baby slope but felt like an expert when I managed to do a few turns and even got Eric and Lara down the baby slope on my own! This morning I felt vindicated when I discovered a beautiful blue bruise on my right shin from the ski boots...see...not moaning for NOTHING......The kids had an absolute ball and I think we will be saving for a ski holiday...aching feet or not!
Today we had to make our way to Eindhoven for our flight home, we had a lot of rain....Holland was sad to see us go!!! Kirstin was sad to leave, she was trying to convince us that pig latin helped her get to grips with Dutch..mmmmmm.
Monday 7 July 2008
On Saturday evening we went to marianne's sister for her birthday and I got to try the apple pie thaat the region is famous for. I also tasted a cake made with rice pudding type filling, will have to find out what it was called and a yoghurt apple cake - all of it was good.
We went back to the hotel put the kids to bed, left Jess and Kirstin in charge for a couple of hours and headed off to see the night life of Kerkrade. Mmmmmmmm, sadly there was none, we had a drink in a very quiet pub, but Marianne knew the owner so it was worth it for her to have a chat and after that we headed towards the market square...it was actually eerily quiet, nobody walking the streets and a handful of people in the pubs, at least we did not have to wait too long for our drinks!!! We managed to stay out until midnight so that we could see Marianne's birthday in and then headed back to the hotel, I think we would have had a better party with more people if we had just stayed in our hotel room with the kids!!!
I looked after all the kids while M's folks went on a little shopping spree in the morning. Marianne was hoping to get off a bit early on Friday and she did so we all piled into cars and IN CONVOY went to Slagharen Adventure Park. We were very lucky because it was quiet and so we let Jess and Kirstin go off on their own, Marianne's folks went in another direction and we took the little ones on a few rides that did not have severe height restrictions. An hour later we all met up again and we sent the little ones off with their grandparents, Jess and Kirstin went charging off on their own again and Marianne and I headed for the roller coaster. It was such a quick one, we did it twice! After the second go we decided to look at buying the photograph and discovered that there is a VIDEO we can buy. We stood their and watched it..I sat down and 'buckled' up talking all the while...by the end of the roller coaster ride my mouth was still moving, my god I can talk!!!!!! I vetoed getting the video, thank goodness Marianne agreed that a picture was a good enough memory of the roller coaster!
We got to Martin and discovered that we were first, no panic yet, M's folks apparently drive slowly. 30 minutes later, irritation and worry, I am wondering how my kids are coping...they have been in a car for 90 minutes with people they CANNOT communicate with. Finally the phone rings and a rapid Dutch conversation ensues which leads me to believe that a) they have a phone number and b) they are hopelessly lost.
I dread the thundercloud that will be above Jess's head when she walks in the door, the daggers that will be shooting forth from her eyes, I even go as far as explaining to everyone that Jess will not be impressed, she HATES being lost, not knowing what is going on AND sitting in the car for 2 hours plus.
I under estimated my daughter....she emerged from the car looking........calm, smiling and a bit tired around the eyes, wow!!! Of course they had realised that they were hopelessly lost, Kirstin had a game going counting the U-turns (6 if you must know) and took to writing them on the seat between them with ehr finger. At least they managed to turn it all into a game! We drank wine ate Chinese food and made sure that M's folks FOLLOWED us home at the end of a wonderful evening.
Sunday 6 July 2008
Wednesday was a stunning day! A little bit too stunning, I sat in the sun and got a little bit sunburnt, had a swim and lay in the sun a little bit more, followed of course by another swim because it was 34 C....The kids were all happy to see each other and my only frustration was the fact that I could barely communicate with Marianne's folks as they speak in a dialect. I did go to the supermarket and bought supplies for lunch and dinner which I prepared for everyone - after all I was planning on desserting them all on Thursday to go off on my own little adventure.
Thursday morning was pleasant enough to start. There had been thunderstorms the previous evening but blue sky was visible which was great as I was going to have a day just for me in a town called Zwolle. I had tried to look up some information online and besides finding out that it was just over an hour away on the train and that it has a VERY old church I was not sure what to expect!
The train journey was pleasant and I cannot tell you how friendly the Dutch people are! At one stage I started wondering if I had missed Zwolle so I turned to a man sitting across the aisle from me and asked if he knew how long until Zwolle, he told me 2 stops and then proceeded to give me a little bit of a background and gave me directions on how to get into town, appologising because he was going to Zwolle for business so did not have the time to show me the way!!!
Zwolle was lovely, I wondered around, enjoyed a coffee at a nice little coffee shop and walked down cobbled streets and into an old church which was being refurbished. I enjoyed a walk along the canal with a couple of stops along the way to enjoy the peace and quiet and watch the boats. I absolutley loved my day away from everything, not having to worry about a thing for a few hours was awesome.
Of course all good things come to an end and it was a very sad little me back at the station waiting for my train to take me back to Enschede!
In Enschede I had a coffee and a muffin and walked around a bit before heading off to Marianne's office for the trip home.
I have so much more to tell...but think I will have to do it in instalments or this post is going to be too long....so next time I will tell you all about....trips gone bad, children in Germany without passports and more!!!
Tuesday 1 July 2008
Thank you for 15 remarkable years of learning and loving, I have not regretted a minute!
Looking forward to the next 15, I am sure there will be some tough times up ahead - you would not be a normal teenager if you didn't contribute to a few grey hairs - and we will learn together through all the ups and downs that may come our way. We love you!!!!!!