Why your next holiday should be with Viking River Cruises!

I have been home now just over 2 weeks.  After saving and planning for our Viking River Cruise trip to China for over 6 years, I cannot believe it is all over.  This is our second trip with Viking, and both have not disappointed.

I think this is the first time my hubby and I have been away for so long. We were 1 day short of 3 weeks in total.  I usually get home sick after 10 days, but this trip was so different.  I could have carried on for weeks, if it wasn’t for the fact, I missed my dogs oh and a thing called work!

The flight home was as comfortable as it can be in standard class.  Emirates are a great airline and our ‘go to’ choice for long haul.  I love the fact I can pre-order a low-fat meal and the great selection of films.  I am still hoping one day I will get to experience the luxury of business or first class.  I hear of so many people getting free upgrades, but I’m not that lucky sadly.

As it was a night flight, I planned to try and sleep on the first leg – Beijing to Dubai, and I think I managed a couple of hours.  From Dubai to Birmingham I made myself stay awake so I wouldn’t be too jet lagged for work the next day.  This was a great opportunity to watch a bunch load of files such as finishing Dumbo, The Hustle, Fishermen’s Friends, What Men Want, Alex and the List and finally The Wife.

As soon as we could, we collected Fido and Lola from the Kennels.  They were as happy to see us as we were to see them.

Usually, when I am home, I’m a little bit down after a good holiday, but 2 weeks on, I still have the ‘China’ buzz.  For over a week, I would wake in the night and think I was still there!  I dream constantly of everything we did.  People ask me what my favourite bit was.  I can’t answer that, as everything was magical and different.

A week later, we received a free recipe book from Viking.  It was such a lovely surprise and hubby and I have already tried one of the recipes out.  We plan many more.  It helps up keep our trip alive, especially when we insist on using chopsticks!

I don’t know when I will be able to go on another Viking holiday, but I have promised myself, as soon as I have saved up, I will be booking another one. Hong Kong, Tibet, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand are at the top of our list now. I’ve already looked up their ‘Far East Discovery’ which takes in Hong Kong, Japan as well as parts of China we haven’t seen. Well ok, I’ll be honest, I’ve checked out all the Asia ones! Far East Horizons etc etc! They all look so good!

The culture of China really fascinated me.  It has given me a new appetite to learn more about the people.  I have been recommended a book called the ‘Wild Swans’ which is apparently about 3 generations of Chinese ladies.  It is in my Amazon basket waiting for me to finish my current book – The Tattooist of Auschwitz.  This is an amazing read too, and after visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau twice, I can really visualise the story.

If you are thinking of booking a holiday in the future, give Viking’s website a visit.  The price may seem high at first view, but the quality is extremely high, food and drinks are mostly included, as are the trips.  One of the things I love about the trips being included is that they take you to places you may never have thought to go to.  I will be honest, on both my trips with Viking, if you had asked me to pick my trips, there are some I wouldn’t have done.  Now having done them, I would have been gutted to miss out.  Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know.  By putting yourselves in the good hands of Viking, you will definitely get a holiday to remember.  As for the food – you will seriously not find better.

The customer service is excellent from the time you book to when you arrive home.   The staff learn your names within minutes of meeting you and treat you like a member of the family.  Nothing is too much trouble.  I think this is why I don’t get home sick on these holidays.  It is like being around your family every day.

Don’t forget they also offer some early booking savers.  These are really worth doing.  So, what are you waiting for?

Day 17 – Our last day in China

It’s our last day in China today! Tonight we head off to the airport for our flight home!

We have a slow morning after last night.

I need to go back to the Pearl Market before we leave, so we head over around mid day. This place still amazes me. If I had the time and money, I could spend all day here.

I get to a couple of things I want. I could certainly get carried away here but I’m strict with myself! I have a lot to squeeze into my case already.

After shopping we go to Linda’s for dinner. We order noodles, egg plant, chicken Kung po as well we 2 other dishes. It’s our last chinese meal in China. All the meals we have had here have been good, and this one also doesn’t disappoint.

As we sit outside eating, I can’t help but smile when I see their delivery van! It’s a bit different to our Amazon delivery or the postman!

After lunch, we are all quite tired so retire to our rooms to lie down and have a quick snooze!

We spend the rest of the time chatting away or packing.

Finally it is time to head to the airport. I can’t believe the holiday is over. It has been the best ever.

I would definitely recommend Viking River Cruises if you ever want to visit China. They treat you so well, everything is so organised and you get to visit and learn about so many new places.

We were also lucky to be able to spend a few days with some great friends who showed us even more of China.

As we take off I close my eyes and capture every single memory into my brain. It has been the best 3 weeks ever.

Until next time!

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 8 – Goddess Stream by Sampan

I’ve had an upset stomach since we left Shanghai which none of my pills has seemed to help. I was awake in the middle of the night due to stomach cramps so thought I might sit on our balcony.

As I opened the curtains I noticed the ships light searching the river bank. As I opened the patio door I suddenly realised it was pouring with rain. Maybe I won’t sit outside then!

I went back to bed. When I woke up the rain had stopped and the scenery was breathtaking. We were in the Lesser Three Gorges.

As we ate breakfast we moored in Wusham along side another boat which looked almost identical to ours.

I decided to see the ships doctors about my upset stomach. He spoke very good English and prescribed me with antibiotics. I need to see him again later today. He said he would give me a receipt for my holiday insurance so I am expecting a big bill, although I couldn’t leave it any longer and was worried it would ruin our holiday. We see at the end of the cruise part the damage!

Just after 9 am, we left the ship to board a little Sampan. It’s a traditional boat which would take us through the gorge. The views were outstanding. Our guide talked about her peoples culture and the area around us. She treated us to some traditional folk songs. She had such a lovely voice. The trip lasted about for just under 2 hours and was a great way to see the views.

Back on board we soon set sail and Elliot gave us a commentary on Wu Gorge and the mountains which we we were passing through, enroute to Shibaozhai.

As we came out of the gorge we passed under a large bridge where there before us was a huge city suddenly coming out of nowhere. Thankfully this coincided with lunch so by the time we had finished eating, the beautiful landscape had returned.

This afternoon we are going to be sailing through the Qutang Gorge. Elliot will again give us a commentary as we sail through.

As you come to the gorge, the beautiful scenery hits you again. In the mountains you can see natural caves. They were used by the Ba people, who would place coffins inside the caves. The coffins would be sticking out and so they got the name ‘hanging coffins’. Sadly, the Ba people no longer exist and their culture gone with them.

When the dam was built the government removed the coffins and placed them in museums. If they hadn’t done this, they would have been destroyed by the rising waters.

You may have noticed on some of my photos how clean and white the lower part of the mountain stone is. This is where the river rises to. I’m amazed by how much water comes into the river to cause it to rise that much.

This is only a short gorge – about 5 miles long but it is stunning.

These mountains reminded me of a certain chocolate:

Did you get it ? A Toblerone!

This gate marks the end of the Gorges and once again the landscape has changed.

There is a lot of debris in the river. Old shoes, plastic bottles, polystyrene and lots of twigs pass by constantly. It’s sad to see so much going into their river.

On this stretch we have seen a lot of passenger ships. Apparently this area is very popular with Chinese tourists, who take short cruises to see it.

I have to see the doctor again soon so hubby and I are just going to chill out on our balcony.

Tonight we have a briefing on our disembarkation in 2 days time. Afterwards, we have a special dinner presented by Chef Danny! We are not sure what that is but I’m sure it will be stunning.

You may have noticed that when I talk about the staff they have English names rather than Chinese. When they are learning English at school they are asked to choose an English name for themselves. It does make it a lot easier for tourists.

On the ship everyone is called by their first name. The companies ethos is that everyone is part of one big family, and you certainly feel like that.

After a briefing on what is happening tomorrow and when we leave the ship the following day, it was time for Danny the chefs Chinese menu. As expected it was amazing. I had king prawns for starters followed by seabass for main a a sweet coconut and mango rice pudding.

We decided that as we have an early start tomorrow we are going to chill on our balcony with our gifted champagne and listen to the sounds of the evening.

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 6 – Jingzhou – school and old wall

I woke up around 6.20 am and looked through our patio doors. The sun was just rising over the Yangtze River, it was so beautiful. I quickly grabbed my camera and took a couple of pictures.

Today we are mooring in Jingzhou where we will visit a school in the morning then this afternoon visit the old wall.

We dock just before 7 am so I watch the boat as it moors. Our balcony faces the port side so after breakfast we sit on the balcony watching the comings and going’s. Men are fishing on the bank, others just walking around.

Each day the staff give us a small booklet with has the latest news from home. We obviously get one on Britain which is a great idea.

Our bus is leaving at 9 am to take us to the school so we have plenty of time to sit and read before we need to leave.

We are just back from our school visit. I wasn’t sure what to to expect. When we arrived we were greeted by 100’s of children ranging from 6-12, all waving at us. They would come up and high 5 you.

We were treated to a little show where 3 groups of children performed different dances. We were then taken to see them in their classes.

Each child came and took one of our hands and asked us to sit in their seats. They are grade 2 children so haven’t learnt English yet. We tried to talk to them. My hubby was across the classroom from me and I could see about 4 children around him, fascinated by his camera and beard!

Many of the children board at the school while there parents work in Shanghai or Beijing. They only get to see them about once a year. The little girl with me was a boarder too. It broke my heart to think of her not going home to her parents each night.

Their grandparents would be playing a big part in their lives, but there is nothing like a mothers love and I’d imagine she must have missed her parents so much when first sent to school.

She was so cute. When I left she gave me a big hug and I can’t help but wonder if she is missing affection? I have nieces her age and I couldn’t imagine them not seeing their parents for long periods of time!

In China the parents devote all their money to make sure their children get the best education possible, so I can see why they have to board their children if they want to earn good money in the city for them, but it is still very emotional.

When you leave you can give a donation to the school which of course we did.

Now back on board I’m chilling on our balcony after another great lunch of prawns on toasted bread to start, pork ribs for main and green tea icecream for dessert. I mustn’t forget my glass of fizz!

When we returned to our cabin we had a lovely surprise. We have got friendly with another couple on the boat. They have a suite which also came with a bottle of champagne. As they don’t drink it, they had it sent to our room. I couldn’t believe how thoughtful they were. Hubby and I will certainly enjoy it, so thank you Joe and Kellie.

As I sit here on the balcony I notice a women on the bank. She is washing her laundry in the river. If you look at my photos above you will see how dirty the water is and I can’t help but wonder how clean she gets her clothes.

She first wets the item in the river then lays in on the bank where she takes what looks like soap and scrubs the items, first with her hands and then her feet. She takes a long time with each item before rinsing them in the river. It seems sad that this is her only way to wash her clothes.

I could sit here forever watching the world but I need to head to the bus again to go to the old wall.

It’s only a short trip but gave us an opportunity to visit the city walls and experience some of the locals selling fruit. It was nice just to walk around and see how they live. A man was carrying 2 buckets of water hanging then on either side of a plank of wood balanced on his shoulders. Little moped trucks were piled high with boxes or scrap metal etc.

The county really fascinates me.

We get back to boat around 4 pm so we have time to chill in our room catching up on the BBC news before we have to get ready for dinner. It’s a western menu tonight.

As I look out from the balcony there are now some men swimming. I give them a wave and they happily wave back. They swim over towards our boat for a closer look. Others are fishing. We decide to go up to the top deck for a walk and people watch more.

It was perfect timing as we were just setting off again down the river. We stayed a short while just soaking up the quietness and reflecting on their way of life. Eventually it was time to shower and change for dinner. But not before watching a he sunset.

Before dinner there is a briefing on what is happening tomorrow, as we travel through the 3 Gorges. I am expecting a huge change in the landscape tonight as we sail towards them.

After dinner there is a show where we will be shown different traditional dress. Sadly hubby has come down with a cold today so I’m not sure if he will make it.

We decide to go to get he shied after all and it’s good fun. The staff are dressed in an array of costumes and perform traditional dances for us. It’s all bright and colourful. A lovely end to another good day.

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 5 – Sailing up the Yangtze River

Today is a sailing day so there is no need to get up too early however as we have a safety exercise at 9.30 am we decided to set the alarm for 7.30 am. I have to say this was a good decision as I had the best nights sleep last night in so long. I think it was the sound of the water that must have relaxed me so much. If the alarm hadn’t have gone off, I’m not sure when I would have woken up.

There are no kettles in the room so hubby was keen to get up and head for breakfast so he could get a coffee.

I really wasn’t that hungry today so settled for just some fruit and a mint tea.

After breakfast I’ll be honest I went back to bed for a couple of hours, while hubby sat on our balcony reading and watching the activity on the river.

I think we are both very surprised how wide the river is and how much commercial traffic is on it. I don’t think we have seen any other passenger ships on the river yet. It’s so peaceful you can’t help being relaxed.

As I had a light breakfast I was getting quite hungry so around 12.30 pm we headed to lunch. You can either eat from the buffet or off the menu. You will never starve on this trip that is for sure.

I opt for a tuna salad to start followed by spaghetti bolognese and Chinese green beans, while hubby had the same starter with a lamb curry. I really fancied sorbet but it wasn’t on the menu. I asked Eddie our waiter who said it wasn’t a problem and quickly returned with some.

Drinks run freely over lunch so I opted for the fizz while hubby had a beer.

During the day there are activities going on. I was gutted to read I’d missed a lecture on the Yangtze River this morning. Now reading the programme I see there is a talk on Chinese medicines after lunch and a lesson in Chinese. I am planning on going to the latter. In the meantime I’m going to chill out on the top deck watching the world go by.

It’s nice and warm but there is quite a haze today. As I sit watching the activity on the river it’s hard not to fall asleep. It’s really is calming sitting on the deck. There are fishes jumping out of the river. I don’t know what they are but they come right out.

The staff come round offering ice tea or water to keep you hydrated.

When we pop back to our room the maid has been. Again, they have left some really lovely extra touches such as bookmarks. Hubby had been reading his book but didn’t have one so had folded it over. She had noticed and gave him a Viking one. She also left a card each for us with our own Chinese year on and what it means. They must have got our years from our details. Hubby is a rabbit and myself the rooster. The description for both of us was actually quite accurate.

I did go to the Chinese lesson but couldn’t get into it so decided to return to our balcony to chill. Later we have welcome drinks with the captain as well as a Chinese themed menu. Eddie assured us at lunch that if we didn’t like Chinese they would make us something else, but you can’t scare me with Chinese food.

Before dinner we were invited to deck 5 for the welcome party with the captain. On arrival we were given champagne which was continuously topped up. Canapés were offered too.

The evening started with a dance performance before the key staff were all introduced to us. The captain had been sailing this river for over 30 years so we are in safe hands.

As we were listening to the speakers, we looked out of the window and saw the most spectacular sunset. Sadly we didn’t have any cameras with us but will definitely be making a plan to get some photos tomorrow night.

After a quick briefing about the next days tours it was time for dinner, and what a dinner.

As it was a Chinese menu, food plates of different dishes were placed on our Lazy Susan for us to help ourselves. Kung po chicken, ribs, fried rice, fish etc etc. It kept coming. A lovely dumpling soup and banana sorbet completed the meal. Oh of course more bubbly.

After dinner we retired to the bar for a couple before bed! Tomorrow we are off to visit a school and the old wall.

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 1 – Shanghai

After the long day yesterday we had an early start this morning. The alarm was set for 5.45 am so we could have a cup of tea before shower and breakfast.

Tea was a bit different to what you usually get. It was loose tea leaves. As I don’t speak Chinese I couldn’t tell you what it was but it was delicious. After adding the hot water it looked almost like fresh leaves.

Breakfast was amazing. We are staying at the 5 star Westin Hotel. Breakfast options are vast. You can have a full on Chinese breakfast which includes rice, noodles, dumplings etc. Alternatively you can have a selection of fruits, cereals or an English breakfast.

By the time we had got ready we now only had 30 minutes before leaving on our tour so opted for something quick and easy. I had a chicken sausage, baked beans, an egg boiled in tea, bacon and a steamed bread roll, followed by fresh fruit. Tomorrow we have more time so I plan to be a bit more adventurous. It looked so amazing that it would be a shame not to try some traditional foods.

Our tour left the hotel at 7.15 am for a full 9 hour trip to Suzhou. It takes about 2 hours To get there from Shanghai, but this gives us a chance to look out of the bus window and take in the views. There are lots of high rise buildings, which just reflects the high population here in China.

Suzhou is known as the ‘Venice of the East’, with its canal network . Unlike Venice though it isn’t sinking as the canals are all man made.

Our first stop is for a trip along the Grandcanal in a traditional boat. The houses are very basic, many with no private bathrooms or in some cases, kitchens. People are washing clothes and shoes in the canal as we sail by. Washing is hung from most windows from bamboo canes. It’s so pretty in a kind of way it’s hard to describe. We have taken lots of photos which will be transferred to my YouTube channel when we return home.

Lunch is next on the agenda. It’s a traditional Chinese lunch at the Garden Hotel. We sit on tables of 10 with others on our trip. Plates of food are placed on a lazy Susan. Dishes included rice, noodles, chicken gung po (which I made a slimming world version a few months ago for my YouTube channel – https://youtu.be/mkD4RFWz7uM ), aubergines in hoisin sauce, egg with onions, fish and tomatoes, tomato and potato soup, just to name a few. This was washed down with a bottle of Snow beer. Yes Snow! It made me laugh in view of the current heat.

After lunch we headed to the Silk Museum. I found this really fascinating. You get to look close up at the silk worms, the cocoons etc. They take you through the process from start to finish. At the end you have opportunity to shop. Silk quilts or as they call them ‘comforters’ are so reasonable. Less than £100 for a king size. If I hadn’t just bought one at home I would certainly have brought one back. Instead I bought a large scarf and glass case. I was worried about my luggage allowance for the internal flights so didn’t buy more. I’ve since discovered the China airlines are a bit more flexible. I’m kicking myself now as I know some friends and my own mum who would have loved a Silk scarf too. Maybe on my trip I will find more.

After leaving the museum we went to a gardens. It is down a little alley, tucked away. The garden is built around the house. Ponds, rocks and trees are beautifully set out. It’s called the Master of the Nets Garden. It is now a UNESCO world heritage site. Yes there are many people there at the moment, but somehow it is so quiet and romantic!

There are a group of Chinese people who seemed fascinated by us and and taking many pictures. I can’t help wonder what they will do with them! I do play to them for a while. They then notice my camera holster and seem to like it. I show them how it works which pleases them. I had it for my birthday and have to say it is amazing. It’s called a camera holster by Spider. It fits comfortably on my waist so I don’t have to have my Camera around my neck in this humidity!

It is here I experienced my first squat toilet! It was a choice thing as the normal toilets had a massive queue! I can see why Chinese ladies have good legs!

It’s been a lovely day. I am certainly going to sleep tonight and although the tour laid on by Viking for today has come to an end apart from the trip back to the hotel, we still have this evening to explore more.

I think our plan is to head towards the river to explore it lit up. We want to do a boat trip tomorrow so may see if we can get one booked. In the meantime I’m chilling out on the bus for our return journey back to the hotel.

I can’t believe the traffic. What should have been a 2 hour trip home now turned up into over 3 hours. To make things worse it’s started to pour with rain.

As we reach our hotel it’s still raining hard. We decide that as it’s also after 7.30 pm the best thing is to get a bottle of wine and a few beers to take to our room, have a bath and chill.

We aren’t hungry but could do with something light so pick up some salads from the cafe in the hotel to take to our room too.

It’s a shame it’s raining but in someways we are both tired, so it gives us a chance to recharge our batteries for tomorrow. We are free to explore on our own so plan an early start.

We are both loving this trip and it’s only really just begun!

Imperial Jewels of China – Woo hoo we are on our way!

I cannot believe that after 6 years of planning and saving the day has finally arrived. I’m going to China. It’s like a dream come true! I always expected something to get in the way to stop us coming but today it’s actually real.

We had planned to wake at 6.30 am to have time to have a cup of tea in bed before taking the dogs for a walk. As it happened hubby and I were awake around 5am. We had a couple of cups of tea while watching TV before having to get up. I think we were both a little excited.

The dogs are going to kennels today and I think they know. Fido looks very sad. He likes his routine and suffers from anxiety. The kennels they go to is lovely. They have both been there since pups. The owner really looks after them as do the staff. I’ve used it for years. It’s not the kennel for Fido that worries him, it’s the lack of routine. He does like to wake up at the same time each day and be in bed by 9pm!

Lola is completely different. She is all cuddles today but the thought of being around loads of other dogs fills her with joy. She is such a party girl.

We finally get up after lots of morning cuddles and walk them. Because we were awake so early we have plenty of time.

After the walk it’s time to shower and do the final jobs. For me it’s a quick hoover around the house, pay window cleaner and check every plug is off! I don’t know why it’s so important to leave the house clean before going away but it is! Finally it’s time to go.

We have to take the dogs to kennels first. As we take them in they are both excited. I know I said Fido looked sad but when he arrives he is always excited to see the girls. Lola is beside herself. Both go off without a backward glance. I will miss them so much.

Our friend is taking us to airport so we head to his house. I really could pinch myself that this is actually happening today!

We arrive at airport. We have already checked in online but I’m hoping for an upgrade. I’ve heard of so many people getting them. Sadly not today. I’d have loved to see what business class was like. Somethings are just not meant to be! On the plus side I’ve prebooked the airport lounge.

We check in to No1 Lounge. We are both hungry having missed breakfast so decide to eat first? A lovely salad to start, followed by chorizo and chicken stew and of course fizz for me and larger for hubby. It’s a really relaxing way to start the holiday, and what a holiday it’s going to be! Sitting watching planes coming and going I’m now really excited. It’s a holiday of a lifetime to celebrate hitting 50. 3 weeks in China starting in Shanghai!

Our flight is called and we board our Emirates A380. We are obviously in standard class but I can see she stairs to the floor above us. That first class. What I’d give for a sneak !

We settle into our seats 82 A&B. Hubby always prefers the window seat as he finds it easier to sleep. We wait patiently for the passengers to board. Woo hoo. The plane is not full so we have the 3 seats to ourselves which means we can spread out.

I settle in to watch the new Mary Poppins film. I’m a massive fan of the original version. I won’t spoil it for you but it’s brilliant. And yes I shed a few tears !

I’ve preordered my food. Emirates are great for giving you lots of options. I always choose the low fat option. I don’t like creamy food so this is perfect for me. Mine was a salad to start followed by chicken in a tomato sauce with rice followed by fresh fruit salad.

It’s the first of 2 flights today. This the the Birmingham to Dubai leg. For approximately 7 hours hubby and I are able to kick back and relax over a few wines. Of course he had to make sure we clinked our plastic cups for a celebratory cheers.

Now what else to watch ?

I decided upon Ladybird. It wasn’t what I expected but still good. A snack was brought round of a chicken roll.

I really should have tried to sleep but I’m so rubbish at that. Put me in a car and I’m gone in seconds.

We are shortly due to land in Dubai for a short stop before the final leg to Shanghai.

Dubai airport is very beautiful but very expensive. We have an hour to kill so decide to stretch our legs and walk around the shop. Everything we looked at could have been bought cheaper at home. There are some interesting shops though. Very high end.

Time to board another A380. This time we have seats in the middle set of 4. Not our choice but at least I can get up and down easily to stretch my legs. We are just hoping it’s not a full plane. We are not hopeful as the boarding gate is full.

Sadly it is a full flight but it’s fine. It is what it is.

I start looking at all the films and decide upon Stockholm. It is based on a true story so it should be good. We are waiting to taxi down the runway when we are informed that due to congestion over Muscat we have to wait 2O minutes before we can leave! It reminds me of my daily commute. They are always delays because of congestion on the trains!

Finally we taxi down. By time time I’m struggling to keep my eyes open so pause the film. The next thing I know is we I’m being woken to give me my lunch ! When did we even take off ?

My special lunch is amazing. The salmon was a massive surprises as hubby was having noodles. It tried to take to take as photo but as the plane was in darkness so everyone could sleep it didn’t come out well!

I was planning to stay awake to watch the rest of the movie but I was soon fast asleep only waking just before the next meal was due. Again booking my low fat meal was perfect.

Fish again but that is just up my street. I managed to stay wake now to watch the rest of the film which actually was good.

I still had some time before we landed so started watching the new Dumbo movie. Sadly I couldn’t keep my eyes open long enough so abandoned it.

As we descend to Shanghai airport I switch my screen to watch the camera view from the plane. I don’t know why but I’m underwhelmed by the view. I’m not sure what I expected but not this. Finally we land. Now you would think that we would soon be picking our bags up but oh no!

Firstly, it’s a really long time from landing to when we dock. I couldn’t believe how busy it was. We follow another plane for what feels like 20 minutes and it’s so close. Planes due to take off are also pulling out in front of us. It’s so bizarre!

Finally we leave the plane. I have to say Emirates do a great job.

As we head for passport control we are met with signs directing us to have our fingerprints done. We had to do this for our visas too. We get them done and given a slip of paper to take to passport control. After a long queue we have the do them again. After a long time we are finally reunited with our bags. The holiday really starts now.

As we walk into arrivals Lounge we are met by Viking representative who takes us to a private car to take us to our hotel. She says it’s about an hour drive so we relax.

As I look out the window I’m again underwhelmed. High rise buildings are everywhere. It doesn’t seem like China at all. Then something magical happens. We cross the bridge and suddenly Shanghai comes to life. The sun is setting. It’s the biggest orange sunset I’ve ever seen. Sadly I couldn’t photograph it. Maybe another time.

We can see the Pearl Tower. That is something we plan to visit.

Finally we arrive at our hotel -Westin Hotel. We are met by Terry from Viking. He has already checked us into our room and what a room it is.

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This is starting off in a great way.

Tomorrow is a 7 am start for the first of our adventures. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime it’s time for bed!

It is here! I’m finally 50!

The day has finally come!  I am now officially 50.  I’m oddly excited about today.  Yesterday was a great start to my celebrations.  The day was just as I had hoped with the glorious sunshine, sea views and great friends.

I’m up really early.  I’m like a little kid again. I can’t sleep with excitement.  It isn’t like I’m waiting for my presents as my hubby has already given me that.  It is just that I don’t want to waste a moment.

I look out of the patio windows from our bedroom and can see the sea.  It is lovely and calm.  Outside I can her the seagulls.  It is such a perfect day.

Hubby makes me a cup of tea and I sit on the balcony taking in the views.  It is really peaceful here.  I’m soon ushered into the shower!  Hubby and my friends are up to something!

As I walk back into the room, I notice they have now put up a ‘Happy Birthday’ banner along with a ‘50’ birthday balloon and decoration.  My friends hand me cards and presents.  A trip to Kew Gardens.  I have always wanted to go so I am so excited.

My friends kick me out the kitchen while they cook me breakfast.  I’m such a control freak when it comes to cooking so this is hard.  Mind you, my friend is too, so she certainly gives me a run for my money!  I don’t mind though as it is my birthday.  I am happy to be spoilt.  It isn’t every day you turn 50!

After a delicious cooked breakfast, we decide on the day’s agenda. It is another glorious day, so we don’t want to waste a moment of it.  We decide to go to Croyde Bay.  I used to stay there as a kid with my parents for our summer holiday.  We would camp in our big orange 3-bedroom tent.  I remember there was a children’s club on site which we used to go to.   I absolutely loved it there.  The camp site was just opposite the beach, so we almost rolled out of our tent onto the beach.  It never seemed to rain for the whole 2 weeks.

It has all changed now.  It looks all modern and probably a lot more expensive than 50 years ago.  We didn’t go in this time as we had parked on the opposite side of the beach.  The tide was out so there was a large expanse of sand to enjoy.

The rocks were full of muscles.  This is where I got my love for them from.  They are too small to eat now, but one day there will be a massive crop.  In Dubrovnik, I ate them every day.

Lifeguards now patrol the beach.  They look like they should be in Baywatch.  I don’t remember that in my childhood either.  The sea is now full of people body boarding.  In my day it was just dinghy’s.  We had one which mum and dad would take us out in every day.  Mum would pack a picnic of crusty bread with cheese or ham, and squash.  I don’t remember if there was cake or crisps, but I certainly remember the crusty bread!

We would sit amongst the sand dunes with our windbreaker.  They were hot and the sand so light.  I loved running up and down them.  Now at 50 I’m more of a gentle stroller!   Hubby and I had a lovely walk amongst the rocks and across the beach.  I was feeling so nostalgic, but very happy.

We had brought my stepdaughters body board with us.  I have to confess I had never done it before.  Oh well, there is a first time for everything.  While hubby watched the belongings, I joined my friends in the sea!  When you first get in, it takes your breath away, but as soon as you get fully wet it was actually nice and warm.  Mind you, maybe a strapless swimsuit was not the most appropriate swimwear to be wearing!

Ok, I am never going to win prizes for body boarding, but I had a great time.

After a few hours we headed back to the car.  In the carpark there was an icecream stall.  Well it would be rude not to, wouldn’t it? These were Judes icecreams.  I have never heard of them before, but they were amazing. I may keep my eye out for them again.

Our other friends were coming down that day to join us for my birthday celebrations.  We were not sure what time they would arrive but decided to head back towards the apartment.  If they were near, they could come and join us.

Yesterday when we were in Bideford, we found an old ship that was now a bar.  This seemed the perfect place to go and have a drink on my birthday.  The weather had been great all day, so we sat on the deck enjoying the views.

We hadn’t heard from our friends so headed back to the apartment anyway to shower and get ready for the evening.  Again, I was ushered into the shower.  They really are sneaky folks my hubby and friends!

As I came back into the room, I was greeted by a beautiful chocolate cake with candles, and the obligatory ‘happy birthday’ song!  They were really spoiling me.  The cake had been made by the lady who looks after my dogs for me and was absolutely amazing in looks and taste.

It was time for champagne!  Well it is my 50th you know!

My other friends are sadly held up on the M5.  It is going to be touch and go if they make it in time for dinner.  I keep everything crossed.

Thankfully I get a message to say they are not far away.  It’s going to be tight for them to get into their apartment, showered and changed, but they can just about do it.  As they arrive, I greet them with cold beers and bubbles. It’s the least I can do.  In return they hand me champagne – well what else – and a present!   A voucher for me to choose an experience.  I haven’t had time to look at it yet, but I can’t wait to see what delights await me.

We all head off to the restaurant.  We go ahead to secure the table and to take the pressure off them a bit.  We are eating at Moran’s on the seafront.  It is the same place we had cocktails last night!

The food is delicious and the company great.  This is just the birthday I wanted.

Check out my video of the day on my YouTube channel: –

We head back to the apartment for some more drinks before it is time to draw the day to a close.

This has been an amazing birthday.   Everything I had dreamed of.  I have my friends and hubby to thank for that.  Tomorrow I am reliving another birthday from years ago!

Day 1 of my 50th Birthday Celebrations

It is official, I am now 50 years of age!

The celebrations started with a lovely meal out with my hubby at a local restaurant – Baraset Barn.  The food there is amazing and the converted barn cosy, with a lovely atmosphere.

Thursday morning we were up early to head down to Devon to really start the celebrations.  We have booked 2 apartments in Westwood Hoe for 8 of us.  Hubby and I and 2 of our friends were starting on Thursday with the rest on Friday.

The weather was absolutely beautiful.  As we couldn’t get into our apartment until 4 pm we decided to detour to Bideford.  A quick stop off at Morrisons to get some supplies and lunch, we then headed to the sea front to find somewhere to sit and eat our lunch.  It was so beautiful.  We then took a walk along the sea front.  I say sea, but it is actually an estuary taking you out to sea. 

I recorded the day on my Youtube video here:

The apartment was ready a little earlier than expected so we decided to go and check it out.

It was just off the seafront in Westward Ho.  I had upgraded to the Premier Apartment at Westbeach Resort.  I wanted to wake up looking at the ocean on my birthday, so this was the best way to guarantee that.  I am so glad I did.  Our view was beautiful.  We were looking right out across the sea.

The apartment itself was very modern.  2 bedrooms – 1 double – 1 twin, a nice bathroom with bath and rainfall shower, plus a kitchen which was fitted with fridge, freezer, oven and microwave.  Even a proper coffee machine.

I quickly unpacked. Our friends were on route, and after a long journey down, I promised to get a cold beer and G&T ready for them.

When they arrived, we sat on the balcony enjoying our drinks.  It was such a gorgeous day so we decided to go and explore Westward Ho.

It only took us minutes to be on the seafront.  There were plenty of restaurants, bars and shops along the main promenade.  It was very clean and tidy, with a lawned area, childens play area and a large array of planted borders.  The tide was in, so you couldn’t see the sandy beach sadly.

After a walk around we decided to have a drink in Morans, an Asian restaurant that we had booked for the next night, for my actual birthday.  We sat outside drinking cocktails and beer with prawn crackers!  Well it would be rude not to!

Next door was a great fish and chip shop!  As we were at the seaside it was the obvious place to go for dinner!  A brass band was setting up outside, so we sat on a bench eating our fish and chips listening to the music.  It was such a lovely evening.

We headed back to our apartment and sat on the balcony enjoying a few drinks. Slimline wine for me. It was a clear warm evening as we sat watching the sun set over the ocean. What a magical way to start my birthday celebrations.

Tomorrow is the big day!

Stay tuned to see what happened next.  I will also be publishing the weekend on my Youtube channel so don’t forget to subscribe to my channel.

1969 was a great year!

1969 was a great year for many reasons in particular:

  • Richard Nixon became the 37th president of the USA.
  • The Beatles gave their last public performance.
  • Boeing 747 became the largest aircraft and made its first commercial flight.
  • Concorde took its first test flight.
  • Sir Wally Herbert reaches the North Pole and becomes the first man to cross the frozen surface of the Arctic Ocean.
  • Judy Garland died.
  • Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon.
  • The halfpenny ceased to be legal tender.
  • Monty Python’s Flying Circus aired on BBC One for the first time.
  • Lundy Island was given over to the National Trust.

Oh, and not forgetting another important event!  At 2.15 pm on 2 August a baby girl weighing in at 8.12lb came into the world!  She was longer than the average baby, but then she always like to be different!

Yes of course that girl was me.  I cannot believe that I have been around now for 50 years.  It feels so old, but time seems to have flown by.  It isn’t until you stop and look back on your life that the reality really hits you.    If you have read my previous blogs, you will know that I am actually ok about being 50.  I’m in a really good place in my life, and even though life throws me curve balls, I know with my hubby, together we will get through it.

I’m celebrating the day with some of my closest friends.  We are off to Devon to relive probably one of my only real memories of my birthday as a child.  When I say I don’t remember any others, it isn’t because I didn’t have a good childhood.  Far from it.  I had 2 of the best parents ever.

As my birthday falls in August, we were always on holiday, so the day tended to blend into the holiday more.  Mum always got me a cake with candles on and they made a fuss of me, but could I tell you what else I did, then no.  That was except for 1 very particular birthday.

We were in Devon and out to Ilfracombe for the day.  There was a boat in the harbour, so Dad suggested we go have a look around it.  What I didn’t know was that mum and dad had booked a trip to Lundy Island as a surprise for my birthday.  That day has stayed with me forever.  Not least because my parents won’t let me forget it!  Not because of the Island, or the treat.  Oh no!  It is because as a very confident child, I wouldn’t allow anyone to help me board the boat!  Splash – I was in the water!  Yep that was me.  Miss accident prone!  As we didn’t have any spare clothes with me, I just had to dry off.  Thankfully it was a warm day.

On the way back, when offered help, I declined again.  I wasn’t going to fall in twice was I?  Oh no of course I wasn’t!! Splash – yes in I went again!!  My parents love retelling that story to whoever will hear it!  Along with a few more incidents such as my zip line experience, which I won’t go into today, but still have the scars! 

Despite that, I have such happy memories of that day.  The excitement of being on a boat for the first time.  Seeing the birds and looking around the Island was so special.  It seemed only right then that for my 50th I should go back and revisit the Island.  Plus with it being 50 years under National Trust it seemed meant to be.  I refuse this time though to fall in, so if help is offered, I intend to take it.

Sadly, I couldn’t get a boat actually on my birthday, so we are going the next day.  I don’t mind because the whole weekend is my birthday.  Well it isn’t everyday you turn 50 is it!  I’m going to be milking it.

We have our own boat.  Not the normal ferry.  I have been liaising with Colin from Lundy Charters.  We are going from Clovelly this time, which is apparently closer than from Ilfracombe.  I am hoping to see Puffins, seals and dolphins, so will have my camera at the ready.  I’m just hoping the sea is calm after the night before!  We have a Thai Restaurant booked and no doubt there will be lots of bubbles involved!

We are starting the celebrations off tonight with a meal out.  Just me and hubby.   The question is, do I open his present and card tonight or take it with me?  I’ve said I don’t know.  I will have to decide later, I think.

We then head to Westward Ho for 3 nights with friends.  My babies are staying at home as they don’t allow dogs on Lundy Island.  I will miss them dearly, but they will be well looked after.

I don’t know what else we will be doing over the next few days.  That is what makes it fun.  Maybe fish and chips on the seafront.  Our apartment overlooks the sea, so I’m excited to be able to wake up on my birthday looking at the ocean.  Hubby doesn’t know it yet, but I will be expecting a cup of tea made of course by him, while I sit on the balcony admiring the view.

There are 8 of us in total, so whatever we do, I know it will be a good laugh.

Over the 50 years, I have learnt that if you have good family and friends, everything else isn’t as important.  I’m the happiest I have ever been.  I don’t know what the future will bring.  I’m living for today.  What I do know is that I have some amazing people around me.  I feel the luckiest person alive to have my hubby, my fabulous parents and family.  I have some great friends.  Every one of them is different, but that is what makes them special.

I’m actually really excited about the weekend.  I’m sad my parents won’t be there to spend it with me, but I will call them on the day.  I never miss speaking to them on my birthday.  They are amazing parents and love them dearly.  No doubt I will be calling them a few times of the weekend.  I know they will be waiting to hear if I made it on the boat and back without falling in! 

So, I am embracing 50.  I am thankfully for the memories I have already made, and looking forward to the new ones I will make in the future.

My advice is, don’t worry about the little things.  Treasure those that are close to you and live life to the full.  I’ve made mistakes over the last 50 years, but I don’t regret them. If I hadn’t lived the life I had, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Cooking is my passion

This weekend, I finally found an excuse and the time to do some ‘non’ Slimming World baking.  Its been a while and it reminded me so much of how much I miss it.

There must be nothing better than the smell of freshly baked bread or cakes in your house.  Since my hubby has stopped eating Carbs during the week, the opportunities for this have been dramatically reduced.  I don’t eat cakes anyway and on Slimming World, the lovely baked white loaves I used to make would be a no no.

My stepdaughter was over this weekend, so I had the perfect excuse to bake.  I had some lemons that needed to be used up, so a Lemon Drizzle Tray Bake it was.  I went to my favourite baking book for cakes – Mary Berry Easy Cakes.  I’ve had it for around 30 years.  It is full of so many amazing recipes that don’t take long to throw together!

https://youtu.be/33038fcXl0A

It is funny really when you think of my other favourite baker – Paul Hollywood.  I loved them both individually. In fact,Mary Berry’s cookbook was purchased at a time I didn’t really know who she was.  They both went on to great success working together.

I am not sure if it is the fact that I turn 50 next week, but I’m beginning to get really nostalgic.  In my grandparent’s day and even during my childhood, you would make a lot more cakes than you would ever buy.  Who remembers the good old Victoria sponge?  We would even make our own sponge to use in the trifle.

When I was first married in the late 80’s, every weekend I would make batches of cakes to keep us going through the week.  My best ever was a chocolate cake for an Easter party I was hosting.  

If people popped round, you always had something in to offer them with a cup of tea.  Cakes weren’t the only thing I’d make – biscuits and sweets too.  It is a bit sad to think that these days, it is a treat rather than the norm.

I know I blame my hubby and my eating habits for this, but the reality is, I just don’t have the same time as I used to.  The 3 hour a day commute certainly eats into my weekdays.  Walking the dogs and cooking meals from scratch every evening leaves me with only an hour a night to relax or catch up with any other jobs I need to do.

My blogs are written during my train journey.  Multitasking is the only way I can get through the mountain of tasks I have each week.

As time is limited in the week, we tend to leave all our jobs for the weekend.  That then means again that having the odd hour to spare is limited.

Hubby and I were talking recently about what our ideal future would be.  We would both love to work together in a joint business venture.  Doing something where you produce a dish, whether a savoury or sweet would be my ideal.  Hubby said he would be the delivery man!  It’s only a pipe dream, we both know that, but it’s funny how something I really enjoy features so little in my life!

That said you never know. If we won a million our idea may become real, and I do have an idea and a name ! So watch this space !

In the meantime I’m going to keep cooking!

Maybe that is why I love my vlogging.  It forces me to think of new recipes or make the effort to cook something that will help me on my own Slimming World journey, but also inspire others.

I’d like to say I am going to make sure I find the time to do more.  I know the people I work with would welcome some home cooking.  Sadly, I am not sure I would be able to stick to it.  In the meantime, I’m going to embrace every opportunity I can to get into the kitchen.  I have a great platform in my Youtube Channel.  I will ensure I keep motivated each week.  So don’t forget to subscribe to my channel to see what delights I come up with.

 

And of course it rained!

It’s so typical of the great British weather! It’s absolutely gorgeous all week. Come the weekend and the sun decides to take a break too!

This weekend was no different. All week it was beautiful. Friday I worked at home. Temperatures reached 25 degrees. Did I go outside and enjoy it? No! Why? Well firstly I had work to do, but secondly, I thought I’d have plenty of time in the sun at the weekend.

We had 4 friends coming to stay and had planned outdoor activities!

Firstly breakfast on the patio followed by a lovely walk around Stratford-upon-Avon. It was the river festival. Bands would be playing and a few little stalls selling a variety of goods. As it is held on the banks of the River Avon, it was going to be a lovely few hours relaxing!

Well that was the plan! What wasn’t planned was the rain! Not to be put off we all still ventured out to Stratford, after eating breakfast indoors !!

Dinner was going to be a braai! We had the biggest piece of meat to cook!

Just as we thought the rain was going to stop, it started up again! The Gazebo it was then. Rain was not going to stop 3 South African men from doing what they do best!

As we 3 ladies watched them through the lounge widows sipping our Gin and Tonic, you can’t help but laugh at the body language of the men!

One of them checks the heat of the fire using the hand test! Then another checks it! Wait for it, yep, the third one has to check it too! Just in case one of them got it wrong !

The meat was a big beast and a challenge to cook. The fire to hot, the outside would burn but the inside would be raw. The fire too low and it would never cook. So, as with the 3 bears, it has to be just right!

After a couple of hours it was done. Absolutely gorgeous!

Sadly we had to eat indoors again!

My ice cream cake was probably the only thing that was pleased about the change in weather!

You know, the weather may have not been in our favour but it didn’t matter. We still had fun!

It doesn’t matter how much you plan things in life, something always goes wrong! Take it as an opportunity not a disaster!

Don’t put things on hold. Adapt and have fun!

Here is the video to my weekend:

This week the weather is going to be unpredictable. Don’t let that stop you enjoying life! Embrace it!

Have a good week.

How am I doing on my 50 things to do in my 50th year list?

Do you remember at the beginning of the year I decided to write a list of all the things I would like to achieve during my 50th year?  Well we are now officially half way through that year.  Where has all that time gone? 

How have I done so far?  Below is my update:-

1)  Travel to China

 Still on schedule to achieve.

2)Visit Croatia

We went as planned in May and oh wow!  How amazing.  Following where we went on my YouTube channel

I still have my last day to publish – but it is worth waiting for!

3)  Weekend away in a VW Campervan 

Still not on my radar!!


4) Re-visit Lundy Island

Well after a tricky time sorting out a boat, this trip is scheduled to happen and I can’t wait!

5)    Eat at a Michelin star restaurant

Still not happened!

6)   Bake with Paul Hollywood

Sadly Paul hasn’t popped over to help me in the kitchen yet!

7)  Be my own boss

I’m still searching for that ‘ah ha’ moment that will make me rich!!

8)   Buy a new car with the registration of the year I was born

It is still a few months away before the 69 plate is out. Sadly by bank balance isn’t matching this wish yet, but you never know!

9)    Get at least 1000 subscribers on my YouTube Channel

I’m at 149 at the moment so a few more to go!

10) Take a hot air balloon over my home town

Still need to do!

11) Have a weekend away with my parents

Sadly this hasn’t happened yet, but I hope to make it come true!

12) Fly first class

@Emirates – can you help me with this one when I fly with you to China in August? Pretty please!!

13) Complete a successful ‘Dry January’

Woo hoo!  I absolutely smashed this.

14) Walk 5,000,000 steps in 2019

As I am still half way through the year, I have time to complete this!

15) Learn to crochet

I think this is for a winters evening don’t you!!

16) Visit Stonehenge

I made this happen in March this year and loved it!

https://youtu.be/j9PDDkP5dg8

17) Swim with dolphins

Not sure if this will happen, unless they appear in Lundy!

18) Run 10k

This was always going to be a tough one!

19) Learn to decorate a cake with icing

Oh wow, I forgot about this one.  Work had a festival week and one of the sessions was about Cake decorating!  I’ve done it without even realising!

https://youtu.be/yOTVetHzo5Y

20)Learn to ballroom dance with Anton De Beke

Well I haven’t danced with @antondebeke but I did get to meet him at @thismorning Live this year.   He is still a delight to spend time with!

https://youtu.be/Qln3XrVmjgI

21)Be on the panel of Loose Women

I’m still waiting @LooseWomen

22) Own a designer handbag

Maybe I’ll get one for my birthday!  Hint hint

23) Replace my greenhouse

Oh it is looking pretty sad at the moment so I think this may need to happen soon!

24) Reduce my daily commute to work

I’m still having fun with the trains!!  At least the morning commute has changed thanks to 4 extra carriages, which means I mostly get a seat now!

25) Teach Lola to walk off a lead

Yer right!  Hmm, not sure this is not going to happen!

26) Teach Fido to not bark at the door

We have been trying very hard!  I’ve now applied to the programme ‘Dogs Behaving Very Badly’ for help!  Fingers crossed!

27) Teach Fido not to bark at noises

As above!  Eek!

28) Have 5 minutes of fame on T.V. – preferably on This Morning

I’m still waiting for them to snap me up lol!!  I did get to meet Ruth and Eamon at the @thismorning Live at the NEC in Birmingham.  Eamon even had his hand on my knee!!  Lol!  They were such a lovely couple!

29)Go to see a musical at least once in 2019

Still to do, but we are in London very soon so who knows!

30) Go to a music festival or concert at least once in 2019

No happened yet, but the summer isn’t over yet!

31) Write a blog at least once a week

I’m smashing this with 2 – 3 some weeks!

32) Improve my photography skills

I’ve not had chance much to take many photos but when I have, I’ve really tried to be creative.

33) Clean out the garage

Don’t tell my hubby but, nah, not yet!  I will though promise!

34) Help raise awareness of homelessness

I’m still promoting this.

35) Help out someone at least once a month

Ooh now I really have to think about this one.  I think I have, but I could do more!

36) Have a professional make over

Still need to sort this one out!

37) Have a ‘hot’ Christmas

This may not happen this year, but one day!

38) Remember friends and family’s birthdays

I’m doing better.  I could be a bit quicker poster but it is an improvement.

39) Be surprised

Not yet!! 

40) Have dinner out once a month

We have done this and it has been really nice to have someone cook for me.  It hasn’t had to be posh, but good food.

41) Take an hour out a week for ‘me time’

I’m trying but some weeks are just so busy.

42) Get 8 hours of sleep a night as much as possible

I’m totally failing this one.  Only 6-7 hours a night at the moment. 

43) Drink more water and less diet coke

Right now I am drinking a litre of squash!  I’m trying!

44) Have a girls night out at least once every 3 months

I’ve just about done this, but I really need a few more!

45) Have a date night with hubby at least once every 3 months

I think we have done this – yes, definitely.  It is good to spend quality time together.

46) Take a canal trip

Well I did say a trip not a holiday so does the 30 minute trip with work count?

47) Go to see Wasps at least 3 times during the year

We have been once but will go more later in the year – promise.

48) Learn the rules to Rugby

Oops!  I really must talk to hubby!

49) Take up a new hobby

I just need to find the time!!

50) Keep in touch more with family and friends who live away

Facebook is great, but I really need to put some weekends away to see friends.  We have managed a couple of weekends this year, but we should do more!

So, there have been some things ticked off, I really need to start doing a few more!  I will keep you posted!!

Feeling hot hot hot !

Wow, what great weather we had this weekend! So who has a Braai? Ok BBQ? Yep it has the be done.

We went the whole hog and had 2! First one Friday night and another last night. You have to love eating outside.

Last nights Braai was all about using the leftovers. It’s amazing what you can create with a bit of imagination.

Saturday temperatures reached over 34 degrees for us! Not that I sat out in it myself! Oh no! We had friends round on the evening so first things first I needed to catch up on the housework! It has to be done especially with 2 malting dogs!

Talking of malting dogs, they do struggle when it’s so warm! Fido thankfully knows how to cool down. He stands in the shower waiting for someone to turn the taps in for him!!

Anyway, back to the friends coming for dinner. As it was going to be such a lovely day I decided the menu needed to reflect that.

Hubby offered to make his prawn soup! It’s light but very tasty. Perfect for a hot summer evening.

For main, I opted for pineapple and salmon kebabs with Jerk seasoning, with home grown new potatoes and a pomegranate and feta salad. As a salad dressing I made a Dijon mustard dressing. So far all free on Slimming World, but still tasty.

Now, this is where it got interesting. For dessert, I decided on an ice cream cake. Well why wouldn’t you!

The cake requires 2 layers of ice cream and a raspberry coulis, topped with a ginger biscuit layer! Sounds fab doesn’t it! And it was apparently (I made a syn free version for me).

The problem I had was the weather! I mean, when it’s over 34 degrees outside, how are you supposed to stop the layers melting while constructing them!

It was a case of moving very quickly and having a hubby on hand to open freezer doors for you!

I published a video of it here!

I had to laugh when I watched it back. I looked quite fresh at the start of it! By the end I was definitely wilting !!

The main thing is the food went down a treat! Note to myself though! Don’t try it again unless it’s about 10 degrees cooler!

I’m not complaining though! I love it when it’s hot hot hot !

Have a good day.

Best Ever April Fool

I have just seen the best April Fool ever!

I was watching Holly & Phil whilst at the gym, as is my usual daily routine. I arrived at the cross trainer just as they were talking to the husband of someone they had given a make-over to! I had missed the start as I only go to the gym in my lunch hour.

The bit I caught was that this lady was going to her first every school reunion. She was really nervous about what to wear. It was also their 25th Wedding Anniversary. @Lisa Snowdon was providing the wardrobe makeover whilst a hairdresser and makeup artist did the rest.

I absolutely love Lisa Snowdon. In fact if you read one of my previous blogs, you will know I would love her to give me a makeover to! Well, I did! I was mentally crossing that one off my list!

https://bit.ly/2OFtMsF

What I like about Lisa is her dress style. She always makes them look a million dollars. She herself is I think the iconic style queen. She has a figure like mine, and I always aspire to be like here, hence why she is on my list!

As the lady in question walked on, my jaw dropped! I almost fell off the cross trainer. She was wearing this very tight, pink velvety dress. It was above the knee with white cowboy boots! Nothing wrong with either in the right context. If that wasn’t bad enough, her eyes were very dark and smokey and her hair, although not offensive in its own right, didn’t look right!

She looked absolutely awful. In fact as she walked on the phrase that popped into my head was ‘mutton dressed up as lamb’!

As they revealed the look to her, she looked in horror at her reflection. Tears came into her eyes. Holly and Phil were prompting her for her opinion. At first Holly was excited for her, but then she realised she didn’t like the look. She asked if they could stop filming, but they continued. I was screaming at them to stop filming her.

As Phil went to get some tissues, Holly came to console her, offering her to go downstairs to look at other things in the wardrobe.

Phil then announces there was a further surprise! A day trip in London, including dinner at the Ivy, the London Eye, etc. That a car was waiting to take them now. Phil suggested she see how she feels after her day out!

The camera follows them to the car. You can still hear her distraught about the outfit. Holly is beside herself.

As they watch the car pulls off it crashes!

OMG, I nearly fell off the cross trainer!

Holly is in bits. Phil is also really concerned. And then it happens! Phil announces its a complete April Fool! The whole thing was to set Holly up! The couple were actors and the car a stunt car!

Absolutely brilliant! I was completely taken in. Holly’s reaction was priceless too. She is such a good sport! (Meeting them is also on my list).

My faith is now totally restored in Lisa Snowdon! How could anyone of us have believed she would have made such a bad job! I’m still laughing hours later!

Best prank ever! Well done @thismorning

Halloween

So how many of you think Halloween came from America?  Well you would be excused if you did.  America embraced the celebration of Halloween long before we did here in the UK.

The name Halloween comes from the name All Hallows Eve.

What you may not know, is that Halloween first came about from the Celts.  So effectively, it originates from Northern Ireland, Northern France and here in the UK.  In fact Ireland has a bank holiday around this time.   The Celtic festival of Samhain was the start of what you know today.  It is thought that people would light bonfires and wear costumes to keep away ghosts.

31st October marked the end of summer and the harvest.  As we all know too well, we now move into dark and very cold winter nights.  In days gone by, and probably a bit today, it was expected that more people would die during this time.  Mostly from the cold,  I would imagine.

All Saints day which falls on 1 November was designated by Pope Gregory III to honour saints. It was also said to be the start of the new year.

The Celts believed the night before the new year, the boundary between the living and the dead became blurred.  It is thought that on Hallows Eve, or Samhain as it was then, ghosts of the dead, came back to earth.

They were said to damage crops and cause mayhem.  The Celts felt that this made it easier for Druids (Celtic priests) to make predictions on the future.  In those days, people relied on these predictions to help them through the long winters.

To celebrate this time, Druids built big bonfires, where crops and animals were burnt as a sacrifice.  The Celts wore costumes of animal heads and skins, which is probably where the dressing up comes from today.

Women even thought that by doing tricks with yarn, tossing apple skins over their shoulder or throwing nuts into a fire, they would find out who their potential husband were.

When Rome conquered the Celts, they combined their own festivals with that of Samhain.

Feralia was toward the end of October where the Romans commemorated the passing of the dead.  Together with celebration for Pomona, the goddess of fruit and trees they were combined with Samhain.  Pomona was represented by an apple, and it is thought that the tradition of apple bobbing came from this.

So with its origins in Europe, how did it get so big in America?  The simple answer is, from migrates from Ireland, many thought to have gone there around the time of the Potato famine.

It was in America, that the traditions of today of trick or treating came about.  They would go from house to house collecting money or food.

By the 1800’s, some of the superstitions and religion had started to disappear from the celebrations.   By the twentieth century it became what is it today.

The pumpkin became part our tradition from a couple of different old Irish tales.  The first was that the Celts carved faces into vegetables, placed a light inside them of a candle or piece of coal, to light the way to their homes for the good spirits.  In those days it was mostly turnips and squash.

The second is about a man called Stringy Jack.  It is said that in the 18th Century, Jack tried to pull a fast one on the devil.  Jack was a drunk.  He asked the devil to go for a drink with him.  When the bill came he had no money to pay for it, so he persuaded the devil to turn himself into a six pence coin.  The devil did so, but instead of paying the bill, Jack put the coin in his pocket and left.

The devil remained until one day he felt guilty for what he did.  He said to the devil that he would let him out if he promised to leave him alone for a period of time which varies depending on which story you read.  The devil agreed.  When the time was up he went after Jack.
Jack convinced the devil to go up a tree to get him an apple before going with him to Hell.

As he was climbing, Jack carved a cross in the tree, trapping the devil again.

Once again Jack’s conscious got the better of him.  He agreed to let the devil down if he promised never to come for him again.  The devil agreed.

When Jack dies, St Peter refused him at the gates of heaven because of his behaviour.  The problem was that Jack had made an agreement with the devil, which meant he couldn’t go to hell either!

Eventually Jack was given a lump of hot coal by the devil to light his way through purgatory.   Jack was said to have carried the coal inside a hollowed out turnip.

Irish families would place a turnip in their windows to stop Jack and other ghosts coming in.  The scary faces were to frighten away anyone trying.

When Halloween arrived in America, immigrants decided pumpkins, which were plentiful there, were a better option for this tradition.  They soon became know there as jack-o-lanterns.

Now you know where it came from – Happy Halloween!