Cardiff was the place to be this Christmas

Our Christmas was nice this year. The kids were happy with their presents; the things I had made for people went down well, I got lots of lovely things myself including a beautiful Clogau Gold pendant from GG, and no-one got sickness viruses or started projectile vomiting at midnight on Christmas Eve (the story of Christmases past!). All in all, we’ve got a lot to be glad about.

Not least of which is that we stayed home this year. A few years back GG and I talked about how nice it would be to go away for Christmas one year, to somewhere really snowy. We have visions of a chalet in a ski resort somewhere (Norway or Austria being the more likely candidates); being out in the snow all day and then coming in to a plate of steaming hot goulash in the evening. And we said at the time that, so that the kids could enjoy it, we would be best off going once Cheeky was five as he’d then be big enough to have a good go at skiing and sledging. Cheeky was five in April, so this was to be the year. However, as we had a gorgeous holiday to Malta in May, and then I swanned off to Sorrento in September, the idea was pushed firmly onto a back burner. And I’m so glad about that.

Imagine the stress I would have put myself through if we had been flying British Airways to get to the resort, with all the talk in the weeks leading up to Christmas about strikes. I think I would have sprouted more than a few grey hairs whilst I was imagining the worst case scenario (as I have been known to do once or twice before). And if I’d got through that without chewing my fingernails right off, I can only imagine how I would have been once the snow and ice started to threaten the possibility of not even reaching the airport at all, let alone the possibility of flights not taking off on icy runways. And then, even if we had successfully made it into the air, I would have been very uneasy (spot the understatement) about the possibility of the plane skidding off the runway at our destination or on our return.

On the whole, I think that it was just as well we stayed home. And I may just have managed to scare myself off the idea of going away for Christmas at any time in the future!

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Sorrento

VesuviusJust a couple of photos today. I am acutely aware that I’ve been meaning to write about my holiday for nearly a month now, but I just don’t seem to have the time! So I’m posting a couple of my favourite pictures.

The first one is the iconic image of Vesuvius from Sorrento that I’ve carried in my memory since I was last in Sorrento in 2000. Strangely, it was a lot larger and closer than I’d remembered, looming over the Bay of Naples. The cragginess of the outline only served as a reminder that this isn’t an extinct volcano, and could become active and extremely dangerous to the thousands who live on the slopes and in the surounding area at any time.

Jennie in Sorrento

This photo is to prove that I was actually there, and that I’m not just using a friend’s pictures! I think this might have been taken on the first day, which would explain the lack of beaming smile – I was worn out! All the travelling took its toll on us and we were asleep very early on that first night. Back to the photo; I’m standing by railings which are on the edge of the cliff on which Sorrento sits. Some of it (the old and new harbours, for example) are at the bottom of the cliffs, but the majority of the town is many metres above sea level. From the sea, we could see lots of staircases cut into the cliff face leading from the hotels at the top down to their private beaches. One way to lose weight whilst on holiday, and ensure that you get your daily cardio workout!

Vesuvius at sunset

And finally, for today, Vesuvius at sunset, it’s peak masked by a blanket of cloud. Had I been a proficient artist I could have captured the colours in the sky much more effectively than did my camera, but you’ll have to make do with this! Isn’t it beautiful? We stood and watched the sunset for ages, having gone down to the old harbour in the almost village-suburb of Marina Grande speciafically to see it from such a good angle. In fact I think that we saw Vesuvius pretty much each day at this time, from various viewpoints.

More to come, I promise. I’ve lots of lovely pictures of our trip to Positano, the local harbour festival, the Amalfi Coast from the boat trip we took and of our hotel. However, at the current rate I’ll be lucky if I get all of that written by Christmas! Oh well, please bear with me!

Italy, baby!

In the optimistic spirit of celebration, rather than commiseration at the turning of another personal decade, Maria and I decided that the ideal way to commemorate our 30th birthday year would be to return to Sorrento, where we had a fantastic holiday nine years ago.

As I have the family to think about, and she has a big important grown up job, neither of us could go for the two weeks that we enjoyed last time we were there. We settled on a five day trip, and found a slightly more luxurious hotel than we stayed in last time!

We booked an airport hotel at Gatwick, as our flight was reasonably early in the morning and, having driven through the night before flying before, we don’t ever want to do that again! We stayed at the Gatwick Mercure, which was very nice and had good room service at 11pm. However, if you ever stay there, make sure to request a room away from the lift shaft. Our room backed onto it, and I didn’t get much uninterrupted sleep in between each occupant of the lift trundling suitcases in and out all night! However, the journey to the airport terminal in the morning was short and straightforward, and we had plenty of time after check in to find ourselves a good breakfast. Which was just as well, as it turned out.

Maria has coeliac disease, as I may have mentioned before, and so when we were booking the flights with BA we made sure to request gluten free food for the flight (there was a long list of tick boxes to choose from regarding food options in the booking process). However, when we were on the plane and the snack was being delivered by the stewardess, on requesting the gluten free snack, a cheese sandwich was offered rather than the ham sandwich. NOT helpful when you are allergic to gluten and are therefore unable to have any sandwiches at all, unless specially made with gluten free bread. However, as we had already had substantial breakfasts in the airport, we put it down to lack of knowledge on the part of the stewardess and declined the cheese sandwiches without further comment. However, on the way back, Naples airport didn’t have the catering options that Gatwick did, and so Maria was extremely hungry by the time we boarded. On being offered a sandwich again, I explained that we had ticked the ‘gluten free’ box due to food allergies, and couldn’t eat the proffered sandwiches (I had put myself down as gluten free in a gesture of solidarity with my friend, and also in the hope that fresh fruit might be offered rather than the yucky airline bread rolls!!). The steward on this flight at least did understand what gluten was, but told us that gluten free food is only offered on long haul flights. Well how chuffing useful was that. This should have been made far clearer during the booking process. If no other dietary requirements are catered for on short haul BA flights, the options tick boxes should not be a part of the booking process. I was (and still am, as you can tell!) really annoyed about this lack of service, and it will definitely make me think twice about flying with British Airways again. Rant over!

There was one very good part of our flight to Naples; flying over the Alps. I’m a bit of a sucker for trying to take photos out of the aeroplane windows, and I couldn’t resist trying to capture a picture (or twelve) of the Alps as we flew over them into Switzerland. Their peaks were standing proud above the cloudline, and I wa imagining what it must be like to climb those mountains, ostensibly in bad weather only to suddenly emerge above the clouds and be able to see all the other peaks rising up as well. We had been told that we would be passing close to Mont Blanc, but it was only when I got home and looked it up on Google Earth that I realised I had actually managed to take a half decent photo of it as we flew past. And this was it;

Mont Blanc

Isn’t it beautiful? Just the way it stood proud of the other mountains captured my attention, and I was so glad that this picture, of all of them, came out well.

The flight arrived in Naples on time, and we found the transfer to Sorrento easy, as there was a bus going directly there, waiting just outside the front door of the airport as we stepped out.

And that’s all you’re getting from me in this post. I’ll tell you more about the main body of the trip in other posts, but I think my rant about British Airways has taken up all of my available time today!

Happy Birthday GG (a.k.a. Beethoven)

Today my most belovedest hubby joins me in his fourth decade. Yup, 30 today! Or, as one of GG’s cards said, 18 with 12 years experience. So I’ve decided to call him Beethoven (1812, geddit?).

I’m honoured and blessed to have such a wonderful, kind, caring and generous man as my soulmate and partner for life. Few can boast of such regular spoiling and pampering from their partner. But enough of the mushy stuff. He’s fab, you all know it, end of! Let’s get to the good stuff!

A while ago, I was chatting with a friend of his from work and may have mentioned that I could send him some pictures of GG as a child, if he would like. He did like, and so (with the gleeful connivance of his mother) I chose a few choice photos of my beloved, scanned them into my computer and e-mailed them to his office. I had a reasonably irate phone call from GG at 8.30 on Friday morning, informing me that his friend had printed a load of them out and had distributed them around his department. So, in a spirit of love (naturally) I decided that I should (lovingly) share them with you all too.

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GG as a happy, smiling toddler

GG nearly 30 years ago - cute!

GG nearly 30 years ago - cute!

And of course, I’ve saved the best for last;

GG, aged 7, livin' it large...in the living room!

GG, aged 7, livin' it large...in the living room!

Bless him! Wasn’t he cute?! And check out the boy tan lines on his legs and his neck! I love you, hubby of mine, and I only publish this post as I feel safe in the knowledge that your memory is atrocious and you’ll have forgotten that you want revenge by the time my next birthday comes round!

Rejuvenated

I apologise for my extended absence from my blog. I’ve been on holiday, and I’ve come back feeling all energised and wonderful! I went with my family to Malta for a week. It was a fabulous place, my first trip to that island. The weather was great, in direct contrast with the weather at home, so I am led to believe!

This was our first view of Malta, on reaching our apartment;

Valetta

I don’t think you could say much, other than “Wow”! This is Valetta, and the dome and spire next to one another in the centre of the picture are the Catholic and Protestant cathedrals in Malta’s capital city. I was amazed, when I reviewed my photos, at how many I had taken of this exact view! I suppose that it was simply convenience, as we could see it from the balcony leading off from our living room and kitchen. All I know is that I seem to have pictures of it at night, at daybreak, in full sunshine (above), at dusk, when the sky was slightly cloudy, from the sea, from further down the promenade and from the base of each building! I’m sure I’ve forgotten some even now! My friend Chris makes fun of me, as there always seems to be something that I’ll focus on whilst on holiday, and I’ll end up with pictures of it from every angle. In Barcelona it was the Sagrada Famiglia; in Salzburg the Nonnberg Abbey; in Sorrento it was Mount Vesuvius. And in Malta, it appears, it was the memorable skyline of Valetta.

We had thought about staying in a hotel, but in the end decided to rent an apartment instead. That way we knew that we wouldn’t be facing a wall, and after a bad experience with hotel food in Mallorca when Handsome was two years old, I felt happier with self catering anyway. The apartment was top of the range, full of everything you could think of needing or wanting. A welcome pack of food was provided, with bread, milk, eggs, tea, coffee, and enough other food to make a meal or two. The housekeeper, Doris, met us on our arrival and guided us around the apartment as well as giving us very handy tips as to public transport, and when would be the best times to visit certain places. We felt very fortunate to have found such a place with such wonderful amenities and so excellent a position.

Cheeky’s much better

After a whole lot of extra sleep (two and a half to three hours), and a reviving bacon, onion, yellow pepper and cheese omelette, Cheeky felt much better and declared himself eager to go to the farm and help his Auntie Jo with the digging. We duly went up there and spent a couple of hours with her. We set GG to work

Jo and GG working hard on the new vegetable garden

Jo and GG working hard on the new vegetable garden

although he did have to borrow the kids’ spade at one point! However, a bit more double digging was accomplished, so another small step has been taken on the road to readiness for planting! The other bed (that the pigs dug for us) will be nurturing the potatoes, so Jo’s hoping that she might get away with a little bit less digging on that patch, and that the potatoes will do the hard work for her! If she’s traditional, she has eleven more digging days before she should be planting on Good Friday. Perhaps if I visit again, I might even get round to wielding a fork or shovel!

More Easter bonnets or hats for boys

Well, so many of you right now are coming here after searching for boys’ Easter bonnets that I thought I’d do another post about it. This time, however, I plan on finding people who put more time and effort into their creations than I did last year!

  • This link leads to a very cute top hat with bunny ears which would be suitable for a little boy, made out of cardboard plates and bowls, and apparently taking less than an hour to complete.
  • At this website you can find instructions to make a rabbit hat/headband which is really suitable for boys or girls. It’s just made with cardboard and glue, so cheap to put together.
  • Here in the moneysavingexpert.com forums are a whole range of ideas for boy suitable Easter hats, from chicks playing rugby to top hats.

You can also find some more ideas on Yahoo answers, although a lot of the other places I searched more or less just described what I did last year with the yellow straw hat and the chicks!

If you find any of these ideas useful, or if you have better ideas of your own, please let me know. I’d like to be able to do an updated post next year, so feedback would be helpful. Also, if you’re new here, please come back and visit again! I’m planning a giveaway towards the end of April, so hopefully lots of you will be interested in taking part.

**EDIT** 28/03/10 – I’ve just uploaded a new post about the latest Easter hat we made for my younger son’s Easter parade. Have a look at it here.