Monday, 22 December 2014

Monday Morning

Good morning all only a few days to go to the big one.  It is extremely mild outside with temperatures in double figures for which I am grateful as my first job of the morning is to take Dan the man out for his toilet training.   Yesterday evening we had a little walk up and down the road to introduce ourselves to our various neighbours and wish them all a happy christmas.  It was also another opportunity to meet with traffic and noise.  At the moment Dan behaves very well on the lead but I am sure that will not last once he is a bit more confident.  I am making a start on celebrating today with a large piece of gammon which I am going to cook in cocacola.  This will be a first for me and I will let you know if it is successful.  There is a Nigella Lawson recipe for this which I am going to follow. The joint is too big for just the three of us so I intend to cook it then divide it up into meal sized portions which I will vacuum pack and/or freeze.  I also have a fairly large red cabbage which I am going to halve and make into both coleslaw and spiced red cabbage.  While all this cooking is going on we have all decided that the prawn cocktail we had the other day for lunch was such a success that a repeat performance is called for. Then by supper time there should be a nice bit of ham to eat but how we have it will depend on how we are all feeling.  

I shot out to Aldi yesterday when it opened at 10 but knowing how popular it is on Sundays I was in the car park by 9.30 as by 10 there is no room and people are queuing round the block to get in.  In our house it is traditional to have fish on christmas eve for supper and to this end I managed to get some of their lobster tails in garlic butter.  Again something nice and light in preparation for the big day. Catering is quite difficult at the moment with everyone under the weather and appetites at rock bottom.  Thank heavens for the freezer and vacuum packing.  I can see us eating christmas fare until well into January.  Last night we had the steaks which went down well with a couple of sweet potato wedges.  The three dogs made short work of the bits of fat and gristle.  Dan has not yet learned that in this house you share with your friends and that food is distributed fairly.  It is not a case of he who pushes hardest gets the most.  He seems to have stopped taking things off the work surface but there is a trap set for him if he does, he will find himself wearing a large colander on his head which should deter him.  It is no use getting old if you don't get canny!!!!  and on that note I will leave you to your preparations.  We have various traditions in the family which have been handed down through the generations I expect you do too.  I would be interested to hear what yours are.  

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Sunday Morning

Is it breakfast time yet?

Let me know when you get fed up yet another photo of Dante! I have tried to get a good shot of him but I am better at hitting a moving target with gun than a camera.

Rough and tumble with Tubby

Yesterday was a mediocre day I took Mike out to the shops while I bought the last few oddments needed for the christmas festivities.  I needed a panettone as our house breakfast tradition requires a large slab of panettone dunked in a big mug of coffee while listening to christmas carols.  I had the most wonderful compliment paid to me in the shop.  There was an Italian couple with some kids trying to decide which of the assorted makes of pasta was best.  This I couldn't resist so I pointed out the best I had yet found.  "Oh you are Italian" the husband exclaimed, I explained that it was my mother who came from Trieste but to be mistaken for a native was a huge compliment.  Lunch was some of the lovely "Black Watch", scotch eggs and assorted bits and pieces.  Supper on the other hand was "if you can find it, you can eat it".  I went off to bed early as I was feeling pretty rotten this miserable cold just won't shift and after all the excitement I am crashing back to earth with a vengeance.  I will be sporting a nice big cold sore for the festivities which means I am really run down so it is time to take care of me.  James took over the late night toilet run as I had already entered the land of nod.

I have three nice short horn sirloin steaks for lunch today but I think I may well just make a nice pot of chicken broth for myself and have the steak for supper if I feel up to it.  I have just had a really good idea. If I make the base for a broth with the usual suspects of carrot, onion and celery I might as well make enough to make the base of my turkey soup and put it in the freezer ready to use.  So off to the kitchen to chop and sweat vegetables.... No doubt my sous chef will be in attendance incase I drop anything on the floor.  This will make you laugh he has seen the other dogs lick the plates in the dishwasher so when I opened the crockery cupboard he dived straight in to lick the plates only to withdraw looking perplexed, they taste of nothing so what is the attraction!!!! His favorite cupboard is the one where it is winter all the time which is full of good stuff like cheese and meat.  

Have a good day all and I hope your preparations are all going according to plan.  Hopefully come the day I will feel less like a dish cloth and more like a human being.

P.S. the days get longer after todays winter solstice but I think winter is still to come. 

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Saturday Morning

Flat out sound asleep

Yesterday morning we had a visit from the OT's who had come to see Mike but as you can imagine there was also some puppy playing time.  I got on with the bits and pieces for Xmas so they are all now in the freezer and all I have to do is cook the bird and do the veg so it will be rather like a big sunday lunch.  I kept back some of the bubble and squeak which we had for lunch with some crispy bacon.  We are all at the tail end of a rotten cold which is taking its time to go so as none of us was feeling up to much we had a prawn cocktail with bread and butter for supper.  It was infact just what we all wanted.  I had made a bucket full of marie rose sauce and shredded a largish lettuce so it was not a small portion.  I even managed to do the ironing and get that put away.  Dante started the day rather badly by smashing a second bowl but we made a concentrated effort to use the OFF word and by the end of the day things had improved dramatically.  The crazy jumping up has stopped and he seems much more laid back.  He had his first walk to the top of the road 100 yards approximately and we sat and watched the traffic.  He was very frightened and dribbled copiously: It is a far cry from the rural idle he came from.  There is so much to learn and these early days are when it needs to happen. Toilet training is going according to plan with only one small puddle in error and the flap to the garden is now a source of amusement in itself.  He likes to go out and look back in at us through the patio doors, perhaps it is us who are the zoo specimens.

At some point I am going to have to go to the shops and make some sort of plan about food over the next few days but at the moment we are winging it. Absolutely everything is on the back burner while we play with our new friend.  He has become disheartened with his typing progress and had gone back to bed to wait for his mate Tubby to get up then it will be mayhem.  We find ourselves sitting for hours watching the games of rough and tumble.  At the moment Tubby can pin him to the floor but that will not last long as he grows Tubs will be in for a shock. He is already taller but doesn't have the weight or strength yet.

I sorted out the birds Sandy had brought me and they are now in the freezer and will make a sumptuous game pie some time in the new year.  I am in two minds as to whether to do a hot-water crust pastry or go for the puff pastry lid type.  I suppose it would be better for our figures to go for the puff pastry lid.  I have some courgettes lurking in the fridge so I think I will make a batch of pancakes.  I'm sure they will get eaten at some point in the day. 

Well thats about it for this morning only 5 days to go.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Friday morning

Please note that the crate door is open but Dante has claimed it as his bed

Good morning all, well what a day we had yesterday.  Dante was posted through the flap a few times with the help of a frankfurter.  It took virtually no time at all for him to get the message that using the flap earned you some sausage.  However, this didn't mean you can run in and out of the flap continuously and earn loads of sausage.  Now he only gets praised.  He managed to cause a disaster in the kitchen last night when he ran back down the garden, shot in through the flap, and reached up and pulled down his china bowl full of breakfast - I'm sure I don't need to paint you a picture of the ensuing chaos. He was desperate to eat the food and we were equally desperate to stop him eating broken china.  He is moving on to a stainless steel bowl today and the training will be stopping him jumping up and helping himself to whatever is on the work surface. He has the appetite of a horse and anyone seeing him eat could be forgiven for thinking he had never been fed.  Mike had a christmas party at his school so he came home exhausted.  Sandy had come bringing me some lovely pheasants and partridges which I will deal with today.  This gave us a nice chance for a chat and later in the day we had more visitors who came bearing cakes.  There is nothing like a new puppy to entice visitors.  Today we are expecting an OT to come and see Mike and she is a dog lover so who knows how much work will get done with him.  Tubby is a bit off colour and refused his supper then ate it and was sick so I will put him on boiled rice today which I hope will settle his tummy.  It is pouring with rain at the moment but at least the temperature is in double figures.  I am hoping to get some preparatory work done today.  I intend to make a large bubble and squeak to freeze ready for the cold turkey on boxing day.  I also still have the pigs in blankets and stuffing to make so that will occupy me for a while.  Did I tackle the big pile of ironing yesterday? you must be joking!!! it is still sitting in the basket.  As for what we are going to have to eat today who knows.  Last night for supper we all had something different as I was clearing the freezer out of single portions.  I can see cheese omelets being a high priority.  Well I think my todo list is long enough so I will go and make a start on some of it, funnily enough I keep getting distracted!!!!!!! 

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Thursday morning

Snoozing together

We have got through day one with only one puddle on the puppy mat the rest have been in the garden and it has only cost me a couple of frankfurters. He has mastered coming in through the flap but hasn't worked out that it is a two way door.  It is quite difficult to type as he is very keen to join in as this is our quality time together.  Last night Elaine and her entire family came to visit so both Dante and Tubby had a grand time being made a fuss of.  They seem to have become firm friends and play very well together.   We were a little apprehensive that Tubby would be a bit too rough for Dante but actually he gives as good as he gets.  The are evenly matched in playing chase and when it comes to rough and tumble Tubby grabs Dantes ears and is rewarded with a right hook from one of those huge paws. Dante instigates a lot of play so he is definitely not afraid of Tubby.  Of course they are both afraid of Nip who has made it clear he doesn't want to do any rough and tumble and is to be treated with respect. Some how amidst all the fun I managed a trip to the shops and James put through 4 machine loads of washing.  We had beans on toast for lunch and for supper I did veal kidney jerez with rice.  I bought the kidney in the butcher in Lisieux and what a butcher it was I could have bought the entire shop with no trouble at all it all looked so wonderful.  Today Sandy is coming to pay us a visit.  No that's rubbish, she is coming to see Dan the man.  I have some fish for lunch but that is as far as I have thought.  I suppose at some time I will have to think of christmas up till now my life has been geared towards the French trip now that has been accomplished I have realised that there is life beyond that date and I need to start thinking about it.  As you can imagine I have a huge pile of ironing to keep me occupied, but everything is second to playing with the new guy and making the most of his babyhood.  In no time at all he will be all grown up so to hell with the housework I am just going to enjoy my baby. Today we will continue with the flap training and I don't think I will attempt the car again until after the weekend.  Then we will start anti car sickness training and also as he is a country dog we will be making a start on traffic awareness so I guess I will be sitting in the bus stop every evening watching the traffic on the A2.  Oh happy days!!!!  I do have some paper work to sort out regarding Dan's registration into the UK but there is no rush on that.  
Well that about it for today time to get my act together especially as it is Mikes school day so plenty to do.  Have a good one and I wish you could see the beaming smile on my face.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Wednesday morning back with my precious cargo

Good morning all, I am back after a thoroughly good trip with no hiccups.  Everything went according to plan and we made such good time back yesterday that we had time to take the boys for a small walk on the beach at Sangatte then a good lunch for Shiona and I before catching our train home.  Sally was at my door as we drew up and gave us a hand unloading our precious cargo.  Dante had been a bit sick and very dribbly so his brother was a bit damp to say the least.  However they didn't make a peep all the way home. At the moment we are spending some quality time together before the other monsters are out of bed but Dante is far too busy exploring to have his photo taken.

Today will be the first day of school for the new boy there are so many things to learn like apparently you  are not supposed to do pee pee on the kitchen floor. The worksurfaces in the kitchen where they keep all the good things are out of bounds even though I am tall enough to help myself with no trouble.   I am very disappointed with my new humans there seem to be so many rules at this new school.  But I did have a very good nights sleep. The nice Japanese lady gave me a shiatsu massage just before bed and I slept very well as I was so tired after being locked in a box on wheels for the whole day.  There is an older boy at the school called Tubby and I think he may be crazy.  Then there is very old man called Nip who just ignores me completely.  The humans seem to be OK but they are very strict and I can see I have much to learn.  My brother has disappeared apparently he is going to a different school so I guess I will have to make do with this shower.  I have been sent to school with all the wrong stuff my jacket is several sizes too big and as for my shoes they would not be out of place on a polar bear. Even my ears are the wrong size and hang in my water bowl when I try to have a drink  I seem to be built all wrong!!!  Although my house is filled with lots of interesting stuff it all seems to be call NO. I did try to type this myself but Mum says I haven't got the skills yet.  What is wrong with gpovbpovbpobvpaiabvpiab it makes perfect sense to me.  I give up, I'm going back to bed!!!

By the way can any of you tell me what is meant by anthropomorphism.  Have a good day all I know I will.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Monday morning and all set to go

Did I sleep well? you must be joking.  Far too excited and wound up but Shiona is here and we are fed and watered and as neither of us is into breakfast it will just be a good cup of coffee and then we will be underway.  It is our intention to leave home at 8.15 to make the tunnel by the allotted time. The weather seems to be in our favour it is not icy as it is already 6ºC.  As our car has to spend the night in the street I have not loaded it yet as there is no point in putting temptation in peoples path and it will only take 5 minutes to load up.  James made sure it was filled with fuel and that it was cleaned both inside and out by the Albanians.  The house is due to get clean also as Denny is coming this morning about 20 minutes before we are to leave.  Today's journey is the easy one as we have little time pressure so we can potter down stopping only for a quick lunch as it is our intention to have a good dinner tonight.  I am really glad I pushed the collection date on by one day as it turned out that the dogs passports had been wrongly dated and the vet will have to alter and stamp the change today.  That should avert my nightmare scenario of being trapped at the animal transport section of the terminal with 2 puppies and no means of getting home due to some bureaucratic cock up.  

We are hoping to get to Lisieux early enough to allow us a dry run out to the puppies home which is buried in the sticks.  That way we will have a better idea not only of how to get there but also of how long the journey from the hotel is. Then once that is done it will be our mission to find a decent restaurant and a good dinner.  I would like to get the legs of the journey sorted so that I am driving the last leg tomorrow which means that Shiona can rest before she has her journey home.  James and Mike have food for the day so they are catered for.  I had a good shower last night which will leave the bathroom free for Shiona this morning.  

I hope by the next time I am sitting here writing I will have Dante by my side and if I get the chance I will take some photos to show you.  In the mean time have a good couple of days and hopefully I will be with you on Wednesday morning. "Deo volente". 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Sunday morning and the last day

Yes it's here at last the final day before we are off to France.  Yesterday was bitterly cold and I spent most of the day faffing around.  Today James has volunteered to take my car for the dog walk and then he will fill it with petrol and take it to the Albanians for a wash.  Once that is done I can start loading up with all the kit and caboodle that we will be taking with us.  Contingencies for both humans and puppies.  I haven't quite got round to packing my overnight bag but how long can it take to pack a toothbrush, hairbrush, clean underwear and a night shirt.  I can honestly say that these last six weeks have been some of the longest of my life.  I seem to have been treading water and living from day to day wishing my life away.  Well at last we are here and Shiona is hoping to get to us around 5pm by which time I should have a massive shepherds pie in the oven getting a nice brown top.  For lunch today we are really pushing out the boat and having some corned beef hash the preparations for which I will make shortly so that all I have to do is assemble the parts and heat it up.

I had bit of a rocky night last night but I am hopeful that once we are back with the dogs safely home I will settle down and relax a bit.  I don't suppose Dante will give me much time to relax but that is a different kind of stress and one that I hope to enjoy.  Yesterday, while I was up the road getting a few bits I noticed that our corner store has primula cheese in a tube.  This makes a great training aid and saves you carrying loads of biscuits in your pocket.  The reward for good behaviour is just a lick of the end of the tube.  As yet of course I don't know how many commands he will be familiar with and as his breeders are British I hope he is fluent in English.  My French is pretty basic, enough to get by but definitely not fluent.  I wish I had paid more attention at school!!!!  Shiona's french is about as good as mine so we will no doubt be able to muddle through together.  Hopefully we will not need it much.  The one thing I can read in french is a menu so dinner tomorrow night should be fine.  We are intending to trawl the town for somewhere nice to eat.  Then it will be an early night ready for an early start back in the morning.  If all goes according to plan we should be back home here around 4pm Shiona then has another hours run to get home.  I have promised to keep Sally appraised of the timings so she can judge her journey to us.  Her husband is a plasterer which is not the sort of job you can just drop at any time. If you are halfway through a wall you have to finish it.  With the hour difference we actually arrive in UK before we have left France - depart 15.20 arrive 14.55 all a bit confusing.  

It is absolutely perishing cold again this morning with the outside thermometer reading just 1ºC and though it might be frosty at least there is no snow.  The wind has finally dropped so I am hoping for a good run through.  I was a little worried that they might close the le Havre bridge in high winds but that doesn't look likely. 

OK that's about it for this morning time to get the spuds and onions organised for lunch and some veg to go with the pie for tonight.  The spare room is all prepared and all the paperwork gathered into one place. My handbag has been turfed out to allow for sat navs and mobile phones and chargers etc.  I have a padlock for the dog cage so we can leave them in the car if necessary without fear that they will be stolen.  I may be a bit paranoid about this but Kent is the worst county in England for dog theft and gun dogs are particularly highly prized.  Not that many people would recognise a spinone as a gun dog.  Have a good day all and keep warm if you can it is freezing outside.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Saturday morning only one more day to go

Good morning all sorry to be so late but I kind of overslept this morning.  I did wake at my usual time of 3am but was in a flat spin of panic so I took a sleeping tablet which has knocked me out until now. I can only assume that this is pre trip nerves which is setting me off on the panic route.  I don't feel anxious but may be I am subconsciously.  If this all clears up when I get back I will know for certain. 
Yesterday was a good day I was feeling so much better in myself no runny nose problems and I got on with the chores of the day.  

I rang the feed chandler and sadly the puppy food has not yet arrived but should be here on Monday so James will go and collect as I will be on my way.  I will have to take some of my ordinary dog food with me for the just in case scenario.  I am fairly sure that at a pinch the puppies would eat whatever they are given even if that is a tuna sandwich from a garage.  Dogs are pretty good at eating whatever is available.  Basso was never a thief and I could leave a steak inches from his nose but he wouldn't have dreamt of touching it.  Dante may not be the same, some dogs are inveterate thieves.  But I do know of a cure, you leave something for them to steal but unknown to the dog you should have attached loads of tin cans to the bait so that when it is stolen all the cans fall on the dogs head making one hell of a noise which frightens them to death and hopefully puts them off taking other things they are not supposed to take.  Well thats the theory anyway.

Today is just a case of muddling through the day and collecting all the bits and pieces I need to take in one place so they are easy to load into the car.  I have some collapsing plastic boxes which are always handy for just this sort of thing.

We have had them for years and use them when we go camping as once empty they stack up taking very little room.

Shiona is anticipating arriving at around 5pm tomorrow so I must remember to get the shepherds pie out of the freezer this evening so it is ready to just put in the oven to brown the top.  As for today I haven't got a clue yet I had better go and have a trawl through the freezer and see what I can find. Alternatively I might be really lazy and go for a couple of pasties from the baker for lunch and a chinese for supper.  This would absolve me of all responsibility - sounds good to me!!!!

Anyway have good day. We have sunshine but it is bitterly cold and from what I have seen the weather for the trip should be OK. Until tomorrow

Friday, 12 December 2014

Friday morning and only the weekend to go

Good morning all well yesterday saw us have a blast of very cold wind but it was dry and sunny not the case this morning it is raining cats and dogs but at least it is a bit warmer.  I had a bit of a bad day yesterday not only did I wake with one of the dreaded panic attacks, which I have been free of for ages, but I also had a really runny nose and cough.  Once Mike was off to school I dragged myself around Aldi for some essentials and also really pushed the boat out and bought myself a nice thick beanie hat for the princely sum of £2.40.  This should solve the cold ear problems when out with the dogs and considerably cheaper than a new coat.  The problem with the panic attacks is not so much the panic as I know in my mind there is no reason but that using that much adrenalin leaves you completely exhausted and washed out.  Given that I was not feeling my best anyway after a very unimaginative lunch of ready made pies I put myself to bed for a rest and would dearly have loved a couple of hours of sleep but no such luck.  Mike came home having had a decent 2 course meal so he was quite happy with our rather miserable supper of sausages and mash.  Now, to all problems there is an up side.  Yesterday at the centre there was some musical entertainment put on instead of the usual bingo session.  Mike is not into music he just doesn't have a musical gene in his body so lucky him he just took out his hearing aids and snoozed in his chair.

I must admit I feel somewhat better this morning still coughing but no panic or runny nose.  I have visions of Shiona and I driving down through France sustained by bottles of day and night nurse.  So I have supplied the car with a huge box of tissues.  I think my overnight bag might resemble a mobile pharmacy.  Today I have a mission to the feed chandler to pick up a bag of puppy food for Dante and Jimmy once we get home as I know they will  be very hungry by then having missed their lunch. Though I don't anticipate feeding them en route I will take some food just in case of a breakdown or hold up.  I took a few moments yesterday to make sure that I have all the relevant phone numbers in my mobile so I can keep in contact with both sides of the channel.  It is quite surprising how much messing about this journey is taking and trying to cover all contingencies requires a bit of thought and planning.

Today I also need to make sure that the guest bedroom is habitable and not in its usual state of general dumping ground.  As for food I have little or no idea what we are having but I do have some chicken legs and thighs in the freezer so I guess I will do something with them.  I am going to have to chose my moment to head to the freezer as it is still raining and blowing a hooly.  James back has finally righted itself so I have my second in command back which is just as well as I am somewhat off the boil.  Fortunately he is quite competent in the kitchen so if push were to come to shove he could easily take over.  Mike sadly is not to be trusted in the kitchen unless you are fond of grilled eggs and gravy that needs carving!!! That said he will eat anything I turn out no matter how off the wall it is.

As I have been writing this I am aware that I have used just about every cliche and colloquialism in the english language so heaven help the readers from the other side of the pond and beyond.  Ok lull in the rain time to make a dash for the garage and the freezer.  Have a good day and try to stay dry!!!!