Monday, 31 August 2009

Well, the picture tells the story doesn't it? But not all of it!
We woke up late expecting the races to be cancelled in light of the dire forecast. But no- the announcement was positive. They were going ahead. After a quick turn around including swift picnic preparation, we set off to our friends' house for coffee. They have just moved beside the race course to a lovely cottage- and served homemade cake. I couldn't have any - I was very sour!
We set up camp afterwards at the race-course and miraculously the rain stayed away until the fifth race. We managed to sit outside at the car, and had a lovely time. All eight of us. Six adults and two teens. It was fun.
I had one reasonable winner but I wasn't on top form. Other half and teenager did better.
Just before the fifth race the heavens suddenly opened. It was a spectacular display of water, followed by a spectacular display of mud and stuck cars. We managed to get out ok.
I have just made a homemade chicken curry for the boys. I had a piece of plain cod. I am having to be hyper careful. I am still in some pain. It is very tedious. But folks- I am feeling a lot more cheery compared to yesterday.
If Newcastle United beat Leicester tonight, that will be boost too.
Hope everyone who had a bank holiday today had a fun ( and dry) one.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

grizzle moan and rant

Cartmel races was good. Despite the dodgy forecast the rain just about stayed away. We set up camp at the car, enjoyed our picnic and had fun picking the horses. None of us had much success with betting until I won £75 on the last race ( thank you to the success of Wensleydale Web. This meant I was back to square one on the day by the time I deducted all my other bets, money for the kids at the fair and coffee money. So no worse off, no better off! I really enjoyed the day.

But things went down hill from there. I made chilli con carne for dinner- not too strong. It was lean steak mince. I forgot to drain it though and had a portion. I have had mince before with no problems but not last night. A couple of hours later I had the worst pain imaginable. I have never had pain worse in my life. It was desperate. I was very sick. I felt really scared. Eventually, after some strong painkillers and other half working hard with me on my breathing ( great being married to a clinical hypnotherapist...)I started to relax a bit, and I dropped off to sleep. Damn gallstones, and probably a re-upset pancreas. Not happy.

Today I have felt pretty rough. Tired and beaten up. And very sorry for myself. Added to which the weather has been absolutely dreadful. Dark and wet. It has rained since the break of dawn and it is now eight o clock at it is still raining. And the forecast is the same tomorrow: heavy rain all day. It is so depressing. Rumour has it the races tomorrow are going to be cancelled. The ground is going to be not just soft, but a river.

So, as you can see, it has not been a good day for Lakeland Jo. But we all have them I suppose. Tomorrow I hope I am back to my usual bouncy self.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Bank holiday preparations

It is August bank holiday weekend. One of the busiest of the Lake District's year. All the hotels and bed and breakfasts will be fully booked. Caravan and camping sites will be full to bursting. If the weather ( howls of laughter) forecasts are good or reasonable a lot of people will decide to come for a day out. The traffic will start getting even busier from lunchtime as tourists and visitors pour in endlessly. It is already busy because many people are already here.
It is the last hurrah for many people- the schools go back next week. All the little darlings will have to go home to iron their school socks ready for the start of the school term. So they will make the most of these last few days of freedom.
Yes- there is real buzz about the place.
And there is a real buzz in the microcosm of Lakeland Jo. I am off for a pedicure this morning after a busy two days work in the North East. I am then shopping ready for the weekend, and for the dinner I am cooking for friends tonight. Tomorrow and Monday it is CARTMEL RACES.
We are members of the race course and love to go as much as we can. There are only a few meetings a year, but they are a real treat. Cartmel is a beautiful village, and the race course is a delight. It is particularly enjoyable when the weather is nice. It doesn't have to be hot or even sunny, BUT DRY WOULD BE NICE PLEASE!!
Teenager comes along with a friend to hang out with, and our friend M ( also a member) comes to stay with us and join in the betting. We always have a jolly time- lovely picnics,and much amusement choosing our horses. Much excitement when we win too.

Back to dinner tonight.... this is an annual bet based on whether Bolton or Newcastle United come higher in the premiership. One of our friends is a Bolton supporter ( poor man). 2006/7 I won ( or rather NUFC came higher in the league) and had dinner cooked for me by him. 2008/9 Newcastle United were relegated, and Bolton stayed in the premiership. So I am getting round to cooking for him tonight. Steak chips and english mustard has been requested, and I intend to make a homemade pudding. Not sure what.

I am hoping he will be fairly subdued. NUFC are doing brilliantly thus far in the championship, Bolton are doing horribly in the premiership. A glimmer of hope perhaps? ( I am sure he will point out that comparing the leagues is like comparing apples and oranges but...)

In the middle of all the preparations, the spare bedroom furniture fitter should be finishing today, ready for our guest coming tomorrow. I am so excited about getting it all finished. We need to get it decorated and re-carpetted next week, completely ready for our Australian exchange visitor who arrives on September 19th.

Hope your holiday weekend is everything you plan for. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009


I watched the West Ham v Milwall match hooliganism last night with despair and frustration. It mirrored smaller scale tensions which broke out last season at a Newcastle United v Sunderland match, where there was trouble between fans.
I hope all that nonsense isn't starting again. For the last couple of decades we have had relative peace at matches: if you can block your ears to bad language and turn a blind eye to the occasional bout of drunken loutishness, matches are good places to go. You can take your kids without the worry of there being any threat. As a family, over three generations, we have been to the matches plenty of times and had a good day out. Sometimes the matches have been boring, often frustrating, sometimes exciting but never threatening. Teenager and I went on our last week: I felt perfectly safe and comfortable.
But is the tide turning? Organised large scale violence between fans, and against the police rearing its ugly head again. Let's hope it is a flash in the pan, and that if it isn't that it will be stamped on quickly and decisively by the authorities.
These people are morons, and I don't use the term lightly. Mindless, crass and ill intentioned. Nothing to do with sport, and everything to do with finding a fight. It makes me really angry, and watching those scenes, it is easy to wonder what can you do with people who have the kind of values which makes them think that stabbing and lobbing bricks at other people is a grand night out.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

weird habits confessional

Sometimes (like this morning) I wake up between four and five, feeling very hot, very awake, with my mind racing. I have never been a great sleeper, but this pattern emerged around 2007 after major surgery. Looks like it might be here to stay.
So... rather than lying awake worrying about getting back to sleep to clock up a few more hours..... I have found a formula that works.
I get up, unload the dishwasher, do a few jobs in the kitchen and the lounge (which are apart from the bedrooms), make myself a cup of tea and breakfast, watch the tv or do a bit of blogging. After an hour I have cooled down, my mind has cooled down, and I start feeling sleepy again. I then go back to bed for a couple of hours and sleep like a log! It works really well when I don't have to get up too early for appointments or work fact... on days like today. So - bye for now..... zzzz

What is your weirdest habit?

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Trainee Domestic Goddess

The lemon cake was a great success. For those who want the recipe it is in Nigella Lawson's Domestic Goddess book under lemon loaf. I recommend it! It's a great book- full of comfort food.
The Mexican evening was also a great success. Happy times with lovely friends. I couldn't have a marguarita but my Shirley Temple cocktail ( alcohol free) slipped down just fine. And no hangover this morning.....
Later today when I have finished some paperwork is the spiced apple pie- I really do have the bug! Teenager is helping, and other half will be eating no doubt!
And finally, Newcastle United beat Crystal Palace two nil. Happy days.

Saturday, 22 August 2009


It is fair to say that I do not bake very often. Why is this? There are various reasons. First of all, I try not to have too many fattening temptations in the house, and anything home baked is so demolishable isn't it?
Secondly, that old chestnut, time. Especially when we have a lot of work on, it isn't a priority.
Thirdly, I don't have all the kit and if I did I just don't know where to store it. I am sure if I was a fanatic, I would have the kit and I would find the time.... but..
And really, I am just not in the habit of it.

But tonight we are going out for dinner at our friends' house. I have been asked to do a pudding. Instead of diving for M and S, I decided to make a lemon drizzle cake. I am going to serve it with a lovely fresh fruit salad, meringues and cream. I can have a tiny bit of cake, and lots of fruit salad. One of the girls going is making tequila ice cream... should go well with cake I hope.

Hope it turns out well. Tomorrow I am making a spiced apple pie ( an American recipe from a Williams and Sonoma recipe book I got from Orlando) for the boys. I am in the mood to doesn't happen often but the boys love it when I am.

Friday, 21 August 2009

The raccoon

When we stayed at Wildwood Manor in the San Juan Islands, we saw a raccoon in the garden one evening. This photos was taken by our good friend S who is a great photographer ( and a great cook while we are on the subject of talents). Anyway.... I digress.
We don't have raccoons over here in the UK, so they are rather fascinating creatures to us. I know that those of you who do have them think of them as a menace, but this one is rather cute don't you think? I suppose if he was raking through my bins I wouldn't be so happy would I?

It's been a funny old week in the land of Lakeland Jo. Had a brilliant trip to Newcastle to see the Toon beat Sheffield Wednesday. One nil, another goal by the brilliant Shola, and lots of happy fans. Even to my untrained eye, the football appeared to be rather ugly and untidy, but a win is a win. Loved being away with teenager- we had a great time as ever. And Man Utd losing to Burnley on the same night? Priceless ( other half was pretty unhappy I have to say).

Lots of techical stuff has been going wrong this week. Mum's tv had a hissy fit one night, our new sky remote is being a pain, my computer cursor has been acting up. I lost a ring ( which I got in San Fran Cisco) and an ear-ring went down the sink. Do you ever have frustrating weeks like this? And the weather? Over here in the lakes....don't get me started. Rain Rain and more Rain. Wish I had been born a duck.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Those were the days my friend....

Mum and I spent a happy day in Lytham St Anne's while teenager and pal rocked and rolled ( and queued) around Blackpool Pleasure Beach. I spent quite bit of the day grizzling about all the food I can't eat any more such as fish and chips, ice cream and so forth. I had grilled plaice for lunch by the way. Anyway. it reminded me of a fabulous plate of one of my favourite foods that I had in San Fran Cisco. Calamari. Deep fried. No wonder I have gall stones and a weight problem! Still it is all in the past...those evil habits. I am now happier and healthier and slimmer.... and grizzling has no calories in it has it?
Those were the days my friend, I thought they'd never end, we sing and dance forever and a day.... etc etc

Blackpool Pleasure Beach

I am enjoying the calm of our lovely new office and an ILLY coffee from our new coffee machine ( ILLY coffee is the best- and boy have I sampled most types!). Later today I am taking teenager and his pal D to Blackpool Pleasure Beach. They are now old enough to be dropped off and left to roam on their own ( thankfully), leaving mum and I to have a peaceful lunch in Lytham St Anne's where there are lots of lovely coffee shops and places for lunch.
I have nothing against Blackpool as such, but the attractions it offers don't really do much for me I am afraid ( they did once- when I was a kid!!).
I can't even the lovely fish and chips these days which is heartbreaking ( they are a real weakness of mine if they are done well!!).
Last time I took the lads to Blackpool D lost his mobile on some roller coaster despite REPEATED pleas for both of them to keep them in their zipped up coats. Sigh. I like them both to have phones in case they need me ( they are both huge, and why would they, but you never know.... the gnome sized mum may come in handy for something....). So no doubt the lecture will start again on the motorway about taking care and zipping up and so forth.
Wish me luck! And let's hope for some sunshine ( none around at the moment).

Monday, 17 August 2009

weekend review

This is Shola Ameobi. He is one of Newcastle United's longest standing players. Often despaired of by the fans because of his performance over the years, he has always been a great favourite of mine. This is mainly because HE HAS THE SAME BIRTHDAY AS ME and therefore he must be a great fellow. On Saturday he scored a hat-trick at St James' against Reading. What as star!! Everyone loves him now- but I always have so there....
I am so inspired by their performance I am taking teenager to see the Toon play Sheffield Wednesday on Wednesday night.

Autumn is well and truly here and I caved in yesterday evening and put the heating on for an hour. The house was freezing. The wind was howling. The whole day had been dark and blowy, a bit like Halloween. Hard to remember its still August. The heating felt damned good I have to tell you and I feel no guilt!!

Teenager had a very jolly weekend after a swift recovery from rugby camp. He went for a camp out with his pals. His friend is fortunate to have quite a few fields around his house, and a little wood. The boys pitched their tent in the trees in the shelter from the wind, and apparently slept very well.

I am feeling much better after my little spell in hospital and back to my normal mischievous self. I am hoping to get back to normal this week.

Hope your weekend was good!

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Saturday download

Lots of things to blog about today. They have been whirring round in my mind in the early hours, so here goes.
First of all, a subject very dear to my own heart. I would recommend you pop over to Expat Mum's blog for her post on mobile/ cell phone charges. She got stung and so did I! Take heed.
We got caught out by these data roaming charges when we were in the US. On my IPHONE, if I go into settings and fiddle round a bit I find a tiny advice note on my screen telling me to 'turn off data roaming' when abroad to avoid charges. I knew nothing about this. After two weeks of holidaying I had run up a bill of £1000 ($1750or thereabouts). You can buy a lot of holiday goodies for that. I was very upset.
Other half contacted our service provider and they said we could get most of the money back based on a 'bill shock' scheme. I have had a long standing contract with the provider and they said that the usage was obviously irregular and therefore an honest 'mistake' on my part.
I am now amazed at how many other people are being 'caught out' and not everyone is getting a refund like I did. Not the type of money most people can spare or having lying around eh?
So please take care folks. I wasn't told when I took the contract out, and I didn't sign anything to say I understood data roaming charges abroad. Hopefully the service providers will take better care to tell people about what is a draconian and unfair charging system ( or that they will be forced to!!).

The other issue that has been causing my hair to stand on end is the great UK/US NHS debate. Which is the better system and so forth. I am sure there is merit in both. I am all for choice, and I think it is absolutely fine to have the option of private medical care if you can afford it. My own limited experience of private medical care is it is quicker, the doctors spend more time with you and the surroundings are more comfortable. Some say that in some circumstances the medical care is more advanced and sophisticated. I wouldn't know about that but I assume that for some situations it will be the case.

I am an experienced patient (alas) in the NHS, and I work in the system for much of my professional life. I know a lot about it, and it is full of inefficiences. It is not perfect, and there is much that can be done to improve it. But the bottom line is I probably not be alive now if it wasn't for the NHS. As a twice cancer survivor at the tender age of forty four, I am completely uninsurable. I would have lost my house by now in the US system, and I don't know what would be happening to me with my current medical troubles. We would probably would have lost our house by now to pay my medical bills.

It doesn't bear thinking about. People having to worry about paying medical bills when they are fighting for their lives is frankly, to me, completely indefensible. To worry about the insurance company possibly rejecting a claim, or terminating a policy. It doesn't bear thinking about. Free at the point of use- that is what the NHS is all about. For everyone. If you call an ambulance or need a doctor you don't need an insurance policy or a credit card. Whether you are rich or poor no questions are asked- you get the help and no arguments. Now that is what civilised society is all about as far as I am concerned, and I will fight to protect it with all my strength. I don't think I feel more strongly about anything... well perhaps this and the right for women to be bishops...but that's for another day!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

The perfect healthy life

God works in mysterious ways so it goes... and I am starting to wonder what is going on in my life. If you had told me a year ago that I would weigh four and a half stone less, would be tee- total and eating the healthiest diet in the world I WOULDN'T HAVE BELIEVED YOU!!

I now look in the mirror and can't believe who is looking back at me. Yesterday another bag of clothes ( mostly trousers) headed out the door to the charity shop. All too big. I am now in a UK size 12/14 trousers and size 16/18 tops, and I still have ( according to the charts) between three and four stone to lose.

So in the diet now I have fruit and vegetables, jacket potatoes and beans, fish and chicken, salad, rice and pasta. Nothing fried, nothing baked with any type of fat in in, no chocolate, no wine ( agggh), no cream sauces, no cheese... in fact my idea of a treat these days is a bag of skittles. It really is a complete turnaround. And the strangest thing is, I am really starting to get used to and enjoy all these options. I don't miss the heavy duty milky coffees ( I just have it black or skimmed), butter on potatoes or sandwiches, fried food and my usual shed load of olive oil. I am starting to realise just how calorie laden my preferences were then. It has been a real eye opener.

So onwards and upwards. I have the gall bladder surgery to face next but I am hoping by then all these new habits will be well and truly installed for life, and that I am another stone lighter.

The next step is literally to start stepping more often. More walking, more swimming, more activity. Another good habit I could do with installing again. I am off to the wii-fit to get going.............

Monday, 10 August 2009

Just one more.... post then I promise it will be out my system... for now anyway...

So figure this out. A ward full of people with digestive problems, or people in pain with little appetite...

So on the menu one night: chicken curry or cheese and onion sandwiches ( on white processed bread).
Offered to me on my first fat free night: meat and potato pie or cheese jacket potato. Followed by: jam sponge and custard or semolina. Fresh fruit salad out of stock. After stalemate the nurse went hunting in the hospital kitchen and returned with vegetable chilli which was as low fat as it was going to get.

Interesting dietary planning don't you think?

and finally on the subject of toast. They are no longer able to provide it for breakfast because of... wait for it....wait for it

Health and Safety reasons. Help me out here folks?

Bumpkin Bears

I have been having a restful potter round blogland this morning and found a rather lovely blog called Bumpkin Bears. I love bears- always did. My mum, I am sure, is relieved that I am now far too old to get them as treats like I did when I was a kid.I used to see one and go green with desire! I still have a few and currently a Koala bear ( bought by teenager in Oz) lives on top of our bed. I took him into hospital for cheering up purposes and found he was a great ice breaker with other patients who just loved him. I also gave him to people when they were in pain- is seem to comfort them. One lady sat and held him all night when she was having a bad time. I am glad I took him along.

Anyway, back to Bumpkin Bears. The writer has recently to Hill Top in Sawrey which is opposite to where we live, across the lake. The photos are lovely- have a look!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

The great escape

Folks-I am back home from hospital. I was diagnosed as having an attack of acute pancreatitis caused by the evil gallstones. I need to go for a few more tests and then when the inflamation dies down I will be getting the gall bladder removed. Thank God for that!! I really want this sorted out as soon as possible. I could do without another day like Thursday. It was very grim.

So I have had four days of resting and sleeping, and doing little else. Peeping at the occasional newspaper or magazine, watching GI Jane ( lent to me by another patient) on my computer, not eating, and resting my digestive system. The square root of very little activity at all, and that is obviously how my body wants it.

But boy do you need to be fit for a stay in hospital. It really is survival of the fittest in there sometimes. One of the biggest challenges of the ward assault course is sleep. The moment the lights go out on the ward it all kicks off big style. Without your curtains firmly closed, an eye mask and some robust ear plugs as starting kit you are finished. You may as well wave the land of nod goodbye.
First you have to survive the observations routine. Try resting while you are under the vice like grip of the blood pressure machine. Or the person in the next bed needs the commode, or pain relief, or to see the doctor, or they have dropped their buzzer or...
Or we have the 'admissions at silly o clock' ( as the nurses call it) when someone unexpectedly arrives for admission on the ward. You look up or peep out of your curtains and see porters, nurses, doctors, shocked looking patient ( usually accompanied by frazzled looking relative), uncle Tom Cobbly and all....each admission usually takes at least an hour.

At last it all settles down... and then they turn the lights on at seven along with curtains opened... to serve tea and meds. Just when you have dropped off....

sigh- I am looking forward to a peaceful my own lovely bed.......


Friday, 7 August 2009

Reflective mood

I am going to ask you all -everyone who reads this post- to pray or send positive thoughts to all those people in hospital everywhere who are having a tough time. There are some really sad and difficult cases in the ward I am in. People in pain, people who are lonely,people who frightened. If you are feeling well and comfortable tonight enjoy it-really make the most of every minute. I had forgotten just how tough life is for some people.

Nil by mouth

I spoke too damned soon about the evil gallstones! I write this from hospital after a mighty flare up. They doubt it is food related. Possibly an infection. Baaaah! Waiting for test results but now mellow and not in too much pain thanks to the meds. Please send jokes.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009


I can't quite believe it's Wednesday night already. Where does the time go? Other half and I have been in London since Monday, working with a bit of play. This afternoon we had a late lunch in a rather nice Italian ( on Basil Street I think, near Harrods) called Sal and Pepe ( or some such). I had carpaccio of sword fish and some fancy gamberoni and spinach pasta. I have discovered the evil gallstones don't seem to mind olive oil (as long as I don't go completely wild of course).
I am eating industrial quantities of fish at the moment-my system seems to approve. Did I mention we washed said lunch down with a smigeon of red wine? Very good it was too. Celebrating a piece of work well done and enjoyed.
Back to the peace and quiet of our own bed in the lovely quiet lake district tonight. I love a visit to London- but three days is quite enough!Hopefully we will be down again soon to enjoy some serious shopping .... none of my trousers fit now because of the low fat. I need to do trying on for the autumn.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Saturday bits and bobs

A few things to post about today. First of all to say how sad I am at the death of Sir Bobby Robson yesterday. He was a lovely man. Well liked by football fans and non football fans alike, and especially loved by followers of the Toon Army. He will be missed.

I am off to Lakeland today with mum for breakfast. For all of you out there who love Lakeland I am now going to brag horribly. We have their head office and flagship store one mile up the road. They have a lovely big cafe and lots of tempting things in the shop.

We need something to cheer us up- the weather is dire again. Raining and dark. I am starting to think about autumn. The shops are full of autumn winter stock. We are going to go and buy more gas for the garden heater today but I wonder whether we will ever get the chance to sit out there again. Rain Rain Rain.

And finally, I think I will have to ask for a whip round. I have now been back from the US for a couple of months now I am running out of things I don't think I can get here ( Expat mum are you reading this?). First of all I need candied pecans- brilliant for salads. I also need some more 'Degree' ( Pure rain) deodorant sticks. I got two free ones in a hotel in San Fran Cisco and I have fallen in love with it. We can't get it here. I need a whole load of 'warm vanilla sugar' products from the Bath and Body works.

I am also need some more baking supplies from my friend B's friend L, who makes gorgeous little chocolate biscuits and sent me home with a huge box. THEY HAVE ALL GONE!!

And I want to go back to the Gene Juarez spa in Redmond to have my hair cut and coloured. Mmmh. I need to go back very soon.