Category Archives: holiday

i’m baaaack


I actually returned from my two-and-a-bit weeks away on Tuesday, but I’ve been jetlagged and swamped with laundry and taking the kids places. Dad’s funeral was on the second full day of our stay. I was nervous as heck about presenting the eulogy with my sister. We both wondered whether we’d get through it without choking up. Thankfully we made it through, with a few tears afterwards when the music was playing. Quite a few people came, including many who worked with my dad and mum at the bank when they were in their twenties. We went to a hotel afterwards and had a buffet which gave us more time to socialise with those who wanted to talk.

France was so clear from the east coast of Jersey that you could see the wind turbines

The rest of the holiday was spent getting out and about. Tai Chi Man and I didn’t just take our three boys – we also took along ds2’s best friend, a girl, though not a “girlfriend.” It meant we had to take two cars out to carry everyone, so we borrowed FIL’s car plus the one that had been my dad’s, a newer Fiesta Zetec, which I really enjoyed driving.

a wall lizard, one of many at Mont Orgueil castle

The museums and other historical sites in Jersey could really teach a lesson in interpreting history to the people in my city. Brilliantly done, the main museum, the Maritime museum, Mont Orgueil castle, Elizabeth Castle, La Hougue Bie, the War Tunnels – lots of well-presented history lessons of Jersey’s past from Neolithic times through Norman times and World War Two.

knitted ship at the maritime museum

Sadly, not much in the way of beach strolls – we really had a lot of rain, and it wasn’t just my imagination. The first week of October brought the precipitation of a month! The last few days were drier and sunnier so we did get in a couple of walks around the country lanes. The one time I did walk with my sister and her friends along the beach, I was caught in a hailstorm and got absolutely soaked.

knitters did their bit in WWII

We made sure to stop at tearooms and coffee shops so that the kids could inhale their quota of “chips” aka fries. Most of the time we ate in (staying at the in-laws), shopping at supermarkets and cooking for ourselves, though there was a dinner out with the family – 18 of us took over a small restaurant owned and operated by friends of my sister. If you’re ever in the vicinity, I recommend Bracewell’s. Call ahead for special requirements.

amphibious vehicle for getting across to elizabeth castle when the tide is up

We also visited Durrell, the world-famous wildlife centre which works to breed endangered animals and return them to the wild. They also educate people from all around the world in animal conservation. They had a new arrival – a baby gorilla – though it was hard to see as its mother was being understandably protective of her baby and her privacy.

Elizabeth castle

Our flights all went well and on schedule. We had to take three flights each way, with a taxi transfer between Heathrow and Gatwick. Eighty miles an hour on the M25 got us there in time, though I definitely recommend a 5 hour gap between arrival at one and departure from the other – three hours was only just enough.

La Hougue Bie, man-made mound, passage grave and chapel

I knitted a couple of the DanDoh scarves – photos to follow as they’re in the dryer. In the end, I didn’t wear one at the funeral, but I did wear it another time. Mine is a yellow green with a cast on/bind off edge of purple, and the other is reversed, purple with green edges. I intend to give the purple one as a gift.

arty shot of typical British fare

That’s it for now. Talk to you again soon.

Liberation Day


During my stay in Jersey, I joined my sister in heading down to Liberation Square for the Liberation Day celebrations. May 9th 1945 was the day that the Channel Islands were liberated from occupation by the Germans, and every year there are parades and a memorial service and a reconstruction of events. Even though I spent my first 30 years living in Jersey, I had never participated – probably for some of the “locals” it’s considered a tourist thing and they’d rather avoid the crowds.

Here are some of my photos from the day…

one of my favourite photos from the whole holiday

there were old military vehicles



huge screens were set up so that as many people as possible could see what was going on


military personnel parading through the town


pipe band

marching band

veterans waiting by the Royal Square to parade down to the Weighbridge

soldiers gathering on the balcony of the Pomme D’Or Hotel, just as they did in 1945


Christmas goodies


These are the cutest gifts I received last night….some “fair isle” type slippers from ds1 and a mini Puffle keychain from ds3. I saw the keychains in ToysRUs and loved them, so I dropped big hints!

I am calling the Puffle “Pansy” because ds3 tells me he has named all of his. Even though he’s 13, he still wanted another Puffle for his collection, so I bought him a pink one….not wanting to stereotype.

I also have a $10 gift certificate to spend at my LYS (that won’t last long :)). And my Knitpicks needles are winging their way to me – very excited about those.

I was up early – I can’t say BRIGHT and early because I was very bleary-eyed – at 6.15am so that I could phone the family to wish them Happy Christmas. My sister is hosting again – her husband, her two teens, his two teens, one girlfriend, and my parents – so I called early enough (2.15pm their time) that they had just finished eating lunch but hadn’t imbibed so much that they were incoherent!!! (My dad’s going to love that comment if he reads this. ;-P )

Tai Chi Man and I went out yesterday to browse the video rental store. Obviously internet access has caused demand to drop dramatically, because large chains like Blockbuster Video, Rogers and Movie Gallery have all closed down in our area. Now we are left with one source – Leo’s Videos. It’s a treasure trove of a place, stocking not only new releases but thousands of older movies, TV series, foreign films – you name it.

We also dropped in at our favourite local bookstore, Mosaic Books, and I found my favourite family calendar marked down 50%. That’s when I like to buy calendars! This is a particularly good one, with a week to view, plenty of room to write in appointments, notes and even the daily meal plans. I also splurged on two boxes of those magnetic poetry sets – one Haiku and one happiness – and had a very pleasant hour after I arrived home putting the words on the fridge and playing around with them.

haiku composed by ds2

haiku composed by ds2

haiku by me

not haiku!

also not haiku

deep existential stuff, eh

happiness is...

this one's mostly in focus!

If you’ve made it through all those, well done! I probably should get out of these pajamas now, kick some kids out of bed, and help them with the paper route as a way of forcing myself to get outside for some exercise.




















have a cool yule


We celebrated Yule tonight. It was rather unusual for us to do it on the 24th, as for about the last five years we have had our feast day on the Solstice. However Tai Chi Man and I had a commitment on Tuesday, and today worked well. He started work extra early so that he could be home early.

LegoNut made a meal plan some time ago, which I synchronized with my own meal plan ideas, and we ended up with a Greek-themed Yule dinner.

Greek Potatoes…

Greek Salad…


I Googled “vegan spanakopita” and sort of followed the recipe! Except that I didn’t use fresh dill, or onions, or garlic. But it was still good. (In case you don’t know, spanakopita is Greek for spinach pie. This one was made with lots of spinach and tofu, plus olive oil, lemon, oregano and nutmeg.) The fillo pastry is a vegan organic one I found at my local health food store. It’s made from spelt flour. It was very fragile, but breakages don’t really matter once the layers are put together and the filling covered over.

Garlic bread…

We were quite restrained on the gift giving this year. The kids didn’t have any money to spend, so they didn’t get anything for each other or the parents. WorldTraveller received a sketch book (exactly to his specifications – black stiff cover, ring binding, blank pages) and an entertaining book by The Onion that he saw in Mosaic Books a few weeks ago and I agreed to buy on the basis that it would be part of his Yule gifts. Plus some cash and some snacks from the health food store.

NinjaBoy received a Tron Legacy T shirt, similar snacks as his brother, and cash. He has a fair whack of it it accumulated, thanks to his September birthday and Christmas money from his grandparents. He now has enough for an iPod Touch, which is the only thing he really wants right now.

LegoNut received a Megatron (Transformers) T shirt, snacks and cash from us and his grandparents.

So our day tomorrow will be very relaxing and low key. Maybe I could spend part of it planning my next knitting project because I really need something to get my teeth into. And I should exercise too, because these mince pies really make me feel fat!

Ah well, it’s getting late. I will sign off for now. Best wishes for the rest of 2010 and for 2011.



anniversary retreat


Tai Chi Man and I had a lazy cabin retreat this weekend to celebrate our 23rd wedding anniversary and his 50th birthday. We drove up the valley (about 56 miles according to my handheld GPS) to Grindrod, where we had booked Larch Hills cabin for the Saturday night. It’s close to a cross-country ski area, but we stayed at the cabin the whole time, from Saturday afternoon through to Sunday morning.

It’s a cosy cabin which we suspect has been built by the owner, right down to the skiing bear towel rail! It’s all one room, except for the bathroom. The sofa can fold out into a bed for extra people, but the cabin is really just perfect for two, as there wouldn’t be any privacy with more.

There is a TV with satellite and DVD player in the corner of the sleeping area. But no internet (I did check with my iPod). It should be noted that I didn’t play any games on my iPod at all while we were there.

The roads were mostly clear on the way there, though it did start to snow on Saturday afternoon.

Thankfully we had this woodstove to keep us warm. (That’s a tub of birdseed to the right of the stove.)

And this hot tub! Hundred and five degree (F) water is wonderful for lolling in when it’s below freezing and snowing! The dash from door to tub and back takes courage, however. (I took this photo on Saturday, before the heavy fall in the night.)

This clock really confused us. Look closely……..the numbers are reversed and the hands actually go in the opposite direction. Every time I looked at it, it was like learning to tell the time all over again.

This is the depth of snow that we woke up to this morning. At least eight inches. Tai Chi Man went out and cleared a path to the hot tub so we could enjoy a third soak before returning home. I ventured out of the hot tub three times to rub myself down with snow and then hop back into the tub! I told Tai Chi Man he should get a photo of me in the snow in my swimsuit but sadly he didn’t do it. You only have my word that it really happened. 🙂

We were surrounded by trees weighed down with snow. Today, we didn’t see the squirrel that had been visiting us Saturday afternoon – Sunday morning seemed to be the domain of the small birds coming to get the sunflower seeds in the feeder.

The drive back down to the main road was a little hairy. It had been partially cleared but we were driving our little Ford Festiva, not our more agile Aerostar. The Festiva does have studded winter tires, but not four wheel drive, and the deep snow was hitting the bottom of the car at times. Still, Tai Chi Man is an able driver with lots of experience in all conditions, and we made it back home safely.

yule is here


Yesterday, we did at last get around to acquiring our Yule tree. Lego Nut has been bugging us about it for at least a week, complaining that we never have the tree up long enough!

Yesterday, four out of the five of us were out together as NinjaBoy was performing in his “end of drama course” show, and our senior friend Jeanette joined us at the theatre. We drove out to the edge of town where we had heard about a Christmas Tree Farm where you could cut your own tree. We’ve never tried a local farm before.

On the way to our intended destination, we saw a sign for a tree farm, but it wasn’t the one we were headed to, so we carried on until we arrived at the place….but it was closed. Turned back and went to the other place instead. There was someone there, a really nice couple who’ve been farming in the valley since the 1940s and whose parents arrived in the twenties! Now that’s what I call a local!

We took a walk through the live trees, all sizes, shapes and varieties, but ended up buying one that was half the price because it was already cut. It was pretty big but we figured we’d make it fit. While Tai Chi Man and the farmer tied it on top of our van, the rest of us warmed up in the “warming hut”, a temporary shelter with a woodstove in it. Mmmm, toasty. They had a kettle of water on top of the stove, so you could make hot chocolate if you wanted (which we didn’t) and large candy canes for the kids (we did take some of those). We also received a free box of apples (offered with every tree).

So there it is, taking up a huge amount of our living room! I moved the sofa over a bit so we could still walk through the room to the dining area. We have three strings of white LED lights on it, cool tin ornaments from Lee Valley (icicles and stars), and a number of home-made doodads, some of which get weeded out each year as they are considered too tacky. The one above is being kept, as it was made by my friend Anne. The felt hanging below was also made by her.

It’s been three months since she died and I can now think of her without crying, and having these things made by her own hands means so much to me.

It makes we wonder whether some of the things I’ve made over the years will be treasured in the same way after I’m gone.

Buy Nothing Day


Yesterday was Black Friday in the US – a day when, it is said, many businesses sell so much stuff that their finances go into the black. It was also Buy Nothing Day, a day that was created in direct opposition to the materialism and craziness of Black Friday.

I started a thread on Ravelry’s Remnants forum about it a couple of days ago, and the debate continues.

There is a website called Buy Nothing Christmas and they have a very useful list of alternative ideas for giving at Christmas. Of course these ideas would work for any special occasion throughout the year.

Our family opted out of the commercial Christmas about 5 years ago. I initiated a new festival for our family – or should I say an old one – Yule, or Winter Solstice, which we celebrate on December 21st. We have a tree, we bake, we give each other gifts. But we don’t trawl the malls looking for things to buy just because we feel obliged. “Santa” may not visit our house any more but instead the children put more thought into giving to each other.

“Shopping” or “Retail Therapy” is a hobby that promotes environmental degradation, debt and stress. If every single one of us was to look around us with fresh eyes at the stuff that’s in the stores, especially the cheap crap that many offer, we would see the stupidity of a wasteful society that just wants stuff for the sake of having it. Keeping up with the latest in technology, just because we feel entitled. Forget keeping up with the Joneses – when I look at my neighbour’s stuff, like an RV or quad bike or boat, I see debt. And the money is lining the pockets of the huge corporations and their CEOs.

Happiness doesn’t come from having more material possessions. It comes from inside, it’s all about attitude and perspective. And I’m grateful for that.


weekend camp


Camp Dunlop is a Scout camp – we had a homeschool “retreat’ there this weekend. This is a view of the firepit area from the lodge (the firepit is in a depression so you can’t see it).

The lodge, where the children had a lot of fun playing games during the day and after dark. There were washrooms and a rather dated kitchen too.

Now you can see the firepit.

The bunkhouses – we were in the one on the right. We had the place to ourselves, everyone else being either in the other bunkhouse or in tents. Highlights of the weekend – hiking early Saturday morning, canoeing down the lake with Tai Chi Man and Lego Nut and Ninja Boy (and getting somewhat red from the sun), napping Saturday afternoon, knitting by the campfire, and being forced to relax and recharge instead of our usual weekend routine.