Sunday, 29 December 2013

Christmas at Home

Jackie preparing her Christmas Chocolate Log

Our pre-Christmas baking paid off, but Jackie’s Chocolate Christmas Log was better than my mince pies and coffee and walnut cake. My pastry was a bit too wet, making them less crumbly than ideal and the coffee and walnut cake was also a bit ‘heavy’. I blame the oven, which was partly true, but I probably didn’t whisk the eggs enough, so the two problems gave me a less than ideal finished product.

Jackies Chocolate Log and my mince pies and coffee and walnut cake. A good days baking!
L to R: Sam, Steph, Sarah, Nick, Jackie, Paul and Denise
Christmas Day at Denise and Pauls was fabulous, with Steph and Sam, plus Nick and Sarah, a huge turkey and more vegetables than you could imagine, many of them fresh from their allotment, washed down with Steph’s home cooked Christmas pud with brandy cream, trifle and our cakes. Plenty of singing to karaoke Christmas tunes, a couple of games and then….the mince pie competition! Steph and Denise had entered along with me, Jackie arranged the blind tasting and the result….Denise first, Steph second and me third! Not surprised, mine were great tasting, but not as crumbly as either Denise’s or Steph’s. Needless to say, Denise was delighted!

Stephs Christmas pud, alight with brandy
Sarah, Nick, Sam and Steph in full voice

This is Harry, Nicks hamster, who came to stay as well
Harry in his cardboard tube assault course

That's a great Christmas jumper, complete with flashing light Steph!
Boxing Day. L to R: me, Fiona, Jenny and James
We stayed at their house for the night and got the day organised for Boxing Day. Steph and Sam left to visit my daughter Fiona on their way down south, Fiona, James, Abbie, Becky and Jenny turned up at 13:30 so we could do it all again. Denise had done almost the same dinner, using a turkey crown this time, ably assisted by Jackie as sous-chef. It was another very enjoyable day with plenty more carol singing and game playing, Jenny singing a solo ‘Little Donkey’ carol that was so sweet we all had tears in our eyes!

My granddaughters Becky and Abbie in a balloon fight
James, Fiona, Jenny and Sarah

My sister Denise and Paul
James, Fiona, Jenny, Nick and Sarah in full voice singing carols

Charles and Caroline on our brisk walk
Having stayed another night at Denise’s we left on the 27th to drive down to see Charles and Caroline, Jackie’s nephew and niece, in Edlesborough, but not before Denise provided an excellent cooked breakfast (as though we were hungry!). Great day at C&C’s house, a brisk walk over the fields by Whipsnade Zoo and a run back when it started to rain!

Lots of good-byes going on now as it will be the last time we see them all until late May when we return to the UK for Steph and Sam’s wedding on 24th May.

It’s now all action to get our stuff ready to take to France for our ski season, leaving the UK on 2nd January, so it’s been panic stations and plenty of stress, but with some pleasant interludes. Saturday 28th daytime was our first sort out of our clothing and ski gear at our house and at Pauline’s (Jackie’s mum) house, where most of our gear is stored in her loft.

Saturday, however, started even earlier for me as I foolishly had agreed to do a Park Run in Cannon Hill Park with Martina, Bill’s wife at 09:00am on 28th. We had met up with Bill and Tim (who came down from Derby) on Friday night for a meal in Diwans in Moseley (with a pint beforehand in the Old Moseley Arms of course!). Diwans was very busy with no spare tables, but Jay managed to fit us in, coincidentally right next to a table occupied by Paul Hennely and his girlfriend Julie. Paul is a member of Solihull Mountaineering club and is a keen rock climber, ice climber, skier and ski tourer. It was Paul who first introduced Jackie and me to ski touring, so I planted the idea in his head to come out to Morzine in France in April to ski tour near to where we will be based. Who knows, it may happen! Anyway, Bill mentioned the Park Run, I said I’d do it if Martina did (thinking with a daytime temperature of 2.5⁰C she wouldn’t), Bill phoned her and she agreed – damn!

Anyway, I picked her up at 08:30 and off we went. It was cold and icy with some slippery sections on the paths, so care was needed, but I kept fairly close behind Martina who came in at a very respectable time of just under 27minutes for 5km. My time was dead on 27 minutes, I could not have gone any faster and was unable to talk for a few minutes as breathing was more important! Glad I did it, but my legs are still aching now, but a new Personal Best for me!

Me, John, Sarah and Jackie in the Dilshad
The rest of Saturday was not the most laid-back day, but we made a good start on our packing before going round to Sarah and Johns for our Christmas meeting and meal with them. Sarah had booked a table at the Dilshad Indian restaurant in our home village of Alvechurch to have the excellent Kurzi Lamb, which is a whole leg of lamb cooked in Indian Spices for hours on end, producing an enormous and hugely tasty meal. It’s a whole evening out as it starts with popadums, a starter, the main dish, desert, coffee and a complimentary Baileys, all washed down by many glasses of beer! 
Look at that fabulous lamb, it really does taste as good as it looks!
It’s a massive meal, very tasty and a great night out. We took Bill and Marilyn, our friends from Australia, there several years ago for the same meal, with Jackie’s mum and Rob and Alex and they remembered the occasion and how much we all enjoyed it then, and it was equally as good this time.

Jackie being Jackie and gnawing away on the bone
Bird TV for cats!
Really good to catch up with Sarah and John again, we just don’t see enough of them, but this time we stayed at their house for the night and had a night-cap, watched ‘cat TV’, which is a Youtube video of birds that captivated Socks, their cat, and provided us with plenty of entertainment!

Today it was back to Pauline’s to further organise our packing, which is now all back at our rented house, ready to be loaded into the car on 1st January, ready for the ‘off’. There’s a bit more still to be done tomorrow (as well as shed dismantling with Bill in the morning at our rented house, well, it has nearly fallen down, he wants to replace it so we’ve agreed to don our old clothes and wield big hammers!), before going round to stay at Ian and Helens for our final Diwan Balti on 30th with them, Phil and Sue, Iain and Bev and a few others and through to 31st and their New Years Eve bash, going on into the early hours. Really looking forward to that, plenty of laughs and plenty of drinking! Must try not to have too much as we have to sort out all the kitchen utensils we will need in France from Ian and Helens loft and then go and pack the car on 1st, ready for an early start for the channel tunnel on 2nd. Time is short, but plenty to do.

No doubt our next entry will be from our apartment in France where we can report on our New Year celebrations and our trip through France. Hopefully we’ll meet up OK with Ash and his son Simon Price (he who we met in Melbourne in August and who took us skiing), who went out to the apartment yesterday (28th) and are staying until 5th Jan, two days after we arrive, so we’re hoping to get a couple of days skiing with them before they head off home. It will be nice seeing Simon again and being able to repay his Melbourne hospitality.

Happy New Year!

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