Christmas is about Celebrating Quality Family Time

This Christmas time I went back to the UK much earlier than I usually do.
This is a good thing because I was able to spend lots of quality time with my Mum – even though she slept so much! Also my brother Mark came to visit for a couple of days with his two children, Honey and Ted and it was so good to see them all again! As always, it is good to catch up with Karen and Mike, while I base myself at their beautiful home.

My lovely Mum... and remembering our beautiful Leonie.

My lovely Mum… and remembering our beautiful Leonie.

When Mark, Honey and Ted were here, we all had such fun playing Sjoelen – a Dutch game that Mum introduced us to, when we were kids. This game has been in our family for over 50 years and after pulling it out of an almost 30-year hibernation, it was great to see the younger generation enjoying it as much as we did! To describe it – it’s like a giant ‘shuffle’ board. Measuring about 7 feet long and 20 inches wide, it has 4 evenly spaced channels behind a bank of four large and flat-shaped slots, at the end of the board. The slots are individually numbered 1-4 and there are approximately 32 large flat wooden discs which are about 2 inches in diameter. The idea of the game is to slide the discs down the length of the board, aiming for the slots at the bottom. You can look it up under ‘Sjoelen Dutch Board Game’.  I should have taken a photo but I was enjoying the game too much to interrupt it!  With practice you can become quite skilled… and as it all came back to us – Mark and I got consistently higher scores than Honey and Ted! There are techniques you can learn to accurately aim the discs and it was fun to see which ones Honey and Ted decided to use! Sjoelen was such fun to play and Mum loved watching us all. I hope it brought back many fond memories for her.

Incidentally, Sophie and Hannah loved Sjoelen so much that they borrowed it for their New Year’s Eve Party! And Karen and Mike’s close friends, David and Deborah – also loved it so much that they bought one of their own! Amazingly, they are still making these boards, although we have noticed that the new ones are nowhere near as slippy and smooth as our old original one. The result of many years of playing, I have no doubt!

Me with Ralph and Neve, at Emma and Ash's home.

Me with Ralph and Neve, at Emma and Ash’s home.

On 20th December Mark dropped me off in Manchester where Zoe was just finishing work for the Christmas break. She drove us back to their home in Huddersfield and together with Rich, we went out for a scrumptious meal in a lovely old pub in Huddersfield town. The next day Rich drove us down to Bury St Edmunds and the base where Emma and Ash live. This is where we were going to spend the next 5 days over Christmas – all of us together with my gorgeous Grandchildren, Ralph and Baby Neve. I cannot begin to describe how excited I was to be spending 5 whole days and nights with my close family. It was an absolute joy to have so much quality time with Ralph and Neve!

Such moments are priceless!

Such moments are priceless! Me with Gorgeous Baby Neve

On Christmas Eve morning, Rich drove Zoe, Emma and me to the wonderful Spa in Elvedon Forest. All three of us were booked in for a full day of pampering, including lunch, whilst Ash and Rich looked after Ralph and Neve. This was my wonderful Birthday present from Zoe and Emma and gave us all a rare opportunity to spend the day together… in the most relaxing of environments. I have never experienced such a day so this was a real first for me and was also much-needed TLC for all of us!
What a gorgeous place this Spa was – all wooden-built and set in the forest with a huge open-air Jacuzzi in the centre. All around were countless different Steam and Sauna rooms, areas of very comfortable lounging and water beds everywhere! We found a large wooden open air balcony which had a massive water bed on it. Of course we all immediately got onto this bed and smothered ourselves under thick fleecy blankets! The air was crispy cold and the view and scent of the trees all around was sublime. It was so peaceful and comfortable to lie here and just contemplate… time and space to reflect and to think. We also enjoyed a couple of treatments. I had a facial and a hot stone massage, both of which made me feel ridiculously pampered!

Ralph

Ralph is busy getting Rudolph’s carrots and Santa’s mince pie and sherry – ready for when he comes down the chimney!

We were back at Emma and Ash’s for about 5.30pm and after Emma had cooked yet another wonderful meal for us all, we helped Ralph get carrots for the Reindeer and a mince pie and sherry for Santa. He carefully placed it on the hearth by the chimney and was so excited! Sadly, the photo I took was blurry – I’m a lousy photographer and it’s so difficult to get children to keep still!  Later and after Ralph had gone to bed, Ash made snowy footprints with flour, leading from the fireplace to the wonderful real Christmas tree! Then after we had finished putting out all the presents and carefully arranging them all around the tree, we settled down to watch a movie.

Aww... Cute! Ash is showing Ralph his new headphones!

Aww… Cute! Ash is showing Ralph his new headphones!

Ralph has just turned three and it was just magical to witness his excitement and joy on Christmas morning! To see his face light up as he noticed the snowy footprints leading from the chimney to the tree!  Ralph loved all of his presents and remembers who they are all from.  We enjoyed a very leisurely few hours, opening presents and playing with Ralph and Neve. I couldn’t have wished for a more magical Christmas! Needless to say – the dinner was scrumptious! Emma was a superb hostess and served us with such fine food and drink, throughout the 5 days we stayed. We all had a thoroughly good time and yet another Christmas to cherish for always!

Happy Baby Neve with her Aunty Zoe!

Happy Baby Neve with her Aunty Zoe!

So it was such a wrench to say goodbye to Ralph and Neve on Boxing Day… I miss them more than ever, especially after I have spent so many days with them! This is only the second time I have been able to spend time with my new Granddaughter. She is amazing… so vocal and trying to talk to you with lots of bubble blowing and cute little sounds. She adores her food and is a bonny little thing, always wanting to stand up, arching her back so that you can’t sit her down! I took some amazing videos of her and wish I could share them with you. What can I say? I just feel so wonderfully blessed to have Ralph and Neve in my life!

Christmas Day and playing with Neve

Christmas Day and I’m happily playing with Neve!

Rich drove us back up north and Emma and Ash left for their long drive to Shrewsbury and Ash’s parents’ house. On arriving at Karen and Mike’s, Zoe and Rich popped in to say quick hello’s to everyone, before driving back to Huddersfield. During the next few days I went out on the Friday evening, for a few drinks with Ange, and both Jill and Caroline called round for catch-ups on separate occasions. Albeit brief – it was great to see my friends again and find out what’s been happening in their lives, since I last saw them in September.

By complete contrast – New Year’s Eve was without doubt – the quietest I have ever experienced! It was just me and Mum with long-standing family friend, Gaynor. Mum was sleeping most of the time and Gaynor and I chatted, drank Baileys and snacked on nibbles. Very uneventful… but then such is life… you never know what it will throw up next?

I flew back to Crete last Thursday, with a sad and heavy heart at leaving all my loved ones… yet knowing I’ll be returning again soon.

A Beautiful Day in Bali

There’s not much to report since my last post. Working on my Seashell Mosaic Collages is always a given, because whenever there isn’t anything else that takes priority – I am busy creating! This is also the time of year that I do my seashell sourcing and place orders with my regular suppliers. But I wanted to write this final post of 2018 before I return to the UK on Saturday morning.

Seashell Mosaic Collage - Girls on Swings - 18 x 24cms

Seashell Mosaic Collage – Girls on Swings – 18 x 24cms

In the last few weeks I have been out and about socially and had some fun nights at local gigs in Almyrida and Vangeli’s in Plaka. I have also enjoyed my Spa treatments – courtesy of my good friends here on Crete, who gifted me these wonderful treats at my Birthday party! I’ve been shopping in Chania and made the odd brief scan of Kalyves beach after storm Penelope! Easy to do at the drop of a hat as it’s only a ten minute drive from home. But the best day out – by far – was a couple of days ago, when Debbie, Kim and I went to Bali for the day.

I had been wanting to arrange another day of beachcombing for many weeks. It’s been at least a month since Debbie and I went to Falasarna. But the weather has been miserable, with lots of rain almost every day. In fact it was really difficult to find a day that wasn’t forecast to rain. However, I struck lucky when I chose Tuesday because it was sunny, warm and calm – just perfect beachcombing weather!

One of the four beaches at Beautiful Bali

One of the four beaches at Beautiful Bali

I was driving – another chance to enjoy my new car – and after picking Debbie up from Vamos and Kim from Kalyves, we headed off to Bali. When we got to the first main Beach, I was surprised to find that the taverna opposite, which is usually always open – was shut! The whole area was utterly deserted! The drive had taken about an hour and a half and so we all fancied coffee and juice, especially after a quick inspection of the beach proved disappointing because of the lack of Seashells. This was because the sea was rougher than I had ever seen it there, the waves taking up nearly the whole depth of the beach. The seashells were all in the waves!

Kim and I wander along the second beach in Beautiful Bali.

Kim and I wander along the second beach in Beautiful Bali.

However my usual optimism kicked in and I told Debbie and Kim that there were still 3 other beaches to explore! Neither has been to Bali because Debbie doesn’t have a car and Kim only recently arrived on Crete in August.
So off to the next beach we went and this was also completely deserted, with no open taverna or cafe in sight! Thankfully, there were more shells, stones and general beach debris along the shoreline of this beach. After about an hour here we really were looking forward to refreshments and so I took Debbie and Kim to the beach at the port, where I had often had coffee during winter beachcombing. But when we got down there, everywhere was shut up and apart from the odd schoolboy or fisherman, there wasn’t anybody around! I suddenly realized that I had not been to Bali for a few years and how much it seemed changed and so quiet. I can only assume that over the last few years, the strict austerity measures and lack of tourist spending power may have contributed to this. Or is it just that this pretty little resort of Bali has become only a summer place now?

The tiny Port in Bali, where we all sat and enjoyed our picnic!

The tiny Port in Bali, where we all sat and enjoyed our picnic!

Where we all live – in the Apokoronou area of Crete, there is quite a large spread-out expat community and this keeps all the shops and tavernas open all year instead of just for the summer.
We came to Bali to beachcomb and so this didn’t bother us and in fact, was a bonus! The sun was shining, it was pleasantly warm and we found a great spot at the edge of this beach by the port, to enjoy our picnic. We ended up having such a laugh! It was delightful to have, what seemed to us all – the whole of beautiful Bali to ourselves! When I pointed out the final beach to Debbie, she was raring to go even though we had many steep steps to climb up and down, in order to reach it.  But this was also no problem for us as we all enjoy the exercise.  It’s exhilarating!

Debbie and I exploring the second beach at Beautiful Bali

Debbie and I exploring the second beach at Beautiful Bali

When we stepped off the last one onto the sand, we all agreed that it was the best beach out of all four! We also found some really good stuff there, including some rocks I had never seen before – unusual very flat rocks with what looked like gold and silver streaks in them – absolutely gorgeous! When covered in varnish, they will reveal all their magnificent colours.. as they do when they are in the water. Kim collected bagfuls of these and other interesting rocks and stones too. It was a wonderful beach and we stayed there for quite a while before heading back – arms full of beach treasures – for Kalyves and a long-awaited coffee at Apicorno!

It was a wonderful adventurous day out with stunning scenery wherever we went! Add this to amazing company.. and we all have so much in common! Debbie, Kim and I all share a passion for this wonderful life we have access to here on Crete!

Bali Beach Crete

The best beach by far! Leaving our mark in the sand, Debbie looks the part in our Bali adventure!

Now that Christmas is not too far away, I am so looking forward to going back to the UK and being with all my family again. Christmas this year is at Emma and Ash’s home on the RAF base down south. Rich is driving Zoe and me down there on the Friday and we will all stay until Boxing Day. I can’t wait to see Ralph and Neve! I’m also looking forward to seeing Mum and staying with Karen and Mike, where I will be sure to see everyone else and also catch up with all my friends in the UK.

My Big Birthday Bash on Crete!

I am writing up this post on my wonderful balcony, on this cloudy day in November. We’ve just come out of a prolonged period of fine, sunny and warm weather and now we are getting rain and thunderstorms. But right now it is not raining and I can hear the sea and see the waves rolling onto the shoreline all around Almyrida Bay. Vasili’s sheep are in my garden below again and so I hear the tinkling of the ‘main’ sheep’s bell and the odd almost baby-sounding bleats coming from the little ones. They seem to lamb all year round on Crete. It must be our wonderful climate! Continue reading

August Beach Sales Have Been Really Good This Year!

It has been over six weeks since I last wrote and that is because I have been so busy coping with my hectic work schedule.  That month I spent in the UK meant I had lost a month in terms of production.  I was not as fully stocked with my Seashell Mosaic Collages for the summer season as I would normally have been. So August has been mega busy while I’ve been trying to keep up with the designs that are selling well. Continue reading

The Highs and Lows of Life are Par for the Course.

So much has happened since my last post but this time it will have to be a short one and with no pictures. I don’t really feel like talking about stuff that isn’t important right now.  I’ve been working long hours in order to get myself fully organized for the 15th May, when my daughter Zoe flies to Crete just 12 days before her wedding here! Continue reading

It’s all part of Crete’s Charm!

I am writing up this post in a much better frame of mind, thank Goodness! In fact, everything has improved since my last post.  But best news of all –  is that my second Grandchild is well on HER way!  So I will have a Granddaughter who is due to be born at the beginning of August.  I am so happy for Emma and Ash and absolutely thrilled that it’s going to be a girl! Continue reading

Good Riddance to January & February!

I haven’t had time and I haven’t felt like writing a post for what seems like ages. I seem to have been in a depressive state and it hasn’t helped that I’ve had so many time-consuming problems to deal with in January and February. But most of all… My dear Sister Leonie’s sudden passing still feels so raw. I can burst into tears at the mere drop of a hat! Continue reading