Archive for December, 2011

An English Christmas

Although it didn’t snow, we had an amazing Christmas! Adrian finished work on Tuesday afternoon and is now on holidays until 3 January, so it is lovely to be spending more time with him.  On Christmas Eve, we baked our ham, made our pork, apple and sage stuffing and also our Festive sherry trifle.  With our Christmas tree lights twinkling, we rang Katharine, Eenie and Maria, as well as Adrian’s family before heading off to bed.

We all woke up on Christmas morning just before 7.00am – it was still dark outside and Ella had no idea that Santa had been!!  After breakfast, we unwrapped all our presents and played with Ella and her new toys before heading off to Church at 20 to 9, where Janet led the singing. We, and several people sitting close to us, were highly amused when Ella fell asleep during the service and proceeded to snore quite loudly!

After church we came back home and put our turkey in the oven, prepared our roast vegies, which we cooked in goose fat (an English tradition that makes them really crispy) and prepared our honey-glazed carrots and parsnips. We also had pigs in blankets (small sausages wrapped in bacon), crispy Yorkshire puddings, cranberry and port sauce and gravy.  Later in the afternoon, when we had room, we ate our trifle. Our traditional English Christmas lunch was delicious and we were very pleased with ourselves!

As predicted, England had unseasonably mild weather over Christmas and the temperature was 11°.  We all went off to bed after a most enjoyable day, feeling blessed that we were able to share Ella’s First Christmas with Janet and Adrian.

On Boxing Day, Janet and Sandy made a Mars Bar Slice and we all went for a walk into town (rugged up in our coats, gloves etc as it was 4° and had a coffe/tea/hot-chocolate/mocha. Ella was most impressed to sit in a high chair, looking out the window and eating her rusk.  In the evening, we watched “Love Actually” – another lovely day.

On Tuesday, we made potato bake and then we all went to Janet and Adrian’s friends, Wanda and Alan’s place for lunch.  We had ham, potato bake, broccoli, brussel sprouts, carrots and bread rolls and then for dessert we had a panettone sprinkled with icing sugar and our Mars Bar slice.  We spent a lovely afternoon, chatting, laughing and enjoying their company.  After a fun game of Bananagram (similar to scrabble without the board), we headed home about 6.00pm, had leftovers for dinner and sorted through our photos.

See photos in gallery.

Christmas Adventuring

Monday 19 December – cool, occasional showers – top of 5°

This morning, Janet took us to Holme Grange Craft Village, where we enjoyed looking through all the shops – we didn’t buy anything, but were certainly tempted!  When we returned to Maidenhead, we bought our ham and turkey, ready to cook on Christmas Day.

Tuesday 20 December – occasional showers – top of 8°

What an exciting adventure we all went on today!  This afternoon, Janet, Ella (in her pram) and the two of us walked down to the station and caught the train to Paddington.  We then caught the tube to Charing Cross and walked around to Trafalgar Square and had a cuppa at Costa, while Janet gave Ella her dinner and we waited for Adrian to meet us after he finished work.  The five of us then went to Trafalgar Square to see the lovely Christmas tree.  From there we walked up Charing Cross Road to Oxford Street and then down Regent Street and then into Carnaby Street – where they had amazing lights hanging above the streets.  We then continued along Regent Street and caught another tube at Piccadilly Circus to Waterloo, walked through Southbank to the German Christmas Markets, where we wandered along looking at the stalls and eating our baguettes that we had brought from home.  After a dessert of marshmallows on a stick, dipped in chocolate, we then walked over the Waterloo Bridge, along the riverside to Embankment Underground, caught a tube to South Kensington, where we changed to the tube to Knightsbridge.  We walked along to Harrods, found a café across the road and gave Ella her night time bottle, and then had a look at the Christmas windows at Harrods, before catching a tube back to South Kensington and then to Paddington. From there we caught the train back to Maidenhead and walked back home.  What an absolutely wonderful night!  The weather was kind to us and it only started raining when we were on our way home.  Richard and Adrian had it down to a fine art, carrying the pram up and down stairs and onto escalators, so that we didn’t have to take Ella out each time.  She stayed awake the whole evening – too much to see to want to sleep!

Wednesday 21 December – overcast but warmer – top of 11°

More excitement today!  This afternoon, Janet and Adrian took us to the Christmas Pantomime, “Peter Pan”, at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking, which was a 40 minute drive from here.  It was lots of fun with traditional audience participation encouraged by one of the main characters.  One of the UK’s best known actors, Steve McFadden, who plays Phil in EastEnders, played the dastardly Captain Hook.  The special effects were great, with Peter Pan, Wendy, Michael and John flying around the stage.  Ella was mesmerised throughout the whole panto and the four adults acted like big kids, joining in.

Before we went into the Panto, Janet and Adrian took Ella to meet Santo in his Grotto and had a photo taken – she looked adorable in her little Christmas outfit.

Another fun day was had by all.

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

Friday 16 December – brief light snow – top of 3°

Great excitement – at 9.00am it was 1° and we had some brief light snow – although by the time it reached the ground it had melted.  So, now we are waiting for longer periods of heavier snow!

Just before lunch, Janet headed off to her farewell from the Piggott School, where she worked until she went on Maternity Leave, and we minded Ella!! We had a wonderful afternoon – gave Ella her lunch, played with her and had lots of cuddles and didn’t get up to too much mischief!

Saturday 17 December – overcast, showers – top of 1°

Adrian had to scrape the ice from the car before we could head off to Janet & Adrian’s friends, Hilary, Andy, Emily and Oliver’s house at Wokingham, for breakfast and to purchase our Christmas tree.  We had a lovely breakfast of hot croissants with various types of jams, juice, tea/coffee.

All nine of us then piled into two cars and headed off to Ashridge Manor Farm to purchase our Christmas tree.  This took some time to choose the perfect tree and as the staff were not too busy, they helped – the criteria was that it had to be approximately as tall as Adrian, not too sparse, reasonably fat and of course, the perfect shape.  Eventually, we found the perfect tree!  It is 200cm tall and is a Nordman Fir Tree. Two of the staff put our tree through a wrapping machine to wrap all the branches together in netting, for easy transport home, on the roof of Hilary and Andy’s car.  Sandy bought some mistletoe to hang over the doorway into the lounge-room.

Andy and Oli carried the tree upstairs and Adrian put it in a special holder that he had ready for the tree, the wrapping was cut off and voila! our tree was standing perfectly in the bay window at Janet and Adrian’s place.  We thought it was so nice that Emily and Oliver came with their parents to help us choose a tree and bring it home.

After the four of them left, we decorated the tree with tinsel and lights and all of Janet and Adrian’s special ornaments that they have been given over the past four Christmases.

At 3.00pm, some of Janet & Adrian’s friends started arriving for our Christmas Tree Party.   This has become a tradition since the first Christmas that Janet and Adrian were in the UK, when Hilary and Andy took them to buy a tree and suggested that they invite their friends to a Christmas Tree Party and ask each of them to bring an ornament. Emily and Oliver came to the party with their parents too and Emily gave Janet and Adrian a lovely arrangement of Holly and Ivy that she had made.

So, we had all the carols happening:

Oh Christmas Tree, oh Christmas tree…

It’s Christmas time, Mistletoe and Wine…..

The Holly and the Ivy…..

We had a lovely afternoon and evening, catching up with Janet & Adrian’s friends, who we had met on our previous visits.

We took lots of photos (see gallery).

Sunday 18 December – Cool, overcast, hail, sleet – top of 5°

Janet, Adrian and Ella went to church in the morning, but unfortunately we didn’t go as Sandy had a migraine.

In the afternoon, Janet and two of us went shopping for a Christmas turkey and ham – we are almost ready for Christmas!

In the evening, the two of us went to St Mary’s church at Maidenhead for their Carol Service – Janet was singing in the choir.  We enjoyed the carols and stayed to have a hot drink (we could have had mulled wine) and a warm fruit mince pie and a catch up with some of Janet’s friends.

We are getting used to rugging up in our jackets, gloves, scarf etc to go outside but we are still comfortable in light clothing indoors because of the central heating.

Dreaming of a White Christmas

Monday 12 December 2011  – Sunny, quite warm – top of 32°

Meika, the cat, deposited at Eenie’s house, winter woollies and Christmas presents all packed, the house locked up tight.  We were chauffeured to the airport by Katharine and Steve for our 2.40pm Singapore Airlines flight to London via Singapore. We were very excited about spending 8 weeks with Janet, Adrian and Ella but a little bit sad to be leaving Katharine, Steve and Eenie behind.

This is the third time that we have caught this flight – an A330-300 from Brisbane to Singapore and an A380 from Singapore to London (once again we were lucky enough to be on the top deck).  We landed in Chiangi Airport, Singapore for our 2½ hour stopover in terminal 2 and caught the shuttle skytrain to terminal 3 for our flight to London Heathrow. This was a bit different to what we are used to as we have previously landed at the same terminal that we left from. We had a good flight and even managed to get a couple of hours sleep on the second leg.

Tuesday 13 December – overcast, cool, top of 7°

Arrived in London at 5.55am (only 2° and light rain) to be met by Janet, Adrian and Ella after getting through Customs with no queues and the usual 20 minute wait for our luggage.  Adrian then caught the train to work and the rest of us headed back to our “second home” in Maidenhead.  First we had a nice cuppa, then had showers and unpacked, before heading off for a walk to the shops in Maidenhead. We arrived back at the flat at abut 4.15pm and by then it was getting quite dark, which was very different from our last trip when we had twilight until well after 9.00pm.  At this time of the year, the sun rises at about 8.00am and it is quite dark by 4.30pm.  We enjoyed our first day in the UK, playing and having cuddles with Ella and chatting to Janet and Adrian.

Wednesday 14 December – overcast, cool, occasional showers, top of 5°

Janet took us to High Wycombe to the Eden Shopping Centre, which is a fairly large indoor/outdoor complex about 20 minutes drive from Maidenhead.  We had lunch at a lovely café, where Janet was able to give Ella her lunch too – much easier now that she is on solids.  After lunch we went to Matalan and Sainsburys and headed back to Maidenhead for a quiet afternoon.

In the evening, Janet and Sandy went to the Piggott School Carols, which is held at the local church in Wargrave.  Janet enjoyed catching up with some of her former work colleagues and students.  The two of us had a lovely night.

Thursday 15 December – showers all day – top of 5°

Today was spent doing the shopping for food for our Christmas Tree party, which will be on Saturday.  As Ella was unsettled overnight, we were all up early and were at the shops at 8.30am.  We also cleaned the flat and wrapped all the Christmas presents.  We spent a quiet afternoon with Janet and Ella and then went to bed early for a good night’s sleep.