Thursday, 18 February 2021

Virtual Cocktail Night

Since last March, when I had to start shielding, our super friends have joined us every Saturday night for a video call. We've had great fun, mostly quizzing but recently we had a super night doing a virtual wine tasting.

I have always enjoyed organising events, be that meals at home for just me and Hubby, dinner parties, or wine tasting evenings. It seemed a shame to waste the little bottles from our wine night and as we have an overflowing spirits cupboard I came up with the idea of a cocktails night. 

I made the spirit part of each, put it in the mini wine bottles and cut the garnishes. All in a goodie bag along with the mixers to make four cocktails, Hubby did a 'deliveroo' ready for our evening fun. As it was Valentine's weekend I added some Love Hearts, chocolates hearts, a red rose and to add a bit of fun some cocktail straws. 

Before we started cocktail making we opened some bubbly as we had some news to celebrate. Two of our friends are to become grandparents again so we had a virtual cheers to the happy couple.

We had great fun making up the cocktails, no shaking but lots of stirring. I also made a set of quiz questions based on each one; the questions were about the cocktail name and its ingredients. I found out many interesting things when researching them. 

Our first cocktail was a Sloe Screwdriver. A nice an easy one to start with; Gordon's Sloe Gin and orange juice. It was quite refreshing to drink even of the colour looked a bit off (red and orange made a murky brown). Next time I might add  Southern Comfort to make a Slow Comfortable Screw.

Our second cocktail was made using the last of my Orange Marmalade Vodka made by Chase Distillery. I first had this quite a few years ago at a Majestic Wine tasting in Leicester. 

Orange Moscow Mule is made with orange vodka, lime juice, a dash of Triple Sec and ginger beer. Ours had a slight variation; I used orange essence instead of Triple Sec and Fevertree ginger ale (the last few bottles from a case I won last year), garnished with a wedge of lime.

Staying with vodka our third cocktail was Black Magic. We were all surprised to discover Eristoff is made in France, perfect as I used French framboise liqueur along with 7up to make this dark cocktail.

It was very different in taste to expectation to its visual appearance. Black Vodka is flavoured with wild berries and with the addition of raspberry it made a lovely fruity drink, it was the favourite of the night, especially as the garnish was a cocktail cherry (I've not had one of those in years). 

Our final cocktail was one of Hubby's favourites. It's quite strong as there is no mixer although you can add soda water if you really must! A Manhattan is made from bourbon and vermouth served in a Martini glass with a twist of lemon. 

This cocktail has quite a few variations, how would you make yours?

Manhattan - 2 parts bourbon, 1 part dry vermouth

Sweet Manhattan - as the original but with sweet vermouth

Perfect Manhattan - 2 parts bourbon, 1 part made of equal amounts sweet & dry vermouth  

Reverse Manhattan - switch the ratios in any of the above combinations so vermouth is the main ingredient 

Rob Roy - 2 parts whisky, 1 part dry vermouth

The downside of having a cocktail night is all the glassware we used - our three kitchens had a full sides of washing up .... a Sunday morning job! 

I'm sure of little bottles will be used again, although we would all much rather be sharing a large sized bottle in person .... it will soon be a whole year since we started our quiz nights .... unbelievable..... virtual party it is then 🎉

Monday, 8 February 2021

Laithwaites in lockdown

Although Laithwaites offer many wine plans I prefer to buy wine as and when I either need more or I see an offer that cannot be missed. Back in January I saw such an offer, these lovely six reds for under £40 with free delivery.

I am starting to enjoy a glass or two but not very often. I have plenty of whites in the cellar but not so many reds. The offer was for a mixed six, all red or all white  but I opted for the reds, especially as there are a couple of my favourites in there that I hope will help get my tastebuds going again.

My own tasting notes are not up to much just now, they would be pretty one dimensional so I have copied the descriptions from Laithwaites. 

Willy Willy 2020 Shiraz - South Eastern Australian shiraz from Bob Berton

Aroma - spiced plum and blackcurrant and hints of vanilla
Tasting Notes - rich, ripe mouthful of black fruit with a twist of pepper

Chateau Loirac 2015 - gold-medal Cru Bourgeois Medoc

Aroma - savoury blackberry, raspberry, with truffle hints, mature fruits
Tasting Notes - silky with mature fruits, cedar and a subtle hint of oak

La Multa Vinas Viejas 2018 - old vine tempranillo from high vineyards made by Norrel Robertson

Aroma - ripe black fruit, wild herb ripple and spice 
Tasting Notes - big mouthful of ripe black fruit,  strawberry, wild herbs

The Waxed Bat Reserve - exviting wine ftom Argentina, made by Opi Sadler

Aroma - ripe black fruits, violets, liquorice, spice
Tasting Notes - bold, smooth, black fruit, violets and a liquorice tang

Tenuta Fenice Nero d'Avola 2019 - barrel-aged from mature vineyards towards the high Salemi hills

Aroma - bountiful, ripe blackberry, spice and liquorice scents
Tasting Notes - velvety and dense with vibrant cherry and berry and rich spice 

Alta Sada Garnacha 2019 - old-vine from a remote high-altitude vineyard in Navarra

Aroma - blackberry, raspberry, violets and wild herbs
Tasting Notes - deep, rich and velvety, luscious raspberry fruits and herbal hints

I really like The Waxed Bat and am looking forward to trying it, hopefully I'll be able to enjoy all its rich flavours. 

Another favourite of mine is The Black Stump. I was delighted to receive an email offering two bottles of this along with two bottles of Baron de Barbon Rioja, all for less then £30 and again free delivery. They will be arriving this afternoon, snow permitting. 

Here's Laithwaites wine notes: 

The Black Stump Durif Shiraz 2020 - South Eastern Australian number one best seller 

Aroma - ripe plum, blackberry, raspberry, cinnamon and clove spice
Tasting Notes - rich and smooth, full-bodied, super ripe black fruit and spice

Baron de Barbon Oak Aged Rioja 2019 - number one best selling rioja 

Aroma - juicy berries with light vanilla and oak spice
Tasting Notes - medium weight, silky and brightly fruity with some spice notes

Thank you Laithwaites for some great wines, I'll be looking out for more of your great offers, especially if PS Petillant Rose is included, it was my Dsd's favourite and one we haven't had for a few years. 

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Burns Night

Throughout the year I like to match our food and drink with special days, some are because we would celebrate anyway but others are just an excuse to enjoy different things.

Yesterday was Burns Night when Scotland celebrates its poetic Baird by traditionally having haggis. Neither Hubby or I have any Scottish blood but we do like haggis and after our 2019 tour of Scotland we're quite partial to a wee dram of whisky. 

We had a little trouble this year finding our haggis. We are using online deliveries for our food and shop at either Asda, Tesco or Sainsbury's. Our first order with haggis on was from Asda ... we received haggis in a tin! 

Our next order was more successful as Tesco delivered a proper haggis from Simon Howie, sadly it was a little disappointing as it was so salty. Hubby looked at the ingredients and the salt content was very high. I did enjoy my Swede, carrots and butternut squash though. 

We had a simple dessert; raspberries with cream and Paterson's Scottish shortbread - delicious.

The highlight of the night was our wee dram. This year we opened a bottle of Old Pultney 12 year old. Hubby spotted it before Christmas on offer in Sainsbury's so of course it was added to a shopping delivery. 

As always with whisky it got better as we warmed the glass in our hands. We both thought of Christmas when drinking this, pudding or cake. It had dried fruit, honey, caramel and a hint of vanilla. A lovely smooth finish without any burn especially when nicely warmed.

We did enjoy our nod to Scotland, it was nice to remember our trip and dream of another tour one day, there's plenty more to whisky to find! I'm really looking forward to sharing a dram or two with friends when life allows, I just hope and pray we don't have to wait until next Burns Night. 

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Virtual Wine Tasting

Throughout last year I watched many virtual wine tasting, especially with Brad Horne @winetimelondon. Whilst I was not drinking any alcohol it was great to keep up with the wine world. I discovered many new vineyards too, in particular White Castle in Wales and Tickerage in South England. 

I really missed not only drinking wine but hosting our wine tasting evening for our scouting friends. Since last March with four of our friends we have been having chat nights via video calling, collectively we're known as the Booze Trippers as we've enjoyed quite a few short breaks discovering more about wine/spirits. We hope to be out and again soon but in the meantime we're enjoying the virtual world.

Our weekly chats always include a quiz or game of some descriptions and to our surprise we seem to be online each week well into the early hours of Sunday. Drinks and snacks are personal choice although we have been known to drop off baked goods for each other so we can have a mass munch on a Saturday. It's such fun and I can honestly say these nights have been such a boost to me and Hubby, we really look forward to our Saturday Nights In!

Now I'm starting to enjoy a few more glasses of wine and occasionally a gin and tonic or whisky I thought it would be fun to host a virtual wine tasting on one of our evenings. Hubby and I are still shopping online for it to be delivered and noticed Tesco were offering 4 for 3 on mini wine bottles - perfect. The choice of small bottles is nothing like the variety or quality of the full size shelves but we managed to find a mini selection of minis. 

Here's our selection all ready to go virtual. I had wrapped each bottle up individually so our friends opened one at a time, just to add a bit of surprise. It made a change to leave the house to drive over to drop off the goody wine bags, not quite as long as our usual travels but a road trip nethertheless.

For each wine Hubby and I had written five quiz questions, nothing too difficult and all things we have talked about at previous tasting. It was great to do whilst enjoying each wine, not that we're a competitive bunch ... well not much! 

Our first wine was a can of fizz from Most Wanted. I would not normally buy wine in a can but I can see great benefits in the future - on the train, on the ferry, picnics ... so many possibilities.

I don't think I have had sparkling Pinot Grigio before and my thoughts are that this is not made using the traditional method but in large vats. There were plenty of large bubbles which did last in the glass. It had more flavour than some Proseccos we've had and although a little sweet for me it would be one I'd buy again, especially for holidays or days out. 

Our second tasting was our first white wine. We've been drinking J P Chenet wines for many many years in France on holiday and have bought many bottles home. The uniqueness of this brand is that all their wine is in a wonky bottle. A long time ago we bought six cases of their various wines ... because each box had a free wonky stemmed glass haha. We still have the glasses, it's quite funny seeing them lopsided on the table especially if set for a dinner party - just a bit of fun!

Sauvignon Blanc is my favourite wine especially from the Loire Valley. It was so nice to revisit the aromas of this dry white wine, it felt like being back where I belong. Overall this is a fair wine, the expected flavours are there if a little light. It's a very easy drinking version of a Sauvignon Blanc, great for a large party or BBQ in the summer.

Pinot Grigio is a fairly new wine to me, not in knowledge but in drinking. It isn't one I would choose, for some reason I don't look at Italian wines when wine shopping. Our daughter prefers this grape as she finds Sauvignon Blanc too dry so we always open a bottle or two when we're together.

This was Tesco's own brand and apart from it being Italian I know very little else. It was crisp and it was dry but for me it had very little flavour and a watery finish. Although this is available in a full size bottle it isn't one for me.

At our wine tasting evenings we always have a pot luck buffet where everyone brings something for the table and we all share the delicious food that has been brought. A bit tricky when doing a virtual wine tasting but we did have a snack break.

I was very surprised when we poured this wine, it's colour was very light and made me think it was a Pinot Noir. Again a Tesco own brand this Cabernet Sauvignon was from Spain. Not the usual location for this grape and it did lack the depth of other Cabernet Sauvignon wines I have had, maybe the Spanish sun had made it lighter. It is also available in a full size bottle and would be a great wine to use for Sangria but not to drink as a wine if you were looking for deep Cabernet Sauvignon flavours.

Our quiz questions with each wine were causing a little head scratching but the last round based on red wine in general had near full house points scored. As with all quizzes the answers can be contentious but if Google says it is then it must be right, right? One question nicely linked our previous wine to our final mini tasting ...

Which wine overtook Cabernet Sauvignon in popularity in 1990s?      Merlot 

Another wine from J P Chenet this Merlot was the overall favourite of the evening. It did have plenty of fruit on the nose and in flavour. As with their Sauvignon Blanc this wine is a great easy drinker, Hubby and I both said we should buy this brand again.

Thank you Nick, Alan, Bev, Rob and Kathy for another fun night, it was so good to be wine tasting again .... someday our glasses will chink in real time, until then here's to another virtual cheers! 

Thursday, 14 January 2021

January begins

A very different time this year as we are usually at our friends' seeing the New Year in with fun and laughter ... and of course a few glasses of wine. Saying that last year was different as although with friends I had a daunting year ahead and started Dry January on the stroke of midnight. 

This year was different again as it was myself, Hubby and our son who celebrated the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021. We did enjoy an evening of games with our daughter and her partner via a video call, oh the wonders of modern technology. On the stroke of midnight we raised a glass together even if physically miles apart. 

We always have a family dinner on New Year's Day, it's the perfect occasion to pull the final crackers. My tastebuds and insides are improving which means I am starting to enjoy wine again, although not all wines and only a small glass. For our NYD dinner we enjoyed a Cheverny rouge, a bottle we bought in France a while ago on one of our holidays, 

It's always with mixed feelings that the decorations come down; sad because the festive season is over but joy because the clutter goes away. Although we don't have many decorations it is still a long day to take down and pack away our Christmas, many trips into the attic for Hubby. 

Relaxing on 12th night after all the work was done, we enjoyed a glass of Penderyn Maderia Whisky accompanied by the last Ferrero Rocher. I did find the whisky a little harsh initially but warming the glass in my hands (as we were taught on our amazing Scottish holiday in 2019) it soon became lovely and smooth. The maderia barrels used to mature the whisky certainly gave it added flavour.

Since the first lockdown in March 2020 we have enjoyed regular video call quiz nights with our friends. We have had quizzes, played Trivial Pursuits, had questions from Tenable and set quizzes ourselves. It's been great fun and little did we imagine that the first quiz night of 2021 would be our 40th evening. 

We all enjoy a glass of wine on these quiz nights, we have occassionally opened bottles of bubbly to celebrate anniversaries or birthdays and last summer we all enjoyed a bottle of Oatley wine as we purchased wine direct from the vineyard. Over last year I enjoyed many alcohol free evenings too, mainly non gin and tonics.

Our first 2021 quiz night started with some bubbles, Hubby enjoyed a glass or two of red and I had a Sloe Gin with Lemonade. Cremant du Jura is a sparkling wine from Aldi that has been a favourite of ours for many years. It is good value as it stands up well to champagne, a great glass of fizz.

Carcassonne is a French wine from the Languedoc, very close to the Pyrenees. Carcassonne is a beautiful walled cité, it's depicted on the classic looking label. The wine is full of fruit, rich in flavour with a good finish. Another wine from Aldi however not always on the shelf so one we buy if spotted. 

As I am not drinking as much wine, although bubbles are easier than still, I am enjoying my variety of gins, maybe because I have them with carbonated mixers. Gordon's Slow Gin is very refreshing with lemonade, a lovely alternative to the sharpness of gin with tonic. 

One of our Christmas gifts was this fab book of over 10,000 questions and much as none of us want lockdown to continue and we are all hoping we can beat Covid with the vaccinations now available, I do hope our Quiz Nights will continue as it would be such a shame to leave this unopened. 

I hope everyone had an enjoyable festive time and managed to see in 2021 with a glass of something good. I'm planning to use celebration days to be adventurous with our dinners and drinks to help relieve the monotony of having to stay home ... it's Chinese New Year soon and Burns Night so I best get menu planning.

I'll sign off my first post of the year with a photo of us during one of our online quiz chats when we discovered the 'effects' button ...or was it too much wine hee hee

Thursday, 31 December 2020

And that was 2020!

 What a year! 

That's certainly an understatement for us all but especially for me and my family .... I can honestly say it has been horrendous 

BUT we did have some fun along the way ..... here's my 2020 story! 


On December 6th 2019, following a biopsy on 28th November,  I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Triple Negative Breast Cancer and my world turned upside down. I have had a needle phobia all my life which hasn't got easier with age and all the tests and scans were certainly a challenge to get through, especially having an MRI 5pm on Christmas Eve. 

My first operation to remove some lymph nodes was on December 27th. A trip to University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire for a nuclear injection before returning to George Eliot Hospital for the operation. Everyone at the hospitals were all so kind, easing my stress from so many needles. Although uncomfortable I felt fine in myself and even managed our trip to Birmingham a few days later for a concert with our good friends. 

New Year's Eve came with a difference, one of the hardest procedures. To know where the tumour was the doctors inserted a small clip under local anaesthetic, just too many needles involved but a necessity. 

Happy New Year to 2020 and the treatment path set for me was 12 sessions of chemotherapy to shrink the tumour, spaced three weeks apart, followed by an operation to remove the tumour and finally radiotherapy as a preventative against future disease. A long road full of bumps but it looked positive for a full recovery by my birthday in September. 

I'm always up for a challenge and I'm always wanting to help others and make the most of any situation so I decided to do Dry January in aid of Cancer Research and the Breast Care Unit at George Eliot Hospital. Philippa decided to do it too and although we started the year together she continued her challenge at home in Wales. 

We were amazed at the support, thank you to everyone who donated, it helped me get going on my journey and I know the funds raised will help others in the future. 

We had a family get together on 1st February to mark the end of our challenge, celebrating with a bottle of bubbly. I'd had two sessions of chemo by then and lost my hair but I wasn't feeling too bad, just very tired the week of my treatment. 

Later in February Hubby and I had a few days in Cardiff Bay to get some sea air and visit our daughter and her partner. It was the ideal place to visit for many reason, one being that we knew the area and I knew how far I could walk. It was easy too to keep safe as with chemotherapy your immune system is low and you need to be careful of infection. We had a lovely time away, little did we know it would be our only holiday in 2020. 

Since 2014 (to celebrate our Scout Group's 100th birthday) we have been hosting wine tasting nights for the leaders and friends. With my chemotherapy being every three weeks the third week was quite good, I felt ok and could still do things if a little tired. That said we decided to host another wine tasting and what a fun night we had, a great way to forget for a while all the yuk stuff. 

My treatment plan was going well, I won't lie the first week of chemo was not good. I felt physically and mentally ill but it eased in the second week and was managable by the third. I remember saying to Nick how I wanted it to stop and that I was struggling with going for each session knowing I would be ill again, but I had to keep going.

Little did we know how life would change ... for us all. 

Early March it became apparent on the news that Covid was a real concern. March 16th our house went into shielding, no going out not even for a walk and all our shopping delivered. It was quite a shock to Michael, Nick and myself but something we had to do with my immune system being so low.

One thing we started to do was a quiz night every Saturday with our good friends. We're not technical and don't use Zoom but we did manage to have a group chat using Messenger. We thought it would be a short 'hi' - to our amazement we chatted for over 5 hours and have been having quiz nights every Saturday ever since .... our first chat of 2021 will be our 40th video call! 

Towards the end of March my Consultant rang to say because of Covid all patients had had their treatment reviewed. Having looked at my cancer and how I was struggling the chemotherapy the decision was made to operate on the tumour now and have follow up chemotherapy and radiotherapy. 

It was all quite a shock but I was so grateful to be having the cancer taken out. Typically for me it was April 1st when Hubby drove me to UHCW for a wire to be inserted into the tumour. This is a trace for the Consultant Surgeon so very important: this was the worst procedure of all my treatments.  A return journey to George Eliot Hospital followed for my operation. All went well and I was home by early evening, a little sore but feeling positive. 

With lockdown and my recovery we stayed home, enjoying watching the birds visit the feeders on our conservatory window. A few weeks later the Consultant rang (telephone consultations were part of our new Covid ruled lives) to say all the tumour was removed and everything looked clear. My goodness it was such a relief, I knew I still had treatments to go through but now they were for protection against future problems should they arise. 

Shielding was going well, we were having regular online shopping deliveries, I was getting stronger and my next chemotherapy treatment plan set in place.... then I fell in the garden. 

I knew straight away I had broken somewhere in my arm; the journey to A&E was the most painful ever dispute Nick driving so carefully to avoid bumps. Of course with the restrictions he wasn't allowed in with me. Xrays and Scan done I found out I had broken my right humerus ball ... it wasn't funny! It's the ball end of your arm as it goes into your shoulder. I did have the option of staying in hospital (although the doctors were also warning me of the Covid situation on the wards) or going home to see a Consultant in a few days.

I chose home; it was not easy as any slight movement caused such pain, thank goodness for Oramorph. I couldn't get dressed myself and needed my food cutting up. My left hand had to learn new skills including writing for the answers on our quiz nights and stitching (I could hold the fabric in my right hand for about 15 minutes). I couldn't lie down so slept on our recliner sofa for a few weeks before managing to sleep sitting up in bed. It was a real set back, even more so as it halted my chemotherapy treatment. 

A broken arm cannot be reviewed over the phone so I had weekly visits to outpatients. The hospital staff were amazing, I was shielded throughout each visit, rushed through x-ray and waited in empty consultant rooms instead of in the main area with other patients. 

I had kept my arm very still, mainly because it was so painful to move, which the Consultant said had been the best possible thing to do as the gap in the break had lessened showing the bone was moving back together and regrowing. Had this not been happening I would have needed an operation to have it plated, the last thing I wanted. 

It took three months before I could sleep lying down, I was so tired as most nights I only slept for a couple of hours. We did have fun times too though; we had a VE party in the cul-de-sac with everyone having a distanced afternoon tea and when restrictions lifted slightly we managed a visit to the Bowling Club where we are social members. I stayed outside and away from everyone as although not shielding I still had to be careful. My Mum and Keith visited us, the first time we'd seen them in months. We all sat in the garden with masks on as I was starting my treatments soon and more setbacks would have been unbearable.

The summer was short for us, a couple of weeks in June and the last week of July. This was because the Oncologist decided it would be best to have the radiotherapy first. The concern was since my operation I'd had no further treatment and chemotherapy could not be started until my bone had healed. I had 10 days of radiotherapy in early July, oh it was funny. Because I couldn't move my arm it was hard to be in the correct position on the treatment bed, the radiologists were so good helping me and we eventually worked out that using my sling around my leg for my hand to go through keep my injured right arm still during treatment !

Hubby and I made the most of the sunny days by venturing out a little. I felt quite good in myself as I had very little side effects from the radiotherapy. We had some great walks, not far but it was good to get out even if we did get stuck in a maize field. 

There is a bonus to staying home, Nick bought a new BBQ and we made great use of it. Obviously after my 'shielding' experience in the garden every step was taken with great care. It was a very odd time but like I say we did have fun.

Midway through my second set of chemotherapy my blood count dropped and treatment was paused for a few weeks. My Oncologist thought it best to reduce the strength of the dose as I was finding it quite difficult, this new set was weekly so although a lower strength there was little time inbetween to recover. 

Sod's law (I've encountered this many times in 2020) one treatment fell on my birthday, not the best present especially with my needle phobia. It turned out to be the worst session taking the nurse five attempts to fit the canula. Not a happy birthday until Philippa and Michael (her partner) surprised me by arriving home to celebrate. Due to restrictions they stayed a local hotel and the day after my birthday, with help from our son Michael, they laid on a very special afternoon tea, I felt very spoilt.

My treatments continued but I was getting weaker and weaker, struggling to walk around the house and found going upstairs was a major challenge. My blood count dropped again so another break from treatments but this time my Oncologist decided my body needed to recover and having had nine sessions of chemo drugs that would have enough benefit for the future. 

October was a nothing month, I spent the whole time sitting on the sofa. Although I have done this most of the year I really was just sitting on the sofa, to walk to the bathroom exhausted me and at times I was out of breathe just stitching or drinking a coffee. I know my blood was very low because they had been considering a transfusion. 

Over the year I have raised funds and given personal donations for Cancer Research, the Breast Care Unit, Macmillan and the Dorothea Ward at GEH and when I noticed 'Wear it Pink' in aid of Breast Care Now I just had to join in. Being in late October it seemed a fitting end to me finishing my treatment.  Ending my treatment also meant the end of my cancer - whoo hoo and a big PHEW - it will be six monthly check ups but fingers crossed all will be fine.

My family and some friends joined in and wore pink for the day, they also very kindly added a donation and together we raised £300

November was the month when I have began to feel like myself again, my strength improved and I am managing a daily walk. To begin with that was just to the corner and back, then the post box and back, then round the block and now I am walking about a mile a day (unless it's pouring down or icy). My strength is the thing I really want to improve as if I cook dinner, do any housework or just do too much pottering around I need to retire back to my comfy sofa ... but things are improving so hopefully by the time we are free to go places I will be strong enough to do so. 

Christmas this year was very different with Covid restrictions returning to a high level. My Mum and Keith stayed at home although we did visit (in the garden) on Christmas Eve to exchange gifts. Philippa and Michael both work from home and the weeks up to Christmas they stayed in their apartment other than food shopping. This was to keep away from the possibility of catching Covid before they came here for Christmas. 

The guidance was to stay home or just meet for Christmas Day but they live too far away for a day visit. With everything that has happened in 2020 we decided as a family we could be, and needed to be, together and that as they had stayed home, as we have, we would not be spreading the virus. We didn't see anyone else during their visit so they would not take any virus back to Wales ... we are all still safe and symptom free.

It was just what I needed, to be honest I know I was feeling very low for most of the year, tears flowing for no reason and not bothering to do things but I hadn't realised how low until Christmas. Being with my amazing family had me smiling day after day and even though Christmas is over and our daughter and partner are home on Wales I certainly feel much  brighter. Hubby surprised us all with Team Hearnden sweatshirts; perfect, just perfect.

It has been a very long and extremely bumpy road which without the amazing support from Nick I would not have navigated. The 99 needles were certainly an endurance, I don't think I squeezed his hand too hard; we are joking that my 100th needle will be the Covid vaccination. 

He has been with me at every appointment and treatment (when allowed), has driven me everywhere, done the housework, the shopping and the cooking - he's been absolutely SUPERB and I love him to bits! 

Michael has been a star being an extra pair of hands at home; Philippa has kept me going with chats, messages and treat parcels in the post, and with her partner Michael, has been so supportive with video calls and surprise visits - I love all three of them so so much.

The messages from my friends have helped me stay positive and kept me smiling; special thanks to Julie, Cathy, Ann and Jane for their care and kindness.

HUGE thanks to our good friends Kathy, Rob, Alan and Bev for our entertaining quiz nights, putting up with me in my pjs and times when I have felt a bit rough. 

Looking back over 2020 I've certainly changed, just look at all my hairstyles, never ending fashion. It's growing slowly, a salt and peppper look at the moment. I wonder what it will grow like.

As we start 2021 life is no different than the last few months of 2020, no-one knows how Covid will affect us, we all have restrictions that may go on for weeks BUT one thing I have discovered over the last year is that anything is do-able, however hard it seems. 

Follow the guidelines, trust those who have more knowledge, help each other and take a day at a time .... before we know it it will be 2022 and we'll be celebrating together.

2020 was a path I do not want to follow again, I would not be able to welcome in 2021 without the knowledge and skill of all the doctors  nurses and staff at UHCW and GEH - special thanks to the following:

Dr Makam, Dr Khan and the Breast Care Team

Dr Lupton, Alison Syborn and everyone working on Dorothea Ward

Dr Pradham, the outpatient nurses and staff

The radiologists at UHCW and GEH

The Arden Centre Team at UHCW


This blog post has been primarily for me, I don't want to relive the year but I do want to remember how far I have travelled. 

Thursday, 10 September 2020

September celebrations

It's my birthday - whoo hoo I made it 🤗 although there will not be much celebrating as l'll be spending most of the day here at the hospital having my sixth chemotherapy treatment. 

September is always a special month for me and I like to make the most of my birthdays, sharing the chance to have good times with others. I have been looking back at some of my great September celebrations over recent years, lots of links and lots of photos. 

I cannot believe it was ten years ago that I celebrated turning 45 with my first ever brand new car - I loved my C1 Splash with all its pink accessories. For no real reason we had a party; looking back I realise it was the last party with my Dad, a night to cherish. It was a great chance to catch up with friends and family and I love the little cake my friend made me - New Car and a Party

Back in 2012 Hubby and I were in London on my birthday watching the Olympic Parade and sharing the celebrations with our daughter who had been a Gamesmaker for the Paralympics at the Aquatic Centre - Birthday and Olympics  It was a superb day, such a great atmosphere and lovely to see all the competitors.

My 50th birthday was a really super celebration starting with a delicious meal at home with friends followed the next evening with a large party when I surprised everyone by announcing Hubby and I would be doing the London Marathon in stages - Clare's Challenge 50

I've always wanted to do the Marathon but I knew with having MS it is something I could not do .... so we did it in 8 stages, starting each one from where we finished before. 

As part of my 50th celebrations Hubby surprised me with a trip to Prague, what a beautiful city. Our hotel was superb, having views over the city and serving sparkling wine with breakfast, my kind of start to any day. It's a place we'd love to visit again - Surprise trip to Prague

2016 was an amazing year with our eight visits to London to complete the Marathon route and in the process raising a superb amount for my four chosen charities. Thank you to everyone who supported us. 

The final route was on my 51st birthday, a family trip to London where we met up with friends and completed the last stage - Tower Bridge to The Mall.  

After enjoying a meal with everyone Hubby and I went to Proms in the Park, a super way to celebrate not just my birthday but completing Clare's Challenge 50. I always like my birthdays to last, 50 to 51 was a whole year of celebrations 😁

We were just home for my birthday in 2017, it had been a difficult year as in April I broke my left ankle and right foot. It was a challenging time, sleeping downstairs and being in a wheelchair, but we still managed a super holiday in the South of France where my amazing Hubby pushed me around everywhere ... French pavements are not always smooth. 

We met up with my school pen friend, playing petanque on crutches was such fun, and we spent a super few days with friends we had met the previous year. The celebrations started in France and continued once we were home with my friend turning 50 - party time! 

Two years ago was a very special September, we had a family holiday. The first time the four of us had been away together for many years due to all our works and studies commitments. We decided to do something new, a villa holiday in Portugal. The villa was amazing, so lovely to have our own pool and we certainly made use of the bbq. We were not far from Cliff Richard's vineyard, a great place and to ensure we celebrated my birthday once home we brought back a bottle of his aptly named sparkling wine - Portuguese Food and Wine

And so to turning 54, nothing special in the number but as my ankle was finally mended it was time to 'Move On'. We had a great garden party with all our friends, our daughter and partner came home for the weekend and our son managed to get a night off from the bar! 

My birthday was actually a Tuesday and Monday saw Hubby and I making our way to Portsmouth to catch Brittany Ferries Normandie overnight crossing to begin a few weeks in France. This is my favourite cross channel ferry having first sailed on her in 1992 when we had a holiday in France with my Dad and son who was just seven months old. To my amazement and utter delight we were upgraded to a Commodore Suite with a double bed, no bunks and I awoke on my birthday to room service breakfast before we disembarked and set off for our destination ..... Sancerre!

What a day, my favourite ferry, travelling through my favourite country and staying in a village whose wine I just love - Our Petite Tour de France.

So today I turn 55 and I'm not quite where I thought I'd but as it's my birthday, and that means celebrating, I've bought a few goodies in with me to share with the amazing doctors and nurses.

No bubbly or favourite wine tonight but I will be with my Hubby and our son, and will be video chatting with our daughter - they are the best things in my life!

It has been lovely to look back over my previous birthdays - I am such a lucky lady to have had such amazing times with amazing people. Life is good, parties and holidays will happen again ...

... in the meantime enjoy a glass of something special for me - à votre santé!