drEAming, general chit chat

drEAming…of Italy and a car

You may have noticed that I have been quiet the last few days – no I haven’t come down with anything – thankfully – although we had 3 people go home last Wednesday, I was pleased it was my last day and I could escape the germs.  I have been wiping desks, door handles and key boards each morning with my Dettol wipes just to try to keep them away.  Coughs and sneezes from work colleagues are harder to avoid!
No, the reason for my absence is that I have been a little overwhelmed lately  – well a lot overwhelmed actually.
I have a couple of large projects on the go at the moment and they are taking up all my spare time.  Once the time has been put in to deal with these the end results should be very enjoyable!
The first mammoth project is that I have to change my car before it is no longer useable.  It is sixteen years old and due an MOT by the end of this month and I already know it won’t pass so I decided that enough is enough and I need to buy a new one.  One that will last me another 16 years and hopefully one where the heater works during the journey to work not just as I drive into the car park, and where I can open or lock all the doors at once. 
After slogging around the showrooms, reading reviews and taking a test drive I have settled on one and placed an order – just got to arrange the insurance and then sit back and wait for delivery.  I am so sad though to be saying goodbye to my old faithfull friend – I just get so upset at the final parting.
The other project on the go is what I am referring to as the ‘Italian Job’
We are invited to my niece’s wedding in Italy (she is marrying an Italian) in April.  The ceremony and reception takes place in a small village in Northern Italy near Verona and Vicenza and not far from Venice.  We intend to make a small holiday of it and go for 9 days – three of which will be taken up getting to the wedding, enjoying the wedding day and then saying our goodbyes and moving on.  We will be meeting up with my two daughters for the wedding itself but then each of us are planning to go off in different directions. 
After the wedding OH and I have decided on a few days in Vicenza followed by a few days in Venice before flying home. 
We will need to book a hotel to stay in on landing at Venice Marco Polo then move round to the outskirts of Vicenza to another hotel closer to the wedding venue for 3 days.  Then another short move to an apartment for 3 nights in the centre of Vicenza to experience Italian life and finally moving to Venice for the remaining three days.  Four different hotels / apartments in all.  That’s a lot of packing and unpacking and a lot of booking.
The choosing of all these different places to stay has been a bit of a headache and so time-consuming – scrolling through endless internet pages of hotels in the region – what did we do before the internet?  Places that look OK on Booking.com can look quite different when viewing the travellers own photos on Tripadvisor.  I really hate it when you see a lovely hotel room on a website – stylish and clean and then discover that this is their only room of that decorative standard and on arrival you are shown to something quite different and very shabby in appearance (and I don’t mean in a chic way).
We have booked the flights, the hotel for the wedding and the train connection so far but still many bookings to go yet.  It is not a cheap way to take a holiday either – I can see why people opt for a package deal.
So I may be quiet for a few more days yet…I am still following and reading along though with everyone’s blogs and hopefully all will be back to normal again soon and blogging will resume.  If anyone has any tips for Italian travel they will be very welcome.

Back soon x

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drEAming, general chit chat

drEAming…looking back on our non-plastic kitchen

Did I mention that when we were Art students in the early seventies we were big on saving the planet – the generation that came a while after us during the Thatcher years seemed to completely ignore the topic and it became a spend, spend, spend world and consumerism was born in a big way.
One of the ways we tried to ‘save the planet’ was that we had an almost fully non-plastic kitchen.  With all the recent discussion in the news of plastic waste I was reminded of our efforts back then and that it is not actually that hard to achieve it just takes a bit of adjustment.
We carefully selected our kitchen contents and only bought items of glass, wood, enamel, metal,  china or pot.  Looking back it is incredible that we managed a whole kitchen by today’s standards as most people have Tupperware, or plastic washing up bowls and formica counter tops not to mention all the groceries we buy and store in the kitchen that come packaged in plastics.
We lived in rented accommodation back then –  a tiny 3 bedroom terraced house in Cheltenham just off the high street behind the Co-op on Grosvenor Terrace.  Ours was the blue house – they were all painted a different colour.  The living room was so small it didn’t even accommodate a 3 piece suite.  The dining table was squashed in here in the corner as there was no dining room nor a dining kitchen.
The kitchen was in fact more like an old scullery down a passage at the back of the house which opened up in to a bit of a dismal yard with no rear access but at least we could hang a washing line out there.  The windows in the kitchen were the original painted metal frames and the floor was made of those red clay tiles.  The whole house was cold at times but even more so in the kitchen – there was no heating at all in any of the rooms and all we could afford then was a two bar electric fire for the living room.  We just shivered in the other rooms and dived into bed quickly!
The bathroom was quite colourful a yellow toilet, pink basin and white bath – no doubt whatever the landlord could find going cheap at the time!
The only items in the kitchen, which was about 8′ x 6′, was an old gas cooker, a white pottery sink in the corner and the previous tenants had left a small wooden dresser on the back wall.  There were no kitchen units or wall cupboards built-in or otherwise.
Being a handy kind of man OH set to and made a kitchen unit to fit next to the gas cooker from some MDF and old packing cases that we found  – as you can imagine trying to cook when you have no horizontal surface to put anything on is near impossible.   The unit didn’t have anything posh like doors it looked more like a bookcase with a work top on it – you would call it open shelving these days and you would be thought of as extremely modern.  In those days you were thought of as a poor student!  The work top was a huge slab of dark grey slate – about 3″ thick and 3′ long with a round hole in one end.  We found it on some waste land and somehow using that old technique of rollers Egyptian style managed to roll it home and then called on friends to help lift it on top of the frame – whether any other resident that came after us ever got it out again would be another story!  It was a brilliant place for putting down hot pans though!
We painted the dresser grey – it scrubbed up quite well.  We also acquired a fridge at this point – our first ever, second or third hand of course.  The door seal on the fridge and the wire shelving coated in plastic was one of the few things that had plastic and unavoidable.
We used enamel buckets and basins and a wire metal dish drainer.  We had a dish mop and dish brush made of real bristle and wood – which you can still buy in some hardware stores.  Our cooking utensils were wooden or metal – no plastic handles allowed.
For food storage we used the old-fashioned glass jars with ground stoppers and glass basins with a saucer on top to keep food and left overs safe and fresh in the fridge.
We had no Tupperware or plastic bowls.  We only bought foods that were free from plastic wrappings, our vegetables were packed in paper bags and the cheese and butter wrapped in greaseproof paper.  Sauces came in jars and most food items were free of any tamper proof shrink wrapped cellophane or plastic display trays.  We used Stardrops for washing up and cleaning as this came in a glass bottle as did the milk.
The waste bin was one of those old style pails with a lid made of enamel. In fact we generated so little waste our old tin dustbin in the yard was rarely full of any rubbish – which is just as well as we had to carry it through the house to the front doorstep on bin day.
With all the discussions recently in the news about China and our plastic waste it is no bad thing that we should review our use of plastics especially the single use of plastics for packaging.  Remembering our kitchen all those years ago and how some of the values we held then have fallen by the wayside a bit over the years I am mindful now in the light of the current plastics awareness that is sweeping the country that I must make an effort to reject plastic once again and challenge myself to having a non- plastic kitchen.
Of course it would be wrong to get rid of anything plastic by throwing it away better we hang on to it now for as long as possible and when we have to renew look for an alternative material, but we can avoid such things as squeezy sauce bottles opting for the glass ones instead or buying vegetables that are loose not prepackaged.  Every small change will eventually make a difference.  I possibly won’t be going back to a 3″ thick slate work top though!!

 

drEAming, general chit chat

drEAming…of a happy New Year

 

Goodbye to 2017 already and hello 2018.
I feel like the year has whizzed by and although I haven’t done half of what I intended to do a lot has happened over the twelve months – the good thing about keeping a blog is that the year is well documented.  It was quite enlightening for me to look back at all that I have achieved.
And now I am looking forward – I particularly love this moment – the fresh start feeling that a new year brings.
The world is quiet outside my window this morning – the new year celebrations and fireworks over – calm at last has descended.  It would be nice to think that everywhere was closed today – a day off for everyone like it used to be… but sadly not;  there are still many shopping opportunities in Meadowhall and I presume every shopping mall up and down the country – but that is not for me, not today – today I am going to savour the quiet and just be still with my thoughts.
This is just a few highlights of last year –
January – we started the year with the reinstatement of the stream bank at the cottage.  It all looked a bit bleak but by October the grasses and wild flowers had begun to grow through the black mesh so that once again it now looks like a natural banking.      

 

Autumn Homekeeping
February – was mostly spent in the home having a major declutter, evaluating and reorganising cupboards.

 

March – was our yearly trip to see the village pantomime that my sister and BIL take part in – such a wonderful community spirit.

 

April – we were back in our cottage garden – taming the jungle and uncovering more of the stones around the little pond like an archeological dig.

 

Birdhouse

In the summer months we built a birdhouse…

 

Courgette

 planted a Courgette…

 

and enjoyed our tiny garden here in Yorkshire.

 

We visited a number of Open Gardens for inspiration…

 

played on the beach…

 

and celebrated a 3rd birthday at the Zoo

 

As Autumn arrived we completed the decorating of the mezzanine bedroom…

 

and drove down to Birmingham to watch our SIL compete as one of seven finalists in the Anchor Care Homes Chef of the Year.

 

October – we had a trip down memory lane as we passed through the historic village of West Linton on our way to Edinburgh

 

November – as the cooler weather takes hold I spent more time in the kitchen baking and trying out new recipes…

 

and of course making a few gifts for the ‘Crisis’ craft fair at church.

 

December – saw us collecting together and scanning a lifetime of photographs to make my mum a special family album photo book

 

Christmas Selfie

and celebrating with the family at our Not so Secret Santa present swap…

 

just enough time for making Lemon Curd for the girls…

 

and my Christmas ‘wreath’ for the door although it was not a wreath and I didn’t hang it on the door!

 

and finally a visit to the Living Advent in Saltaire Village.

 

All in all a good year – of course there was a fair share of ups and downs, trials and tribulations – but interspersed with many positive moments.
I know many bloggers now will be choosing a focus word for the year and I am looking forward to reading about these.  Over the last month I have been thinking long and hard of what I might like to accomplish in 2018 and unless I suddenly change my mind I have now settled on a focus for this year and all will be revealed soon.
Have a lovely Bank Holiday…back soon x
drEAming, fEAsible, taking stock, trEAsure

sEAsons…time for changes

Snow view

Farmhouse

Bench in the snow

Old door

Kitchen door

And it snowed.
But how beautiful was the view from my daughter’s new house on the day after Boxing day; it was like someone had been out overnight and sprinkled a sifting of icing sugar over the moors.  
At the point when I took these pictures just after lunch it was bitterly cold with a biting wind and icy pathways and the temperature was only just reaching minus one.  Packing the car to come home took quite some time but eventually we were on our way, sad to leave.
So how was your Christmas – did Santa bring you everything you had wished for?
I had a few surprises, nice ones of course.  With my new Country Living subscription from OH came a free box of Hotel Chocolates with a festive theme.  These will be on hand when I can settle down to reading my two new books also from OH –
Nigel Slater’s The Christmas Chronicles  – beautiful photographs and his style a sheer joy to read and
‘Winter’ an anthology for the changing seasons edited by Melissa Harrison.  It is one of a series full of delightful prose and poetry.
I cannot decide which book I should read first or which chocolate I should eat first.

Hotel Chocolates

Christmas Presents

Little L was delighted with her singing Ice Cream Cart from Santa and kept us fully supplied with ice cream cones topped with cherry or chocolate sauce and sprinkles.  What a shame it was only pretend – though our calorie intake, had they been real, would have been enormous.  
I must say I am tempted to put this on my list for next year!

Christmas Presents

We are home again now and today has been a gentle day of doing a bit of this and that.
I like to get the house back in order, but slowly, nothing too hurried or frantic.
I cleared out the fridge of anything past it’s usability (which thankfully was not very much), put in a load of linens and towels to wash (and they have been out on the line in the sun), and cleared up a few messy areas.
After all the mad days of Christmas preparations it was nice to be able to sit and relax and when I do this my mind wanders off to thinking of what I might do in the coming year.
I already know in my mind that 2018 will be a year of changes.  I am not, at this point in time,  altogether sure what they will be but I know I feel like a change in many aspects of my life.
Recently I have been reading a book I can recommend called ‘Small move, big change’ by Caroline I. Arnold.  It claims to transform your life – well maybe it will and maybe it won’t but I like the content and the way she uses something called micro resolutions to do this.  
As I was reading certain chapters I could really identify with the examples she was giving as if she had a secret access to my own life in places and throwing a spotlight on it.  It did make me smile at times as I realised that when you see things written down it allows you to identify with some of the mad things we do and then wonder why we acquire bad habits that keep us stuck or from where we want to be.  And those very habits we have spent a lifetime nurturing can be working against us and are so hard to break.
I have been reading another book with similar ideas about making changes.  It  caught my eye in the library as I glanced along the shelves and I borrowed it mainly out of curiosity because of the strange title – Hell Week by Erik Bertrand Larssen.  I am a fan of all things Scandinavian so knowing that this author is Norwegian only increased that curiosity.
Keeping this summary short the title is a bit of a clue to the content and I can tell you that adopting this method of changing your habits in only one week is the complete opposite of the methods used in the previous book and certainly not for the faint-hearted or wimps like me!  For instance I know that I will not be getting up at 5am everyday to take part in Hell Week – but I would pledge to aim for a more civilised 6.30am – but this might be totally missing the point of this book as it is meant to be gruelling like the special services survival training it is based on.
Like any book it can instigate thoughts and there is always something you can take from a book that you didn’t have or know before.  That is the power and wonder of the written word.
As it seems that I have been drawn towards these books on making changes, and I am in the mood for change, then I will set out on a new journey and see where it takes me.  
I am quite excited.

 

 

crEAting, drEAming, fEAsting, sEAsons

sEAsons…Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Well here we are the day before Christmas Eve and on the last leg to the finishing post –  I feel like I am taking part in one of those wind up santa races that you find in a box of crackers, and going off course from time to time in the same way.

Today I have been baking, making, wrapping and packing.

I have a few bits and pieces to take with me to our daughters – a quiche for Boxing Day, some surprise Lemon Curd (I am surprised I actually got to make it this morning!), the new Christmas Monopoly and one or two books for any quiet moments – with a 3-year-old (who am I kidding!)..

I am a big fan of Miss Read and I shall settle down to reread my very battered copy of Miss Clare Remembers, an all time favourite.

I have had some great moments this month but it has been hard work too and I have many ‘notes to self’ to take heed of next year – one of them being to sort out OH’s presents sooner and the other to let some things go.

When we were invited round to our new neighbours for a Cheese and wine evening recently (with our next door but one neighbours that we are already good friends with) I asked if we should bring anything – ‘just bring yourselves’ they said.

I should have taken notice.

But me being me I spent the afternoon making some of my home-made chocolates to take that I usually make for our neighbour get togethers, and gave each of them one of my home-made cards.  Of course they were all delighted and remarked that they didn’t know where I found the time –  and then realised why I am always pushed for time!

But I do love to make things.

So before I go here is the idea I had for my Christmas decoration instead of a wreath – I used the chicken wire cones I made for my daughter’s wedding that we hung on the gateposts of the church and the old gate at the rear entrance filled with Hydrangeas from our cottage garden.

 I thought they might be nice filled with winter foliage so I gathered some moss from the garden (there is plenty with all this damp weather) and packed out the sides of the cones leaving room for the ‘hidden’ jam jar sunk into the centre where I place the stems.  As you can see I am no flower arranger but I like the casual look.  I could have hung it on the door but I quite like it hung on the contrasting paler brickwork as our door is dark brown.

All that is left now is to wish you all a very Happy Christmas.

It would be nice if it snowed now to make it a good old White Christmas but I think the most we are going to get is a bit of frost!

I have enjoyed reading along with everyone’s blogs this year – the general ups and downs of everyday life – and I am looking forward to joining you again throughout 2018  – so Happy New Year too (if I don’t get back here before then) xx

 

crEAting, drEAming, fEAsting

sEAsons…and since we’ve no place to go

Finally I get to sit down and write.

The whole of December has been far too hectic this year, I am not sure why as I did not plan it to be quite so mad.

We closed the front door last night after saying goodbye to our final pre-Christmas visitors who had joined us for a festive drink and a few nibbles and it felt really good to wake up this morning and not be preparing for something or going anywhere – not even work as I have finished now until the New Year. Yeah.

I pottered around this morning doing the last of the washing and ironing, putting the tags and finishing touches on to the wrapped presents, even taking a few photos for my blog.

Gift wrap

After an early lunch we walked down to the village, dropping off a present or two for friends on the way, and collecting a sprig of eucalyptus and Hypericum berries from the local florist for my front door decoration.

The Flower Box

I decided against making a conventional wreath this year and have done something completely different to hang by the door, but you will have to wait until tomorrow for a photo.

It has been a lovely relaxing day and I have been able to sit back and savour Christmas.

Christmas china

mantelpiece

Nativity

Christmas tree

Christmas tree

The Christmas tree is adorned with mostly vintage baubles going back to the fifties, maybe even earlier, I love the fact that they have been part of our family and displayed on many trees down the generations.  Of course our usual tiny twinkly fairy lights failed this year when we got them on the tree so we had to scramble around and make do with some older ones that used to go outside.

I even attempted making my own Christmas card – I only had a couple of hours to come up with a design and make them so it had to be very simple – it turned out to be a bit of a disaster as you can see but I have included a photo of it here because I like to keep a true record – even of my failures!  My friends who have received them won’t mind – I know I always love to receive home-made cards.

Christmas card 2017

Christmas card 2017

 

Anyway to fill you in on the rest of my Christmas so far… last weekend was spent with much joviality at our family gathering on Sunday at the Black Swan in Fearby by courtesy of the owner – my daughter’s boss.

We had our best Santa hats and jumpers on, plenty of fun and games and our musical interlude…

and quite a few selfies.

Christmas Selfie

I have mentioned before that OH and I have been busy producing a Family Album photo book for my mum and it arrived just in time from the printers to give it to her on Sunday whilst all the family were in one place.  There are over 400 photos in the book covering almost 9 decades from when my mum and dad were children, through to their wedding and our appearance.  There were plenty of family holiday snaps, family weddings and christenings, first cars, Christmas get-togethers and of course many memories of our dear dad, in fact everyone who is connected to our family is in it.

This is the moment we surprised her in a true ‘This is your Life’ style…

Photo Book

Mum was so pleased she shed a tear or two and then at the end of the evening stood up and made a lovely little speech to thank us all and tell us how much these family gatherings mean to her.  In jest someone handed her the selfie frame and here she is holding it while she delivered her thank you speech.  I think this could start a new trend for the Queen’s speech.

Speech

At this same event we were also celebrating my younger daughter and niece’s birthdays and I made them a chocolate cake to share.

I bought some of those candles that spell ‘Happy Birthday’ in silver and gold to go on top but instead of putting them on the cake I wrapped each letter in random order between the layers of the pass the parcel together with a ‘Trivia’ type question and a Celebration sweet.

Chocolate Cake

When the music stopped and a layer unwrapped to reveal another candle letter they had to stick into the cake.  When the pass the parcel finished all the letters were in the cake and ready to be lit…however not necessarily in the right order!!  But it was good fun.

Chocolate Cake

Happy Birthday

After all the hard work I have put in to making Christmas so far I decided I needed a bit of a treat – Neal’s Yard have opened a new shop in Meadowhall – absolute joy for me as I love their Frankincense Intense concentrated serum.  So appropriate for the season – I can certainly feel the love and the assistant dropped a couple of free sachets into the carrier bag – I will skip the price on this one – you can guess it is not cheap.

Neal's yard

The golden pear was something I spotted whilst rushing through Next with my mum on her shopping bonanza – £2 for a bit of Christmas sparkle.

I was also lucky enough to find a copy of L’art de la Simplicite – How to live more with less – a book I read a while ago from the library and decided that it is one to keep should I find it – not only did I find it but it was free at Waterstones with my reward stamps.

So I am truly a happy bunny.

I will be posting one more time before the big day but I would like to say a big happy Christmas to all my readers and to all the other bloggers and friends whose blogs have kept me entertained all year.  I apologise for my lack of comments in the last couple of weeks – I have been reading along with everyone’s Christmas preparations but it has been so difficult to comment on everyone I read.

Thank you also to Simone at Linden Grove for the lovely card I received this morning – what a wonderful surprise – I promise I will be writing to you soon – just be thankful I didn’t send you one of my dreadful home-made cards!!

beach cottage, bEAching, general chit chat

bEAching…a weekend escape

We escaped to our cottage in Scotland for a few days this last weekend – for those of you who are new readers we are camping out now in a static caravan in the garden of our cottage since the flood in 2014 made it impossible for us to use the cottage.

We had already been warned of bad weather up and down the country so went with no expectations of getting in the garden and instead I went prepared with a few indoor jobs and a pile of books and magazines to read.   I actually like this time of year – the place is deserted and kind of bleak looking but it has a beauty of its own in the greyness.

Unexpectedly Friday was dry and sunny, although bitterly cold, and we decided to make the best of the weather and have lunch out and then drive over to Portpatrick and Stranraer and have a wander around before the weather turned.  The shops are well stocked with Christmas gifts and trimmings so much so that I actually wondered who will buy it all.  Many of the smaller gift shops and cafes in the area are only opening at the weekend even over the Christmas season as trade appears to be very slow this year – it is such a shame for these small businesses who rely very much on the extra boost to trade that tourism brings.  We always try to support these shops where we can buying locally and not buying goods down here to take up there.

We stayed indoors on Saturday as the heavy rain forecasted had set in and continued through the night so it was like sleeping in a tin box and because we are so close to the sea the constant roar of the waves crashing around made it even harder to sleep through the noise.

I filled my time trawling through old family photos that, once edited, will be part of a photo book we are compiling to have printed by Blurb books for my mum’s Christmas present.  We did the same for my mum in law some years ago capturing a snapshot of her life and she was really pleased with it.

With hundreds of photos I found it quite hard deciding what to put in or leave out – some of the older photos bring back very happy memories for me as we had so much fun as a family especially in the 1950’s and 1960’s when I was growing up so it was quite a slow job.  I can even remember all the dresses that I am wearing as they were made by my grandma and the cardigans and jumpers knitted by my mum.  Here are just a few of my favourites –

1954 – This is me with my family when I was only a week or two old – note the old-fashioned dustbin and air raid shelter in the background – granddad had turned it into a garden shed…

1957 – Does anyone out there recognise this Lion – could it be in Skegness or Scarborough?

1957 – somewhere in Torquay – Dad (on the right of the picture) used the automatic setting on the camera and we are all laughing as he only just made it into the picture – an early form of selfie!  Wonderful bathing costumes though…

Great Gran (back left) always had her Sunday best hat on even on a picnic – mum in the centre looking glamorous as ever…

1958 – The Promenade at Blackpool – mum and my Aunt in their very fashionable headscarves and me in my knitted Pixie hat!

1958 – One of my favourite pictures my Aunt and Uncle improvising when camping by washing up in the cake tin – we went everywhere with that tent – hardly a deluxe model it looks like it is about to collapse and I think it often did but all added to the fun…

1958 – me again with Spot the dog picking wild flowers (certainly not allowed now) – always into mischief, we did everything together…

1964 – I am 10 years old here and we are collecting the tiny four berth caravan that was going to be our home for over 6 months on the site where Dad built his own house…

and this is the house – quite an achievement – dad had the help of  3 brickies / joiners and laid all the drains himself – whenever we wondered where dad was he would be mixing concrete or digging trenches.  During this time mum fell unexpectedly pregnant with my sister and she was born just after we managed to move in…

1966 – me with my mum and little sister – anyone remember these pushchairs? – pre buggy days – you could sit either way round but it was hard work heaving them on and off a bus.

Ah well enough of the ‘Good old days’ and back to the Christmas preparations – I also began the Advent calendars on Saturday but found they are not as quick to do as I thought and getting the photos for mum sorted has to take priority so we can meet the Blurb book deadline.  I am thinking now that I may have to abandon the calendars until next year.

 

On the positive side we now have our family get together date fixed and it only took about 100 messages to one another via Messenger (what did we do before Facebook) until at last everyone is able to agree on a time, a date and a place which is just as well because there is very few weekends left and I now have only one free weekend to get everything done – the cake, the nut roast and the cards and gifts.

On the decorating side the new bed arrived Monday and the wardrobe doors Tuesday, so now it is just the finishing touches.  The old bed that is to go to my daughter’s house is proving difficult to transport – too big for our estate and the little van my daughter can have loan of is just that…too little!  So we have to find a creative way of squeezing it into our estate – I will leave that job to OH.  If we cannot move it I have visions of it being part of our living room decorations over Christmas so I will just drape some tinsel over it!

This week I am looking to bake the cake and start the Christmas cards.  How are your plans going?

Back soon x