Sunday, 28 June 2015

Over 50s' travel: seeing the world in style

Today's featured post is all about thinking slightly outside the box when it comes to travelling. I'd be more than happy to visit any of these fabulous locations, but I think the trip to the Caribbean has my name all over it...
Your days of hitchhiking, buying one-way tickets and roughing it in hostels may be over, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop exploring the world. One great way to rekindle your sense of adventure and wanderlust is to make the most of over 50s travel packages. Think companies like Saga Travel who offer some fabulous tours. There are a host of different itineraries to choose from, and while you're seeing new sights and enjoying different activities, you’ll get to meet plenty of like minded people. To give you inspiration for your next trip, here’s a selection of great holiday ideas.
Soak up some culture right here in the UK
Long-haul travel may be easier than ever, but some of the best experiences can still be found right here in the UK. For example, if you love classical music, why not book a trip in Britain to see a brace of top-class concerts? It’s possible to book packages in places like Bournemouth that include a number of performances, talks and music-related excursions. These trips don’t have to cost you much, and they offer the perfect opportunity to indulge in your hobby.
Explore ancient sights in Egypt
Saga holidays in Egypt
If you fancy something further afield and have a passion for history, perhaps a holiday to Egypt is the one for you. One of the best ways to see this country is by booking a cruise along the Nile. As this vast waterway winds its way through the North African nation, it will take you past an array of fascinating temples, pyramids and cities including many UNESCOWorld Heriatge Sites. You’ll get to see iconic attractions like the Sphinx and the Pyramids of Giza. A popular route runs between Aswan and Luxor.
Relax in style in the Caribbean
For pure relaxation, it’s hard to beat the Caribbean. As well as great weather and beautiful beaches, these sun-soaked islands boast bags of character and charm. For example, in St Lucia you can tuck into creole cuisine in restaurants like Marjorie’s while enjoying the sounds of rhythmic local music, while in Antigua you can get a feel for the region’s history at the colonial fortifications of Shirley Heights.
Release your inner explorer in Borneo’s rain forests
Saga holidays
If you’re keen to release your inner explorer, a trip to the rain forests of Borneo could be perfect. This Southeast Asian island boasts spectacular scenery and intriguing wildlife. While there, you can take tours of the Mount Kinabalu foothills, enjoy river cruises and visit the orang-utans of Sepilok. Other attractions include the Labuk Bay Monkey Sanctuary, Sun Bear Conservation Centre, Gomantong Caves and Kinabalu National Park. The incredible diversity of the flora and fauna on show across this island gives it a truly unique look and feel.
Of course, these are just some of the over 50s holiday options now available. With a little research, you shouldn’t struggle to identify the perfect package for you. Whether you want a quick break in the UK or you’d like to expand your horizons with a trip overseas, there are countless itineraries to choose from. Pick something that captures your imagination!
Images from the Saga website. 


Thursday, 18 June 2015

The Walled Garden at Norton Priory

Norton Priory Walled Garden is one of my favourite places to go when things are a bit hectic, and my head is full of busy thoughts that won't go away.

Entrance to the garden is through what used to be the head gardener's cottage, and immediately you have to choose your path: either a walk along the perennials borders bursting with colour towards a covered terrace, or along the path towards the wilder grassed orchard with the national collection of quince trees. Either way, all paths lead to the central Rose Walk, a long path cutting across the garden and filled with the most beautiful varieties of old roses.  June is the best month for their stunning display, although this year I probably missed their peak by about a week, but I still enjoyed their fading beauty and incredible fragrance.

It's the tranquillity of the Walled Garden that I love, along with the sensory satisfaction of gravel paths crunching underfoot, the fragrance of the roses, and the buzzing of bees, and there are plenty of quiet spaces to sit and think.  Turn a neatly hedged corner and you're likely to find one of the many pieces of sculpture that are dotted around the garden.

I never tire of visiting despite countless visits over the years. It's definitely my happy place.











It's been a long time, but I'm joining in with Annie's 'How does your garden grow?' linky this week, click on the badge below to go to there. If you haven't visited before, do take a look - there are more gorgeous gardens than you can shake a stick at.


Mammasaurus

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Reasons to be cheerful in June

It's a good exercise to reflect on the week's good points, which are usually the simplest of pleasures, and record them. So I thought it was about time I joined in with the Reasons to be Cheerful linky which I've seen on Becky's blog many times, although this is the first time I've joined in, but hopefully not the last.  

1. Peonies

Peonies

Every year when the peonies bloom I'm always amazed by their beauty. The colour is a deep, deep red which doesn't seem to translate well in photos. They look more pinky red in this photo, but in reality they are much richer and darker.  The peony bush is behind a rather large euonymus plant, so I like to bring in a few blooms to enjoy in the house.

2. Nature reserve

I'd been looking for somewhere safe to do recall training with our new greyhound, Alice, when I bumped into two other greyhound owners who recommended a local nature reserve which has a dedicated dog field, completely fenced in, and so perfect for Alice to run off-lead and perfect for the training.

Moore nature reserve


It's only a ten minute drive from our house, but I had never heard of the nature reserve before, so it was like finding a hidden gem.   It has over 200 acres of woodland, lakes, nature walks and meadows and is absolutely beautiful. I can't believe I've only just discovered it, but I suppose better late than never, and I know we'll be regular visitors from now on.

3. Party

Last night I went to a party. That might not seem like much to many people, but for me it was a pretty big deal.  I don't really have a social life, and much of that is down to me, but recently I've been thinking about going out a bit more.  So last night was the first time in a long time that I didn't turn down an invitation. I actually enjoyed getting ready, putting a bit of make-up on, and choosing something to wear. (Note to self: you'll need to buy more 'going out clothes' if this is to continue).  I had a bit of a nervous wobble just before setting off, but I didn't do what I normally do and find an excuse not to go. I went to the party, I enjoyed it, and apart from a bit of a foggy head this morning, I survived in one piece. Go me.

What's made you happy this week?

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Film reviews: Danny Collins, Man Up and Rudderless

Danny Collins
Danny Collins (Al Pacino) is an ageing pop star, well past his sell-by-date but still milking the cash cow by singing his old songs to his similarly ageing fans.  When his manager finds a letter that was written to Danny in 1971 by John Lennon, but which he never received, it gives him cause to reflect on how his life may have turned out if he had received it and taken up Lennon’s offer of support, and decides to make some changes to his life. The drugs, the ‘half-his-age’ women and the party lifestyle all come to a halt and he moves into a hotel to write some new songs, and be near to his estranged son and daughter-in-law (Bobby Cannavale and Jennifer Garner) and make amends for his past misdemeanours. 

Very loosely based on a true story, this film has a lot of heart. Yes it’s a bit sentimental, but it’s not as predictable as you might expect. Halfway thought the film I thought I’d figured out the rest of the storyline in my head only to be wrong about almost everything, which is good.

There’s a lot to like about this film. The cast, for starters, is great.

For this film to work, Danny Collins –  ‘a ridiculous man’ - has to be likeable, and he is: Pacino  is very likeable in the role and I was rooting for him to do the right thing. He has some great dialogue with Annette Bening – the manager of the hotel  – who becomes a friend and potential love-interest, and it’s always good to see Captain von Trapp Christopher Plummer, who plays Danny’s loyal friend and manager.



The other main character in this film is John Lennon, who looms large throughout. His music carries the storyline along beautifully and still sounds as fresh as a daisy. My god, I'd forgotten how much great music he made! I was feeling a bit disappointed not to hear Instant Karma only to be rewarded with it during the credits. Such a great song and a lovely, heart-warming film. 

Man Up
Man up film poster
A single woman is mistaken for someone else's blind date but goes on the date anyway, in this comedy with Simon Pegg and Lake Bell. Pegg plays the same character he plays in every film, and Bell is American but has a perfect English accent.  Rory Kinnear also does a very funny turn as Bell's creepy ex-schoolfriend.

I liked it, didn't love it, but it did have some very funny moments. especially when Kinnear's character is on screen.

It's a 15 rating, but bear in mind that if you take your 15 year old to watch it (like I did) you'll have to sit through dozens of jokes about oral sex. Yep, awkward.

You can view the trailer here.


And finally, a word about a film we watched quite by chance. Rudderless, which is currently on Netflix, is the story of a grieving father who discovers his deceased son's songwriting book and demo tapes. At first he uses the music as a form of therapy but things get complicated when he starts to pass it off as his own work. A really interesting story with great music and an unexpected twist halfway through, we really enjoyed it and were still talking about it a couple of days later. Definitely worth a watch.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Getting a better work/life balance, and other news

Is it really two months since my last blog post? I don't know where the time has gone.....well, that's not strictly true, it's been a busy couple of months with a few changes going on and my blogging mojo going AWOL again. I decided not to worry about it too much, and although I came this close to deleting everything and starting again, I decided not to and so here I am.

One of the changes that's happened recently is that I started a new job in an attempt to get a better work/life balance.  I left my previous job due to the amount of commuting involved (up to 4 hours a day) which was a shame, because I loved the work and the charity I worked for but in the end the travelling became too much.

Gridlock on the M62
Gridlock on the M62 was a regular occurrence. 

My new job is very close to home, and I mean VERY close. In fact it's a very pleasant 15 minute walk from my front door, which takes me to the park entrance at the end of our lane, past the duck pond, along the tree-lined pathway, past the library and into the office. It really couldn't be more ideal in that way, and it means I can see the girls off to school and college in the morning, and I'm always home for tea with them, which wasn't the case before.


Walking to work through the park
My journey to work is much better these days.

In other news, we adopted a new greyhound. I was so devastated when my lovely Tessie passed away, that I decided to volunteer as a walker at the local Merseyside Retired Greyhound Trust kennels.  It didn't take long to fall in love with beautiful Alice (racing name Redwood Alice) and we adopted her at the beginning of March.

Redwood Alice

It hasn't been as easy as our experience with Tess, as Alice has taken a longer to settle in but she is an absolute delight and quite different in character to Tess. Whereas she was laid-back and relaxed, Alice is very active, playful and affectionate. She's a very sweet girl and we're enjoying getting to know her.

So, that's us in a nutshell.  I've got a bit of catching up to do blog-wise, both reading other blogs and writing my own, but I'm ready again.

I'd love to know what's been happening in your life?

Monday, 30 March 2015

Cinderella and the Ladybird

Lily James as Cinderella

This weekend, I managed to persuade Tall Daughter to come to the cinema with me to see Cinderella, the new Disney live action version.  I say persuaded, but chocolate was promised, so you could call it bribery.

We loved it, it's a very charming version of the traditional tale with a terrific cast.  Downton Abbey's Lily James is also perfectly cast as the sweet Cinders, and Cate Blanchett is fabulous as the wicked step-mother.

I couldn't help thinking that whoever designed Cinderella's beautiful ballgown had taken some inspiration from one of my favourite Ladybird books, at least I'd like to think so anyway.


Thursday, 26 March 2015

Sponsored video: Flavours of home

Home cooked food, particularly meals cooked lovingly by your mum, has to be one of life's greatest pleasures.

When I was 19 I went to work abroad for two years, and one of the things I missed most was the food. More specifically, I missed my Mum's home cooking and on the few occasions I went home for holidays or Christmas the first thing I wanted to eat was Mum's Lancashire Hot Pot, or double egg and chips. Fat chips, with dippy yolks, brown sauce and sliced white bread, not the healthiest choice perhaps but it meant home to me. I dare say I could have made both meals where I lived in Germany, but there was something special about the way they tasted at home.

This video shows Carmen who works in the Arctic as a husky guide (what a amazing job!). We see Carmen talking about home and getting a bit emotional, completely unaware that Knorr have flown her mum out to cook her favourite meal for her.  It's a lovely feel-good video, and it gets extra brownie points from me for featuring the gorgeous huskies.




Of course you can recreate the flavours of your favourite meals wherever you are with the right ingredients.  A couple of years ago I followed one of Mum's recipes but the final dish didn't taste quite right until I added white pepper.  Such a simple addition, but that extra flavour made all the difference.

You can find more flavour inspiration on the Knorr website.

Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by Knorr, but all thoughts and words are my own.