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31st December 2006

Sunday - 4.15pm : I guess it's time for a review of my 2006.......

RickyI went to quite a number of concerts this year, which possibly accounts for the tinnitus I've got at the moment. I saw The Darkness in Birmingham, Ricky Martin in London, Take That in both Birmingham and Milton Keynes, Bon Jovi in Manchester, Jerry Lee Lewis in Wolverhampton and Robbie Williams in Milton Keynes.

Seeing Take That live for the first time since 1995 was truely amazing! The moment they arrived on stage the audience exploded into life - people screamed, applauded, stamped their feet, clapped their hands and even shed a tear. Me? My eyes lit up and I had the biggest grin on my face that you'd ever see! 10 years on and the lads have still got it. I've been to many gigs/concerts, but I don't think I've ever seen an arena full of people go that mad before.

I also got to see a couple of stand-up comedians - Jo Brand and Tony Robinson (commonly known as 'Baldrick' in the TV series Blackadder).

MansellIn the Summer I got to go to Silverstone a couple of times. The first time was to see the Grand Prix Masters (I think I jixed Nigel Mansell that weekend!) and the second was to see the British Superbikes..

I won a few competitions, much to my surprise! Back in March I won a George Clooney competition. A big box arrived and inside was a George Clooney calendar, Oceans Eleven and Oceans Twelve on DVD, 2 Martini glasses, a mini Martini cocktail book, 3 bottles of Martini (Bianco, Rosso and Extra Dry) and a bottle of tonic water. I couldn't believe it! In June I won a copy of Whitesnake's 'In the Still of the Night' DVD. In October I won a pair of tickets to attend the world exclusive screening of 'Take That The Ultimate Tour' DVD in London. Unfortunately Take That weren't in attendance, but it was a nice evening and it's always great to spend a couple of days away. See, it can pay off if you enter a few competitions!

Talking of Take That - I got to meet my favourite member Gary Barlow in Manchester while he was doing a book signing. He was so kind and gave everyone a moment of his time. Despite the huge queue, everyone waiting got not only their book autographed but they also got to have their photo taken with Gary. Nice bloke!

Alan TudykI made my annual trip to Collectormania in April/May. I'm a big fan of an 80s movie called The Lost Boys and some of the actors were having a reunion there (including a talk and screening of the film) so I got to meet Corey Feldman (Edgar Frog), Corey Haim (Sam), Jamison Newlander (Alan Frog), Brooke McCarter (Paul - I had a very nice chat with him just before I left), Billy Wirth (Dwayne - Couldn't be nicer!), Chance Michael Corbitt (Laddie - All grown up now!). I also got to meet Whedon-verse actors Anthony Head (Giles in Buffy), Ron Glass (Shepherd Book in Firefly/Serenity) and Alan Tudyk (Book in Firefly/Serenity). Ron & Alan also did a talk before a screening of Serenity. As usual it was a good weekend!

Health-wise - June saw me have a load of blood tests, including 2 on my birthday! In July I had to have a procedure called a flexible sigmoidoscopy. It's not the most pleasant of procedures, but since I was sedated throughout the procedure I found the prep beforehand worse (2 sachets of powder to mix with 2 litres of water, which was to be taken within 3 hours. It tasted disgusting!). After that and a follow-up consultation in November with the specialist I was told I've got IBS (which is pretty much what I thought anyway) and at the beginning of this month I discovered I'm also lactose intolerant. The replacement soya products seem to be doing the trick though. In good news, Dad received a letter from the hospital to confirm he is now officially cancer free!

A postcard advertising Hadfield's Special Turnip ManureThis year I have also immersed myself in a new hobby - family history. Through talking to several family members, using various online facilities and going out to visit a few places; I have managed to follow a few family lines back to the early 1800s and sometimes beyond. I have also learned more about ancestors' lives and where they lived. I've even made contact with long lost relatives! It's such an interesting hobby and there's always more to learn.

I think that's about it for 2006. Here's looking forward to 2007! I already have a few things organised, including seeing James Marsters in London.

I wish you all the best for 2007! Happy New Year!

Thanks to Andrea, Liza Marie, Claire, Cyberevolution, Miss M, Terri, Sueellen, G-Man, Fizzy and Suzanne.

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28th December 2006

The View PointThursday - 9.45pm : The weather was beautiful today. I couldn't resist going out for a walk and taking some photos. The problem was where to go?! I settled for Nesscliffe Country Park. It's only 45 minutes away from here and I'd never been before. My parents are keen on walking, so they came too.

I took the directions from the website and it's a good thing I did! While the village of Nesscliffe is very easy to find, the country park itself isn't signposted until you get there. Actually, the walks around the park are barely signposted. Maybe Shropshire County Council can't afford signposts!

After parking the car and looking at the map board by the gate, we decided to take the green path by following the green arrows on the signposts. The problem was that we'd come to a fork in the path and there'd be no signpost to show which way we were supposed to go. So we'd have to guess. We made it to both Kynaston's Cave and the View Point, so I think we must have guessed right.

It was relatively easy to get to Kynaston's Cave (named after Humphrey Kynaston who lived from 1474-1534). Unfortunately, the steps up to the cave are no longer usable and there is currently no other way of getting up to it (although there used to be some temporary wooden steps), but there will be some new steps soon.

We then followed the path around and up to the top of the rock. This was the most challenging part of the walk for me. The series of sandstone steps to the top aren't the best of steps as it is, but it was the huge drop on the right hand side that got me! There is a sturdy fence between the path and the huge drop, but that didn't stop me keeping to the lefthand side of the path while holding on to anything and everything I could on the way up. I'm scared of heights and that was one seriously big drop! There was a nice view when I dared to look back though.

Another fork in the path with no signpost, so we took the path to the left thinking it should take us to the View Point (which I assumed would be somewhere above Kynaston's Cave). After a while I managed to spot a signpost which showed we were going in the right direction. We walked through a picnic area (and wished we'd taken something more withus than a bottle of pop!) and up to the Viewing Point.

We didn't stop long at the Viewing Point (as a group of walkers were sitting down to a picnic), but I did stop long enough to take a photo (see above). The views from up there are fantastic!

Again, a lack of signposts meant we had to guess which path lead back down to the car park. I suppose heading downhill we were bound to end up back at the car park at some point! I assume we'd taken the right path as it wasn't long before we were back at the car.

I'd definitely go to Nesscliffe Country Park again and I'm planning on going sometime in the spring/summer when the leaves and flowers are in bloom. There are a range of paths not just for walkers, but for cyclists and horseriders too. I just hope the signposts will be sorted out soon (most were broken or even missing altogether).

More of my photos can be found at Flickr.

Thanks for comments go to Uisce, Jessica, Mike and Jean-Luc Picard.

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27th December 2006

Wednesday - 9.15pm : I hope everyone had a good Christmas! We had the usual Christmas at home with my Nan & Granddad. My brother & sister-in-law also joined us for part of the day. They arrived just as we'd sat down for Christmas dinner (which is what I'd predicted they'd do!). As usual the table was over flowing with delicious food (made by Mum), so there was more than enough to go around.

Mum & Dad gave me a coat (but I've had that a month now as I was in desperate need of a new coat!), Charley Boorman's Race to Dakar DVD, a Who Do You Think You Are? family history book, a diary and some dairy free sweets. I also received (from various family members and friends) 2 mugs (each with a little cuddly toy and sweets in them), perfume, sweets (dairy free ones), Mission Impossible III DVD, a Collins Tracing Your Family History book and some money. So I got a good stash of presents this time around. The DVDs and books will keep me busy and I've got some sweets I can actually eat!

Everyone seemed happy with the presents I gave them, Granddad especially. I gave Granddad a cuddly owl doorstop. He said it was too good to use as a doorstop and showed it to everyone who came through the door. I was really pleased at that. I surprised Mum by giving her a brooch. She already knew I'd got her a filofax, so I decided to surprise her with something else too. My first choice was earrings, but the brooch caught my eye. Before she opened the box she thought it was earrings, so it was great to see her face when she saw it was a brooch. I'd spent a bit more than I'd intended to, but it was well worth it.

On Christmas morning the cats played with the wrapping paper, but by the afternoon Mika wanted in on the unwrapping action. My brother & sister-in-law had left Nan & Granddad's wrapped present on the floor. It was box-shaped so Mika must have assumed it was for him. He walked up to it and started ripping the paper. If I hadn't have caught the cheeky feline the present would have been unwrapped before my grandparents got to it! Leo, on the other hand, spent most of the day sleeping and only really made his presence known when everyone else had gone home. Quite unlike Leo, he usually wants attention.

Boxing Day (yesterday) was pretty much spent in front of the TV or the computer. It's a wonder my eyes aren't square! Today has been very much the same (apart from a trip out to the supermarket). I've had a bit of a bad stomach so didn't really feel like doing much. Tomorrow I aim to go out and take some photos. Where? Not sure yet. Of what? I haven't a clue! I just hope the weather is OK.

Right then, I'm off to watch Torchwood. Thanks to Old Old Lady Of The Hills, Karen, Terri, Craziequeen, Andrea, Liza Marie, Claire, G-Man, SNiP, Jax and Kevin.

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23rd December 2006

Saturday - 9.15pm : At last! I'm sat here with my favourite tipple (Malibu & Coke), having finally finished my Christmas shopping and getting everything wrapped. Ready before Christmas eve? Blimey! I just hope I haven't forgotten anything!

Following the Christmas theme, I have a couple of website recommendations for you...

Norad Tracks Santa 2006 - This is a great one for the kids. Visit the website on Christmas eve and track Santa as he makes his way around the world. It includes little video clips as Santa passes famous landmarks etc. (It may also be a great way of getting the kids in bed before Santa visits!).

Santa Claus Live - Even the big man has his own website! You might even be able to catch him on his webcam or live video feed. Of course, he might just be a bit busy tomorrow!

I booked Thursday and yesterday off work (and I don't go back in until the new year!). I visited a friend in Ludlow on Thursday. I delivered her Christmas card & present and she cooked me a lovely lunch. I was there all afternoon and we had a good old chat while watching a few episodes of Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place (giving us our Nathan Fillion fix).

I spent most of yesterday in town. The morning was spent with Mum, getting some last minute things for Christmas (including lactose-free custard and lactose-free cream!). Then I had to drive her home and rush back to town in time to meet a couple of friends for lunch. We had a pub lunch and a long chat before taking a walk around the shops. One friend had to get going, but two of us decided to go for a couple of Christmas drinks (non-alcoholic as we were both driving). It was good to have a catch-up.

The dairy free chocolate I'd ordered arrived the other day. I must admit the Dairy Free Vegan Organic & Fair Trade Milk Chocolate tasted more like plain chocolate to me (a little less cocoa solids needed, maybe), so I was a little disappointed at that (but then we can't have everything, can we?). However, the Dairy Free Vegan Organic & Fair Trade White Chocolate Bar was spot on. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone on a dairy free diet. I've also found some gluten and dairy free chocolate chip cookies in Morrisons supermarket (they are part of Morrisons' "free from" range). They're pretty good too.

If I don't write before the 25th... Have a wonderful Christmas with your family/friends and don't forget to be in bed before Santa visits!

With thanks to Andrea, Utenzi, Mark, Liss, Teena and Jem.

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19th December 2006

Tuesday - 10.15pm : I'm still alive! It's the run up to Christmas so I've been a bit busy. I'm still not finished with Christmas shopping, but luckily I've booked Thursday and Friday off work so I'm sure I'll get it finished in time.

HarleyI visited Liss and her family over the weekend. I went over on Friday and came back Sunday afternoon. I took over some Christmas presents for everyone and we had a bit of a mini-Christmas (but without the decorations etc!). Harley enjoyed the presents I'd given him (a Leappad system with books, so he can have fun and learn at the same time) and he loved the 2 colour changing ducks (to go in the bath) my Dad sent over for him. Harley took them to bed with him that evening and still had them with him the next morning! It's a wonder the batteries didn't run out over the weekend. I gave Lisa a gift box of presents, containing 6 books, a sketchpad and an angel (everything in that box was a bargain, so she got a lot for not so much money). I gave Gareth a tub of chocolates as I don't like to leave him out, although he was instructed that he wasn't allowed to eat them until I'd left. Lisa gave me Mission Impossible III on DVD and a hardback book about researching family history. I can't wait to get stuck into that. On Sunday morning we took a walk around the local market and had an early lunch while we were there. So thanks to Lisa, Gareth & Harley for a good weekend!

As for Christmas Day itself, I'm not entirely sure what's happening this year. Every Christmas my grandparents have always come over to spend the day with us. This year it may be a little different. Granddad has just had an eye operation so won't be able to drive. There's not much of a problem with that as I've offered to do the 45 minute drive to pick them up in the morning and take them back in the evening. Only there's another problem. The doctors recently changed Nan's medication and she's really having a rough time of it at the moment, so she may not be well enough to travel. So I'm not sure what's going to happen, but I'm determind to see my grandparents on Christmas Day even if I have to drive over there with Christmas dinner and presents!

I may once again be able to eat Chocolate! I've found some dairy free chocolate at A Lot of Chocolate and ordered bars of Dairy Free Vegan Organic & Fair Trade Milk Chocolate and Dairy Free Vegan Organic & Fair Trade White Chocolate. So not only will it not make me ill, but it's also organic and Fair Trade. Something else I've found is dairy free fudge by Fudge Kitchen, but I just don't think I can justify spending that much on fudge. It looks delicious though!

Talking of chocolate... Today I was given 2 boxes of chocolates as gifts - one was from work and the other from a customer. Looks like my family will be eating a lot of chocolate over Christmas! Still, I should have my dairy free chocolate by then so I won't be missing out on chocolate.

As a side note... It's been all over the national papers and the news about our local MP. Lembit Öpik has dropped Sian Lloyd the weather presenter and is now going out with one of the Cheeky Girls! Well, good luck to them! I wonder if we'll be seeing the Cheeky Girls about town now...

Thanks to Liss, Claire, Miss M, Utenzi, Rob, Liza Marie, Mark, Jessica, Corinne, Jax, Teena, Chickadee, Karen, Andrea, Uisce and Kimananda.

P.S. - I'll try and get Blog Fodder done in my next entry.

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10th December 2006

Sunday - 7.45pm : I went to my first Christmas dinner/party of the year last night. It was the dinner for a motorcycle club (in which Dad is the chairman) and I got my dinner free as I'd been asked to do some photography while I was there. Most of the evening was good, but the dreaded lactose intolerance reared it's ugly head when I decided it wouldn't hurt to have some leek & potato mash with my roast turkey. By the time I'd finished my meal my face had turned bright red. I felt incredibly hot and like I was going to be sick. I rushed to the toilets and stayed there for 5 minutes or so, but, thankfully, I wasn't sick. I made my way back to the table, but stayed clear of the desserts. Actually, Dad got me to order one and he ate it after he'd finished his! (I bet his belly will be expanding over Christmas!).

Staying on the theme of lactose intolerance... I was wandering around a local supermarket and managed to find some peach soya yoghurts and some soya cheese. So now I'm able to pretty much cover a lot of foods I'd had to cut out (as you can use the soya milk to replace normal milk in recipes). I can't praise Alpro Soya enough. Most of their soya products taste like the real thing.

I've finally got some plans for next year. James Marsters will be in the UK in May for "Spring Fever" and I could hardly miss that! So I've booked tickets for the Spring Fever event in London (which is limited to 130 tickets and, of course, is sold out), his gig at Union Chapel, London (which looks beautiful) and for his talk at Collectormania in Milton Keynes. Should be good!

My only plan for the rest of this month/year (apart from spending Christmas with family) is to visit Lisa in Melton next weekend. We tend to have a mini-Christmas the weekend before Christmas. I'll be taking over a bunch of presents for Lisa & Harley and not forgetting some chocolate for Gareth, and spending some time with them.

On a side note... Take That are still number 1 on both the UK singles chart and the UK album chart!

Thanks to Craziequeen, Liza Marie, Liss, Jessica, Mike, Judy, Moogie, Xtel, Andrea, Uisce, Claire, Rob and Gopher.

P.S. - There's a new Blog Fodder topic tomorrow if anyone wants to join in!

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4th December 2006

Monday - 8.45pm : I've now got a fridge full of Alpro Soya products and they're not as bad as I thought they might be. I haven't tried the milk yet, but I did have a carton of Banana flavour shake and it was pretty much like any other shake. I've also tried a pot of the chocolate dessert and I couldn't really tell the difference between that and any other chocolate dessert. So that's good!

Blog Fodder has announced this week's topic and guess who it was submitted by? Me! This week's topic is:

"Tell us about somebody who has changed your life, even if just a little bit."

My somebody is a friend - Lisa. Some friends come and go, but few stay for the long haul. We've known each other for nearly 8 years now and we met through her brother Paul. Lisa's been there through break-ups, illness and just general moaning, even when she's been having a tough time herself. If she disagrees or she's got a problem then she tells it as it is. She's not afraid to tell me what she thinks. Lisa's a good laugh and I think she's generally helped boost my confidence. She might live 3 hours away, but that hasn't stopped us being friends. Both Lisa and her family have always made me feel welcome and it's always a pleasure to see her.

Take That have made it to the top of the UK album chart with their brand new album Beautiful World! They're also still at the top of the UK singles charts with Patience. The first time they've topped both charts at the same time! Really, this is an album to check out and listen to all the way though (even the hidden track 'Butterfly' at the end).

Thanks for comments go out to Kenju, Karen, Liss, Jean-Luc Picard, Bob-kat, Miss M, Andrea and Jolynn.

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2nd December 2006

Saturday - 8.15pm : Today is the day I say goodbye to chocolate. Not just chocolate, but milk and cheese too, anything with lactose in it. Giving up milk & cheese is relatively easy, but chocolate? And just before Christmas too!

Yesterday afternoon I ended up having to go and see a doctor. My neck and chest had turned red and I couldn't stop itching. My tummy had already started to turn pink and the last time I had a rash like this it went all over and the itching was torture. The doctor said it's most likely due to a food intolerance (why am I not shocked?) and, considering what I'd eaten yesterday lunchtime, most likely lactose intolerance. The Gastroenterologist had mentioned lactose intolerance when I saw him a couple of weeks ago and this reaction has made me take notice, so I'm cutting it out my my diet. (Obviously, it'll creep in every now and then, but I'm sure that won't hurt). Anyone got any lactose-free recipes?

I did a bit of Christmas shopping today. I've now sorted out little Harley's presents and I've already got Lisa's Christmas box. Dad has had his present already as it was combined with his birthday present (I'll get him a little surprise so he's got something to open on the day), but I need to get everyone else sorted out and there's not much time! Hmmm... I'd best get and do some online "window" shopping!

Thanks to Amanda, Andrea, Liza Marie, Claire and Chrissie.

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