Last night I enjoyed the finale of the Australian soap Neighbours and it was a kitsch and nostalgic celebration of my youth.

Neighbours to me is one of those comforting programmes, it is home and happy, simple times. I haven’t watched it in over 25 years, but it was a constant as I was growing up. It started when my friends and I discovered it in 1987. We were addicted and thanks to a very late school lunch hour and the proximity of school to my friend’s house, we got our parents to approve lunchtime passes and off we went to munch our sandwiches and watch Neighbours before returning to lessons. I moved to a different part of the country in the summer of 1987 and Neighbours was there, my link to my old friends and providing that comfort when I felt lonely. My new friends also loved it and although it was so uncool, I remember listening on repeat to Jason Donovan’s CD in my friend’s bedroom. Neighbours was always there when you needed a pause on homework or revising for exams, 5.35 was that special half hour just before tea, when you escaped to sunny, happy Australia. When I went to work in France for a year, it was Neighbours that I craved to watch back on British tv and I remember asking my mum for the recaps on the phone. Helene et les Garcons was a similar series in France but not quite my Neighbours. As I got older and started work, I watched it far less but it was always one of those programmes you could just dip into and feel good. Sometimes you just need a series that does this, it is familiarity, comfort and nostalgia.

I finally visited Australia in December 2002 to watch the Ashes cricket matches in Melbourne and Sydney. I couldn’t go to Australia and not visit Ramsey Street, or as it is correctly called, Pin Oak Court, so on Christmas day after Christmas dinner, we jumped on a suburban train and headed off to Ramsey Street. I loved every minute of my time on the street, recognising the houses and picturing all the famous scenes. Its one of those things you do that seems a bit crazy but you never regret. We returned 4 years later for more cricket and on one night in Sydney we went to see one of my favourite musicals, Priscilla Queen of the Desert (I loved the film with Guy Pearce aka Mike) As we walked in we saw Toady in the audience, which was just class.

The finale last night was just the perfect mix of nostalgia with flashback clips which I remembered watching the first time, so many cameos and clever touches. For me the story reuniting Mike and Jane (oh how I rooted for Plain Jane Super Brain in the 1980s, I really identified with her rather than feisty Charlene) was the perfect ending I needed. So many characters from my era were featured and it all just felt so warm and comforting. Neighbours wasn’t just a tv show, it was something which grounded me during my teenage and early adult years and I’ll always smile remembering how a simple Aussie soap brought happiness and comfort.


Precious Moments

Its the week before Christmas and I thought I would add a quick post about the little things happening in life, as often its the little things which become the big memories. I love the anticipation of Christmas but this year the feeling is definitely filled with Covid related anxiety. I didn’t get to see my parents last Christmas, so our pre Christmas trip to spend 3 days with them this year was a huge thing to me. I have been desperately following the news, trying to make predications on what rules would come into place and if our trip would be allowed. I’m really grateful it was planned pre Christmas as I think its inevitable that there will be restrictions very soon. However, Monday morning arrived and with 3 negative tests (Mr S was working) our trip was on 🙂

Normally we try to plan and book special events in advance but with the uncertainty we decided to keep our visit simple and home based. It was about being together, playing games, enjoying good food and Christmas lights, you can never have enough of the twinkling lights! On Monday, we arrived in time for lunch and then all snuggled to watch a Christmas film together. Later we drove over to Clevedon so we could see the parks and town lit up for Christmas. The lights are simple but delightful, I got excited by disco balls hanging from the trees and sparkles everywhere, whilst the snowflakes on the floor just make you feel you’re walking through a wonderland. We stopped for a takeaway hot drink in the old town and stumbled along the most fantastically kitsch coffee bar. The Wham poster in the above montage was full size, like the big posters you used to hang on your walls from Athena or record shops. Whilst we couldn’t get onto the pier as it was closed the large wreath on the gates perfectly framed the pier as you looked down. We returned home to an amazing veggie chilli my dad (the chef in the house) had prepared earlier, perfect warming food after a fresh walk.

On Tuesday, we went for a family walk to Weston Super Mare where I found the Keep Going wall art on the walk. I do like these bold phrases decorating large spaces. We then returned home for an afternoon of games. What is more Christmassy than everyone around a table, playing Monopoly with the Christmas chocs open and Jamie Callum’s Christmas album playing? Its these memories which are so simple but so special.

After the chocolates and to get my appetite back for the special dinner, I went for a run and got to see the amazing house decorations round by my parents. Christmas lights are definitely a thing where they live! By a very lucky coincidence, I came across a house that we had seen on the local news the night before. It is stunning, the house has been decorated as a toy shop and the attention to detail is superb. There is a dedication plaque in the garden to say the lights have been done in memory of the house owner’s mum who loved Christmas and who had died last year, it was a beautifully written and uplifting dedication. The owners are also raising money for the local hospice and in reading the article below the reason is very moving.

As I was running, I didn’t have any money on me but as it was close to my parents, my dad and I walked the children there after dinner so they could see it too and I could add a little something to the donation box. With all the other lights on the walk and the dark and crisp evening, it just gave us all the Christmas feels.

Our Christmas meal was lovely, my parents had gone for a Mexican feast as we’re all having a traditional meal on Saturday and it was delicious. My mum also made her homemade crackers, this is a bit of a family joke after the year (probably 35 years ago now) in which we all got tooth brushes in the crackers and weren’t overly impressed! The gifts were much more appreciated this year and my son is made up with his whoppee cushion, he thinks it is hilarious.

This morning was just a late, lazy breakfast type of morning, playing along with Pop Master on the radio and getting things together before we headed home just after lunch. I did pop to the local supermarket very early (7ish) after a request from Mr S to get the one thing missing from our Christmas shop which had been delivered the day before. Of all the random items, it was dishwasher salt that had been out of stock. Our Christmas delivery was very nice timing as I managed to miss the putting away of the Christmas shop where you try to hide the nice bits and fit all the fresh stuff in the fridge. I left with an empty fridge and tonight its full of our Christmas food.

I am so grateful that I got to see my parents this Christmas, it was what I was hoping for but had been quite worried in the preceding days that it would be cancelled. It wasn’t about grand events, it was simply about spending time as a family, those little moments around the table, the funny stories, shared memories of Christmases past, remembering those no longer with us as part of those happy memories and being together. Family is love and belonging.

A bank holiday weekend

During the holidays, there are always special moments, holidays, days out etc.. but sometimes it’s the simple pleasures which enrich life. It’s been the late August bank holiday and we’ve been based at home this weekend. It’s been a hot, hot, sunny weekend so there is no better place to be than the seaside. Rather than write down a diary of our the weekend, I’ll just summarise our fun, a trip to the playground with friends, two trips to the beach, pedalos in the sea (I got a bit queasy!) drawing on the garden path with chalks (strangely addictive) a traditional summer fayre in a local village preceded by a picnic lunch and attending the most beautiful wedding reception at a local castle. It was such a feel good weekend, quality time with family and friends, so many wow moments (especially at the wedding) and a weekend where your face aches from smiling. These are the days you bottle up for the darker or quieter days. Life is a balance, there are happy times and sad, busy and quiet, a happy life is about appreciating the moment.

Simple Pleasures

I love this print which I received on a birthday card last week. Sophie Harding is a local artist whose textile work is often exhibited in our local art gallery, alongside works by her sister, Sasha. Both women are so creative and talented and their work exudes happiness. Many of their pieces are simple tributes to seaside life.

They both have websites which showcase their fantastic work and which I like to browse for inspiration and pleasure. It’s such a simple and easy pick me up, looking and appreciating lovely pieces of art.

The hottest day of the year…

So despite living at the seaside, we decided today we needed to try and go somewhere a little cooler. It’s been a hot, hot week and we’ve enjoyed the beach and the sea but chose to do something different today.

I have an annual membership to a local nature attraction, it’s mainly forest with a spectacular lake so we headed off here to explore and play and of course enjoy a picnic lunch. Although they both argued they were too old, my children humoured me in looking for the fairy doors on the trail. Their preferred activities were making dens and skimming stones. This kept them busy and I was able to sit under a tree and read my book, such a luxury and joy. We were lucky in that trees did provide us with shade and it was slightly cooler.

After our visit we went to a nearby town and certainly felt the difference in temperature. We stopped for an ice cream and may have sat with our feet in the river to cool off. There was a lovely atmosphere at the quay as everyone sat and relaxed in the sunshine. It felt that everyone was simply enjoying the moment, the best thing to do on a bright, sunny day.

Getting things done …


Towards the end of my route, I ran down to this view, the colours of the sea and sky were a dusky grey and pink and it was beautiful

Today was one of those unremarkable days, a day to do chores and get organised on a pretty yucky day, weather wise.  We were all at home today, Mr S had lots of house admin and financial tasks to do (I leave this part of our life to him, he’s great at finding deals, managing finances etc.. although please be assured I’m just as savvy and know all that is going on)  I had housework to do and planning and packing for our break away later this week and two residential trips for the children in the next few weeks, June is going to be a very busy month.  

I started the day with a long (dry) run, it was good, one of those runs where your legs move smoothly and swiftly, you have a great playlist and the view to sea is mesmerising.  After breakfast, we started our jobs and much to their surprise and joy allowed the children to chill with the Wii U so we could get things done.  It was a wet and miserable morning by now, so everyone was keen to be inside.  I had such a useful morning deep cleaning and now I’m ridiculously satisfied with my clean and sparkling cutlery drawers, immaculate surfaces, tidy rooms, empty laundry basket etc.. enabling me to feel so much happier in my environment.  My recent extended work hours mean that the house has been neglected a little and it was great to get on top of it today.  I need a clean and tidy house to feel relaxed and comfortable in my surroundings, its just the person I am.

This afternoon, Little Man and I went over to ‘big town’ for some shopping.  I needed to go to Decathlon for my annual summer shop, UV rash vests, running gear and a sleeping mat for camp. I love the excitement of a Decathlon shop,  on school trips to France as a teacher, we always managed to find one for a quick stop! My son is not the most enthusiastic of shoppers but I felt that we hadn’t had much 1:1 time recently and I needed some time with him.  I let him choose the music and he was happy to chat along in the car, its nearly an hour’s journey so there was lots of time to talk about the important things in his life, Minecraft, cricket, army and as we passed the car garages why I need to get a cool car.  ( Honestly isn’t a C1 cool?) Although he was initially unimpressed by my shopping proposal, when we got to Decathlon he was in element trying so many sports on display, dressing up as a boxer, trying the SUP, it was such a funny trip and an unusual but great mummy / son time.  We popped into Home Bargains for some cheap toiletries as it was too wet and windy to walk the extra hundred metres to Boots and as luck would have it, I found the perfect accessories for Little Miss’ party later this summer.  I’m a bit early, but from experience, I’ve learnt that it is best to pick up something so perfect when you see it.  We are having a watermelon themed party and I’m excited by my new props.

Today was one of those days where everyone seemed to be down about the wet day and being pretty miserable.  My day was so simple but satisfying, life’s not about the big life events but those little things which make you smile.  I smiled today because of a great run, having a clean house, ticking lots off my to dos list and being able to laugh out loud with my son.

Simple Pleasures

It’s a beautiful sunny morning. So far I’ve run 5k, taken the children to swimming lessons in the neighbouring town, picked up a few bits and pieces in the shops and now I’m here in our little secret courtyard with a new book and a cup of tea. This is my happy time, the excitement and anticipation of a new story to discover, characters to root for and an ending to bring the story together. Of course it’s just a quick pause, it’ll soon be time for lunch and then off to town for the pirate festival but do now I’ll enjoy every minute of my reading break.

Happy Sparkles

My little attempt at a yellow/ orange themed collage.

I love that there are pops of colour everywhere as Spring starts to shine through the final days of winter.  I enjoy the promise of this season and feel a bit like Dorothy as she leaves Kansas and arrives in the Land of Oz, life goes from black and white to technicolour. The longer days are arriving and for me this is the return of my early morning runs, this is my time and whilst I struggle to get out of bed the satisfaction and mindset motivate me to throw off the covers.  There’s a lot more colour at home too, my new orange teapot is the one of the best presents I’ve received, the style and colour are perfect and just seeing it makes me smile.  I’ve also treated myself to a new Filofax, the colour and design were irresistible and in my defence, I use it all the time, my life is in my Filofax, if it’s not written in it, then it’s not happening! Spring is my favourite season for cut flowers whether it’s a simple bunch of daffodils or my favourite floral treat, a bunch of tulips and there is always a fresh bunch in the kitchen (the tulips in the picture are on day 6 so a little past their prime but still giving me pleasure). I’m also enjoying reading different types of magazines, I’ve gone from the glossies to more thoughtful, creative publications.  I fell in love with the front cover of the Oh Comely magazine, oranges and yellows are my couleurs de jour.  There’s lots to embrace in the Spring and there is a little skip in my step with the longer, milder days and the blossoming of a new season.

Happy times in my kitchen …


Despite the quality of the photo, the icing was duck blue and the stars silver and purple.

One of my favourite things to do in anticipation of birthdays and special events is to plan the cake. I love baking, the flavour and filling are just as important as the decoration and I am always looking on Pinterest for inspiration and tips. Baking in the kitchen listening to my music is one of my happy times and my cakes are baked with lots of love. Mr S thinks it would be easier and cheaper to buy a shop bought version but that’s just not me, baking a cake for my family brings me real joy and satisfaction.

It’s been birthday season in the Sparkles household so here are our birthday cakes for this year. Little Miss had a glitter ball cake. It was an orange and almond sponge with a white chocolate and orange filling, covered in a turquoise icing decorated with purple and silver stars. A simple but very effective design and delicious flavour.

For Little Man, I made a football cake with a football figure, no 9 Harry Kane who was his world cup hero.  His cake was a lemon and lime marble sponge topped with a green icing and white icing for football pitch markings.  He loved it although I would have preferred something less plain as to me it did look like it was missing a little something.

Whoops I forgot to get a good picture of the cake and most have my Little Man in blowing out his candles.  This is part of the cake, imagine a football pitch with cut out icing letters spelling out his name and age. 

Whilst birthday season is now over, I’m already planning a Halloween cake with a spicy orange flavour and then a special design for Christmas.  I think this has to be the year when I finally make a Christmas cake!

Happy Moments

img_1818Sometimes there are times when life seems tough for those around you and I often send a little card to let that person know that I’m thinking of them.  However today I had one of the most joyous card shopping trips I’ve had in ages for a family wedding, a healthy baby boy and an clear from cancer card.  The last card was just brilliant to be able to buy as its for a much loved and respected colleague from all of us at work.  The atmosphere when we heard the good news yesterday made us all feel so tingly and happy.  It just reminded me that we should all take time to celebrate every piece of good news and simply cherish every day.