Well, thank you so much for all your lovely messages this last week. Not only great to catch up on all the news, but exciting to get so many entries into our Graceland draw! All the correct answers (and yes, you were ALL correct!) have gone into the hat and a winner will be announced at the end of this blog.
I was going to add that I'll make sure I protect the mug with half a mile of bubble wrap, but considering it survived baggage control in Nashville, Toronto and then Heathrow, and the luggage hold of two rather large aeroplanes, I reckon it's made of pretty strong stuff
Isn't it great to be able to plan ahead for barbeques and days out now that we're enjoying such a fabulous summer? First date in the diary after our return was to celebrate several things at once – my step-dad Joe's 80th birthday, my mum's 78th birthday and their 25 years together.
Initially we were planning to have the 'do' at my house but, as my Aunty Eileen (who is 90) was coming and we have no downstairs loo, we changed the venue to mum's :) I did, however, offer to make a cake to mark the occasion, but then had to decide how to decorate it in a way that would encompass all three events – not easy!
I've been making 'novelty' cakes since my children were little and although they're usually pretty large, I've never invested in dedicated cake tins – instead I use a roasting tin, and bake in two batches I decided to theme the cake with interests that both mum and Joe share, and in case you can't make out the photograph, everything was made with icing, and includes produce from their allotment and their cat Murphy, with a heart for their anniversary of course!
It took 12 eggs to make it and over five hours to decorate, but they were both really pleased, and I was thrilled that it tasted good too!
But the highlight for me was having so many of us together in one place. Two of Joe's children were able to make it, and also my sister and her two daughters, my cousins, aunt, and my three children too. I thought you may like to see Lucy's new chap, Simon, who is delightful, and got on very well with everyone there… The group photo at the top of the post is actually the last of about 20 that Colin took in quick succession, which shows how useless we all are at pulling the right faces at the right time
The whole day was such a happy one, the sun shone, the sandwiches were superb and I'm hoping very much that we can arrange another date before the end of the summer.
The following week was when I got my Christmas present from Colin – a night out at the 02 being entertained by Michael Buble! He'd bought the tickets way ahead of time and they weren't just ordinary tickets, they were eight rows from the stage!!! I was beside myself when I realised, as were the other women in Area A
The thing about Mr. Buble is that he is an all-round entertainer and has universal appeal. It's not just doe eyed women of a certain age who go there to hear him sing, it's teenagers through to pensioners – and almost half the audience were male. About an hour into the concert he tends to go walkabout, surrounded by huge security guards, and had it not have been for someone's arm pushing down on the top of my Ken Paves (not a euphemism but a hair piece!), I might have even have touched the hem of his jacket!! Nothing could have spoiled the evening for me though, and as I sang my way through all the classic ballads, with Colin's arm around me, I couldn't have been happier
Of course the final musical event – and for us probably the biggest – was Colin's appearance on stage at Americana – the UK's biggest Country Music Festival. The organiser had actually invited him to play there having heard his album, and how lucky were we with the weather?! It was a scorcher, and I was truly grateful for my cowboy hat, but less so for my boots, which, although beautiful, I had to heave off as the temperatures hit the 90s (I still have the blisters!)
It was the first time Colin had ever fronted a band on stage like this and for the other band members, the first time they'd ever played a gig like it! Well, they were brilliant and, call me biased, but I think they knocked spots off much of the competition
It was like a mini version of the CMA's in Nashville, and the audience were equally receptive. In fact after they'd played, quite a few came to meet the band and to buy the album, which was very exciting! I think they're guaranteed a place there next year
I've managed to spend a fair amount of time in the garden over the last week, catching the rays and weeding the patio to within an inch of its life, but also nurturing my lilies! You may not be aware, but all the QVC presenters were given lily bulbs, a pot and compost. The challenge? To grow one of the best new, versatile patio lilies! At the end of this month our efforts will be judged by the Thompson & Morgan team and the winner will have this lily named after them! HOW EXCITING IS THAT?!
I have been lavishing my 10 bulbs with sunshine and Richard Jackson's Flower Power, and personally think they're pretty impressive – this picture was taken about four days ago, so they're even taller now! It's just a race against time to get the bloomin' things to flower, but with several more weeks of this glorious weather promised, I think I may be in with a chance.
Well, I think that's all my news for now, but look forward – as always – to hearing from you and hope very much that you are enjoying, and not struggling in, these incredibly warm temperatures. As my mum said, it's not for everyone!
Before I go, I'm happy to announce that the winner of my Elvis mug is Patricia Cochrane! Glad to hear you enjoy my blog, Patricia, and I'll be in touch soon to get your postal address.
With my love, Ali