Highclere, happy days and holidays

35

I had the weirdest dream last night that involved me being locked in the Great British Bake Off tent when I was due on air for a Skechers show, and stressed to the gills because my son Jack was due his next feed!! The fact that it’s my son Jack’s 25th birthday today is the only relevance I can attach to the dream, but let’s just say I was glad when I woke up! I hope you’ve managed a better night’s sleep, and I’m glad to see from your recent comments that you’ve seen off the worst of the coughs and colds. Thanks as always for keeping in touch 


Bitterly cold again here this morning, but after a clearish night when I took this photograph of the moon, we’ve got one of those bright blue sunny skies. In fact it’s identical to the day I went with my sister Jenny and her class from school to visit Highclere Castle for the Egyptian Exhibition they have set up in their cellars. I’d stayed overnight with Jenny as she lives and teaches in Hampshire, and we needed to pick the school bus up at 8.30am! She’s got a special licence to drive these 20 seaters, and I take my hat off to her for having the gumption to take the wheel!

I had trouble working out how to open the side doors, and the thought of reversing in a tiny car park with a van full of 10 year olds filled me with dread. But she’s a pro, and led our convoy of four vehicles all the way to Highclere. I did my bit though as keeper of the sick bucket, and even managed to Google 10 Unknown Facts about Tutankhamun, which I duly got the children to try and answer. Jenny’s teaching abilities shone through as they got more than just a few correct, and it taught me a thing of two about the young king – just nine years old when he took to the throne as Pharaoh.


As we rounded the corner of the driveway and saw the Castle for the first time, I could hear the Downton TV theme playing in my head. If anything the building is even more impressive in real life than through the clever eye of the camera. We were given a tour of the gardens before seeing the Egyptian exhibits and I managed to take these photos – it’s beautiful isn’t it?


The children were divided into groups of four and while one lot looked around the Exhibition itself, we were taken to an activity room where the children dressed up as Egyptians, wrote their names in hieroglyphics, and used rubber stamps to recreate some of the fabulous symbols of the time. Then it was our turn, and we filed into the cleverly constructed rooms that were filled with artifacts gathered by the 5th Earl of Carnarvon during his 16 years searching for Tutankhamun’s tomb. The actual tomb, body and mask remain in Egypt, but the replicas at Highclere were fantastic! Our guide explained the history behind the young king, and showed us some incredible jewellery collections made from silver, bronze and of course gold. There were more practical pieces like pots and cookware, but all in very good condition considering their age. Incredible to think they were made all those years ago. The children loved the description of how bodies were embalmed, particularly the bit about hooking the brains out through the nose! My favourite part of the exhibition though was when we were all given a tiny candle (faux of course!) and then guided into a very dark area which had a brick wall at the back of it. In the wall were openings like letter boxes, simulating the small hole made by the explorers to enable them to see into the tomb. As I peered through the man-made gap and my eyes became accustomed to the dark, I saw an unbelievable collection of treasures! Gold chairs, a huge golden lionesses and a cheetah, jewellery, statues and other practical things to help the King in the afterlife. It was honestly breathtaking. Howard Carter was the first to witness all this in 1922, and when Lord Carnarvon, who was right behind him asked him if he could see anything, he replied “Yes, wonderful things.” Sadly I couldn’t take any photos from inside the exhibition, but I would highly recommend it for a fabulous day out.


As you’ve probably gathered I’ve taken a few weeks off just to catch up on things at home and to see the family. We always seem to be stretched for time, and this had made it easier. I’ve already seen Lucy and Honey, and we’ve got a few days together at the end of next week too. On Saturday Colin’s son Richard is coming to stay with his girlfriend Jordanna (who’s a huge QVC fan ) and we’re going out for dinner. Today is Jack’s birthday and so I’m meeting him and hopefully Sam for lunch after I’ve seen the physio. Hard to believe Jack’s 25 today. My youngest child, and my biggest baby weighing in at 10lbs two and half ounces! Not sure what that is in grams, but I can tell you he was a whopper!  I’m very proud of my boy, as he’s managed to keep his head above water during what’s been a really difficult year, but I feel that now the tide is turning for him. It’s so much easier when they’re little and you can just kiss and make it better…


Being at home has meant I’ve had more time to do all those long overdue jobs like clearing the fridge, sorting out my kitchen cupboards, and catching up on the ironing! I don’t think I’d manage it if I didn’t have the Morphy Richards steam iron. My shoulder still isn’t quite right since surgery.


I’ve also had time though to cook, and I made this fab Sicilian squash and chickpea stew the other night. It’s a Jamie Oliver recipe, and is delicious. Really easy too in just one pan – thank heavens for my Cook’s Essentials! I’ve also made banana bread for Jack. His request for a birthday cake this year  I went to see mum on Monday which was lovely, and she’d made her own leek and potato soup for lunch, and then Bolognese for supper. I think I may be several pounds heavier when I return to work 

I’ve got my six month check up with my oncologist too, which I’m hoping may become just once a year as it’s seven years today since my first mastectomy. Hard to believe so much time has passed, but there’s not a single day goes by when I don’t thank my lucky stars for still being here…


I love getting outdoors as you know, and I’ve squeezed in a few walks although it’s been a bit muddy underfoot, and most days I’ve managed my 10,000 steps on my Fitbit! I took this picture on an otherwise grey day when the sun unexpectedly shone through. Of course I have a much longer journey to take to the other side of the world for my niece’s wedding in April, and Colin and I have almost worked out our itinerary. Watch this space….


Even though I’m not at QVC you can write to me here on the blog, and I’m constantly on Twitter @alikqvc, so if you follow me you’ll be able to stay ahead of the game with our special events and Today’s Special Value’s. Talking of which, the Diamonique Design of the Month I featured in my last blog is now available and absolutely stunning. If you truly appreciate beautiful jewellery, you won’t want to miss this.

I’m back on Sunday the 11th February at 9pm with some Home Solutions but will start the new week at midnight when our TSV is from the fashion label Grace – a batwing chiffon overlay tunic top. The item number will be 193621 and it will be a really great price too!

I’ll look forward to seeing you then, but in the meantime, stay warm, stay well, and stay in touch 

Love Ali xx

35 Comments

  1. Christine February 5, 2018 at 7:07 pm -  Reply

    Hi Ali There nothing like a home cake. I have one recipe just put all ingredients in a pan then boil 5 mins put in a tin then in the oven.
    Hope everything is ok. My husband is going on Friday for his check up. It will be four years. Time flies as you say.
    It will be our Ruby wedding in March. I can’t believe it, it feels like yesterday.
    Hope your shoulder gets better.
    Take Care X

    • Alison Keenan February 10, 2018 at 7:05 pm -  Reply

      Loving the sound of being able to put all the ingredients in one pan and then baking! My mum used to have a boiled fruit cake recipe that was like that – very difficult not to eat it while it was still in the pan though! Gosh four years for you and your husband… as you say time moves so quickly, and wonderful to know that you still have each other 40 years on from the day you wed – many congratulations! Thanks so much for keeping in touch, and I hope the check up was positive, with love, Ali xx

  2. Jan minnock February 5, 2018 at 8:32 pm -  Reply

    Glad you are enjoying time with family. Lovely photos. Hope all goes well at check up you are an inspiration.

    • Alison Keenan February 10, 2018 at 7:07 pm -  Reply

      Dear Jan, so glad you enjoy the blog, and thank you for your kind words. I’ll let you know how things are, it I’m sure it’ll be fine. Take care love Ali x

  3. Christine Auchterlonie February 5, 2018 at 11:42 pm -  Reply

    Hi Ali… Another informative blog you do have a busy and full life I know what it’s like to have to try and juggle family,work,appointments and keeping up to date with friends etc..I’ve done it most of my life whilst very rewarding it also catches up with you…so I don’t blame you having time off! I hope your appointment with the oncologist goes well..please let us know how you get on …I did an Egyptology course many years ago and found it fascinating …and would love to go to Egypt and visit all the places of interest I learnt about the Pyramids and would love to sail on the Nile …it sounds as if you had a great day with the children and your sister….I’d love to see The Tomb of Tutankhamun . Love the pictures of Honey and pleased you have had time to catch up with your family! I have purchased the Diamonique design of the month as a gift for someone…just waiting for it to arrive.Simon is going to Toronto next weekend on business ..very cold there at the moment…Jessica will be going into 6th form after the summer she has her 16th birthday in March and Katy will be 14 in September it doesn’t seem very long since I was pushing them in the pram😂Not long now really before your trip to Australia for the wedding quite a journey but something to focus on….Well Ali look forward to seeing you on February 11th after your break….take care and let us know the outcome of your check up… With love Chris x

    • Alison Keenan February 12, 2018 at 8:10 pm -  Reply

      Hi there Chris, how fascinating that you actually studied Egypt and its history! Something I think I’d love to do. I think it’s something you should possible plan for the years ahead. I’m sure your family would enjoy being with you on that trip down the Nile! I have had a lovely time with my children and the family generally, and you’re right, it’s trying to catch up with all those appointments and dates that wears you out when it’s a juggling act. Appointment now not until March, but I will of course let you know. Gosh, hard to believe that Jessica will be going to 6th form this September. Honey will start nursery that very same month. And to think that Katy will be 14 years old then.. they don’t stay little for long do they. Honey is so grown up and our conversations are hilarious. I love every minute I spend with her and Lucy, and I know that although Australia will be fabulous, it’s a long time away from home…. I hope you’ve managed to enjoy the sunshine, although I know it’s been very cold, and that you have proof in your garden that spring is on the way. Take care Chris, love Ali xx

  4. Joanna Downey February 6, 2018 at 8:31 am -  Reply

    Morning Ali, I could have addressed you as ‘admin’, the new person who wrote your blog for you! As always you’ve included some fabulous photos & Highclere against that stunning blue sky looks spectacular, as does the moon showing through the clouds. I love the moon, probably told you because I tell everyone & last week’s supermoon was a treat as was the programme ‘Wonders of the Moon’. It’s nice to have days to catch up, unfettered by the usual routines of daily life, & very important to have time with those we love. After years of having our children with us every day catching up with them once they move out is not only a joy but a necessity. On the subject of family your Honey is looking so much like Lucy, especially in the first photo. My flu is over & I’ve started my first retirement project of clearing the front garden. This HUGE task has been forced on us because of horsetail weed that has loved the plants & chippings garden we had & has spread under the drive to the edge of the house. I’ve read so much on the subject I could give a talk to any gardening club about this horror & the bottom line is that we have to get the PH balance much higher & then have a lawn. Time is ticking as the spores appear in April but the weather is making a hard task even more difficult. Hey ho we did forget it last weekend when we went up to London to see The Mavericks at the Palladium, they were outstanding & I loved that beautiful theatre. We’re seeing them again at Symphony Hall on Thursday, followed by The Sixteen at Worcester Cathedral on Friday… Think I’ve gone on for long enough, I’ll send lots of positivity your way for your check up & see you soon on the Q. Love from Jo x

    • Alison Keenan February 12, 2018 at 8:18 pm -  Reply

      Dear Jo, lovely to hear from you, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the photos. I like you have a fascination with the moon, and hadn’t realised last year when the Supermoon popped up, that it was even going to be shining that night. I was on my way back from seeing Lucy in Swindon, and it was almost as wide as both lanes of the M4 – or so it appeared! I have recorded the ‘Wonders of the Moon’, although surprisingly in spite of my time off, I’ve not had a chance to watch it.

      I am really glad to know that you are now well and truly over your flu. It must feel liberating to be able to get out there with your broom, secateurs and rake, and tidy up your front garden! I don’t envy you the horsetail weed though. I remember years ago when I lived in Molesey in Surrey our garden was full of it! The bane of my poor mum’s life. I’ve even see it break it’s way through tarmac! I wish you the best of luck with it.

      I am sooooo envious (dreadful really but true) to know that the Mavericks have been out there giving us their all, and I’ve missed it! Dance the Night Away, is a song that I literally can’t sit still to, and it’s one of my favourites. I do hope you enjoyed your nights out, and had a boogie for me! Thank you for your positivity. Appointment is now postponed until March, but I’ll keep in touch. Love from me xx

  5. Josephine Jennings February 6, 2018 at 9:05 am -  Reply

    Hello Ali sorry your shoulder is taking longer to heal . Persevere with your physio , my friend used to say slow and steady will win the day. Enjoy your time off, hopefully your not snowed in.

    • Alison Keenan February 12, 2018 at 8:19 pm -  Reply

      Dear Josephine, your friend is right. Slow and steady is the only way I’ve found to deal with this, but I have been very lucky with my physios! I have enjoyed my time away seeing family and friends, but we missed all the snow. Not too sad as I’ve done a lot of driving, and I never feel that safe on the roads when it’s snowing. A x

  6. Judith Lennon February 6, 2018 at 2:51 pm -  Reply

    Hello Ali
    It’s cold again today and we’ve had 2hours of heavy snow. Can you believe there’s not a flake left on the ground! Another packed blog from you. I’m glad you have taken some time off work to do the necessary jobs. Sometimes the simplest of tasks can benefit us by knowing it’s made life a little easier – if you get my meaning. It’s nice that you can catch up with family and friends also. Hope Jack enjoyed his birthday and cake. Its nice when we can spoil our “babies” isn’t it?
    I’ve just finished my ironing. My husband has been doing it for me since my shoulder has been bad but I needed to try today to see how it felt afterwards. It still doesn’t like being used and really rebells after use. I am plodding on with the excercises but in all honesty I don’t think things are progressing well. I am due back to physio in a couple of weeks so we will see what they say. January has yet again proved a bad month. My dearest friend died last week after a long battle with cancer. My son in law has had major surgery on his eye – a cornea transplant in fact, his second one in 20 years. The day after he could see outlines of shapes and identify them even though not 100% clear. Modern medicine is just amazing. He is still in hospital because of a few setbacks but all in all his,professor is very pleased. Hopefully now he will have a much better quality of life. He has gone through so much the last three years that we are all really thrilled at the outcome. I am just catching up with my QVC viewing so will close for now. Take care and stay well. Fingers crossed with your check up. Love and hugs as always. Judith xx

    • Alison Keenan February 12, 2018 at 8:25 pm -  Reply

      Hi there Judith, lovely to hear from you, although I was so sorry to learn of your friend’s passing… there aren’t words really… I know how I would feel if it was one of my close friends… I was happier though to know that your son in law’s cornea transplant has been a success. As you say, extraordinary what modern medicine can do, especially when he has been through so much to get to this point. I’m glad too that your shoulder is finally feeling easier, although depending on how much ironing you have, you may want to take it easy. Having spoken to a number of people who’ve had these procedures, it seems as though you and are aren’t the only ones who are healing slowly… but at least we’re healing. As my previous blogger told me, slow and steady wins the race 🙂 My appointment is now in March but I’ll keep in touch, love Ali x

  7. lynn tervit linnie February 6, 2018 at 9:18 pm -  Reply

    hi Ali. missing you on QVC Diamonique, but Charlie and Ali are great together, I love reading all your stories, they make me feel as if iam part of your lovely family. Sorry your shoulders still sore, time is a great healer for most folks, but your always doing something, Honey is gorgeous, I see her more and more like you as she grows. Happy Birthday to your precious son Jack, my boy Alistair will be 27 this year, I remember him at Honey’s age. as if it was last week. Anyway Ali sending you my love as always. take care my lovey and rest that shoulder.

    linnie xxxx

    • Alison Keenan February 12, 2018 at 8:28 pm -  Reply

      Dear Lynn, lovely to hear from you, and I am so glad that you enjoy the blog. I too think Charlie and Alison are great together with the Diamonique, and I couldn’t ask for better care of the 8pm show while I’m away. Honey is a sweetheart isn’t she, and it’s been a real treat seeing more of her over these few weeks. So many people say they can see me in her, although I have to admit I just see her mum and occasionally my Jack. Many happy returns to your Alistair – we never forget how they were when they were small do we..? Good times. Thank you for taking the time out to write to me, and for your kind words. I’ll carry on with the physio, and keep in touch, love Ali xx

  8. Merche February 7, 2018 at 3:56 pm -  Reply

    Hi Ali, yet another lovely blog! I too always feel part of your family when I read them, pictures are really great, pleased to see you had good weather on your trip to Highclere. Hope all goes well for you with your check up, take care, love Merchexx

    • Alison Keenan February 12, 2018 at 8:29 pm -  Reply

      Oh Merche, that is such a lovely thing to say! I’m so glad that I always have plenty of photos to post, and they are so well received. My check is now to be early March, but I will of course keep in touch. Love Ali xx

  9. Julie February 7, 2018 at 6:56 pm -  Reply

    Hi Alison
    Just wondering where the lovely beach is on your Twitter -6/2/18?
    Looks a lovely spot. Hope your enjoying your time off from work. Yes we all need a bit of time at home now & again. Keep well & always look forward to your blogs even though I don’t always get in touch. Your a star. Keep up your posititive attitude, it oozes from you. Am sure we all catch a little bit from you. Hugs & love from Julie xxxxxxxxxx⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

    • Alison Keenan February 12, 2018 at 8:30 pm -  Reply

      Dear Julie, the beach is just to the left of Durdle Door in Dorset. We went there for a couple of days, and did the hike across from Lulworth Cove. We’ve done it many times before and it affords you fabulous views. I have enjoyed my time away and have managed to catch up on all kinds of things. That said, it was lovely to be back at work on Sunday too. Thank you for your kind words – being positive is the only way – and I’m so glad you agree. Love to you too, Ali xx

  10. Mandy February 7, 2018 at 11:15 pm -  Reply

    Hi Ali! What a lovely blog. I am very jealous of your day at Highclere Castle. It must have been a lovely day with your sister & the children. They do certainly see things from a different perspective than adults don’t they which is usually very endearing or hilarious lol. The Egyptian exhibition does sound amazing; I must try & visit & of course I am a big fan of Downton Abbey. Your dream sounds funny but I imagine stressful. I often have strange dreams too & wake up exhausted lol. I am glad you are having a rest away from work & enjoying quality time with your family- you can really relax & unwind when you don’t have to work I find. OMG Ali- that squash & chickpea stew looks AMAZING!! I must try it & we are both huge fans of banana bread too. I have quite a few Jamie Oliver books so will look out for the recipe. I can’t believe it is seven years since your first op. I do remember finding out you were unwell but you have helped me greatly by being a super role model & taking the fear away really. I have just gone onto six month check ups so am very pleased as I am starting to enjoy being carefree again & enjoying myself. Fingers crossed you will be able to reduce your appointments too! Have you planned your birthday yet? I am going to the Lakes for mine to enjoy the fresh air, boat trips, lovely food & to crank up plenty of steps on my Fitbit lol. My Mum & Dad have bought me the Diamonique angel wings pendant to put up for my birthday as Mum knew I liked it. It is much nicer in real life & will look forward to wearing it. I bought Mum a Diamonique angel wing pendant a few Christmas’s ago to thank her for being my angel when I was first ill so will be lovely to receive the pendant from her. Have you tried the new Benefit mascara? It arrived yesterday & I love it. The brush prevents getting mascara on the lids & separates the lashes beautifully. It comes off easily too with Cleanse & Polish. Have a lovely time & look forward to seeing you soon.
    Love & Hugs from Mandy xx

    • Alison Keenan February 12, 2018 at 8:41 pm -  Reply

      Mandy so good to hear from you and to know that you are now on six monthly check ups! That is wonderful news! It gives you more time to think about other things I find and distances you from the worry. Yes, fingers crossed that my check up will be just annual after this next one. It’s not until March now as my consultant is away, but I’ll keep in touch. You must plan a visit to Highclere, I know you’d enjoy it. The Chickpea and Squash stew is from Jamie’s Shop Smart, Cook Clever, Waste Less book and is one of many fab recipes. The banana bread was the online BBC Good Food Recipe. Works a treat and so easy to make. Colin has sent a note round to all the children so that hopefully I’ll see them all on my birthday weekend, but we may do something special just to the two of us as well. I’ve not been to the Lakes for 10 years, but I very much hope you have a fabulous time there. Plenty of walking for your Fitbit there! That’s great that your mum and dad have bought you the pendant – what a lovely and thoughtful present. I’m sure your mum was very touched with the angel wing pendant you bought for her too… such a kind gift. I’ve literally just ordered the Benefit mascara – can’t wait for it to come – looks great! Thanks for keeping in touch, and I am so glad to know things are moving on for you in such a positive way. With love, Ali xx

  11. Loraine Plumb February 8, 2018 at 7:03 am -  Reply

    Hi Alison weather looked good at highclere we went there many years ago Les has a brother lives nearby . Hope you are enjoying your days of its nice to catch up with things and see people I’m lucky I only work mornings so manage to fit things in ok . Keep me posted how your plans go for the wedding trip exciting we are counting the weeks down now it’s 9 weeks until Florida willa will be 2 then we have bought our Disney / universal tickets already also have a couple of days in London 3 weeks before just going to potter around and relax a bit ,anyway enjoy the rest of your time hope your keeping away from the germs that are around oh and lovely photo with your son take care love Loraine xx

    • Alison Keenan February 12, 2018 at 8:45 pm -  Reply

      Hi there Loraine, yes, we were very lucky with the weather at Highclere, and I hope it was the same for you when you visited some years back. I think you’re great to work mornings… my meds mean I don’t sleep well, which is why I work the opposite end of the day to you. Colin and I hope to book our flights to the wedding tonight, and I’ll let you know which countries we’re going to visit in my next blog! Only nine weeks until you go away with Willa, and I bet you are all beyond excited! Great though that you have a few days to yourselves to potter about in London. Colin and I have a day together planned just to visit the museums and art galleries… bit of a mooch. Back at work now and enjoying it, and will see you for Diamonique at 8pm! Love Ali xx

  12. Theresa February 10, 2018 at 7:20 pm -  Reply

    Hope all goes well with your check up and you get told you can go yearly. I love homemade soup you know whats in the pan not like tin soup full of all kinds of things. Sounds like you had a good time with your sister on the school trip. How grown up Honey looks and I hope Sam had a good birthday.

    • Alison Keenan February 12, 2018 at 8:48 pm -  Reply

      Hi there Theresa, do you have an recipes for homemade soup? I just tend throw everything in unless I’m following a recipe like Jamie’s! I did have a great time with Jenny and the children, and will definitely go again with her next year. Honey seems far older than her two and a half years, and although it’s delightful to be able to chat with her and for her to understand everything, it’s bittersweet as I loved the time when she was just a baby. Sam’s birthday is in March, and I hope we can get together and possibly share our special days. Thanks for writing to me, love Ali xx

  13. martin forbes February 11, 2018 at 3:33 pm -  Reply

    happy new year alison to you and your amily glad to get back to normal iam now on a week lazy holiday from work being lazy watchingt ehwinter olympics mvery enjoyable wstching most days at 6am .even though istill wake up at 530 am in the morning.

    • Alison Keenan February 18, 2018 at 4:43 pm -  Reply

      Hi there Martin, good to hear from you and to know that you’re enjoying the Winter Olympics. Gosh I don’t often see 5.30am, as it takes me forever to get to sleep, but I’m glad you have something worth watching on TV at that hour. I loved the downhill racing best. Take care, love Ali x

  14. Mrs Judith Dunster February 11, 2018 at 8:09 pm -  Reply

    Hi Alison lovely blog hope everything goes well with the oncologist I will have my check up In March it will be 5 years since I was told I had breast cancer still on tamoxifen don’t know yet if I will be staying on it . You take care x

    • Alison Keenan February 18, 2018 at 4:44 pm -  Reply

      Dear Judith, I will be thinking of you in March, and hope that when you see your oncologist they will have good new for you re the Tamoxifen. I’m on Letrazole now having had Tamoxifen for the first five years. Take care and stay well. Thank you for your kind words too, Love Ali xx

  15. Linda Finch,, February 11, 2018 at 10:10 pm -  Reply

    Hi Ali ,iam writing this while I watch you on Qvc ,so glad you have enjoyed your time at home, we all need a little time to catch up with the little jobs that get left around the house. Iam really envious of your time at Highclere it is on my bucket list, sorry your shoulder isnt coming along as you wished, but sometimes things don’t always go to plan,you may not remember me saying about John having his ankle pinned 18 months ago ,well he has to go back to see his surgeon next week because it is not going as expected, we have a feeling he will have to have it redone which will be a lot bigger op than last time so fingers crossed it won’t be the case. Hope all goes well with your oncologist iam sure you will only have to go yearly, have you got your outfit sorted for the wedding or are you waiting till you get there when you will know how hot it will be ,you must be sooooo excited, my friends sister lives in Perth weston Australia she comes over here once a year and she’s always trying to get us to go back with her, maybe one day. 😕well look after yourself lots of love Linda F xxx

    • Alison Keenan February 18, 2018 at 4:47 pm -  Reply

      Dear Linda, I do hope you will manage to get to Highclere at some point – perhaps the summer months would be good when you can enjoy the gardens there. I’m sorry that John has been struggling with his ankle… I’m keeping everything crossed that he won’t have to have it re-pinned – do let me know. To be honest I’ve not really thought yet about my outfit for the wedding, but as it may be a tad chillier than the summer months when I last visited I will need layers! Australia is a beautiful country, just a shame it’s so far away. I’m sure you’d love it over there if you ever had the chance to visit. Enjoy your week and thank you for writing to me, love Ali xx

  16. Janet Jones February 13, 2018 at 7:19 pm -  Reply

    Dear Ali, sorry I haven’t replied to your blog for a while, but 2018 has not had the best start. My lovely friend passed away 2 weeks ago from the flu and double pneumonia . Her funeral is in 2 weeks time. One of my best friends was diagnosed with leukaemia, just after Christmas ,she has just had her first round of chemo. Going to visit her at the hospital, brings it all back for me and I know what she has to go through over these next few months.
    We have all had the dreaded lurgy here, which hasn’t quite cleared up yet.
    On a lighter note my family is coming down over the weekend to celebrate my birthday, my sons birthday and my grandsons birthday. I can’t wait to see them this weekend and I will count my lucky stars how blessed I am to have them in my life.

    Take care Ali speak soon love Janet xx

    • Alison Keenan February 18, 2018 at 4:51 pm -  Reply

      My dear Janet, I am so sorry to know that you’ve lost your dear friend, and that another one of your circle is currently going through chemo. I’m sure that having you there, as someone who completely understands what it’s like, will help her enormously. I hope she will be through the treatment soon and feeling better. It sounds also as though you’ve all been poorly too, and so I hope you’re feeling much better by the time you read this. I hope also that you will have had a wonderful weekend with your son and Alfie, and their joint celebrations. Being with them family is always a treat, and as you say, it’s a chance for us to thank our lucky stars that we are still here to enjoy our time with them. You take care and stay strong, love Ali xx

  17. Jean Daly February 14, 2018 at 11:09 am -  Reply

    Hi Ali, hope you are well, I must say you are looking terrific at the moment. I’m just recovering from the flu which was yuk but starting to feel better now. Just wondered if you have had the chance to find the recipe for chicken cooked in the slow cooker, any recipes you have for the slow cooker would be appreciated. Take care, Love Jean xx

  18. Alison Keenan February 18, 2018 at 4:58 pm -  Reply

    Hi there Jean, and thank you for the compliment! It’s all smoke and mirrors you know 🙂 Oh, and exceptionally good make up! I’ve found the chicken casserole recipe for you:

    Ingredients
    knob of butter
    ½ tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
    1 large onion finely chopped
    1 ½ tbsp flour
    650g boneless, skinless chicken
    thigh fillets
    3 garlic cloves, crushed
    400g baby new potatoes, halved
    2 sticks celery, diced
    2 carrots, diced
    250g mushrooms, quartered
    15g dried porcini mushroom, soaked in 50ml boiling water
    500ml stock made with 2 very low salt chicken stock cubes (we used Kallo)
    2 tsp Dijon mustard, plus extra to serve
    2 bay leaves

    Method
    Heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan, cook the onion for 8-10 mins until softened and starting to caramelise. Meanwhile put the flour and a little salt and pepper in a bowl and toss the chicken in it. Add the garlic and chicken to the pan and cook for 4-5 mins more until the chicken is starting to brown.

    Transfer to your slow cooker, along with the rest of the ingredients, including the soaking water from the porcini mushrooms. Give it a good stir. Cook on Low for 7 hours or High for 4 hours. Remove the bay leaves and serve with Dijon mustard on the side.

    I’ve also got a recipe for Chicken Cacciatore that’s a little richer sauce-wise, but delicious:

    1 medium onion (thinly sliced)
    1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (or boneless chicken thighs)
    2 (6 oz) cans tomato paste
    8 ounces mushrooms (sliced)
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon pepper
    2 cloves garlic (minced)
    1 bay leaf
    1/4 cup dry white wine (or red wine)
    1/4 cup water (or chicken stock)
    1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
    1/2 teaspoon dried basil
    How to Make It
    Put the sliced onion in bottom of the slow cooker; top with the chicken breasts or thighs.
    In a bowl, combine the tomato paste, mushrooms, salt, pepper, garlic, bay leaf, wine, and water or stock; stir to blend thoroughly. Spread the sauce mixture over the chicken.
    Cover and cook on low 5 to 7 hours, or about 3 hours on high. About halfway through the cooking time, add the oregano and basil.
    Taste the sauce and adjust seasonings.
    Serve as a sauce for hot cooked spaghetti or similar pasta.

    I hope you enjoy these, and maybe we should set up a recipe exchange on the next blog?? Have a good week, love Ali xx

  19. Jean Daly February 19, 2018 at 12:43 pm -  Reply

    Hi Alison, Thank you so much for the recipes – can’t wait to try them, they sound delicious. Hope you & your family are all keeping well. Will be in touch soon. Thank you.
    Love Jean xx

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