It is nearly Tuesday and I have almost missed Monday Magic – probably as i spent large parts of the day putting together 3 collages of old photographs for a dinner/reunion for next weekend. We are celebrating 40 years of co-education at my old school and as one of the original 8 little girls to start the school, and as a member of the alumni committee, it seemed like a good idea. But it took me a lot longer than I expected – what a trip down memory lane though, looking at the various photos sent to me!!
So without further ado or chat about the happenings in our household this week, I will launch straight into the blogs that I have been enjoying. There are several travel posts including a fantastic visit to a bookshop in Venice, and if space travel is your thing then you must have tuned in to the new series of Doctor Who along with Hugh (Hugh’s Views0 and the PainPals house. The first female Doctor is a hit in this house and she already has a Barbie doll in her image! There are some great writing posts and a pamper treat for your hands in preparation for the cold weather.
Jodie Whittaker as Doctor Who
Doctor Who Barbie doll
You might still be able to sit back with a glass of wine, or you might be reading this with your morning cornflakes, but whichever please sit back and enjoy!
I am delighted to be part of the Blog Tour for the final book in The Gift Saga trilogy Chasing Petalouthes.
Chasing Petalouthes – butterflies – is the final book in this wonderful family saga following the generations of Greek families as they settle in New York. In this chapter, the younger generation – third generation – are followed through teens, adolescence and young adulthood.
Evvie, daughter of Sophia, has experienced more tragedy than a young girl should ever endure, having lost both her father and a most beloved grandmother at a young age. Her rebellious ways are her only defense to mask the ever-present pain in her heart. Closing herself off emotionally, Evvie enters college life with a determination to follow her chosen path alone. She might be a talented young dancer, like her mother, but her love for the family vineyard is strong and she discovers just how much she wants this life on a visit to France. Her determination to work and grow her family business is tested over these tender years as relationships develop and difficult choices must be made. She also begins to understand her Greek routes, the legacy of the soil and vines that is within her blood, during a visit to her great grandmother, Yiayia Sophia in Athens.
During this time Evvie remains resolute that she will not allow her emotions to sway her – she will not allow her heart to open up to love. Even when a trip to the Greek island Cephalonia, with Yiayia Sophia, seems to show her where her true happiness and future could lie, she denies herself and a certain young man who she has known since college.
Stella, Demi’s daughter, is two years Evvie’s junior and struggling at high school to “fit in”. She has a crush on a fellow student, and whilst he is happy to take her to Prom and will stand up for her honour, he makes it clear that Stella is not the girl for him whilst they are growing up. She is the sort of girl who needs a steady relationship – a happy ever after – he tells her, and he is not ready for this. Whilst Stella appreciates his honesty, at 16 this is a harsh truth to hear and she experiences betrayal from a friend during this time. Meanwhile it feels to Stella that her siblings and cousins are all talented and achieving their dreams, whilst she enters college and drifts from one course to another with no real puprose.
She is insecure, a little naive and has no idea just how attractive she is. Stella is smitten when an older, handsome, worldly young man shows interest in her and she believes that she has found love. But as his behaviour becomes more and more controlling, Stella’s family and friends become concerned that Stella has fallen into an abusive relationship. Will she accept the situation and the help on offer before something terrible happens?
“Chasing Petalouthes (Chasing Butterflies) is the coming of age story of two flawed, young women who push their way out from the confines of the cocoons they’d built around themselves and discover how to soar.”
I am going to start by saying what I always do…..please read the first two books in the series and set on a journey with these characters. You might have read my reviews for Evanthia’s Gift and Waiting for Aegina and will already know how much I have enjoyed this series. In fact I will go so far as to say that I feel emotionally invested in the characters.
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My greatest enjoyment from the trilogy has been the continuing story of the generations of women from two families and friends that become one : Anastacia, her daughter Sophia and granddaughter Evvie; Soula, her daughter Demi and grandaughter Stella; close friends, the Honeyhill girls, and their children. The roles of these strong leading women has been quite inspirational and I see the driving force of the family in the strong Greek woman, who loves to feed her family in my own great friend Evi.
This chapter of the story examines the adolescent years of the younger generation and the author shares the highs and the lows with brutal honesty. Emotions run high as a teen/early twenty something and we have all experienced the intense joy and sadness that come with the smallest of experiences. The young ladies in this tale are no different to any others and they feel intensely. As a palliative care nurse in my previous life, I was particularly interested in Evvie and how the author dealt with her grief. Something I learnt early in my nurse training (whilst losing many young men in our London taching hospital to Aids in the late 80s) is that there is no “right” way for grief, no timeline, no “one fit for all”. Yes, there is the Kubler Ross stages of grief, but everyone is so different and Ms Kammenou depicts this beautifully with Evvie.
By the time she is a teen, this young lady has experienced major loss and in order to deal with this she has built an emotional wall around herself. To the outside world her moods and strange wardrobe choices might seem like those of a “difficult, hormonal” teen, but they are so much more than this. I applaud the author for her handling and eventual breakdown of Evvie’s grief, the way in which she slowly realises that she cannot protect herself from the possibility of pain and loss – and in fact in the process may be denying herself love and joy.
Difficult topics are once again tackled in this family saga – suicide, depression and mental health, domestic abuse, death, bereavement. Perhaps this list should also include falling in love, sexuality & sexual relationships, and the complexities of family life. Both Stella and Evvie are great role models as they experience the highs and some extreme lows of growing up (no spoilers!), and both come out the other side as mature, more confident and happy young women. I am not going to say that they have grown up – I’m not sure that we ever finish growing up and I believe that Yiayia Sophia shows us this in her observations of her life.
I could write so much more here, but I think the important thing is to say that I loved it just as much as the first tow books, and I really didn’t want it to end…..surely there must be another chapter waiting in the wings about young Cia, Ms Kammenou? There are delicious recipes peppered throughout the book, including some French treats when Evvie is dancing in Paris – there is even a recipe for the delicious lemon chicken and potatoes that my own dear Evi makes. But my kids say that I could never compete!
Five stars for this engrossing, beautifully written contemporary family saga.
About the Author
Effie Kammenou is a believer that it is never too late to chase your dreams, follow your heart or change your career. She is proof of that. At one time, long ago, she’d thought that, by her age, she would have had an Oscar in her hand after a successful career as an actor. Instead, she worked in the optical field for 40 years and is the proud mother of two accomplished young women.
Her debut novel, Evanthia’s Gift, is a women’s fiction multigenerational love story and family saga, influenced by her Greek heritage, and the many real life accounts that have been passed down. She continues to pick her father’s brain for stories of his family’s life in Lesvos, Greece, and their journey to America. Her interview with him was published in a nationally circulated magazine.
Evanthia’s Gift: Book One in The Gift Saga was a 2016 award finalist in the Readers Favorite Awards in the Women’s Fiction category. Waiting for Aegina isBook Two in The Gift Saga and Chasing Petalouthes is Kammenou’s latest release, completing the series.
Effie Kammenou is a first generation Greek-American who lives on Long Island with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not writing, or posting recipes on her food blog, cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com, you can find her entertaining family and friends or traveling for ‘research.’
As an avid cook and baker, a skill she learned from watching her Athenian mother, she incorporated traditional Greek family recipes throughout the books.
She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts from Hofstra University.
We are celebrating our final bank holiday weekend of the year and in true UK style it is raining! The long, hot days of only a couple of weeks ago feel like a world away, whilst last night yours truly turned on the electric blanket and added a dressing gown to the bed clothes. Now the fight will be on between husband and wife for changing to a warmer duvet (me) or sticking with the summer one (him). I must look into these split weight duvets – have any of tried them? Anyway, the wife will win!!
This week has felt a little surreal if I am honest with you. The politics student called mid week to say that he could only sleep on his mate’s floor in Nottingham until Saturday – OK, so what do you expect me to do about it?? Well, my final exam isn’t until Tuesday……good old mum puts a shout out to a couple of Nottingham based school friends, but of course it is a BH weekend and guess what, my boy?! A lot of people go away – and that is why my friends aren’t about but also why the B&B/hostels are all booked!! He is fortunate that we found an Air BnB – affordable and in walking distance of uni; but arranging transport home was slightly trickier as he hadn’t told me his exam isn’t until 4.30 Tuesday afternoon. But……with a bit of internet surfing, I was amazed to get him and his friend onto a coach on Tuesday evening, back to London for £15 for the two of them! Bargain!! It will probably cost as much to get back from London to home (30 mins on the train!).
Amidst the dramas of the “middle” child, came the exam results of the youngest – the lovely girl. I did mention a little about this in yesterday’s post. Needless to say it was mum here who didn’t sleep well the night before and had strange dreams – we knew she would have got the requirements for 6th form, bar a complete disaster, but as the exams have been new this year and she was taking a mixture of the new levels 1-9 and the old grades A*-G, anything was possible. Thursday morning came, she got up and did her paper round, and I was awoken to squeals as she opened the email – oh my goodness! I am not allowed to say any more, but if your follow me on twitter of facebook you will know that she didn’t need to worry about me posting her results and picture all over social media – the school did it!! (here!!)). As I said I’m not allowed to say anything – but delight, surreal, shocked, unbelievable….you get the picture!!
The young engineer has been a bit put out that his little sister beat him – in fact beat both her brothers – but secretly he is very proud. In fact on Friday evening he and his partner were going to the theatre with the lovely girl and her friend (who did just as well) – and he took them out for dinner beforehand to celebrate. Now this is a huge deal as he has always been the “tight” kid of the 3!!!
So moving on from the act of sibling love in my household to the first blog that I’m sharing with you this week – it comes from Rachna and she describes a beautiful festival that traditionally recognises and honours sibling love. I particularly like the post on ClockWorkClouds that discussed the uses of certain words – how does using “should” rather than”would” change the feel of a situation? I hope that you will also enjoy some culture with an artist’s exhibition, a book review, flash fiction story and do read the Trolls’ poem, it is funny! There are also some life posts here too that would benefit everyone.
So grab a cuppa, put your feet up and enjoy some great blog posts!
We continue to have our own mini heat wave here in the UK and it really feels like summer. The queues of fans gathered overnight for the opening day of the tennis tournament at Wimbledon, and the rowing regatta at Henley takes place later this week – sales of strawberries and Pimms will be at a high as the sun continues to shine. Who needs the Med? I know it is all likely to go wrong as soon as the children break up for their summer holidays, but it is lovely whilst it lasts!
Talking of the Med, hubby is looking like he has been abroad from his deepening tan. He may have had a week in and around Paris with the school, but he has built up most of his suntan from the rounds of different sports tournaments that he has accompanied the children to – golf, athletics, rounders, football, cricket – and not forgetting the dog walks with our surrogate boys, Chester and Prince. Four years ago we would never have dreamt that life would have changed so much as hubby was driving miles to work six days per week. Yet here we are, hubby at home as my full time carer, a house husband (he hasn’t quite got the hang of housework – cleaner to be engaged!) and a sports teacher. We may be considerably poorer in a monetary sense – but I have never known him to be so relaxed or fulfilled! The dogs and the kids adore him and rumour has it that he scored a goal in the staff v year 6 football match this morning. He probably won’t be able to walk this evening…..
The lovely girl was there to witness her dad playing football as she starts her second week of work experience at her old primary school! She spent last week at an architecture firm in London and spent some time working on a float that is set to grace the streets of London during the Pride weekend. My eldest has turned down my invitation to accompany me to the Henley regatta in favour of a weekend at London Pride with his mates….mum or mates….hmmm, tricky decision!! The middle one is currently in Glasgow at a music festival – his sister has evidence from some badly shot videos and photos sent to her on Snapchat. Meanwhile I have managed to spend a couple of hours with just the dog…..bliss!!
This weekend saw the end to a wonderful bloggers group that I am proud to have been a part of for 18 months. We have been a tight knit group, small and very supportive of each other and I have made some great online friends, some whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the Bloggers’ Bash. This week’s Monday Magic is dedicated to the Big Up Your Blog group – particularly Suzie and Em – thank you! These are some of the lovely people I have been in touch with regularly….enjoy!
Another week has flown by and here we are passing the Summer Equinox and arriving half way through the year. The exams have finished in our house, with the lovely girl completing her GCSEs last week and now we just sit and await the results. The boys should both receive their results any day – one for his first year politics, the other for his full Masters in Engineering – is it awful to say that I am so glad it isn’t me!! It really is bad enough being the parent-in-waiting.
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Hubby had a great week away with year 6 in Paris, with fantastic weather and an action packed timetable, including all the highest rides in Parc Asterix – apparently it has the highest and fastest rides in Europe! My own week felt pretty action packed too as friends and family rallied round knowing hubby was missing my birthday – I have been wined and dined and spoilt rotten. Incidentally it must mean something that National Martini Day fell on my birthday!! I have also watched more football than in the rest of my life – probably due to the politics student being home – and have become strangely entranced by the world Cup. I still have no idea of the various rules for off side, free kicks, fouls etc, but reckon I’m doing well to just know the terms. Yesterday I watched the whole England game surrounded by mainly young men at the games field of my old school – the actual event being a cricket match and BBQ. When the football draw was announced and we saw that an England match was on the day of our annual cricket match for Past versus Present, we knew that we had to screen the match. Not the easiest thing to position a screen outside in bright sunshine where four cricket teams and guests would all be able to see it. I have had dreams over the past week that the TV wouldn’t work and I feared it was premonition when I arrived to be told we didn’t have an aerial or a device to stream it – aghhhhh!!!
But all’s well that ends well as they say – with a small TV aerial, several gazebos and me directing the fit & healthy in erecting said gazebos, we achieved a picture that was watchable and created some shade as an added bonus. So yours truly, as Chair of the “Past” pupils’ committee, parked her wheelchair up in prime position alongside the headmaster who declared that if we couldn’t pull rank to watch the football then when could we?! I don’t need to tell you what the atmosphere was like as England scored 6 goals – something I don’t remember happening before!
So my posts today have been chosen in a little haste – sofa day Saturday and then cricket Sunday – but I am sure that I still have ten top posts for you to enjoy! If you are a parent with kids about to start the long summer holidays, do not miss the Chocolate slime post!! Turn off the phone, grab a cuppa and have a read…..
National Martini Day! Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com
It is unusual for me to publish 2 posts on one day – but it is Rare Disease Day and this is another example of an amazing Zebra #EhlersDanlosSyndrome. The Lancashire Evening Post have kindly allowed me to share their article with you. To view the accompanying video to the post please visit Lancashire Evening Post
Big Interview: Swimming star Stephanie Slater opens up on decision to retire from the sport
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As Stephanie Slater succinctly puts it, ‘To look at me, you wouldn’t think there was anything wrong’.
Indeed with her almost permanent beaming smile together with her bubbly personality, the Longridge lass – who won a glorious gold medal at the Paralympic Games in Rio – does not look anything other than ‘a picture of health and happiness’.
However, the swimming sensation last week made the shock announcement that her pool career was over at the tender age of just 27 due to ongoing health issues.
It is a little known fact that Slater almost did not make it to Rio after struggling with a severe neck injury the year before.
After a series of tests, she was eventually diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) – conditions which she has unknowingly struggled with for all of her life.
Passed off by a series of medical professionals as just growing pains when she was a child, it is remarkable to think that Slater reached a level where she was considered a potential competitor for the 2012 Olympics.
However, the conditions would eventually put paid to her able-bodied career in the lead up to the London Games and almost curtailed any hope she had of competing as a paralympian.
Through sheer guts and determination, Slater made it to Rio and all the pain was worth it when she returned with a gold in the medley relay and silver in the S8 100m individual butterfly.
“It was actually touch and go as to whether I was going to make it to the Paralympic trials in 2015 – I was out of the water struggling with a severe neck injury,” Slater said.
“But with rehabilitation and just basically pushing myself, I managed to get the qualifying time.
“With the amount of pain that I was in, I was eventually diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.
“The condition is to do with your connective tissues throughout the whole of your body and basically mine is faulty. It means my body is not held together like it should be.
“I was also diagnosed with POTS.
“It was that condition which kept me out of the pool and preventing me from training because it causes you to collapse unexpectedly.
“So being around a pool made me nervous because I did not know whether I was going to collapse or not.
“Both of my conditions are invisible.
“To look at me you wouldn’t think there was anything wrong with me.
“But there is and it badly affects me.
“Because it’s so rare, they had not been able to diagnose it when I younger.
“I have had all these problems growing up and it was just put down as growing pains or that I had been doing too much training.
“It was just brushed off, but actually I have been battling with it since I’ve been a baby.
“It’s kind of nice in a way to finally have a diagnosis.
“At the same time, because there is no cure, it’s one of those where it’s like, ‘It’s got a name, but it doesn’t change anything’.
“I have just got to get on with it
“It answers the question of how I got the injury to my arm when I was training for the London Olympics in Swansea.
“Back then, they didn’t know why, but now there is an answer.
“Hopefully by stopping swimming now, I will stop myself from suffering any more nerve damage or even worse paralysis.
“With my neck, it’s quite fragile, so I have to be really, really careful that I don’t cause further damage.
“People can’t believe what I have achieved with what I have been dealing with.
“I have never complained about it or spoken about my condition and how it has affected me.
“At the end of the day, I wanted to achieve my goals and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me.”
There are certainly pangs of regrets for Slater that she has been forced to give up the sport she loves doing the most prematurely.
“It was really, really hard and it took quite a few months to come to the decision,” said Slater
“I spoke to a lot of medical professionals and also to my support team at British swimming.
“I had to make the hard decision to retire for my own health and well being.
“I always felt that I had a lot more left in me to give so that is what has made it really hard to stop.
“I know that it is the best decision for me and I have just got to look at what I have achieved.
“My last competition was Rio and the Paralympics, so it’s nice to think that I finished on a high – winning a gold and a silver.”
Slater’s memories of her time in Rio will never leave her and she breaks out into an even wider grin – if that’s possible – when she thinks back to her time at the Paralympics.
“It was just a party atmosphere,” she said. “The atmosphere was incredible.
“I remember doing an interview with Clare Balding in the village where all the different venues were and the amount of people who were crowding around us was incredible.
“They all wanted to speak to us and have pictures. It was amazing.
“I had been to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow two years earlier and I was expecting it to be like that.
“But the Paralympics were so much bigger.
“Just the size of the food hall was incredible – it was like the size of four Asdas.”
Slater’s achievement in winning gold in the relay was a double delight as the team also broke the world record.
“The relay was between us and the Australians,” she said.
“That was how it had been four years earlier in London, but on that occasion it was the Australians who had actually pipped GB.
“When I dived in, I had to catch the Australian girl up.
“I just thought, ‘I have got to get the gold – there’s going to be nothing stopping me’.
“I just put my head down and went – when we touched that wall and we saw that we had broken the world record as well, it was such an amazing feeling.
“It was so, so nice to stand on the top of the podium and see the GB flag rise.
“All of the GB supporters were there with their flags and I could see my mum and dad in the crowd.
It is the beginning of the week so that must mean time for some inspiring blog posts in a little Monday magic! The last week has encompassed Valentine’s Day, the second half of half term and a trip to Berlin in our household.
I did manage to get to the RSC Twelfth Night at our local cinema, and whilst I couldn’t stand by the end, it really is a superb production. Adrian Edmondson – yes of Young Ones fame – steals the show for me with an outstanding performance of Malvolio.
Adrian Edmondson as Malvolio (source: Google Images)
When coerced by his colleagues into ridiculous costume, Malvolio gallivanted across the stage serenading the audience, making me think of a cross between a jester and an English Morris man! So how did the rest of the family mark Valentine’s Day? We arrived home to pizza boxes and various teenage girls wrapped up in blankets in the lounge, and the student engineer did make a trip to London for an evening for two – I don’t believe he has a romantic bone in his body though! As for the politics student, contact has been remarkably quiet this week….but he is probably even worse than his brother, so I would be very surprised if his girlfriend was given a card, let alone flowers!!
The eldest jetted off to Berlin for a weekend away with friends…..the friends were staying in a posh(ish) hotel and our engineer was staying in a hostel next door. Never one to waste money, his thought process went something like this “I’m not spending all that on a hotel, but if I stay next door I can sneak in with my mates and still use the facilities!” We only knew he had arrived when his sister had a photo pop up on Snapchat…..I asked him to send some pics, thinking he or his friends might feature in them, but this is what he sent! He is currently sending us angry emoji faces as he has been sitting on the tarmac for 2 hours in a plane that has a “problem”! I believe they are now airborne, so hubby has been summoned to Heathrow……
I have selected a wide assortment of posts again this week – but I believe that there is something here for everyone. The Big Money Saver post, whilst not specifically a chronic piece, is great for my spoonie friends out there and the post on PixieDusk “We Need To Talk about Cancer” is truly inspirational and I urge you all to read it. When I found the wonderfully named Pass The Prosecco Please blog I was determined to find something there to share, purely because I love the name!! The Mens’ Health Summit is really important – all you blokes out there should have a look, and if the men won’t, ladies please do! The posts are all fab, so sit back with a cuppa – or a Prosecco! – and steal some time to read relax and enjoy.
I am delighted to have been nominated for this award last month by Kim – I have delayed sharing it to avoid boring you all, having already written about one award in January! It is always an honour to be recognised by a fellow blogger and I am so thankful to Kim at Keep It Mindful blog. I “met” Kim at the end of last year soon after she started blogging about living life as a young mum with 2 children and a chronic illness. Kim has Multiple Sclerosis and writes with frankness and honesty on all manner of things – about her illness flares to potty training! Visit Kim here on Keep It Mindful and find out more.
The Mystery Blogger Award:
“It’s an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging, and they do it with so much love and passion.” Created by Okoto Enigma.
The rules are:
• Put the award logo/image on your blog.
• List the rules.
• Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
• Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well.
• Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
• You have to nominate 10 – 20 people.
• Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog.
• Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify).
• Share a link to your best post(s).
Three Things about me:
1. I am an avid reader, belong to several online book clubs and a local one where we meet monthly in the pub.
2. I started nurse training 30 years ago next month – March ’88 set. We are having a reunion weekend in May – I haven’t seen some of the others since the early ’90s.
3. I have a fish phobia – live fish or fish with heads & eyes. Not great when hubby had a huge tropical fish tank when we were first married!!
What book has made an impact on you (at any age!)?
Who from history would you like to have a drink with?
Tea or coffee? Cup or mug?
What has been your greatest achievement?
How would your friends describe you – in 3 words?
My answers to Kim’s questions:
1. What made you start blogging?
I was about to have a trial for a spinal cord stimulator to help control my chronic nerve pain and the blogging idea was to cover two bases: for friends and family to know how I was doing & save hubby on phone calls; I had received so much support from others online and I thought maybe I could give back some support & experience. I must admit the fact my kids thought no one would want to read anything their mum wrote was a bit of a red rag to a bull!
2. Where would be your dream place in the world to see?
3. What is your ultimate goal in life?
For me this links to number 5 – to live life to the full whilst I can. We never know what is around the corner. If my kids are happy, generous and thoughtful adults…and I have been able to support/help others for as long as possible (I know, I know – the nursey, touchy, feely bit!) then my job is done!
4. If you had one super power what would it be?
Recently I have watched the TV spin off from the X Men, The Gifted – the gift of one mutant was the ability to change/take away the feeling of pain. This would be my super power!!
5. Who or what is your motivation?
One of my closest friends died aged 37 from breast cancer and I have cared for various young patients as a cancer, AIDS & hospice nurse who died. They are definitely my motivation, particularly now I have chronic illness, to live life to the full. There are too many to list here but a few names that stay with me are Clare (aged 21 uncontrolled type 1 diabetes), Connie (age 23 cancer), Paul (age 28 AIDS), Sunil (mid 40s Motor Neurone Disease), Samantha (age 27 breast cancer) John (mid 30s Cancer of tonsils).