Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe

2 July 2018


We went into the town of Southend today. Was a beautiful walk along the beach front. With the pier in the distance, it felt like we’d stepped in to a postcard.

We strolled, with no particular destination in mind, just seeing what was there. We walked past some bakeries that sold old-fashioned Cornish pasties, juxtaposed with a McDonalds and a Burger King. There were, what seemed like, a million traditional fish and chip shops.

We bought the kids a Cornish pasty each to try, one traditional steak and one chicken. Everyone liked the steak one best. Jayden didn’t seem too fussed on the whole concept, but Caitie enjoyed it.

Jayden trying a Cornish pasty

As we were heading back toward the beach (and Adventure Island), we saw Mr Simms Old Fashioned Sweet Shoppe. Caitie took off at a run, and I wasn’t far behind her although at a more decorous pace. *Pthb*

The sweet shop was just gorgeous. I truly felt like I’d stepped back in time. There were jars of sweets along the back wall, and a mix of traditional and modern confectionery along the sides. The confectionery was both British and international. They even had rock. I remember having a stick of rock when I was a child. In my head, I only knew of Blackpool rock, but the shopkeeper told me that each seaside town has their own version, so this was Southend rock. I desperately wanted to buy some, but I didn’t want to eat it! *Laugh*  I tried to think of anyone at home that I could buy some for, but all the kids in my family were in the UK for the wedding.  Caitie ended up buying a stick of rock, which I thought was for her friend back home, but nope, it was just for her to eat!


I hummed and haa’d and oohed and aah’d over the sweets in the jars.  I was determined to buy some that weren’t prepackaged, because I wanted the full experience of the traditional sweet shop.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted until I saw aniseed balls, then it was an easy decision.  They were yummy too.  *Smile*

Then we finally took the kids to Adventure Island, the theme park.  We’d promised them that they’d get to go on the roller coaster.  When my kids were small, I realised that I was always taking photos of them doing things, but I wasn’t actually in any of the photos.  So I made a conscious effort to put down my camera and join in on the activities they were doing.  So Jayden, Caitie and I went on the roller coaster.  Steve can’t do things like roller coasters anymore as he screwed his back.  The roller coaster goes straight up and then straight down again, and while the down part was scary, the going up was just as scary because you felt like you were going fall backwards.  Caitie find it quite adrenaline-inducing, but then she and Jayden went on it again.  *Smile*

After that, we decided to pop in to the Baskin Robbins store and have ice creams.  Caitie had some horrendous bubblegum flavour.  Jayden and I stuck to our classic mint chocolate.  I can’t remember what flavour Steve had.

It was a lovely day.  A perfect day to be in a seaside town, eating ice cream.  *BigSmile*

I completed a bucket list item today!

1 July 2018

Today I completed an item on my bucket list – I met my niece Evie!

Last time I was in England, in 2014, I met my nephew Harry. He was 6 months old. Almost a year after that visit, my niece Evie arrived in the world, and I had yet to meet her. Meeting her was definitely on my bucket list! And today, that happened.

Harry doesn’t remember us from our last visit of course, and my kids have never met either of their cousins. So we spent today getting acquainted.

Neither of the kids, Harry and Evie, are very cuddly with us, but of course we’re strangers, so that’s to be expected. Evie keeps calling us all Daisy, as she can’t remember our names. When we tell her Caitie’s name, she pronounces it as Casey. Very cute. She talks a mix of proper sentences and babble. She’s super polite. “No, thank you,” she says, when you offer her something she doesn’t want. She sings all the time. Her favourite song is the baby shark song. She makes me want to cuddle her all the time.

Harry is four and a half, and his speech is excellent. His favourite thing at the moment seems to be Transformers Rescue Bots. He’s super cute when he giggles. He reminds me of my son, Jayden. Like, he seems to be quite sensitive, emotionally. He does things that are naughty, and then is devastated to be told off. I remember Jayden going through that. Shit, Jayden still goes through that and he’s 17! *Laugh*It’s a learning thing, right? They have to push the boundaries to find out what the boundaries are, and if the consequences are something they can cope with. But it’s tough. He has a tendency to isolate himself, which is also something Jayden did/does, so I try to consciously reach out to him to see if he’s isolated because he needs a break from people or if he’s feeling left out and just wants someone to include him.

Me with my nephew Harry
My daughter Caitie, with her wee cousins Harry and Evie

The weather is gorgeous. Hot and dry. Perfect holiday weather. Maybe tomorrow we’ll go to the park and see if we can see some squirrels. We don’t have squirrels in New Zealand, so both Caitie and Jayden are keen to see them.

We made it!

30 June 2018

The flight from Manila to Heathrow was uneventful.  Boring, but I’d take that over some of the dramas we’d had up to that point.  We honestly didn’t expect to find our luggage waiting for us at Heathrow.  It seemed only fitting that something would go wrong there too, right?  Nevertheless, we found our luggage without issue, much to our relief, and hustled our way to customs.  We pretty much speed-walked there, and were grateful we had, as we only had to stand in the queue for a relatively short time.  There were a LOT of people queued up behind us by the time we got there.

It was a weird feeling, knowing that we were finally in England.  Two years of planning, and all the last-minute delays…  It didn’t really feel real.

We had a drink while we waited for the taxi to arrive, then headed to my sister’s house.  Jayden was struggling to keep his eyes open, but we tried to keep him awake until we got there.  We’d landed at about 8pm, and figured if we could just go to sleep once we got to her house, we’d be on roughly the right time schedule.

We had hugs when we got there (her kids were in bed already), found our bedrooms, and basically went to sleep.  Tomorrow, the real fun begins.  I mean, we’re not going to rush off sightseeing immediately, but with all the stress and drama, it hasn’t yet felt like a holiday (or vacation as Americans call it).  Tomorrow we could relax, and I think we were all looking forward to that.

Hot and dirty (that’s what she said)

30 June 2018

The flight was long and boring, but at least we had the in-flight entertainment system, for what it was worth. There was a random selection of movies, and a very strange selection of TV shows. For instance, they had The Big Bang Theory, but only six episodes from season 9. And not the first six episodes from that season. Um, what? *Confused* Caitie and I got a couple of hours of sleep, but Jayden and Steve didn’t sleep at all.

We arrived in Manila at about 10:30pm local time. Then we had to stand in queues while they tried to sort out everyone’s connecting flights and accommodation. They seemed just as inept as the Auckland-based staff. Finally we were given our boarding passes for the flight to Heathrow the next day, only to find out we didn’t get the seats we’d pre-booked and prepaid for…again. *Angry* They gave us a hotel voucher for the Heritage Hotel, and vouchers for a shuttle to/from the airport. We had to find our luggage and re-tag it, but were told we could leave it at the airport and it would be put on our flight to Heathrow. We wondered if we’d ever see it again. Then Caitie realised she didn’t have her phone or camera bag, and realised they’d been left in the overhead locker of the plane. *FacePalm* Obviously Steve had overlooked them when he’d taken everything down. We asked someone about it, and they said they’d have a look and try and tag it to join us in Heathrow, but otherwise we should go to the lost and found tomorrow. We tried to prepare Caitie for the idea that she might not see it again.

Walking outside in Manila was like being hit in the face with a hot, damp cloth. It was so humid and so hot. Caitie was overheating in seconds. We were all sweating in our jeans and t-shirts. I think it was about 30 degrees Celsius….in the middle of the night. We were shocked at how much traffic there was in the middle of the night. We got to the Heritage Hotel, which looked beautiful from the outside, and in the foyer.


We were given two rooms on the same floor, one for Steve and I, and one for the kids. The whole floor smelled like cigarettes and was old and tired. The kids’ bathroom had cockroaches. But there were beds, which looked clean, and it was 2am local time (yes, it’d taken us that long to get everything sorted) and we were tired. We slept.

We were woken up at 5am by a phone call from the taxi company in England. We’d forgotten, in all the madness, to tell them that we weren’t on the flight as originally scheduled. *Headbang* They informed us that as we were a ‘no show’, the cost of the taxi was non refundable. Ugh. We still needed a taxi, so we rebooked it and gave them the new details.

We woke at 7am local time when our alarm went off, and we woke the kids for breakfast. Breakfast was a mix of Filipino food and western food. We all tried a variety of dishes. Jayden really enjoyed the stirfry he ate. I had a nice mince dish on toast. Caitie mostly filled up on pastries I think. We all enjoyed the omelette.


The shuttle ride back to the airport was eye-opening. The drivers don’t stay in one lane. It seems more like the lanes are just suggestions. At one point we were straddling the line, half in two lanes! And the beeping! They just kept beeping at each other, and we couldn’t figure out the reason for the beeping, even after asking the driver. The streets seemed dirty, and I saw a river that was crammed with rubbish. In my head, I was thinking ‘It’s like something you see on TV, not something that actually exists in real life.’ But of course it does. We’re spoiled, living in New Zealand. I now see why people have this notion of New Zealand as ‘clean and green’. Pedestrians ran or walked through the traffic with no apparent fear for their own safety. The buildings looked tatty and run-down for the most part. My overall impression of Manila was hot and dirty. The advertisements on the plane suggest there are some gorgeous places to go though, so I mustn’t be too judgy. I’m sure Auckland doesn’t look amazing on the trip from hotel to airport either, hmm?

We didn’t have to check our luggage in, so we had a little bit of time and we went to see if we could find Caitie’s camera bag. It took us forever to find the lost and found office, ironically, despite asking for directions multiple times. The lifts kept closing on us. In NZ, the lift won’t close if there is a person between the doors. Not so in Manila. Jayden and I both got squashed by the lift doors several times. It became a game to try and rush in, then rush out of the lifts before the doors closed. The lady at the lost and found office took our details and our description of the bag, then went hunting. We were not hopeful, but she came back with the camera bag. Caitie was so happy, she squealed with delight and almost hugged the poor lady. Everything was still in it, her phone, the camera, the spare battery packs. Steve and I were astonished that we’d got it back. We’d truly thought it was gone forever.

We had to queue to have our boarding passes scanned, and the line was really long, but it moved reasonably fast. Then we sat and waited. Then we boarded. Thankfully no drama llamas today.

We took off on time at 1pm.

A entire queue of drama llamas

Three things

*HeartB* Three things you can’t go without.
*HeartP* Three celebrity crushes.
*HeartO* Three favorite book characters.
*HeartGR* If you had to evacuate your home because of a natural disaster, what three things would you take with you?
*HeartG* Three pet peeves.
*HeartT* Three things you’d do if you weren’t so afraid.
*HeartY* Three favorite TV shows.

*HeartB* Three things I can’t go without.

Books. That’s definitely the first thing that comes to mind. I read every day, and I think if I couldn’t, I’d go a little bit crazy. *Crazy* Okay, well more crazy than normal! *Laugh* I read an average of about 10 books a month or 120 books a year, and while I can re-read a book, I don’t think I can go too long without reading. In particular, I like to read just before I go to sleep. It calms my mind and stops me from thinking about work and kids and all those things that like to play through your mind as you lie down to sleep.

At the risk of being cliche, my husband. We keep each other sane. Or as Steve says, ‘you complete my weirdness’. *Laugh* When the kids frustrate us (wait for the pet peeves list!) or work is driving us crazy, we talk, we laugh, we support each other… I definitely wouldn’t cope without him. I truly don’t wanna find out what I’d be like without him.

I’d say chocolate, but one of these days I’m gonna give up the stuff. Just…not today. Or tomorrow. *Pthb*

Ooh, I know. Jeans. Jeans for the win! *Cool* I’d live in jeans if I were allowed to wear them to work. Stupid dress code. *Rolleyes* When I’m not at work, I’m either in jeans or jean shorts. Actually, now that I’m thinking about clothes, I’m not sure I’d want to live without bras either. *Smirk*

*HeartP* Three celebrity crushes.

Fuck, just three? *Confused* Um…

Top of my list right now is Chris Pratt. I loved him in Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World. And there’s nothing sexier than a cute guy who makes you laugh. That’s my kind of man. *InLove*

Gerard Butler is always gonna be on my list. I loved him in Olympus Has Fallen, and of course the sequel London Has Fallen. OhmygodIjustsawthere’sanotheronecomingout! Angel Has Fallen! Yes! Definitely seeing that one at the movies. *StarStruck* Seeing Gerard as the Phantom of the Opera is definitely on my list of things to do too.

Hmm, who to choose for my #3? Hugh Jackman? Jeremy Renner? I like Jason Statham too. Not Tom Hardy, although I do like him, but he’s not quite in the league of the others. And I’m always up for a Bruce Willis movie, although he’s showing his age a bit now. Okay, I’m going for Hugh Jackman. Steve was so happy that I was amenable to going to see all the X-Men movies with him! *Laugh* Yep, he’s easy to watch, that’s for sure…

*HeartO* Three favorite book characters. 

Okay, the first one that comes to mind is Cole Renzo from A Restored Man by Jaime Reese. He’s so quirky, and so endearing… He’s clearly on the autism spectrum somewhere, although Reese never actually says so. It’s obvious because he keeps saying things he shouldn’t, but he can’t quite understand why what he said was so inappropriate until someone points it out to him. And he has a million thoughts going through his head all the time, and only working on cars calms him down. He was fascinating. And I thought the audio version of that book was just brilliant.

Oh, definitely Illium from Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series. Can’t believe he wasn’t the first one I thought of. And fuck he’s hot in the audio version. Which is weird, I know, because it’s narrated by a woman. But still… His accent and his personality and just…Illium. So um, he’s an angel. He has a fascination with mortals. And I really REALLY want him to have his own book. Nalini says that eventually he will get his own book, but probably not in the near future. Le sigh. When that book comes out, you can bet I’ll be buying it at the earliest opportunity. And preferably in audio format. *Wink*

Hmm… Hard to choose a third. Maybe Kai Bannon from the Cyberlove series by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell? I’ve been looking through my book reviews to help me choose a third, and now I want to re-read that book. And then I want to re-read the third book in the series with Cherry, who is another favourite character from that series.

Here are some of my other favourite characters:
Dina Demille from the Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
Tristan Lavelle from The World As He Sees It by A M Arthur
Ian Mackenzie from The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley
Eveline Armstrong from Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks
Mercedes Thompson from the Mercedes Thompson series by Patricia Briggs
Darius Lindsey from Darius: Lord of Pleasures by Grace Burrowes
Wilhelm Montegue from Song for Sophia by Moriah Densley
Chris Chapey from the Edge of Honor series by Lori Foster
Carrie Wiggins from Sweet Everlasting by Patricia Gaffney
Patrick Flaherty from the Senses series by Andrew Grey
Morganna from Lady of the Knight (re-released as Morganna) by Jackie Ivie
Abigail from Moon Craving by Lucy Monroe
Alana Avery from Guardian Academy by Jessica Sorensen
Kato from the Kingmaker series by Amanda Bouchet
Kit from Enemies Like You by Annika Martin and Joanna Chambers

*HeartGR* If I had to evacuate my home because of a natural disaster, what three things would I take with me?

Okay, excluding people and pets, for obvious reasons (like the fact that they’re not ‘things’), the first one is super easy – my boxes of memorabilia. I have a stack of file boxes (sort of the size of a shoebox or a bit bigger) in my bedroom filled with memorabilia from 2001 to 2018. Photos, letters, certificates, tickets, cards, etc. In some cases a single year takes up a whole box and in other boxes I can fit three years’ worth of memorabilia. Eventually I want to print my blog into books, one for each year from 2001 onwards, and stick the memorabilia into the books to make scrapbooks that are filled with my blog posts. I’d be gutted if anything happened to those boxes of memories.

Um, I guess #2 would be my poetry books. I started writing poems in 1994 when I was 14 years old. I’m the kind of creative person that actually finds it hard to colour outside the lines, so I have four exercise books filled with my poems from 1994 to about 2015 neatly written in, with carefully underlined headings. No scribbles, no rough drafts, just finished poems, all in exactly the same neat format. If I lost those books, I’d definitely lose the only copy of some of those poems. And they might not be good, but they’re…mine. They’re part of my journey from starting to write shitty poetry to where I am now with poetry (wherever that may be). And yes, I’m only up to 2015. I need to catch up to 2018. It’s on my to-do list, but I’ve got some other stuff to do first.

And I suppose third would be my scrapbooks. I have some scrapbooks that are pretty basic that I did when my son was born, before I learned the ‘art’ of scrapbooking. And I have some scrapbooks that are the more typical style of 12″x12″ scrapbook, including my wedding scrapbook. So similar to the memorabilia, because those scrapbooks contain memorabilia that has already been scrapped.

I think most everything else could be replaced.

*HeartG* Three pet peeves.

Okay, firstly, inconsiderate drivers. Seriously, some people are just wankers on the road. They cut queues, drive in bus or transit lanes, block the road by crossing when there’s clearly no room for them on the other side, run red lights, etc. They think the rules don’t apply to them for some reason. And yet, if everyone drove like they did, the road would be chaos. Carnage. Why should they get to be assholes and the rest of us have to sit in traffic and quietly fume? *Rant* Ugh, nothing gets me angrier faster than an inconsiderate driver.

Do you know what I’m most looking forward to about my kids leaving home? It’s not that they won’t be leaving a mess behind them everywhere they go. It’s not that they’re so freaking expensive. It’s not the frustration of trying to provide rules, boundaries and discipline. It’s the food. I buy a packet of biscuits, eat one biscuit from it, and the next day it’s gone. One time, I didn’t even get to eat a single biscuit from the bloody packet! *Shock* Anything we buy that can be remotely seen as a ‘treat’ gets eaten. But it’s not just treats. Anything convenient to eat. Tomatoes and tinned tomatoes disappear. And neither kid will own up to it. When they both deny it, we roll our eyes (or swear and shout, depending on how angry and/or frustrated we are!) and say ‘Oh, it must be the elves again’. We have some serious food elves. Steve and I dream about the day when we can buy food and put it in the pantry, fridge or freezer, and it’ll still be there when we go back for it. Honestly, it’s practically a life goal now. I guess we’re just lucky they’re not interested in the alcohol yet. *Think*

Published material that isn’t proofread. Everyone makes mistakes, I get that, and typos in things like blog posts or drafts or whatever don’t bother me, but if you’re publishing a book, a newspaper article, that kind of thing, fucking PROOFREAD IT!! *Rant* If you can’t spot errors in written material (I know my husband and mother-in-law can’t), then use the services of someone like me who can.

*HeartT* Three things I’d do if I weren’t so afraid.

Erm… Skydive? Bungy jump? Sing karaoke in public (everyone should be afraid I’ll do that! *Laugh*). Oh, definitely get a tattoo. It’s not a fear of needles, it’s a fear of regret, that I’ll be stuck with something forever that I’ll wish I wasn’t stuck with. *Rolleyes*

Quit my job. But I have a very real fear that I won’t find another one before we run out of money. *Laugh*

Oh, I’ve got it. Be honest with people when they hurt or anger me. Inconsiderate people. Intolerant people. I wish I could talk to them the way I rant about them in my private blog posts. But I never will.

*HeartY* Three favorite TV shows.

Hmm, I’m not really a TV watcher. I did enjoy Game of Thrones, however cliche that answer is. I know it’ll be on a lot of people’s lists, but that’s because it’s a good show! I only started watching it last year, so we watched the entire backlist of series one after the other, and now we’re stuck waiting for the next season, whatever number it is. I liked Downton Abbey too, which was addictive while you were watching it, but hard to get back into once you walked away.

The Big Bang Theory. I really must finish watching it. Not sure where I got up to, to be honest. Great show though, and lots of laughs.

And let’s go with a classic from when I was a kid. Fawlty Towers. I adored John Cleese as Basil Fawlty. So many great lines. Brilliant show.

I’m a level 38 bard

I’ve been super busy lately.  I recently hosted the 11th annual Quill Awards ceremony on, and now I need to deliver the 208 awards to the winners and honorable mentions.  Both the preparation and the organisation (even afterwards) is a mammoth job, but I love it.

We run a live Google Hangout for the ceremony, with a bunch of members chatting and announcing the various winners.  It’s great to talk to and see people that are usually just words on a page, but also amazing to be part of something so feel-good.

Winning a Quill Award on is truly something special.  I won my first Quill in 2013 for Best Holiday genre, with an activity I’d hosted.  Since then I’ve also won a Quill in 2015 for Best Short Structured Poem and Best Flash Fiction, and in 2014 I won a Quill for Special Contribution to which was a real honour.

I took over the hosting in 2015, when the previous host was unable to continue.  It was last minute, hence why I was still eligible for awards that year.  Since then I have excluded myself from nominations.  There’s nothing more awkward than announcing that you’ve won the prize!  *Laugh*  But yeah, I remember that feeling of winning that first Quill for my writing and realising that others valued my work and believed it worthy.  It’s so inspiring and encouraging.  So I will keep up the work as long as I can.

What else have I been up to?  Mostly prepping for our big trip overseas.  12 working days to go!   *Cool*   Ha ha!  I haven’t worked out the exact number of sleeps, I’m more interested in how many days of work there are left. *Smirk*

I’ve been working on my big spring clean before we go.  So far we’ve got all the bedrooms done, both bathrooms and the kitchen.  We’ve still got to do the upstairs hallway, the laundry and the lounge.  Definitely on the home stretch, but it’s been hard yakka (that’s work, for those who aren’t familiar with the lingo).  It’ll be nice to come home to a clean house, but more importantly, we’ve got a house sitter, so the place needs to be up to a decent standard.

Had a hilarious conversation on this evening that just tickled my sense of humour and I had to rush over here to share it with you.  Of course, then I had to explain why I’d been a bit absent lately.  *Rolleyes*  The good news is that when I’m on holiday, I’m hoping to catch up with a whole bunch of blog reading!  *Delight*  I should have some neat stories and photos to share with you all too.  I’ve been reading Globejotting: How to Write Extraordinary Travel Journals (and still have time to enjoy your trip!) by Dave Fox, and that’s given me some good ideas, so fingers crossed it’ll be worth reading!

Okay, yeah, so that conversation we had:

Lilli: I prefer to refer to age in terms of ‘levels’. If you say you are at Level 53, that would sound pretty cool.

Jayne: I’m level 41 monk because I have to rely on items for healing, but I can take massive amounts of damage.
Mr. J is a level 47 warrior.
What my party needs is a mage, dang it.

Elle: I love the idea of doing age in levels! Is that super geeky or… Nah, I’m going with cool.  *Cool*
I’m a level 38 bard. Oh yeah. This is definitely gonna be my new thing. *Laugh*

So, what level and class are you?  *Laugh*