Summer holidays 2014

It’s been a while since I updated my space here. I know holiday photos are boring but this is mainly for me and my family archive. If you want to see some happy pictures, feel free to read on.

Our holidays started with a trip to Shap to take part in the 2014 ‘Total Warrior’ 10km muddy obstacle race. This is the ‘before’ picture.before total warrior 14This is one of the most energy sapping obstacles we did. The Husband and I are smack bang in the middle of this photo. I’m the one up to my chest in mud. I was very grateful to swim through a river shortly after this! The weather was dreadful, which didn’t make much difference to us as competitors but it wasn’t much fun for spectators.total warrior 14 in the mudFortunately, things improved the day we drove to Beddgelert in North Wales. The mountain you can see in the distance is Snowdon, the highest in Wales and England. This was taken from in front of our caravan, which was parked at Cae Du campsite, a site that prides itself in providing a peaceful, quiet environment. Driving the caravan there wasn’t an experience for the faint hearted but Beddgelert proved to be a good base for exploring Snowdonia. View of Snowdon from CampsiteOne of our first days out was to Criccieth, a little coastal town which had everything you could want (except perhaps sand). We found a patch of sheltered pebbly beach and settled in to eat freshly fried chips. We spent the rest of the afternoon building rock caves instead of sand castles. I could have spent a few days here as there seemed to be a high street filled with delightful, independent shops but I never got any closer than admiring them from the car. There was also a cute little castle close to the beach but we never made it to that either, we were contended enough on the beach.Sea at Cricceth North WalesCaenarfon Castle however, was unmissable. It is truly spectacular. There were so many towers and turrets to explore that we spent hours there. You need plenty of stamina and a head for heights. Climbing the towers gives wonderful views over the town, the Menai Straights and the mountains of Snowdonia.Canaerfon CastleThis is the view from the Snowdon Mountain Railway. There aren’t many mountains you can ascend by rail in the UK but Snowdon is one of them. It was very expensive for us to do this trip as a family of five so we were very grateful for mostly good views. The summit was cloudy, cold and windy but I suppose that was a good experience too. Our children now know how true it is when people say that the conditions can change quickly in the mountains.View from SnowdonWe did have some rainy days during our holiday. This photo was taken the day that the remains of Hurricane Bertha passed over. Apart from putting the storm straps on the awning, it didn’t affect us too much. We just settled in with games and crafts and eventually dodged the showers for a walk to the village.Indoor games caravan Wet Wales hillsidesAnother of our days out was to Plas Newydd, a stately home on the Anglesea side of the Menai Straits. The estate is owned by the National Trust, who have made their properties very family friendly in recent years. Our children generally enjoy the quizzes that the NT provide and the Plas Newydd experience was no different. They also took full advantage of the playground and happily explored the terrace and formal gardens. It was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me because although I’d never really visited the house or gardens before, I stayed at the adjacent outdoor education centre a few times when I was a biology teacher. I used to visit with the 6th form on their field trips and we spent many an hour foraging in the seaweed on the shore below the house.Garden at Plas Newyyd AngleseaSnowdonia has some fabulous coastline. This picture was taken at Nefyn on the Llyn Peninsula. The colours and the light are a wonderful combination of blues, greens, browns and white. We got quite a taste for swimming in the sea, with the beach at Llandanwg, near Harlech having water that seemed surprisingly warm.Ready for swimming Into the Sea North WalesHarlech and Nefyn both had great sandcastle sand too.

Sandcastles 2014In truth, we could have spent a lot of time just exploring the area around the campsite and Beddgelert. This lake was a short, easy walk away along a quiet lane and scenic footpath.Paddling in lake near Beddgellert Beddgellert scenery lane at BeddgellertBut, North Wales has plenty of attractions too and and we couldn’t resist another rail trip from Beddgelert to Porth Madoc on the Welsh Highland Railway, a narrow gauge railway that runs North to Caenarfon too.Dragon bench on Welsh Highland RailwayWe could have spent lots more time exploring North Wales but our time was up after 11 nights. We had a pressing deadline. The Middle Miss wanted to be home in time for her seventh birthday. However, staying on a site with tents stimulated a short camping trip over the August bank holiday weekend. I told Son Number One that I was never camping again and that if he wanted to I was happy to keep paying his subs at cubs. The Husband fancied a trip though and planned to take the older two children to a site near Robin Hood’s Bay, which is just an hour away down the coast. I hummed and ahhed about joining them and eventually I felt sorry for Babykins, who was going to be left behind if I didn’t go. Luckily, it was a great trip on a pleasant site with plenty of sunshine.tent set up camping camping tea timeOn the Saturday, The Husband, Son Number One and The Middle Miss embarked on a bike ride from Hawsker to Ravenscar, the same trip that we did last September with the local scouts.


Coastline from RavenscarBabykins and I explored Robin Hood’s Bay itself.

IMG_1698IMG_1670IMG_1668IMG_1655IMG_1652IMG_1651IMG_1645IMG_1644 It’s an incredibly photogenic place but I just haven’t captured it. The houses appear to be piled on top of each other and cling to the sides of a steep road down to the harbour.

robin hoods bay housesEverything about it is quaint and picturesque.

old bike at robin hood's bay

As you can see from the picture below, fishing is still a part of the town’s activities.

lobster pots robin hood's bay

I didn’t know it had it’s own sea monster!

sea monster robin hood's bay

Mainly, I think, it’s a place to make happy holiday memories…

memory bench robin hood's bay

 

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Three and a half

Family life is constantly changing. It seems like no time since I was feeling cooped up and frustrated with a toddler who needed lots of entertaining.

IMG_0480But now my boy is three and a half and has the privilege of five afternoons a week in school nursery and two mornings in playgroup. We only really share Monday and Thursday mornings and they are wonderful. Often we just potter about together on the allotment, weeding, watering, picking and planting. We cycle there and back, usually stopping at the nearby play area for a bit of climbing, swinging and pretending to be pirates and sharks.

IMG_0822Occasionally we’ve been to visit the birds at Saltholme or the seals just a bit further up the road. Sometimes we do errands, popping to the shops, the bank, the library or the post office. It’s low stress, low pressure and usually just me and him.

I’ve never had so much freedom to enjoy the company of someone who is three and a half. When Son Number one was three and a half he was very ill and we were dealing with leukaemia. What’s more, he had a baby sister to divide my attention. When she was three and a half, Babykins came along and my attention was divided again. I feel quite sad that I can barely remember what my older two children were like at this age.

When they were little I would have looked for organised activities or arranged to meet up with friends but now I’m happy just to be alone together. I’ve come to the conclusion that trying to enjoy the company of other adults when small children are around is actually quite hard work. I know that at a different stage in my life I would have needed the kind of support that only other parents can offer. I would have needed a place to go to get out of the house. But that stage has passed. For this short period of time, I’m really happy and contented to share it with Babykins.

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Changes

I know it’s not really ‘New Year’ any more but it is still January and so I feel it is still appropriate to write about change. Change is always with us but often it is subtle. Living with small children, as I have for the last eight and a half years, teaches me that every day. Children are always growing, always mastering new skills, going through small, positive, natural changes.

This year, I’m feeling lots of change in the air and luckily for me, I think it’s positive.

Babykins has started attending school nursery for three hours every afternoon. That is a change that I have been ready for for a few months. He is a very fun boy but lately he has needed a lot of entertaining. I think he has been through the kind of developmental change that means he is ready for more imaginative play, something that doesn’t come easily to me. When I watch him play with his sister it seems so natural but I find it so boring hard. However, now that he is at nursery and the pressure is off me I am finding it a bit easier to do the kind of silly, pretend things that little children love. You can laugh at me but last week we played all sorts of ‘animal noise’ games. I don’t mind admitting to sitting under the dining room table pretending to be a pig in a pig stye. There was another variation that involved being a hen sitting on an egg. That would probably have looked even stranger if a neighbour had peeked in the window, but he loved it. I loved the fact that we were able to play together, without inhibitions but most of all, I loved the fact that I wouldn’t have to do it ALL day! When your child starts nursery at 12.30 you’ve got to start thinking about eating lunch at 11.30 or you’ll never be ready in time.

All this time at nursery has meant a lot more free time for me. I’ve been anticipating this and wondering how (if at all) I should change my lifestyle. One of the things that I have committed to doing is getting fitter (I hate that expression). As a practising yoga teacher I hang my head in shame at how I have neglected my physical body. I’ve still got plenty of flexibility but probably not enough strength or stamina to match it. I’m hoping that in the summer I will have enough of all three to complete an interesting challenge but I’m not ready to go public with that yet.

I feel that my brain is starting to wake up a little bit from the haze of child-rearing. Of course I’m still predominantly a stay-at-home mother but slowly, slowly, my career is coming back to life. I’m looking forward to doing some studying again and to re-connecting with my peers within the yoga and birth community.

I’m trying hard to be more organised, to not put off the little jobs that need to be done, to make lists and tick them off. It’s great to know that I’ve got three clear, uninterrupted hours to work on something and I think it’s having that time to focus that makes all the difference. For the last few years I have existed, as most stay at home parents do, in a world where an uninterrupted thought is a rarity.

So now, I’m planning, thinking and hoping that 2014 is going to bring some positive changes, mostly small, but hopefully all significant.

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Getting out

IMG_8706I’ve been feeling a bit cooped up lately. Maybe it’s winter time, maybe it’s the demands of a toddler who is swiftly growing up, knows his own mind and seems to require a lot more ‘entertaining’. It used to be the case that I could scoop him up and drag him out to the shops to do the errands without much complaint. Lately I feel like it’s a struggle to get him out of the house and away from the television. Whatever the reason, last Monday felt like a good day to escape to one of our local parks. The weather was fine and mild…

IMG_8725 but the play area was empty.

IMG_8686These are the days that I feel I should be taking advantage off. I know that when school really takes over there will be no more empty play areas. However, proper school, reception year, is a long way off yet. Plenty of time for getting out and about.

IMG_8694My boy is pretty confident in his climbing and balancing. It’s just a shame he didn’t have his siblings to play with.

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IMG_8710I had a few opportunities to enjoy the bits and pieces of nature scattered around by the previous weeks high winds. Babykins wasn’t really interested.

IMG_8716I am always drawn to looking at lichen it’s so delicate. Silly really but I do like both the texture and subtle colours.

IMG_8720In the low winter sunlight even the dried up leaves with grass sticking through looked pretty.

IMG_8727So, our little trip out was fun and certainly made me feel a bit better about keeping on with the parenting…

Autumn in the Park

We took advantage of the clear skies today to enjoy a trip to the park. We used to come to this park a lot but for some reason I don’t think we’ve been since Babykins was born. Visiting today reminded me of how different things were when Son Number One was last here. He was still on his leukaemia treatment then. I felt that I had to keep my eye on him all the time because he was so apt to trip and stumble. Neither of us was particularly confident about his climbing, running or jumping. What a joy it is now to see him tackle the zip-wire with ease, to scale the heights of the climbing frames and to generally run around without a care in the world.

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Mud lovin’ puddin’

The husband has developed a taste for ‘mud running’. Today he did his second event, the Newcastle Stampede, which is organised by the British Heart Foundation. This is the state of his kit.
IMG_8444Since it was a cold, wet, grey day to be running and I needed to put the oven on for dinner anyway, I decided that he should have one of his favourite puddings. Baked rice pudding, like Mama used to make.

Baked Rice Pudding  ::  Serves 2-3 generously

2 oz or 50g pudding rice

1 oz or 25g sugar

half a pint or 225ml of milk

half a pint or 225ml of evaporated milk ‘Carnation’

butter to grease the dish

ground nutmeg sprinkled on top

Grease a shallow, lidded, oven-proof dish with the butter. Add the remaining ingredients and stir. Put the lid on and place in the oven at 160C, 325F or gas mark 3 for 2-3 hours. It is done when the top has formed a golden skin and the inside is creamy.

Mine was probably in the oven for a little bit too long. Such are the perils of taking the children out to a swimming party after you have turned the oven on.

IMG_8443No complaints were heard from The Husband though. Even I enjoyed it with a good splash of double cream on top and I detest tinned rice pudding. This is the real deal and it could hardly be easier to make. If your oven is going on anyway, for something like a slow cooked casserole this is the ideal dessert to pop in at the same time. Two dishes for the price of heating the oven.

Some days start out bad…

Today was one of them. [Well, actually I wrote this yesterday but I thought two posts in one day was a bit much]

When you’ve cleaned up sick from your living room floor before 8.30 in the morning you expect a bad day. But it could have been worse, at least it was laminate and not carpet.

Today actually turned out to be a peaceful day, filled with magic moments.

IMG_6430Babykins is developing his fine motor control by doing ‘chop-chop’ at every opportunity. It’s slightly scary, especially as he goes so quiet while he is practicing. On the other hand, he goes so quiet when he is doing it – RESULT! He even got out the dustpan and brush and tidied up after himself today.

IMG_6446After lunch, The Middle Miss – the sick one – was feeling much better. She brought her nail polish down and set up her salon. Babykins had his finger and toe nails varnished. Well, the blue polish from half term was wearing off. Being the youngest in a family, with an older sibling of each sex certainly allows you to explore all aspects of play. I had such a lot of pleasure from being with my two youngest children today. They really are good friends. Our family needed little Babykins to bring a playful element to it. Son Number One is a wonderful boy, who I appreciate more and more but he’s not the best at playing with his sister. She gets so much out of being a big sister and on the whole, is very good at it.

IMG_6448After the morning sick incident both children went in the bath and after that, I had the urge to wash all the towels. I was channelling the spirit of my Grandmother, a woman brought up in times when there were no antibiotics and hygiene was the only way to stop illness spreading. In that same spirit, it seemed appropriate that the washing was then dried on the line, some of it hanging up with Grandmas pegs. What a simple pleasure it is to hang washing out to dry on a sunny day. All the same, I’m glad that we have other options these days.

The sunny weather was bliss today. As the afternoon wore on the children played outside a little (more magic moments) and then we had a wander to the shops to buy some naughty treats. On sick days I don’t mind indulging them in crisps.

IMG_6450We were only home for a short while before it was time to pop back down the road again, this time to collect Son Number One from school. In those few minutes I just had time to start preparing our supper. I was in a very happy place (I must nod to Lucy at Attic 24 here, who used this expression on her Facebook page this afternoon) . The children were contented, my yummy meal was starting to take shape and I had a pretty view: newly blooming narcissus, lit up by the afternoon sun streaming through my windows. Some days start off badly but end up being gems.