52 Weeks of Happy: 30/52, 31/52, 32/52, 33/52

School holidays are here, family birthdays are here, it’s been busy, busy busy in my household so I’m going to try to choose one picture for each week. It won’t be hard. The last few weeks have been great.

IMG_7775Babykins enjoying filling his shoe with gravel after a hard day exploring The Forbidden Corner near Middleham. If you are in need of a family day out, The Forbidden Corner is a lot of fun. We took Son Number One’s Godmother, who is 20 and I think she enjoyed it. I really don’t think I can describe it very well. It’s partly a beautiful garden but it has lots of strange, surreal, underground sections, some of which are quite scary for little children.  Son Number One and The Middle Miss had a whale of a time exploring it, dodging the unexpected squirts of water and trying to find all the ‘landmarks’ on the leaflet you get at the start. It’s expensive, but well worth a visit. Just remember you have to book in advance.

IMG_7824Son Number One requested a party at the local climbing wall to celebrate turning eight. We took four boys and two girls to RockAntics, who gave them an hour and a half of climbing fun. First they warmed up with some bouldering (climbing without ropes above big crash mats) then they each did three climbs roped up, with an instructor holding the other end. Son Number One got braver with each climb and managed to reach the top on the last one. The Middle Miss was a natural and scampered up to the top each time. Even Babykins sneaked in on the bouldering. Not for the first time I was grateful that I could hold onto his dungarees!  We ended the party by scoffing a load of Dominoes pizza and birthday cake. Good times – not cheap but relatively low on stress levels.

IMG_2923It’s the time of year for family holidays and this is the first time we have been away for more than a week. It’s also the first time we have been on a family summer holiday without any input from a charity! We have benefitted from the generosity of various groups over the years of Son Number One’s leukaemia treatment but this year, we were on our own! Well, we were in my Mum’s caravan. So it’s thanks to her generosity in loaning it to us, along with her car, that we were able to chill out on this lovely campsite in Somerset. Here we are on ‘hay watch’ as the farmer unloaded his wagon full of towering round bales by pushing them over with a tractor.

IMG_3298The Middle Miss turned six the day after we returned from our holidays. It was a bit of a last minute dash to get her birthday presents organised. I didn’t even get around to decorating her birthday cake. Not to worry, Grandma had lots of little cakes just ready for embellishing. The old tin of candles and decorations came out and some new tubes of ready-made icing were cracked open and ta-dah! All three children had fun decorating their own cakes. The look of concentration on babykins’ face was priceless as he squirted and squeezed the icing. A ‘magic moment’ according to Grandma. Here’s to more Happy Days.

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Sunday projects.

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IMG_6650A bit of stash busting, thanks to Janette at The Green Dragonfly for the free pattern and tutuorial. I hope I can get them all done for Easter.

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IMG_6663Baking a special birthday cake for my brother. He will be 30 on Monday and thinks he is old (ha ha). I’ve had a lot of fun trying out a new chocolate orange cake recipe (find it here) and even more fun finding the images I want to put on the cake. I will have to share these at a later date so as not to spoil the surprise. Suffice to say it’s been a trip down memory lane.

IMG_6653Finally, this was the scene here a few hours ago. The children, still in their pyjamas, decorated some Easter thank you cards. I’ve been very bad at getting them to do this lately so I feel a bit better knowing I’ve ticked that job off the list.

Hope you are having a good Sunday, despite the horrible weather.

 

Birthday time again

The last of our three Christmas-time birthdays was today. My little Babykins isn’t really a baby any more, he was two today. Last year we rushed off to the in-laws on his birthday and I didn’t seem to have any time for reflection. This year, spending the day in our own home has given me time to remember the events around his (home)birth. I wrote his birth story quite a while ago and I’m so glad I did. It seems really precious now, to have those memories documented. I wish I’d written my other two birth stories down as quickly.IMG_4086Today was lovely. A two year old is so different to a three year old. I expect that next year he will be up at the crack of dawn, desperate to open gifts. Today wasn’t like that, it was relatively slow and gentle to start with. We waited until his Grandma and Great Aunt arrived from Penrith to open gifts. He has been so cute this year – really taking an interest in each present, wanting to play with it before opening the next one, much to the frustration of his older sister.IMG_1275He is now the proud  owner of a mega-blocks crane and construction site, lots of lovely new books and clothes and a big cement mixer wagon. The rest of the family joined us for tea and birthday cake later in the afternoon.IMG_5866There has been a bit of a pig theme going on lately, all due to his recent obsession with the film ‘Babe’. He was supposed to get his special pig shirt for his birthday but my Mum couldn’t resist giving him it on Christmas day. Here he is raising his glass of ‘special wine’ (sparkling grape juice – he’d drink the real thing given half a chance).IMG_1217Mum was so desperate to give him a birthday present today that she was up at the crack of dawn sewing him another shirt – one with tractors on. The boys have quite a collection of these shirts now and we love them all.

After tea the party really got started. New iPods, disco balls and flashing headwear were brought out and The Middle Miss gave us a ‘show dance’ (we’re big Strictly Come Dancing fans in this house) and Son Number One did his best ‘Gangnam Style’ routine. I wish my camera was better at capturing it but the light conditions weren’t the best.IMG_1339The festivities are almost over for the year. Just the New Year celebrations to go and then we’ll be back to ‘normality’. I’m not sure that I am looking forward to that.

Winter blues and the return of the Mojo

The start of December was mostly about being ill. First it was me. I think I had tonsillitis, an experience I am happy never to repeat. Then both the older children had what added up to a week off school between them, one with a vomiting bug and the other with the same symptoms as me. To finish it off, I got the vomiting bug, spent 32 hours in a darkened room and then passed it on to The Husband, who, as usual was barely been ill and refused to take any time off work. In this house, it’s the woman who gets the ‘man flu’.

All this illness definitely left me feeling grumpy and fed up. I could quite happily have given motherhood a miss for a few weeks. I was not feeling the joy at all. It’s horrible when you feel like that. I usually have a kind of certainty in the back of my mind that it won’t last forever. I know that it’s usually just the circumstances but still, it can make you worry. When motherhood is your day job and you feel like quitting, home is probably not the happiest place to be.

Fortunately, In the last week or two I seem to have got my mojo back. This also coincided with a pretty drastic haircut.IMG_5744I feel like a new woman. It’s had such an effect on me I’ve even been wearing lipstick!

I’ve got loads of stuff I want to post, mainly because I feel like this is a little family archive now. So, here it is. December’s fun and games in photos…

Generally I like this time of year. I’m happy to see the decorations go up…IMG_5614

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IMG_1040Turning on the lights is always a special moment. So far our cheap lights from Woolworths haven’t let us down. They must be 10 years old.

IMG_1048Every year there are a few new decorations on the tree. These were made by Son Number One and The Middle Miss. The robin and snowman were from kits and the glittery bauble was from school.

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I haven’t really got into Christmas baking mode yet. We still don’t have a Christmas cake though I have made quite a few of my favourite, easy crushed pineapple cakes, which are similar. Unfortunately we have either eaten them or given them as gifts. The Husband baked some fun, Christmas tree cakes for the children to take to the school cake sale and I have finally baked some mince pies but that is it. I think the lack of baking coincided with my lack of mojo.IMG_5621

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That’s not to say that the oven hasn’t been on. On the contrary, at one point it seemed it was hardly off! The children and I got stuck into making salt dough ornaments…IMG_5678
IMG_5725Now, this all sounds very lovely and crafty but I assure you it was more out of desperation that our playdough had all dried up than anything else. Salt dough is quick, cheap and easy to make, really, honest. You can find the recipe I used here, though I also like the look of this one if you fancy something more akin to playdough. I had quite a lot of salt dough left over so I decided to take it to the Bumps and Babies group that I run and see if any of the mums wanted to made a handprint with their baby. All the babies in this group are experiencing their first Christmas and I had this idea in mind….IMG_5782I think it turned out quite well, though I am slightly concerned that the dough was a bit wet and might never be completely dried out. My second batch was much better. I think, like pastry, if you can use the minimum amount of liquid to bind the ingredients together you will get the best result. You really need to get your hands into the dough early on so that you can judge this. The good thing about salt dough is that you can’t really overwork it, unlike pastry.

I had some fun making some (slightly modified) jolly holly and turning it into a decoration for my hat. I didn’t stiffen it though so it looks considerably more droopy now. The berries are made from little bells and I can hear them jangling every step I take. I don’t think anyone else can.

IMG_5653My Christmas gift shopping is complete now. I have made a bit more of an effort to shop outside the big supermarket chains and online retailers. I haven’t managed it completely but it’s had it’s up side. I managed to get an afternoon out to visit our local Christmas market one day when I was feeling pretty blue. It was very cold but the time out cheered me up.IMG_5637Father Christmas will be bringing some gifts from this stall though I don’t think they are in this picture.IMG_5776I was also lucky enough to have a day out last weekend with my Mum at the Bowes Museum Christmas Market. It was a great trip. There was out of town parking with a free park and ride on specially decorated vintage buses. There were all sorts of craft and food stalls. I actually parted with most of my cash in the museum shop and in Barnard Castle itself. The stalls were lovely but I don’t tend to buy much at crafty places because I know so many people within the family who knit and sew. I was taken with a stall selling rows of hooks made from upcycled old cutlery and I nearly parted with £80 (way more than I would normally even consider) for a set of framed Thomas the Tank Engine postcards. The park and ride buses stopped in Barnard Castle on the way back and I was very pleased to get the opportunity to shop. We drive through this town every time we visit the in-laws and I always want to get out and explore but we never have time. There are some lovely shops, it’s well worth a visit, especially if you like antiques and vintage.

This week has been mostly about the end of term; school parties and nativity shows and even a performance on the electric guitar by Son Number One. Of course, the end of term means something else I always look forward to….My BIRTHDAY. I’ve had a lovely day today sharing my mince pies with my friends, unwrapping presents and eating a big, home-cooked (by my Mum) chinese style meal with my family. Poor Mum, she wasn’t feeling very well today but she still gave me a party. What a star. Here is my collection of presents.IMG_5814Didn’t I do well?

If you have been celebrating the solstice today I hope you have been having a happy time. Anyway, at least the world didn’t end.

Baking For A Birthday

The Middle Miss had a birthday this week. She helped me make her birthday cake. She is very good at this kind of thing as she has been well trained by both her Dad and Grandma. It was a treat for me to have her on her own, for a change, while Grandma had the boys. She was so excited by the whole process, but the best bit was adding food colouring to make pink swirls in the mixture.

This was the cake we were aiming for. It’s from a book by the very talented Debbie Brown called Enchanting Magical Cakes. I haven’t made many cakes from this book but I’ve drooled over it for a very long time. The attention to detail in the cakes is what makes them so attractive. That and the liberal use of edible glitter.

Baking the three cakes that this design required took ten eggs and the best part of the morning. In the afternoon Grandma and I did a child swap. I loaned her The Middle Miss and she returned Son Number One. He took over the baking duties. We decided to make the name of each child that was coming to the party. While he rolled and cut and counted letters, I worked on the cake.

It turned out to be a long day. Things weren’t helped by Babykins refusing to go to bed. He eventually fell asleep on The Husband’s knee at about 10pm. At that point the supper pots were still lying around, the cake was very much ‘in progress’ and I hadn’t wrapped the birthday present. In fact, it was still hiding in the loft. I finally turned the light out at about quarter to one in the morning. I think it was worth it, even though I had to retire to a darkened room for a lie down after the actual party!