Easter Holiday Traditions

A few years ago I heard Steve Biddulph, author of ‘Raising Boys’ speak about parenting. One of the things that struck me was how he talked about traditions. I hope I’m not misquoting him but I seem to remember his speech going along these lines “Children who have grown up in happy families look back on their youth and say ‘remember when…’ as parents we have to provide the traditions that our children will remember with fondness”. He talked about families that spent one night a week all ‘camping out’ on mattresses in the same bedroom to illustrate that traditions don’t have to be expensive, they just require the willing input of the family, particularly the parents.

This all comes to mind now, as I look back on our recent Easter holidays. Traditions are becoming ingrained within my family and our friends family, who we share our break with. This year is the third year that we have spent time together at my Sister and Brother-in-law’s farm in Cumbria, in their simple holiday cottage. You can see posts from last year and the year before herehere and here. You may notice that I take pretty much the same photos every year, all that changes is the weather and the size of the children.

Every year our children look forward to helping out with activities on the farm. They herd the sheep, feed the lambs, look for eggs, fill up the hopper on the turnip masher (I’m sure there is a proper name for this bit of farming kit but I don’t know what it is), throw straw around in a vain attempt to put bedding down for the cows, feed and water the indoor sheep and venture up to the fell top to feed to the hardier sheep up there. Then there is playtime; they build straw bale castles with their cousins, splash stones in the stream, collect ‘crystals’ from out of the stream, kick a football and ride a bike. Together we have Easter egg hunts and walks over the fell, share meals and bedtime rituals. As each year passes, they have more things to look forward to as they remember the things they did the year before. Long may it last. We are already booked in for next year!IMG_4694 IMG_4699 IMG_4712 IMG_4755 IMG_4662 IMG_9752 IMG_4677 IMG_9758 IMG_9761 IMG_4681 IMG_9790 IMG_9836 IMG_4738 IMG_4746 IMG_4745IMG_4750IMG_9846IMG_9861IMG_9867IMG_9870IMG_9895IMG_9898IMG_9899

Easter Holiday Mosaics

I took far too many pictures of our holidays at the farm…ice and snowhens and eggsegg huntingeaster viewsrandom momentssheepdays outBut now it’s out of my system! Sorry for inflicting so many holiday photographs, it’s probably unforgivable.

52 weeks of happy mash up, weeks 12, 13 and 14

Just for the sake of completeness I am going to amalgamate my last few 52 weeks of happy posts in to one and then normal ‘service’ can resume.

Week 12/52 – March 19th to 25th

IMG_1929My haul of yarn from a charity shop. Four almost complete balls of 100% cotton and six and a bit balls of  Shetland, 100% wool, lace weight. All for less than £4 and bought whilst having a sociable, child free, morning out with an old friend.

IMG_6613Starting my bunny making extravaganza. Making the centres was the easy part…

IMG_6626Doing some ‘research’ for a suitable birthday cake recipe.

IMG_6620Not a great photo but a magic moment. The Middle Miss is really beginning to enjoy reading to herself and these Usborne phonics books are just right for her.

Week 13/52 March 26th – April 1st

IMG_6691Making an aubergine parmigiana with my little helper (I can’t help but think of Miranda Hart’s Extreme Mothering article in the Telegraph every time I make this). We got cooking oil everywhere and I was slightly nervous about the proximity to a smoking hot griddle pan but the end result was very tasty. Even Son Number One ate it up. I had to laugh at his verdict “Hmm, it smells good, like a nice pizza but it looks horrible.” He had a fair point. My advice was to shut his eyes while he ate it…

IMG_6703More reading, this time ‘The Smartest Giant in Town’ by the great Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Everything about this makes me happy – the fact that she can read, the fact that she loves it so much, the fact that she read to her little brother and the fact that he listened intently. Happy, happy, happy.

IMG_6708The arrival of The Easter Basket from school. The Middle Miss was so excited about doing this. Also, bringing it home marked the start of the holidays, which meant we could go….

IMG_2051here! It may look a bit cold, dark and brooding in this photo but trust me, it is a beautiful spot. I have loads and loads and loads of photos to upload of our happy holiday with friends and family. If you want to see more, take a peek at last year’s lambing time visit by clicking here.

Week 14/52 April 2nd – 8th

IMG_6715A real fire in our holiday accommodation – bliss, especially when the electricity went off one day.

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Don’t ask me why but taking photos of hens makes me happy. Perhaps it is because they don’t mind it when you get close to them, perhaps it is because they are good subjects and often stay relatively still. There’s just something appealing about them, despite the fact they are the ultimate recyclers and eat anything.

IMG_2004My older children, their cousin and some blue sky!!! Yes, yes there is quite a bit of snow too but when it is piled up in dramatic drifts I don’t mind that, even in April. This photo is all about the freedom that holidays bring.

IMG_6746Freedom that extends to me too. It’s lovely to be on holiday with friends and family but one of the bonuses is that I can escape for a little walk, all on my own, down the lane in the clear, cold, twilight. If only my camera had been able to really capture the light and the landscape.

We’re Weathering the Weather….

I think I am getting used to this weather now. Slowly, my mindset is beginning to change. I am now resigned to the fact that summer has ‘failed to install’ as the image doing the rounds of Facebook jokes. I no longer expect sunshine so I am no longer disappointed when I wake up to rain. I do worry about my poor in-laws though. Will they ever be able to get any silage or hay made on their farm? How will they feed their cattle over winter without a harvest of summer grass?

The children all have new wet weather gear courtesy of sales, eBay and the hand-me-down box so whatever happens, we can get out and about. At 18 months, Babykins doesn’t have a concept of what summer should be like. He just wants to get out and explore. Last Friday night he dragged me to the front door  and practically demanded that I put his wellies on and take him outside. We trooped up and down the street, jumping in the epic puddles that had appeared. I couldn’t help but laugh at his outfit – shorts, wellies and a wooly hat. It could only be appropriate in a British Summer.

Dark skies are a bit depressing but they somehow allow the colour and beauty of summer flowers to shine. I hope that wherever you are, you can find something to enjoy in this terrible summer we’re having.

Half Term Holidays: Sheep, Birds, Castles and Gardens.

Half term seems to have been very full this year. We seem to have crammed plenty into nine days off (school was closed yesterday for teacher training).

First of all we had a visit to the in-laws in Cumbria. Son Number One always looks forward to this because he adores going to visit his cousins on their farm. They had a lot of fun together, going right up onto the fells to feed the sheep.

I think he would be quite happy if we suggested that his Aunt and Uncle adopt him. Not only do they let him do farming activities, they nearly always feed him his favourite meal: sausage and mash.

While we were away, the Husband and I had our first Night Out Alone since……well, neither of us could clearly remember the last time. We had a lovely steak dinner and were still home by about 9.30. We must need more practise.

On Thursday, the Husband went back to work (booo) and I had a lovely day out with the oldest two (hooray) while my Mum looked after Babykins. We met up with one of my old antenatal class pals and her two boys at Salthome, our local RSPB reserve. They were running a ‘dissect an owl pellet’ activity for the children. I’m not sure who enjoyed it the most, me or them. I was amazed that in one pellet, there were at least three small rodent skulls. It was possible to identify quite a few different bones, such as the vertebrae, ribs and thigh bones. Who knew that owl ‘sick’ could be so interesting. I’d love to go to the next session they are running, which is aimed at adults. You can find the information about it here.

I must confess this is an old photo of a different activity. I just wanted to put it in to show the lovely murals in the classroom. I wish I had taken some more photos because they really capture the environment. There are even paintings on the ceiling. One depicting what it would be like to look up through a pond and see tadpoles and other water creatures swimming by and one showing the sky with birds in flight, as if someone has removed the roof.

The children took full advantage of the play area (I might just have joined in too). There were lots of good places for a game of hide and seek.

Son Number One is quite keen on bird spotting and managed to identify the coots and moorhens correctly when the hide guide checked his knowledge. I was very proud.

It was a real treat to just enjoy just the two of them. I must try to do it more often.

As the week went on, I kept thinking that we should take advantage of our extra day of holiday and go away for a long weekend. My Mum was thinking the same thing too. We decided to phone up Flowery Dell lodges, just outside Richmond.

Luckily for us the ‘Juniper‘ was available. It was the perfect space for us, being on one level (no stairs for Babykins to climb) and with three bedrooms, a single, a twin and a double.

The weather on Saturday was stunning: clear, sunny and crisp. We explored the site with my brother and his wife, who had come to visit. First, the little play area, where there was a lot of fun to be had climbing….

trying to climb (but getting stuck)….

and balancing…

When they fell off, their Uncle ordered them back to the start and off they ran, giggling.

Babykins seemed amazed by the chance to explore such a wide open space. He is often tethered to a push chair while we are out but not this time. He practically did a double take as he trotted past this little water feature. Thankfully it was well designed and he couldn’t actually get wet.

The light was so beautiful. It lit up the bright white bark of these birch trees.

and shone through dried up leaves of the beech saplings.

It made super-dooper tall shadows.

Suddenly, there was a change in the weather. Cloud came in and unbelievably, snow started to fall. There was quite a blizzard and my brother and his wife decided to make a run for it, just in case.

It only lasted about 15 minutes and then there was full sunshine again. Very unusual.

The night was very cold and frosty but we were cosy in our little lodge.

Of course, the great thing about frosty nights is the clear, blue-sky days that often follow them. Sunday was a stunner so we went off to explore Richmond. First of all the castle, with it’s virtually intact keep.

We climbed to the very top. I can’t think why I didn’t take a photo of the view. We looked out for dragons, knights and damsels in distress, but there were none to be seen.

After all that climbing we needed refreshments.

How about that for afternoon tea? I’m very fussy about tea shop teas. Any that have proper, non-drip teapots and milk in a little jug score highly with me. Those scones were whoppers. I couldn’t eat any dinner until after 8pm.

Our last day of the holiday was spent at Thorpe Perrow Arboretum. I’ve often wondered about visiting this place but somehow never got around to it. Turns out that Monday was a great day to go. We met some friends there and apart from our party, there was only one other little, young family there. We had the whole of the grounds virtually to ourselves.

It was almost worth the entrance fee for the pleasure the children had getting close to the robins. Son Number One tried very patiently to tempt one to eat from his hand. I think if his sister hadn’t been jumping around quite so much he might have managed it.

Even she got close though.

And how about this? I did use the zoom function, of course.

I really enjoyed walking through the grounds. There were plenty of snowdrops in bloom and the mixture of trees meant that it was still interesting, despite the season.

Babykins got to stretch his legs again. Thank goodness for reins. He would have been swimming with the ducks otherwise.

At this time of year, you have to enjoy the detail of plants.

The main attractions as far as the children were concerned were the animals and birds of prey. In fact, it couldn’t have suited Son Number One more. It was a near as he is going to get to ‘Deadly 60‘, one of his favourite TV programmes. Because there were so few people there, we all got to stroke a corn snake and hold a buzzard and a barn owl.

The meerkats were very cute too.

We walked over the board walk through the bog garden a few times. Each time I looked as carefully as I could at this stunning toadstool. I couldn’t work out if it was real or not. I took a few photos, zooming in as closely as I could. See what you think….

Now look more closely….

I should have realised when I saw the fairies in their tree stump.

We had a great time but I’d love to go back there, just me and the Husband and explore the grounds. Maybe in another 15 years or so….