Friday, 10 March 2017

A Visit to the Aquarium

A visit to the Sea Life Centre in Birmingham on Saturday was a real treat for the Podlings and a special reward for filling their marble jar. We award the Podlings marbles for kind and helpful behaviour and take them away for unkind behaviour and disobedience. Their collective good behaviour fills the jar, so when the jar is full we agree on a special treat that the whole family can enjoy. A trip to somewhere like this (i.e. somewhere expensive!) is very rare for us and therefore even more special. The day was much anticipated by the Podlings and we had some excited little people in the car at the start of the journey!
They were a little more subdued by the time we had driven the hour to Birmingham and navigated the city to find the car park Mark had sought out beforehand. We tend to avoid cities and the Podlings were fascinated by the tall buildings and the general business of the place. Fascinated, and I am pleased to say, slightly horrified! We are definitely happier in the countryside! The aquarium was absolutely heaving when we arrived, which Tom found hard to cope with. With hindsight, we should have chosen a quieter time to arrive, but not knowing how long it would take us to go around the aquarium and given how much it cost we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time. We will know for next time, although given how expensive it was I am not sure when that will be!
Gradually the crowds spread out and we all started to relax and enjoy what we came to see...the fish! We had a lovely visit and we all particularly loved the walkthrough tunnel at the end where the fish (including sharks!) swim all around you. Alex still talks about the fish swimming "under our toes". I loved watching Alex taking it all in and the older Podlings all delighted in showing him everything and lifting him up so he could see better. Lily, Emma and Alex had a play in the small soft play area at the end of the aquarium before we went to the gift shop where they were allowed to choose a souvenir. The final part of the treat was KFC for tea, which all four of the Podlings absolutely love.
We loved our special day out, though I think we all agree we would prefer to visit at a quieter time. Emma was crying at the end of the day because she had had such a nice day and was so sad that the day was over. I hope it will be one of those pleasant 'Do you remember...?' days we will all look fondly back on in future years. It was such a lovely day.
Excited Podlings at the start of the journey (yes, I did adjust Alex's shoulder straps before we set off, in case anyone was worried!)

They loved that the fish swam underneath them

Friday, 3 March 2017

World Book Day 2017

Emma as Silky the Fairy from The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton
World Book Day always inspires a great deal of excitement in the Podlings. With Tom now at high school, only the girls got to dress up this year. Emma went as Silky the fairy from The Enchanted Wood and Lily chose to be Nancy Drew. Emma's costume was quite easy to put together. Her dress was the bridesmaid's dress that Lily wore to Mark's brother's wedding a few years ago and we had the wings in the dress-up box. I made the flower crown by stitching some artificial daisies onto a headband. I really wasn't sure what we were going to do for Lily's costume and went charity shopping the day before World Book Day with my fingers crossed. Imagine my delight when I found a beautiful purple, tweed-effect suit just waiting to be turned into a Nancy Drew costume! The skirt was much too long, so some frantic (and very messy!) hem sewing was required in order to have the costume ready for the morning. I couldn't bring myself to cut into the beautiful jacket, so I just pinned the sleeves inside to shorten them. A pair of black tights and one of my hats and Lily went to school looking very much like Nancy Drew and scarily grown-up!
It is always fun to see what the other children wear on World Book Day, but it saddens me that every year you seem to see fewer and fewer costumes that are actually inspired by books. World Book Day is supposed to inspire children to develop a love of reading, but increasingly you see movie characters, Disney princesses and even computer-game characters. They might as well re-name it National Fancy Dress Day! Such a shame!
Something new this year was the school's 'Reading in Unusual Places' competition, where the children were supposed to submit a photograph of themselves reading in an unusual place. We took reading books with us on our visit to Manchester Museum and photographed the girls reading there. Lily was standing in front of a flock of artificial butterflies with a complete whale skeleton suspended behind her. Emma was photographed standing in front of a leaping tiger. The winning photograph was of a boy reading in his own kitchen with his dog. One doesn't want to appear a sore loser, so I shall refrain from commenting further, but I was disappointed for the girls, who thought they were in with a good chance with their 'unusual places'.
This was Lily's last year to dress up for World Book Day as she will be joining Tom at his High School next year, but I think she went out on a high note. She made a lovely Nancy Drew and although none of the children knew who she was, the teachers were quite excited by it! I love it that my girls love to read and I hope that never changes. 
Lily as Nancy Drew. I loved the Nancy Drew books as a girl, so I am thrilled that Lily has really taken to the books too.

Emma's entry in her school's 'Reading in Unusual Places' competition, taken at Manchester Museum.  Probably not the tiger who came to tea! I still can't fathom why this picture didn't win! 

Lily's entry to the competition, again taken at Manchester Museum with a complete whale skeleton suspended in the background.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Hardwick Hall

On Sunday we visited Hardwick Hall with Mark's parents. Built in the late 16th century and home to Bess of Hardwick, Hardwick Hall is an impressive Elizabethan manor house in Derbyshire. We came to see the snowdrops and only had time to see the gardens this time. We had a lovely little walk and the Podlings were very taken with the fairy doors in the garden. There is much to see there and I would very much like to visit again and see inside the hall. I am especially keen to see the collection of embroideries.

Hardwick Old Hall, adjacent to Hardwick Hall, was the birthplace of Bess of Hardwick. I hope we will also have time to look around here on our next visit.

Alex loved the fairy houses

My boys!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Synchronised Gymnastics

Emma playing gymnastics with her doll. I don't think I was ever this flexible!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

The Workhouse at Southwell

Last Saturday we visited The Workhouse at Southwell in Nottinghamshire. Built in 1824 with architecture influenced by prison design, it was intended to be the last refuge of the destitute. Being a lover of the works of Charles Dickens and having read 'Shadows of the Workhouse' by Jennifer Worth I have been wanting to visit Southwell workhouse for a long time, so it was wonderful to finally have a chance to look around the well-preserved buildings.
The Podlings enjoyed their visit and were particularly focused on the fact that families were separated when they entered the workhouse and that children were separated from their parents. One of the volunteers told us that even Alex, at two and a half, was right on the borderline of whether he would have been allowed to stay with his mother or not. They loved the schoolroom and had endless fun with the water pump in the courtyard. In the gift shop, both of the girls spent some of their pocket money on a slate and stylus and Lily bought a whip and top, although only, I suspect, because she wanted the whip!
It was well worth the visit and I know we would like to go again at some point.
This was where the old and infirm men would eat

The kitchens where the plain and meagre food was prepared. Meat was only served three times a week and photographs showing the portions served at each meal show that everyone must have been hungry!

The Podlings loved the school room and would have loved to have played here longer

One of the able-bodied men's dormitories

The water pump was a source of much entertainment!

I loved this!

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Valentine's Day

Baskets of treats and cards made by Mummy awaited the Podlings on the morning of Valentine's Day, along with the special treat of pink iced doughnuts for breakfast. Alex was understandably thrilled to be greeted with a basket of sweets and was soon tucking in to strawberry laces! I greeted the girls from school with pink foil wrapped chocolate lollipops and they came home and started on the baking for our Valentine's tea (Tom prefers not to join in these days). Lily made the fairy cakes and they decorated them together. I had bought some pink and red fondant icing so the girls could make some decorations for the cakes. Lily really enjoyed this and made some really lovely decorations. I made the larger cake and then Lily had a free hand in decorating it. She did a lovely job. We sat down to a lovely Valentine's tea together where we all consumed far too much sugar!

Our Valentine's tea

Lily's very pretty Valentine's cake.

Lily, Emma and Alex had fun decorating the fairy cakes

I made this wreath last summer, but it seemed appropriate to bring it out for Valentine's Day

Little Emma received her first Valentine from a little boy in her class. So sweet!