Sunday, 15 January 2017

January Brings the Snow

We woke on Friday morning to a world of white and the first question on Lily's lips was "Is school cancelled?". It wasn't until the girls were dressed for school that the text message came through telling them want they wanted to know, their school was indeed closed for the day! There was much rejoicing! Unfortunately for Tom his school remained open, although he wasn't unhappy about going. Mark normally drives Tom the mile and a half to school in the morning and it usually takes them all of five minutes to get there. It took them well over half an hour to make the journey on Friday morning and it took Mark an hour to make his twenty minute journey to work. 

The three remaining Podlings and I took the sledges out for a walk behind the house. The snow wasn't very deep, but it was deep enough to drag the little ones through the snow. Lily opted to pull Emma and I pulled Alex and we walked down to the bottom field where we hoped it would be steep enough to sledge on. Everyone was getting cold by the time we got to field and the bitter wind on the exposed hill proved too much for Alex who started asking to go home. This seemed to make Emma realise how cold she was and I was soon walking home with two cold and tearful little people! Lily had to catch us up as she lost her hat on the field. Not, on the whole, one of our more successful winter walks! Everyone soon cheered up when we got home and warmed up in blankets with hot chocolate and shortbread.

There wasn't much snow left today, but Emma wanted to build a snowman so Mark did his best with the snow shovel to pile up what was left on the back lawn. The first attempt to build the snowman had to be aborted as Alex kept jumping on the pile of snow every time it got built up! When he went down for his nap we tried again and managed to make a little baby snowman with the little bit of remaining snow. We put one of Emma's old baby hats on him and Emma named him Mr Marshmallow. Having recently watched 'The Snowman and the Snowdog' together, Alex wanted to know where the snowdog was when he saw the snowman out of his bedroom window! Emma was concerned for Mr Marshmallow's wellbeing when she went to bed, and looking at the rain out of the window, I fear there will not be much of him left tomorrow morning. Here's hoping we will get some more snow later in the winter. 

Making a snowman with your two year old brother can be a frustrating endeavour!

Emma was so proud of Mr Marshmallow!

Mr Marshmallow, the baby snowman

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Happy New Year!

After my parents went back home to Devon, we spent a few days with Mark's parents so we could see in the New Year with them. Tom has been awake to see the New Year in with us for the past couple of years and the girls were determined to stay awake as well this year. Alex was the only one asleep when Big Ben chimed midnight, signifying the beginning of a new year. Emma loved opening the back door to let out the old year as Nanna opened the front door to let in the new one and they loved watching the fireworks. I think it is quite probable that the grown-ups were considerably more ready for bed than the children were when the fun was over! 

Watching the fireworks through the window

Thursday, 29 December 2016

A Birthday Barbecue

My Dad's birthday is three days after Christmas and since my parents were staying with us for Christmas we were able to spend it with him this year. We decided to be a little different and celebrate with a winter barbecue. With a December birthday, Dad had never had a barbecue on his birthday before, so we were pleased to be able to give him a first at the age of 62! Starting the barbecue was no mean feat as we think the coal had got a bit damp from being stored in the conservatory. Dad was determined to start it and kept at it long after we would have given up. His dedication and perseverance paid off and we eventually had a splendid fire to cook on. Mark took charge of the cooking and produced a veritable feast. We could probably have fed half the neighbours as well!

The girls made and decorated a birthday cake for their grandad, which  we were too full eat on the day! We ended the evening by roasting some giant American marshmallows that Tom had been given for Christmas and kindly shared with everyone. I think my Dad had a lovely birthday, we certainly all enjoyed it!

Yes, that is a pith helmet!

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Christmas Day

This year we had our second Christmas in our own home. We have always alternated spending Christmas with Mark's parents and my parents, and now that we have four children we don't really fit in my parents' house anymore, especially with the associated paraphernalia of Christmas. This is the second time my parents have come up to spend Christmas at our house and we had a really lovely day. We had a really relaxed approach to the day, not putting any pressure on ourselves in order to ensure that everyone had a pleasant Christmas.

Lily, my early riser, having been told that if she showed up before seven she would have to go back to bed, showed up in my room at 7.02am! Having been up rather late the night before with last minute preparations, it was rather a struggle to open my eyes! The girls came in and opened their stockings and then we went downstairs where the girls sat staring wistfully at their presents piles! Once Nanny and Grandad came through they were allowed to start opening, and they didn't need to be told twice! Tom woke up a little later and Alex later still, so we had a staggered present opening, but everyone seemed very pleased with their gifts and we had four very happy Podlings on Christmas morning.

My Dad was an absolute star with Christmas dinner. He had prepared a lot of the vegetables the day before and when it came to cooking dinner, I was his assistant. It certainly took the pressure off me and we had a delicious traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings. I couldn't have done it without him and I was very grateful for all his help.

I completely failed to take any photos later in the day, so there is no record of the prettily laid out table, or Emma in her lovely red needlecord smocked dress, or the other Podlings in their Christmas jumpers. I have memories though, and they are wonderful! 

Waiting to start opening their presents!

Emma asked for Sylvanian Families for Christmas. I was so excited! They were one of my favourite toys as a girl and the girls still play with the ones I had. It was a pleasure to get Emma some of her very own and I was surprised to see that the toys are even more charming than they used to be. Something that can not often be said about the toy industry!

Sleepy Alex!

You can just see Alexander's Christmas jumper has snowflakes and red double decker buses on it! It is his favourite jumper now and he wears it as often as he can!

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

The Night Before Christmas

Taken after church on Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve was lovely. We like to go to Mark's parents' church on Christmas Eve as they always have a lovely nativity service for the children. Any child who wants to can dress up to help to tell the story of that first Christmas so long ago. Lily dressed as a shepherd and Emma as an angel and very sweet they looked too. After church, we went back to Mark's parents' house for tea before heading back home.

It was late by the time we got back, so I needed to get Alex in bed fairly quickly. I put him in his new pyjamas, but there was no chance to get my usual Christmas Eve pyjama photo of all of the Podlings together. Alex and Tom had matching checked pyjamas for Christmas Eve, but Tom declined to be photographed in them! The girls also matched each other in pretty floral pyjamas and were more co-operative in the photo department! After putting Alex to bed with his stocking, the girls sprinkled reindeer food on the lawn before coming inside for hot chocolate and shortbread. We put out a mince pie and some milk for Father Christmas and a carrot and a bowl of water for the reindeer before heading upstairs to bed. I read them 'The Night Before Christmas'  from the copy my sister and I had as a child and said goodnight to three very excited children. They settled down surprisingly quickly, knowing that Father Christmas won't come to fill their stockings until they are asleep.

I love Christmas Eve! There is so much magic in the familiar tradtions, the anticipation of the children and the overwhelming beauty of the story of the birth of a baby boy in a stable two thousand years ago. 

"For unto us a child is born. Unto us a son is given" Isaiah 9:6

Off to bed for sleepy Alex

Monday, 19 December 2016

A Tudor Christmas

On Sunday afternoon we took the Podlings to Little Moreton Hall in Cheshire to enjoy a Tudor Christmas. The hall was bedecked with Tudor-style Christmas decorations and looked delightfully festive with its greenery. A complete (fake) Tudor Christmas banquet was laid out in the dining hall where Tudor music was being played by a small instrumental group on authentic instruments.

The girls made Tudor spice bags which were often given as Christmas gifts in Tudor times. Bad smells were believed to cause illness, so pleasant smelling bags containing lavender, cloves, cinnamon, orange peel and the like were made to ward off the less pleasant odours that would have been common at the time. Lily and Emma enjoyed grinding up their chosen ingredients with pestles and mortars and the room they were making them in smelt wonderful! I made little bags of lavender for Alex and Tom.

Afterwards, we had a little wander around the hall in the lessening winter light, with Emma pausing to try on some clothes in the dress-up area. We have been to the hall a couple of times before, but I never fail to be delighted by the quirkiness of the place. The long hall, precariously balanced on the top of the manor, is a wonder of uneven floors and leaning walls. How the building survived long enough to be restored and preserved is a wonder in itself! We had a lovely couple of hours at the manor and then came home and warmed up with some much-needed hot chocolate. It was a lovely way to start the Christmas holidays.