Sunday, 31 August 2008

Blueberry blessings

Our delicious blueberry supper

I was extremely fortunate to be able to pick up some cheap blueberries when we were shopping last week. We don't often buy blueberries because they are so expensive, but the store had over stocked on them and were selling them off at 5p a punnet. There weren't many left by the time I got there, but I was able to get 300g of blueberries for only 10p. I made up a batch of blueberry muffins last night that will do a couple of breakfasts and snacks this week. I also made a delicious blueberry and banana smoothie that Mark and I enjoyed with a muffin for our supper last night. What a treat!

We are doing very well for summer fruits this week as we were able to pick up three large punnets of strawberries for a mere £2 yesterday. We happened to pass a market stall that was selling off its remaining fruit at the end of the day. We have all been enjoying strawberries for our pudding for a couple of meals and I still have one full punnet left in the fridge. We all love strawberries and I'm torn between eating them whole or making strawberry and white chocolate muffins!

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Tired baby

Lily is still recovering from our busy weekend. She slept until after nine this morning and has been quite tired and weepy all morning. She didn't have much energy, so she curled up on an armchair in the lounge with Mark's old teddy and I put some cartoons on for her. She looked so adorable! The Podlings are both down for nap time at the moment and I'm guessing Lily will have a good, long sleep this afternoon. I'm sure that after a nice early night tonight, she'll be back to her bonny self tomorrow.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Monkey business

A rather gorgeous Barbary Macaque who posed beautifully for me.
We rounded off our Bank Holiday weekend with a trip to Trentham Monkey Forest. This is a 60 acre forest where 140 Barbary Macaque monkeys roam freely and, for a small fee, you can roam right in there with them. We met up with Mark's parents and his brother Ryan and had a wonderful couple of hours strolling round the forest enjoying the monkeys and taking lots of photos. I now have more photos of Barbary Macaques than I know what to do with!
The Podlings had a great time, especially Lily who adores animals. Tom was more interested in reading letters on the information boards around the trail! They were both thrilled to have a go on a trampoline before we left, which I suspect was far more interesting to them than the monkeys!
It looked like it was going to rain, so everyone came back to our house and enjoyed a picnic tea on our living room floor. At bedtime, we read 'Monkey Puzzle' by Julia Donaldson. It's one of the Podlings' favourite books at the moment and was one of the reasons I wanted to take them to the monkey forest in the first place.
We've had a really lovely Bank Holiday weekend and have had lots of fun. I really love the chance to spend time as a family and make these memories together. I feel so blessed to have such a wonderful family to make memories with!
So is it considered lucky if a Barbary Macaque crosses your path?

A rare chance for a family photo. We're just missing Uncle Greg.

Tom and Uncle Ryan (Mark's youngest brother)

Another family shot, with Tom trying to escape my clutches!

Happy as a Sandboy

Tom loves to run! One of the things he seemed to enjoy most about the beach was that he was 'allowed his head', so to speak. Because the beach was so flat and quiet, he was in sight all the time and we allowed him to run further from us than he is usually able to do. He loves nothing more than to be able to run around to his heart's content and he was in his element. I love this photo. He's lost in his own little world and looks so happy and content.

What a difference a day makes

Finally, some sunshine!

Not deterred by our rainy day at the beach, on Sunday we piled back into the car and tried again! This time we were more fortunate with the weather and actually enjoyed some sunshine. We changed the Podlings into their swimming costumes and Mark took them in the sea while I got the picnic ready. Our last two trips to the coast have been so cold we've had to eat our picnic in the car, but this time we were finally able to enjoy our food on the beach!

After the picnic and some brief sand play, Mark took the Podlings off for a long walk by the sea. I actually got to sit on the blanket and read my book for 40 minutes, something I rarely get to do during the Podlings' waking hours! I'm re-reading 'David Copperfield' for the umpteenth time and relish any chance to sit and enjoy my old friend in peace.

The weather was so nice that we didn't leave the beach until very late, so by the time we got home, gave them a bath and read them their stories, it was around ten before the Podlings were in bed. This had the rather fabulous knock-on effect that they both slept in until half past nine this morning, so Mark and I enjoyed a lovely Bank Holiday Monday lie-in!

Lily destroying Mark's carefully constructed sandcastles!

Lost in thought

Rain, sea and sand

It's never too cold for ice-cream!

On the first day of our Bank holiday weekend, we decided to head to the beach. Following a recommendation from a friend (thanks Fiona), we went to Talacre beach in North Wales. Although the weather wasn't great when we set off, it wasn't bad enough to put us off. However, the second we arrived at the beach and got out of the car it started to rain. Since we'd driven 65 miles to get there, we were determined to make the best of it and wrapped the children up in cardigans and raincoats. The Podlings aren't put off by a little rain and wet sand makes better sandcastles anyway!

We all had an ice-cream and had fun playing in the sand. Tom invented 'letter castles', which are sandcastles with letters of the alphabet on top (he is obsessed with letters and reading at the moment). Mark built a sandcastle, wrote a letter on the top and then Tom jumped on it. They got to P before Tom decided he wanted to go in the sea. It was cold and wet and windy, but go in the sea they must. Mark is as crazy as the children when it comes to water! The three of them were paddling in the waves, raincoats and all, for ages before we called it a day.

We ate a picnic in the car on the way home and got back quite late. A quick bath, supper and stories for the children and they were soon fast asleep. Mark and I weren't far behind them. All that sea air makes you tired!

Lily displaying true British stoicism about the weather

Mark building 'letter castles' for Tom to destroy
The crazy people returning from the sea!

Monday, 18 August 2008

The Great Pram Race

In the spirit of the Olympics, Tom and Lily were engaged in some healthy competition in the kitchen this morning, namely pram racing. Tom commandeered the dolls' pram and, not to be outdone, Lily took up her position in the dolls' pushchair. Thus seated, they proceeded to race (rather slowly) up and down the kitchen. Hats off to the the toy manufacturers who build these things to withstand the weight of toddlers!

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Beyond the barricade

In case anyone was wondering how we solved our stair gate dilemma, we decided to get rid of the gate and see how it goes. After the initial thrill of having free run of the house, involving much ascending and descending of stairs, the Podlings have settled down and love being able to go upstairs whenever they want to. So far, nobody has fallen and broken their neck and I love how much bigger the hall looks without the massive gate blocking half of it. The only downside is that we are now going to have to get a lock for our bedroom door. I tried keeping the door closed to dissuade them from going in, but when I went to take my contact lenses out last night, I found that Tom had shoved both the lids of my contact lens case down the plughole of our en suite sink. On the grounds that nothing is sacred to the under-fives, a simple lock on the door is probably the easiest option for now.
She's becoming quite a poser in front of the camera!

Thursday, 14 August 2008

The bride and groom

This is my sister and her new husband signing the register after their wedding ceremony on Tuesday. They look so happy don't they! They are now honeymooning in Paris, which was a complete surprise to Elaine who didn't even think they were having a honeymoon until next year. Gareth arranged the whole thing in secret and surprised her with it on their wedding night. Isn't he lovely! I am beyond thrilled for the two of them and am very happy to be able to call Gareth my brother at long last. Congratulations to you both and welcome to the family Gareth.

(I'm afraid the picture quality isn't the greatest because they signed the register right in front of a bright sunlit window, so my photos didn't come out very well. I will post better pictures when I have some)

The wedding

The bride getting ready. This was before she put on her jewelry and veil
My sister's wedding on Tuesday was amazing, but between being a bridesmaid and chasing around after the Podlings, I somehow didn't manage to get any decent shots of the bride and groom. Mark was busy filming the event, so he didn't take many pictures either. I'll be getting a copy of the official pictures, so to be honest I wasn't too worried about trying to duplicate the photographer's shots with my little camera. I'll no doubt have lots more pictures to share when I have copies of the wedding photos! Nevertheless, just to warn you, this post still contains a lot of photos!
We left home early and arrived at the hotel at about two. We let the Podlings stretch their legs and then went up to the honeymoon suite to get ready with my sister. My mum, the photographer (a friend of my mum's)and my sister's two best friends (one of whom was the other adult bridesmaid), were also there but the suite was so big we didn't feel crowded. Lily was thrilled to get all dressed up and spent a reasonable amount of time admiring herself in the mirror. If you called her Princess Lily you could get her to do just about anything that day!
Tom was another matter. He was a very reluctant page boy and refused to even get dressed. We practically had to pin him to get his clothes on. When we handed him the ring pillow just before the ceremony, he immediately dropped it on the floor and one of the rings fell off...eek! Thankfully the ring didn't roll under the enormous heavy oak sideboard nearby, or we could have been in real trouble! I ended up carrying him in the procession, with him holding my bouquet. My mum made a wonderful ring bearer!

Lily looked so adorable! My talented mum made both this dress and Tom's waistcoat.
Elaine looked absolutely beautiful. The picture I took just doesn't do justice to her stunning dress. Gareth looked like the cat that got the cream after the ceremony...they were both so happy. They had been engaged for nearly seven years, so they'd waited a long time for this day and we were all so thrilled for them.
The children behaved during the ceremony (phew!) and, despite the fact that it had rained earlier in the day, the sun came out and they had good weather for the photos. The meal was fantastic, the speeches were both funny and touching and the chocolate wedding cake was to die for! It was lovely to see all the family together again and to see my sister so happy.
It was, in short, a perfect day.
This was the closest we could get to a family photo. Note the stunning red juice that Lily is looking longingly at. Note the white dress that meant she wasn't allowed any!

Lily, the garden fairy
A mother/daughter moment

The Reluctant Page Boy and his sister

My mum and dad with Tom. Mum looked amazing and Dad did a grand job with his speech, it was really touching.

The bride and groom during the reception. They are a really special couple.

The room was very hot. By the end of the evening, Tom was down to his waistcoat and pull-up pants!

Monday, 11 August 2008

Wedding preparations

The Podlings making their wedding cards this morning
It's all go here today. My sister is getting married tomorrow and we're heading down to Devon at the crack of dawn tomorrow to make sure we are there in plenty of time before the wedding. We plan to wake the children early, bundle them into the car with blankets and a drink of warm milk and get as far as we can before we have to stop.
Because we're setting off so early, we have lots to do today. We're folding, packing, cleaning, wrapping, making cards and generally all of a bustle. I have some baking to do later so we can have breakfast and snacks in the car tomorrow. I've got to get the Podlings' car entertainment bags ready and their ceremony distraction packs together (I dread them causing a scene in the middle of the ceremony, so I'm packing stickers, books, etc., for during the ceremony). In short, we're busy, busy busy! I'm so excited about tomorrow though and Lily and I have been singing "Auntie Lainey's getting married in the morning, Ding Dong the Bells are going to chime!" at the top of our lungs as we go about our business (Tom doesn't sing much). We're not worrying too much about accuracy in our singing on the grounds that the wedding isn't until 5 O'clock in the afternoon!
I know we're going to have a wonderful day tomorrow, but for now I'd better get back to work. I'm sure to have lots of pictures of the wedding to share later in the week!

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Gingerbread family

"Run, run as fast as you can, You can't catch me,
I'm the Gingerbread Man!"
It rained again this morning, so instead of playing outside, which is what we ought to be doing in August, the Podlings and I made some gingerbread men. As we rolled out the dough and cut out the shapes, I told them the story of the Gingerbread Man, which I can recite verbatim from the Ladybird First Favourite Tales version we have. The finished products are proving popular with the Podlings, with Tom already having consumed about three gingerbread Toms and one gingerbread Lily. Lily quickly cottoned on to the size advantage of the parents and asked for a gingerbread Daddy!

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Halfway up the stairs

Halfway down the stairs Is a stair where I sit:
There isn't any other stair quite like it.
I'm not at the bottom, I'm not at the top:
So this is the stair where I always stop
A.A. Milne
This is the stairgate arrangement we have in our hallway. Because we have always had odd shaped stairways, we haven't been able to use normal, fixable stairgates. This one is three sections of a Baby Dan playpen. We've never had to actually fix it to the wall as the Podlings never seemed to twig that they could just push it out of the way. Until now! Several times in the last few days, Lily has followed me upstairs when the gate was shut, and this morning I heard her inform me "I upstairs!" in exultant tones when I was in the playroom and thought she was in the kitchen. She simply moves the gate away from the wall and squeezes through the gap. So, the question is, what do we do now? Do we nail the thing to the wall and scupper any future escape attempts, or do we move on to 'The Next Stage" and get rid of the gate all together? Both children are able to go up the stairs with confidence, but I like to accompany Lily downstairs just to be on the safe side. I'm looking for some advice from the parents amongst you. What age/stage did you allow your children free reign to go up and down stairs on their own? Is Lily too young to be allowed to use the stairs if I'm not right there with her? Am I worrying too much?! I really would like some advice here, so please leave a comment and let me know what has worked for you and your families.
PS. Pardon the paintwork in the hallway. One of the reasons we could afford this house was that it was in poor decorative order. We've been here a year now, but still have a lot to do. We figure there isn't much point doing too much while the Podlings are young and in full destruction mode!