Thursday, 28 August 2014

An hour at the museum

Alexander's first trip to the museum

Bank holiday Monday was a slow day for us, with all the Podlings sleepy from our late night. The weather was predictably miserable (isn't it always on Bank holidays!), so we decided to take the Podlings to the museum for an hour. The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery is only 20 minutes away from us and the Podlings love it there. They all particularly enjoy the natural history section (which we can never drag them away from!) and the Spitfire. The real human skeleton is always something of a draw also!  Lily put some of her own pocket money in the Spitfire restoration fund as it seems to be a cause close to her heart. Reginald Mitchell, the man who designed the Spitfire, was a local boy, having been born in Butt Lane, which is about five minutes away from where we live. He is much celebrated in these parts.

The Podlings thoroughly enjoyed our short visit to the museum and it was a very pleasant way to pass a rainy Bank Holiday afternoon.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

A Day in The Lakes

Windermere from the grounds of Wray Castle

On Sunday we decided to take advantage of the lovely weather and took a day trip to the Lake District. We are very lucky to only live about two hours away from the bottom of the Lake District, so as long as you don't mind a long round trip, a day trip is perfectly feasible. We didn't manage to get away as early in the day as we would have liked, but we still managed to have a lovely afternoon and evening in the lakes. We stopped at a motorway services for a picnic lunch on the way up and then went straight to Wray Castle when we got to the Lakes. Unfortunately, we were just too late to go into the Castle this time, but the grounds are open until dusk so we had plenty of time to explore those. Wray Castle sits on the shore of Windermere and the girls had a lot of fun playing (fully clothed and shod!) in the lake. Until, that is, they realised that they would have to walk back to the car dripping wet! Tom had more sense and decided the water was far to cold to even paddle in!

Lily and Emma cheered again up after they were dried off and put into dry clothes. They then spent a happy hour playing in the wooded play area. We finished the trip off with a picnic at Coniston Water and had the thrill of being there late enough to see the bats coming out and flying around. I had to stop the Podlings throwing stones in the lake as the bats seemed to think they were insects and kept changing direction to try and catch them. I was worried they would get hurt if they actually caught one!

We got home at half past midnight with three out of four children (and me!) fast asleep in the car and Tom chatting merrily away to Mark in the front seat! The Podlings obliged us by sleeping in until 10.30 am the next morning, although this was slightly offset for me by Alexander's night feed! I was still grateful for the Bank Holiday lie-in though!

My favourite little people

It was Alexander's first trip to the Lake District

Wet in Windermere!

Emma starts to realise that she is cold

Suddenly playing fully clothed in the lake seems like less fun!

The Podlings had lots of fun in the adventure playground in the grounds of Wray Castle

The first photo we have managed to get of all six of us! Taken rather late in the evening on the shores of Coniston Water.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Sibling Love

My lovely boys! 


Saturday, 23 August 2014

Smooth Operator

Making smoothies with my boy

The girls went to spend a few days with their grandparents last week and while they were away I wanted to do something special with Tom. Tom had been coming up with some ideas for smoothies on the drive back from Sussex, so I suggested that while his sisters were away we could make some of them. He was very excited about this idea and spent some time on Monday working on his smoothie recipe book. On Tuesday evening, we took him shopping so he could choose which fruits he wanted to buy for his recipes. We gave him a pretty free rein and he had a wonderful time gathering numerous fruity ingredients, as well as a tin of coconut milk.

I dusted off my smoothie maker and we made our first smoothie on Wednesday morning. Tom had told his friends about our smoothie endeavors, so they were keen to try some too. Tom opted to make his 'berry berry' smoothie first, which consists of strawberries, blackberries (which Tom and his friends had diligently picked the day before for the smoothies), blueberries, raspberries and cherries (we used cherry juice). There was enough for Tom and two of his friends to have a small cup each and they were most impressed! Over the next couple of days we made several more smoothies, of which my favourite was his 'Tropicallian' smoothie, consisting of banana, pineapple, mango and coconut...delicious!

Tom and I had lots of fun working our way through his recipe book and it was so nice to be able to spend some one on one time with my big boy.

The cover of Tom's smoothie recipe book

My Kenwood Smoothie Concert, which makes smoothie making a breeze.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Sibling Love

I think it's obvious how much Lily adores her baby brother. Love my little people!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Petworth House

During our short visit to Sussex, we took the Podlings to visit Petworth House. The late 17th century mansion house is now owned by the National Trust and contains a veritable treasure trove of paintings and sculptures. Mark and I visited here over a decade ago and thought it well worth bringing the Podlings here. Petworth House is quite  unusual in that the servants' domain was kept entirely separate from the main house. The kitchens, storerooms and servants' quarters are all housed in a building immediately adjacent to the house and this was connected to the house by means of an underground tunnel (not open to the public). The historic kitchens are open to the public and the Podlings really enjoyed looking around them. They were all fascinated by the (fake) dead birds laid out ready for plucking and Lily asked a lot of questions of the lady volunteer.

I pointed out the austerity of the servants' building to the Podlings and asked them to compare it with what we found in the main house, which we viewed next. Petworth is particularly rich in beautiful objects and is an absolute delight to visit. Their are no fewer than 19 paintings by J.M.W. Turner, as well as paintings by Gainsborough, Reynolds, Van Dyke and Blake. There is a fabulous 16th century terrestrial globe on display made by Molyneux and many wonderful carvings and sculptures. The impressive wall and ceiling paintings by Louis Laguerre are nothing short of breathtaking. Petworth is an absolute feast of artistic delights and well worth a visit.

The Podlings enjoyed the art, but also had a wonderful time trying to find the cuddly spaniels hidden in the rooms. The National Trust seem to have these trails for children in most of their houses now and it really helps to keep the children engaged and buys their parents a little more time to soak in the beautiful artwork!

Although we didn't have loads of time to spare when we got to the house, we did manage to see everything. The family still live in part of the house, so although the house looks huge from the outside the part that is open to the public isn't that extensive. We all really enjoyed our visit to Petworth House and hope to have time to explore the extensive grounds on our next visit, whenever that may be.

The stained glass window in the chapel

The North Gallery is full of beautiful paintings and sculptures, a real treat! 

One of the many beautiful Turner paintings, this one of  Cockermouth Castle in Cumbria

A beautiful 19th century piano

Picnicking in the car park!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

A Weekend in Sussex

A surprisingly rural picnic lunch at a motorway services. A large family tends to necessitate self-catering, so its a good thing we love picnics and the weather was kind to us.

Mark's Great Auntie Nan was celebrating her 90th birthday last Saturday and in order to celebrate this wonderful milestone she invited all her friends and family to an open house at her home in Battle, Sussex. I had only met Auntie Nan once before, at Mark's grandfather's funeral eleven years ago, but I was struck with what a remarkable and interesting lady she was. Mark and I were both keen to join in her celebrations and to introduce her to the Podlings, none of whom existed the last time we met her.

We were slightly wary as to how travelling with a three month old baby was going to go. We have recently discovered that Alex is perfectly happy to travel in the car as long as I sit with him. If I try sitting in the front, he just screams blue murder! I knew that the journey should be fine as long as I sat with the baby, but we weren't sure how the sleeping away from home was going to go. We have such a vast brood now that it takes two rooms to accommodate us, but thankfully Mark's mum and dad were also with us, so we knew we could split the children between our two rooms. Funnily enough, I was less daunted by travelling with four children, including a new baby, than I was when we went on our first holiday with just Tom. Experience gives you confidence I suppose!

The traffic was horrendous on Saturday and it took us seven hours to do a journey that should have taken four. We stopped once on the way for a picnic lunch, but other than that it was a very long time in the car. The Podlings were all brilliant and the seven hour drive was not as horrendous as it could have been.

We enjoyed a lovely visit with Auntie Nan, who seemed very pleased that we have chosen to call our youngest son Alexander (it is a family name on Mark's maternal side and was chosen partly for that reason). Auntie Nan's 94 year old sister was incredibly taken with little Alex and all the Podlings seemed to make a good impression. Mark's brother and sister-in-law also came down to Sussex, so it was lovely to spend time with them too. All in all it was just a really nice time spent with some very special people.

After we left Auntie Nan's lovely home in Battle, we drove to Eastbourne for fish and chips. Mark and I both grew up in coastal towns where we were used to being able to get a choice of fish in the fish and chip shop. We are both very keen on Huss, which we can't seem to get where we live now. We were very keen to partake of its deep-fried loveliness whilst we were in Sussex and returned to the fish restaurant we discovered when we came to Eastbourne a few years ago. It was so sad to see the burnt out pier after the terrible fire a couple of weeks ago. The Podlings were all very sad about it.

After our lovely Huss, we drove to our Travelodge 45 minutes away. I passed the time by reading 'The Wizard of Oz' to the Podlings, which worked a treat at getting Alex to go to sleep! Quick nod to the Kindle Paperwhite, which allows me to read in the it!

The girls slept in with their grandparents and we took the boys in with us. Bedtime went remarkably well. I cuddled Alex to sleep and popped him in the spare Moses basket we brought with us. While Mark and I washed and sterilised bottles and otherwise made preparations, Tom made use of the 30 minutes free Wi-Fi by watching videos on my tablet in the bath!

We breakfasted like kings the following morning and then went our separate ways as the others were going to Brighton and Mark and I were keen to take the children to one of the many National Trust properties in Sussex.

We had a wonderful visit to Petworth House (separate post to follow) and finished off a wonderful weekend by taking the Podlings to a little play park in Petworth itself. We took a slight detour on the way home to try to see Highclere Castle (or Downton Abbey if you will!), but it was closed by the time we got there and you couldn't see the house from the road. We did get the slight thrill of seeing a Rolls Royce leaving the grounds as we pulled up though.

The journey home was thankfully much quicker than the journey down. We stopped for a picnic tea at a motorway services, where the Podlings made friends with a delightful one year old boy named Samuel. We got home at about half twelve and deposited four sleepy Podlings in various beds before retiring ourselves. It was a wonderful, wonderful weekend in our favourite part of the country. It felt just as though we had been on a little holiday, it is just a shame we couldn't have stayed longer.

Tom taking advantage of the 30 minutes free Wi-Fi!

Alexander's first night away from home

Sleeping like a baby

The older Podlings loved the beautifully maintained play park in Petworth

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

What's the Point?

Inspired by an activity in one of Lily's art books, the girls had a little art lesson in pointillism today. Using cotton buds and paint, they made pictures by building up little spots of colour in complementing shades. I talked about the technique of pointillism and how it was used by Impressionist artists and I then read them "Katie meets the Impressionists" by James Mayhew. The girls had fun and hopefully learned something at the same time!

We were inspired by an activity in one of Lily's books 

We love the Katie books by James Mayhew, which introduce children to famous artists and paintings. Lily immediately recognised the picture on the cover as I have a print of Monet's 'Poppy fields' hanging in our hallway.

Alexander is 3 Months Old

A quarter of a year with my precious baby son. I am completely, utterly in love with him. He melts my heart!

Monday, 11 August 2014

A Very British Beach Trip

After our previous somewhat disastrous trip to the beach, we wanted to give it another shot this weekend. We knew that the weather on Sunday was going to be pretty dreadful, so we figured that Saturday was going to be our best chance at a semi-decent day at the beach. As usual we set off later in the day, partly to avoid the worst of the sun and partly to avoid the people (beaches are always quieter late afternoon/ early evening). As it turned out, avoiding the worst of the sun needn't have been a concern. When we arrived at Prestatyn beach it was somewhat overcast and very windy. Nonplussed, we donned jumpers and cardigans and headed down to the sand for fun and frolics. If we waited for the perfect beach weather in this country, we'd never get to the beach!

We enjoyed a lovely picnic packed by Mark's Mum and Dad, who joined us for our little beach jaunt. The older Podlings had fun playing in the sand and Alexander chilled out in his improvised beach shelter. The sea was surprisingly warm, but there was no ignoring the stiff breeze and the girls, having managed to fully submerge themselves whilst wearing their beach robes, found themselves cold and shivering after walking back up the beach. Poor little Emma took some warming up.

Despite the less than ideal weather, we all enjoyed our trip to the beach. Who needs sunshine anyway!

Emma enjoying her obscenely over-priced ice cream from the highwayman masquerading as an ice cream vendor.

Still filled with enthusiasm from watching the Commonwealth Games, Lily has taken to adopting Usain Bolt's characteristic pose whenever I try to photograph her!

It was pretty chill, but Emma insisted on putting on her swimming costume!

Tom signed his name in the sand