Sunday, 30 November 2014


The advent calendars are hanging in the dining room ready for the morning. My mum made one of these beautiful calendars for Tom, Lily and Emma and is now working on one for Alexander. She's a talented lady, my mother! I love these calenders so much and always feel sad in January when I have to take them down.

Barter Books

Barter Books in Alnwick, Northumberland is one the largest second hand book shops in Europe and is described as the British Library of second-hand bookshops. Housed in the former Victorian Alnwick railway station, it is more than just a bookshop. As we walked through the doors, my father-in-law turned to me and said, "Look, Paula! You've died and gone to Heaven!" and he wasn't wrong! This place is amazing! An open fire and a Chesterfield sofa next to a coffee machine with an honesty box greet you near the entrance. My mother- and father-in-law took Alex off me and set up camp in this area so I could explore to my heart's content! Further in, you are greeted by a model train circulating on tracks above the bookshelves and lines of poetry connecting the book columns. There is a cafe in the shop as well, should you require further sustenance. And the books...oh the books! I was in my element!

The children's book area is fantastic, with lots of places for the children to curl up and read and toys for them to play with. Emma was rather taken with the wheelie bugs! We told the Podlings they could each choose a book and my small bibliophiles had a wonderful time deciding which one to pick. It was the most welcoming area for children and the Podlings loved it.

It is worth noting that the original 1939 'Keep Calm and Carry On' poster that has become so famous was found in a box of books the owner of Barter Books bought at auction in 2000.

I, of course, was unable to restrict myself to just one purchase and it is probably telling that we were given a 10% bulk buying discount at the checkout! Barter Books is the warmest, most welcoming shop I have ever been in and has a wonderful atmosphere. Even dogs are welcome! I can't recommend it highly enough and I certainly can't wait to go back! 

Can you spot the model train?

One of my little bookworms making the most of her time in Barter Books

Little Miss Sunshine

Emma, my happy, bubbly little free spirit. Love her to bits!

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Lindisfarne Priory

An important centre for early Christianity, Lindisfarne Priory on Holy Island is the ruin of a 12th century priory church. It was built on the site of an earlier monastery founded in 635 AD by St Aiden and was home to the celebrated holy man St Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne. Subject to attacks by Vikings, the monks left the priory in 875 AD. Returning in 1150, a new monastery was built on the site which remained until the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century. The site is now owned and maintained by English Heritage.

It was late in the afternoon when we entered the priory and we were fortunate to be the only visitors at the time. The peace and serenity of the site is striking and the extensive ruins are truly impressive. The Podlings had a wonderful time exploring them and were also rather thrilled with the cat that was exploring the ruins at the same time! We enjoyed the museum and as ever the girls were thrilled with the gift shop!  Lindisfarne Priory is a fascinating and impressive site, definitely worth a visit.

Lindisfarne Castle

We saved our visit to Holy Island for the last day of our holiday. Accessible by a causeway at low-tide, Holy Island is cut off from the mainland twice a day by the sea. Rising out of the rock-face at the tip of the island is Lindisfarne Castle. The 16th century castle was much altered by the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens when the castle became the holiday home of Edward Hudson (founder of Country Life magazine) in 1901. Furnished in the Arts and Crafts style, the imposing castle became a quiet country retreat for Hudson and his friends. Now owned by the National Trust, it was a must on our list of places to visit in Northumberland.

The castle did not disappoint. The steep cobbled slope up to the castle felt dramatically exposed on the windy day that we visited. It must have been terrifying walking up there without railings, as it was originally designed. I was quite happy with the sturdy wooden fence now in place! Once inside, you are immediately struck by the cosiness of place. That an imposing 16th century castle could be made to feel so snug and cosy is a testament to the skill of Lutyens. I was completely captivated by this delightful property and I am so disappointed that most of my photos of the interior didn't come out very well. I have mentioned before the problems with using a little point-and-shoot whilst carrying a baby in a sling!  I would love to get a 'proper' camera. I yearn to be able to take my photography more seriously!

The Podlings loved exploring the castle and Lily read aloud to us from the guide book as we walked around. I love how the children get so much out of our many visits to historic properties. I hope they are learning to love and appreciate our heritage as they play, read and explore with us.

Lindisfarne Castle is a truly special place and I fell in love with it during our visit. We would definitely go again if we return to the area.

That is some doorbell!

Reading the guidebooks by the entrance


Friday, 28 November 2014

Miss Elizabeth P.

Just a favourite photo of Lily, taken at Cragside whilst on holiday. Lovely girl!

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Alex has Skillz

Alex learned two new tricks whilst on holiday. He learned to sit up (as long as he has something to stop him falling sideways!) and he learned to blow raspberries. Both useful life skills!

Puckering up

Alex in full raspberry mode!

I have a video of Alex blowing raspberries, but I'm having trouble uploading it. Keep checking back, I'll get it up eventually!

Wednesday, 26 November 2014


Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland is the northernmost town in England. For around 400 years it was critical in the historic border wars between Scotland and England, though it has now been continuously English since 1492. We had hoped to visit the Berwick-upon-Tweed Barracks, but thanks to our sat nav wrongly informing us that we were only a quarter of a mile away from them (it was more like a mile!), we missed the last entrance time by the time we walked there.

We still enjoyed a lovely walk along the town walls in the cold autumn evening. It was incredibly peaceful and was a perfect vantage point from which to enjoy the town.

Dotted around were information boards with paintings by the well-known English painter L.S. Lowry. Lowry was very fond of Berwick and frequently holidayed there. He painted many pictures of the town and these are celebrated in the Lowry trail, which puts copies of Lowry's paintings in front of the scenes they depict. I loved it and it was an interesting experience for the Podlings.

We warmed up from our lovely walk back in the car with hot chocolate, cake and biscuits before heading back to the caravan. A quiet, but very pleasant afternoon.

Walking along the town walls

Part of the Lowry trail

Royal Tweed Bridge

Royal Border Bridge

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Everybody needs a Grandad for a pillow!

Now that Alex has a regular nap routine he doesn't often fall asleep on people anymore. Grandad is one of the lucky ones!


Monday, 24 November 2014

Rocky Road

My Mum and Dad recently gave me the Hummingbird bakery cookbook and I have had a wonderful time flicking though the many pages of promised deliciousness. My parents know me so well! There are several recipes in the book that I am keen to try, but the one that really jumped off the page and screamed 'Make me! Make me now!' were the rocky road bars. It is one of those recipes that makes you gain weight just reading it! I decided to halve the recipe, which originally called for, amongst other things, 1.4 kg of chocolate and 8 Mars bars! The resulting rocky road bars are absolutely heavenly and I will certainly be making these again. Though, for the sake of our health, possibly not too often! I am excited to try some more recipes from this fabulous book.

Just need to add the melted chocolate

Rocky Road! 

Monday, 17 November 2014

World Prematurity Day 2014 - Tom's story

Today is World Prematurity Day, raising awareness of premature birth and the effects being born too soon can have on babies and their families. Premature birth is still the biggest cause of death amongst newborns. Thankfully, my own little preemie celebrated his tenth birthday last month, so he is one of the lucky ones.

Tom was born six weeks early in October 2014. My pregnancy had been completely problem free right up until my waters broke unexpectedly six weeks before my due date. I was staying with my parents at the time as Mark was out of the country on business. I rang him straight away and he started his own epic journey across Ireland late on a Sunday night to try to get the quickest flight back to the UK.

My parents drove me straight to hospital and I was admitted. The baby's heartbeat was fine and as I wasn't having any contractions my parents went home and I spent a restless night on my own, thankfully in my own room. I was in complete shock and just couldn't get any sleep. I started mild contractions in the night and the next day the doctor told me that as I was at 34 weeks they wouldn't try to stop the birth. The contractions gradually got stronger as the day wore on, but thankfully Mark made it to the hospital late that morning, having driven across Ireland all night to catch the first flight out in the morning. My labour progressed normally and my precious firstborn son made his way into the world at 8 o'clock on Monday night. He was a tiny 4 lbs 6 oz and looked like a little doll.

Minutes old

My first cuddle

He breathed straight away and after he was dressed I was able to hold him for a brief time before he was whisked away. I didn't see him again for two hours and when I did he was in an incubator with a feeding tube coming out of his nose.

Although little, Tom was quite a tough little chap. He never needed help breathing. This meant that I was able to have the odd little cuddle with him, although he couldn't be out of his incubator for long as he couldn't maintain his body temperature. Mark and I soon learned to change his teeny tiny nappy and give him his feeds through a tube. I think because Tom was my first baby and I had nothing to compare him too, I was never intimidated by his size, I think if I had had a full term baby first and then a preemie I would have been terrified by his fragility. As it was, it all seemed quite normal to us.

Changing Tom's nappy in the incubator

4 Days old

Tube feeding

I remember being so excited when Tom was deemed well enough to move from his incubator into a specially heated 'hot cot'. We were taking one day at a time and it seemed like real progress. The most upsetting time for me was shortly after this when Tom developed jaundice and he had to go under the UV lights. He really didn't like it and it was the first time I cried over the whole situation. Having a premature baby is a bit of an emotional roller coaster!

Tom in his 'hot cot'

Under the UV lights for jaundice

Tom finally graduated to a proper cot and once we had a feeding routine established we were able to take him home. We were in Transitional Care for 11 days before we finally got to bring our little boy home. Thankfully my Mum and Dad had not been idle during my stay in hospital. We had only moved into our new house a few weeks before and had next to nothing for the baby. They made sure we had all the essentials ready for us when we got home, right down to the Moses' basket. We went home to a house full of boxes with our tiny boy.

Finally in a big boy cot!

We didn't leave the house with Tom for a month. It was a cold autumn and we wanted to protect him as much as possible from the temperatures and any potential illnesses. We kept the house pretty toasty and just stayed home and enjoyed him as much as possible.

Tom was small for his age for the first five years and was always behind his peers in his developmental milestones. He has now fully caught up to where he should be and is now a very happy and healthy ten year old.

Tom does have a few minor issues, but we will never know if those were because he was premature or whether he would have had those anyway. We will also never know why he was born early. I have since had three other children, all of whom were full term. All I know is that I am incredibly grateful that my story ends with a happy, healthy ten year old boy. Looking at him now, you would never know he was premature and I will always be grateful to the lovely doctors and midwives who played such a crucial role in his earliest days.

Tom with his six month old baby brother