Friday, 27 March 2015

A Good Haul

Vintage Ladybird books bring back memories of my own childhood and what English child doesn't love Enid Blyton? I read her books voraciously as a girl!

It is no secret that we are a family of bibliophiles. I have a particular fondness for children's books, especially old ones, so was rather thrilled with my good fortune this past week. Lots of lovely books from some local charity shops and then the discovery that our library was selling off some of its old stock. Lots of happy readers in our family this week!

When the library are selling off books at 20p a time, who can resist buying a huge stack!

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Tom becomes a Cub

Tom has been going to Cubs for a few weeks now and was invested on Monday. It's fair to say he wasn't keen on the actual ceremony, but was quite happy to be a fully-fledged Cub after it was all over. It is so nice to see Tom taking an interest in something like this. I love the Scout and Guide movement and the many opportunities and experiences it offers and it is lovely to see Tom wanting to be a part of something like that. Highlights of his experiences so far have included star gazing and a visiting speaker from Jodrell Bank observatory, which Tom particularly enjoyed.

After we got home, we celebrated our new Cub Scout with a special (and very delicious!) cake I made earlier in the day and a few extra treats. Love my big boy!

I used the recipe I use to make Tom's favourite double chocolate chip muffins to make two cakes which I sandwiched with jam and buttercream, topped with melted chocolate and decorated with mini Smarties and dark chocolate sprinkles. It was delicious!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Alderley Edge

One of my favourite local walks is in Alderley Edge in nearby Cheshire. A delightful walk through the woods, stopping to play on the woodland assault course on the way, leads up to Stormy Point with fantastic views over the Cheshire Plains. The Podlings love to play in The Devil's Grave, which is an artificial gash in the rocks and part of an old shallow mine working that may have yielded copper. We finished our walk with a (rather chilly) picnic of hot chocolate and cakes in the woods. A wonderful afternoon with my favourite people. Days like this are what I live for!

My beautiful Lily

Emma's shoe after she came off the log and ended up in the mud. That sock will never be white again!

The view from Stormy Point

The Devil's Grave at Stormy Point 

Tom and Emma in The Devil's Grave

Alex is learning new skills...

...he wants us to walk him everywhere at the moment!

We ended our lovely walk with hot chocolate and cakes in the woods. It was the first time Alex was able to properly join us on the picnic blanket. He liked having access to the food!

I did bring baby biscuits for Alex, but he preferred to steal his own snacks! Here he is munching on a fruit puff he stole from Tom!

Lily took this photo of us

Saturday, 21 March 2015

A Solar Eclipse

The magic of two pieces of card and a pin hole!

There was much excitement in the house the morning of the solar eclipse. A solar eclipse on the first day of Spring, no less! The Podlings were all walking to school with their friends, many of whom had pin hole projectors and colanders with them. As we walked, we heard the oft repeated phrase 'Don't look directly at the sun' that we parents had been drumming into them amongst their excited babble. It was wonderful to see so many children taking so much interest in an astronomical event. The maximum coverage of the sun in Staffordshire (around 90 %) happened just after half past nine, so Tom, Lily and Emma were at school when it happened. I was thrilled to learn that the entire school were out on the field for the eclipse and were watching through various safe methods arranged by their teachers.

I was at home with Alex, who probably wondered why Mummy kept popping into the garden! He was much more interested in his breakfast! I had my little pin hole projector and had a brief go with a colander, which I thought was more of a gimmick than anything else. I stuck with the two pieces of card to watch the eclipse, running into the garden for a quick look, then running back to Alex! He must have thought I was nuts! At maximum coverage the light levels were not dissimilar to an early evening sunset. Not dark by any means, but certainly darker than you would expect at half past nine in the morning. It was certainly dark enough to confuse the Dickens out of the birds, who were returning to the trees and twittering loudly in confusion. I found it all rather thrilling! Not quite as awe-inspiring as experiencing totality in the 1999 eclipse in Devon, but certainly exciting.

The Podlings were rather harder to impress! They came home from school complaining that "It didn't even get dark!". I think they were expecting to be plunged into total darkness in the middle of the day and felt rather let down!

I made 'eclipse burgers' for tea (a beef burger 'eclipsing' a chicken burger!), after which we settled down with some popcorn to watch the BBC Eclipse Live programme I had recorded in the morning. A lot of it was filmed at the Jodrell Bank observatory, which isn't very far from where we live. The programme also showed the total eclipse as experienced in the Faroe islands, which I think they all found really interesting.

The eclipse was rather a thrilling event for all of us in the end. Tom is talking of travelling the world to watch eclipses and they were all cheerfully telling Mark and me that we would be dead next time there is a total eclipse in the UK! Charming bunch! I hope that if they are watching that eclipse in their dotage in 2090, they may remember their first eclipse back in 2015 and the evening we spent talking about it together.

Another use for a kitchen colander!

The view through my pin hole!

Alex wondering why Mummy has gone mad!

Eclipse burgers!

From my photo album: Watching the eclipse with my sister and parents on Dartmoor in 1999

The irony of these pictures was that there was so much cloud coverage there was no way we needed the eclipse viewers! We couldn't see the sun at all! Experiencing totality was completely awe-inspiring though and I wouldn't have traded that for a glimpse of the sun!

Sun? What sun?

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Mothering Sunday

Meeting Freddie and Taylor. Two babies to cuddle...bliss! Love them to bits!

I had a lovely Mothering Sunday this year. We had an early start as we were going to the service at the church that Emma and Alex were Christened at, which is over an hour's drive away. It was a lovely service and Tom, Lily and Emma enjoyed helping to give out the flowers and prayers to all the mothers in the church. Emma and Alex were also presented with their baptism certificates during the service. After church Mark's Mum and Dad took us out for a lovely carvery and we all enjoyed a lovely meal. Lily was particularly enamoured of the 'bottomless ice cream' dessert.

After our meal we went back to Mark's parents' house where we were later joined by Greg and Kelly and their new baby twins and by Ryan, Carrie and baby Grace. Not only did I enjoy the immense privilege of meeting my new niece and nephew, we also got to enjoy a special first. All seven of the cousins (on Mark's side) together for the first time! What a very special Mothering Sunday!

We were so honoured that Greg and Kelly made the effort to come and see us all. They are obviously somewhat sleep-deprived with two newborns to look after and Kelly is still recovering from major surgery, so we know it was no small thing for them. It meant a lot that we could all be together on Kelly and Carrie's first Mother's Day and it certainly made it a special day for Mark's Mum, who had all of her grandchildren together for the first time. It was also something of a thrill for me to get to cuddle two newborn babies at the same time! Taylor and Freddie are too precious for words!

There's been a bit of a baby boom on Mark's side of the family! Here are all seven of the cousins together for the first time. Emma was feeling camera shy, so you can only see the top of her head. Poor Freddie was not a happy bunny at this point, so we didn't want to hang around trying to get a better shot. 

Baby Taylor. She is so tiny! Precious girl!

Lily loves babies. Here she is reading to Baby Grace. 

The lovely cards the Podlings made me at school. I'm a very lucky Mummy to have four beautiful, healthy, happy children. I feel very blessed.

My flowers and prayer from church

Thursday, 12 March 2015

The Winter Garden at Dunham Massey

Last Saturday we took a trip to Dunham Massey in Cheshire, home of one of the finest winter gardens in the country. We were just a touch late in the season to enjoy the snowdrops at their best, but the gardens were still beautiful. The Podlings had a wonderful time wandering around the garden and completing the children's trail.

Emma became mildly obsessed with the map and was happily telling us where we needed to go (she was largely making it up, but was having a lovely time!) It was so nice to get out in the sunshine and enjoy some fresh air together. The sight of all those daffodils made me realise that winter really is coming to an end and we will soon be enjoying some warmer weather again. I can't wait for spring!