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Claire’s birthday…

My lovely wife just had her birthday and it went really well. Her parents, grandparents, and aunt & uncle all came down for afternoon tea and it was good to see everyone.

Above image: real life

Bottom image: Pinterest version!

The cake turned out well and Claire’s Mum made the amazing top piece for the cake, which contrasted very well with the dark brown of the icing. I made the cake, with Claire helping by getting the tins ready and the boys helping to weigh out some ingredients.

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Jamie & winter…

I was talking to Jamie the other day about the seasons and how it’s coming up to Autumn, which would then turn to winter. I asked what he was looking forward to about Winter (trying to put a positive spin on things!). It took him about a second to say Christmas!

We started to go through all of the reasons why winter is actually a pretty good season.

Log fires: One of my favourites. This year, I worked out how much wood we used from the previous year and ordered that much in early spring. It’s all been chopped and stacked since April and we should have enough to last till March 2012. Log fires are awesome and really raise the spirits on a crap winter day.

Jamie and Jac were loving coming down from having a bath and standing in front of the stove while getting dry. Jamie even asked me about getting the fire lit in the middle of summer so he could do that.

Insulated render: Now we’ve got the whole side and most of the rear of the house insulated, as well as the loft hatch re-done, the heat we do make by the radiators and stove should be kept in the house for longer. We’ve also had new windows front and back which has already made a difference. This should make the cold weather easier to live with.

The boys birthdays: Jamie’s 5th at the end of October then Jac’s 3rd at the end of January. Always lots of fun and breaks up the season each side of Christmas.

Halloween: Lots of potential for fun and excitement, as well as creative ideas for making things. Walking around with spooky lanterns and torches in the garden. Pumpkin pie (using pumpkins from the allotment – not this year but hopefully next!) and ales. Yum.

Claire’s birthday: Last but certainly not least. The middle of February signals the approach of Spring and brighter and warmer times. A good way to finish off the season!

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Responsive parenting…

Decisions, compromises and half measures…

…but if there is some overall direction or guiding principles, this is the most important thing.

Being responsive to our family is one of our guiding principles and is partly why we went for all of the things like breastfeeding, co-sleeping and home education.

We’ve tried to listen to their needs, not just their wants or desires.

We have been adaptable to their changing needs and try to continue this adaptability.

It’s hard having the patience to sit down with them and help them build a lego model, for them just to take it apart 5 minutes later and ask you to build them something else! Then, doing it all again!

Giving them the time and attention is the important thing, even if it doesn’t ‘achieve’ anything. That’s why I take pictures because I know that these type of models or pockets in time won’t last forever. There’s at least some product which relates to my adult mentality.

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Christmas 2010…

So,we had a bit of a random Christmas this year, with most of the normal Christmas Day stuff happening on Christmas Eve!

We had my Mum and Sister + her partner around on the eve and had most of the presents then, plus the main meal, which was curry! Since we’ve been vegetarian, the whole traditional dinner thing hasn’t had as much appeal, so we thought just go for something different. Indian food is a lot more versatile in terms of the selection of vegetarian dishes. My Mum and Sister’s partner are also vegetarian (and sister 95% veggie), so this seemed to work well.

So, we had some good wine and beer, which my Mum brought with her + a selection of starters. Claire made the rice and a chickpea curry for the main part, which turned out well. There was enough of it left over to freeze a load of portions! Mulled wine made by Sisters partner and a brilliant note from Santa to the boys!

The next day we set off just after lunch for the snow-covered ‘North’ (West Brom, west of Birmingham) to spend some time with Claire’s family (parents, g.parents etc). e were at one place to start with then over to Claire’s other nan’s nursing home for the next group! We drove back fairly late and managed to get the kids ready for bed and asleep in the car on the way back.

Boxing Day was over to my Dad’s in Batheaston for more festive fun. Another nice meal but this time didn’t get the boys ready for bed before we left but it all worked out ok.

Overall fairly tiring few days but worth it as well. The boys have received so many amazing presents from everyone, they should be kept busy for a while.

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Jamie’s 4th birthday…

Jamie is now 4 and we’ve survived the bumper weekend of birthday/family fun!

So, we had Claire’s parents with us on his birthday (29th) and Claire made an amazing birthday cake for him! 6 layers of sponge, with a green butter icing in the middle and a thin jam layer between each layer. Everyone thought it was awesome and Jamie loved it.

We had already been to Thomas Land at Drayton Manner Park so there was no kids party, just family for the weekend. My Mum and sister + partner came down from London on the Saturday and we went to the cathedral to check out the Crucible exhibition. We then went to the park and had lots of fun there.

So, Jamie got some cool presents, including the Disney/Pixar Cars DVD, which he’s been watching on Utube in 10 minute sections + a Mac trailer (which is from the film). He’s been waiting for that for ages! My Mum got him a big box of Lego and he’s got into that a lot recently. My sister and Edward got him a board game and a cool metal boat, which runs on wax and heat and propels itself through the water! He had a watch from Claire’s parents as well which he loves wearing. It’s got a green light which he likes to use in the dark.

So, it was a long but fun weekend and Jamie loved having his family around him + all the new toys!

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502 posts and going strong…

So, i’ve past the 500 post landmark! I was going to do a summary of the past blog experiences, as soon as the site got to either a certain number of posts, time (maybe a year since the start) or number of hits (maybe 10,000). Well, it’s been over 17 months since I started this blog (14/05/09) and have received over 9,000 hits.

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to check out what we’ve been doing and I hope it’s been worth it! So far, i’ve really enjoyed taking the time to put it together and keep it going. I’ve been able to check back on various things over the months and it’s been cool to be able to show people what we’ve been doing. I know the various far flung family members also check both mine and Claire’s blogs, so it a good way of keeping in contact.

It’s also a brilliant family record of some of our major life events. The last few years have basically defined my life and it will be awesome to be able to show the boys some family snapshots from when they were still small(ish). I’m trying to put stuff on here which sort of defines me as well, so there’s things about all sorts of things – family, house DYI, sustainability/environment, politics, art/design/architecture, work things, Liverpool FC. I want to put more of the boys developments on here, particularly as we start/continue our journey into ‘education’.

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Big box house…

The big card box which the bathroom sink table came in has been put to some serious use over the last couple of days!

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Claire made it into a play house, complete with door (and letter box), window and secret opening! It then evolved into a general crawling thing then a slide! Lots of fun, but the box is starting to look a bit shabby!

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Ireland 4th-13th Sept ’09

After 1025 miles in the car – 350 miles to get there, 350 touring around and a bit less coming back, we are back in Blighty!

The weather was wet for the first 3 days but after that, it was amazing and even managed to get a tan!  Jamie made huge progress with his toilet training and completed his toilet chart, after using the ‘big-boy toilet’ 20 times. There were also Donkeys in the adjacent field to our cottage! 

Friday

So, drove to Pembroke Ferry Port for a 2:30pm sail – 3 hours drive. Then there was a 4 hour crossing then an hours drive to Waterford, where we were staying the night. Waterford Travelodge was fine + dinner at Eddie Rocket’s – 1960’s American diner themed restaurant (you can’t call us cheap!)! We got to the hotel at about 8 so there’s no way we could have driven straight through to the cottage.

Saturday

Drove from Waterford to the cottage (4hrs + stops), about 2 miles from Ballydehob on the N71. Got to the cottage around lunchtime and basically spent the day settling into the new surroundings.

Sunday

Well, as starts to holidays go, this wasn’t the best! It rained lightly all day, but enough to get the waterproofs on and look like proper tourists! We all set off to a town called Kinsale near Cork, which in the end was a 3 hour round trip, back in the direction we had just come from!

The town looked nice but having to deal with the kids and the rain didn’t help matters. We visited Desmond Castle, which had long been used as a prison for the French + the ‘international’ wine museum inside. It was a nice place and the rain probably added to the atmosphere inside! Claire and Edward stayed on for a visit to the local public house but we headed back to look for food.

Monday

After the previous days exertions, we decided to stay local and check out the sights in and around Ballydehob. This turned out to be a good move and was more like the sort of thing I was thinking about + it didn’t rain till about 4pm, after we had got back. There was a good playground for Jamie on the road into the town and a cool 12-arch stone bridge with a footpath along the top.

We then set out to find a beach and managed to get to a lovely couple of beaches near Schull – Coosheen beach/cove and Cooradarigan, off the main road to Schull. Really nice rock pool action and photos of pebbles etc + grey sand! Lots of slate in the area maybe giving it that colour.

Tuesday

Another expedition north of the cottage beckoned. We went through the Bantry Bay area, which was exactly 15 mins drive (as predicted by the AA website), then onto Glengariff, which is the town where you get a small ferry to an island called Garinish Island. Lots of Seals on the way and the gardens on the island were really nice. Again, it rained till about 4pm, but generally it was fine with the buggy, although muddy in parts. The 65 steps to the round tower was fun (thanks to Edward for helping to haul it up there!).

Wednesday

The first day without rain! This was the start of sun for the rest of the week and a definite turning point in the choice of destination. Having sampled the rocky/pebble beaches, we wanted some more + some sand! We all headed to a place called Barley Cove Beach, which turned out to be a huge sandy beach with a stream running down the side and lots of interesting rocks, dunes and pools etc.

We had some lunch on the beach (bought from Goleen – a local village) and went paddling – my god the water was cold! Built a sand csatle and generally enjoyed the place. We then headed to Mizen Head, which is the most south-westerly point of Ireland, but you had to pay to get into the centre and we were all starting to get a bit tired by then.

Finally, as it was an awesome day and since the boys were by now asleep, we drove up to the top of Mount Gabriel, which stands at 407m tall and is the tallest peak in the area. Amazing views from the top and you could see for miles. There’s a Aviation Authority station up there with two white domes + a wind farm a couple of miles away.

Got back to the cottage to find that sister Claire had locked the cottage and taken the key with her (I suppose not illogically) meaning we were locked out! My first thought was ‘how do we break in’! I found their bedroom window open to the side but then Claire suggested using the bathroom window, which was lower and bigger. Climbed on the picnic table and got a leg up from Claire and managed to get through into the cottage.

Thursday

After our awesome day at the beach, we decided to go back to Barley Cove, while C&E went on a cultural tour. Again, a very nice day and not a cloud in the sky! We tried the smaller cove area this time and had fun digging sand dams to keep a few large pools at bay, making a deeper area which Jamie could jump in etc. In the end, we dug a few levels of pools and it was starting to look like a ‘Megastructure’!

Friday

Schull playground and food shops + walk along the coast and onto a small pebble beach. Schull is defo the sort of place to go for a chilled out holiday and lots of good shops.

Saturday

Left the cottage around 10:30 and drove for a couple of hours, until we got past Cork. Saw a sign for the ‘National Ploughing Championships ’09’ – on the way to Rosslare! Got into St. Helen’s Hotel at Rosslare Harbour in time for a trip to the hotel pool. we all had to wear swim hats(!), which I haven’t had to do for 20 years! Had a really nice dinner then off to bed.

Sunday

The ferry back to Pembroke from Rosslare went well but part of the car trip was a bit stressful (!!!), with Jac not happy in his seat!

Went a bit nuts with the photos (477 in total) but here’s a selection! Used my Nokia phone camera quite a bit and the new zoom lens for my Canon DSLR (18-200mm) was really useful.

Overall, a very good holiday and lots of ideas for the future.

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