Saturday 30 April 2011

Patriotism, party and community

The wedding of Will and Cate could quite easily have passed us by. But the influence of school had sparked Ethan's interest in it, so we watched the wedding, with Alec and Ethan waving union jack flags on the sofa, whilst Sophie found blowing bubbles far more interesting!

Our lovely neighbours surrounding the green thought it sounded like a good excuse for a party, and they were right!  The organisers pulled off a wonderful afternoon and evening of games, food and wonderful company.  There were egg and spoon races...
...sack races...
 ... of course Sophie wanted to join in too!
 There were also three-legged races, and adult races, all of which were far too embarrassing to post photos!

An improptu cricket match was set up, as were games of hide and seek, tennis, and many more games that us adults were probably unaware of.
 Sophie was adopted by two of the older girls in the close, and so I barely saw her for the rest of the day/evening!  But it did give me opportunity to meet a few people who we didn't know. 
Food was prepared and eaten, from sandwiches, scones and cakes, to chilli and hot dogs!  We sat with the bunting flapping, drinking whatever we fancied, and chatting, whilst the children played, and played, and played, until we all flagged at about 10.30pm!  A fantastic day of community, friendship and fun.
I think the general consensus was that we are all very fortunate to have a lovely space where the children can play safely, where adults can mingle, and how we really ought to do this far more often!!

Tuesday 26 April 2011


Our friendly chicken, Little, who would follow you around the garden had become increasingly ill over the last month.  Something wasn't right with her.  Anti-biotics worked for a while, but she was still obviously not well, but she still enjoyed scratching around the garden, and a bit of apple.  However, over the weekend she became slower, and in obvious pain.  So today was a very sad trip to the vets.  I stayed with her to the very end, saying my goodbyes.  Some might say I'm a sentimental old fool.  But we did the best for her, she had a longer, more free-range life than many chickens. 
Rest In Peace Little xx

Monday 25 April 2011

Woodland days

Meeting up with friends at a local woods, personally my favourite woods, which are so quiet even on the most summery of days.  Walking up a hill to a nearby church we spotted a rather impressive looking caterpillar.  He was a very big chap, probably about 6 or 7 cm long.  Research, when we got home, suggests it is a drinker moth caterpillar, apparently named as they like to drink dew drops.
 We reached the top, admired the views, investigated the church, and decided we'd retreat from all these very strange, black flies that were everywhere, to go and have a picnic in the wood.
 Some impressive bark.  Easily pleased, me!
 Some recent woodland management left a wonderful playground for the children.  Sophie spent a while playing with the sawdust.  Others were walking along felled trees, and we also looked at the rings of the tree, but it wan't clear enough for us to tell how old it was.
 Some bracket type fungi adorned this tree stump.  I showed Sophie and asked her if the fairies lived there, her reply was "why not?"
 This wood, in the past, has had loads of dens made from fallen branches.  Many of the dens were not there anymore, but we found one, which the boys added to, and then Luke went off to build his own den, with the help of younger friends.
 Sophie reckoned it was the little piggies house from the three little pigs, here she is taking Stuart along to look. 
 A wonderful afternoon passed, with the adults sat on a mossy bank, watching the children playing to their hearts content in such a natural setting. 
This evening, Ethan said that today had been as good as legoland.  So it sounds like it was the perfect way to finish our Easter break.


Easter came upon us again, with the usual silly amounts of chocolate.  But we had a lovely family day with Grandparents visiting for lunch, with an easter boquet of flowers and felt eggs as a centrepiece to the table.
 Alec and Ethan had made some Easter posters, and also made one from lego!

 One lovely part of the day was Luke deciding to make rope out of some newspaper.  He rolled each sheet, twisted it, and tied it to the next sheet.  Once the whole newspaper was used up, he organised his brothers into seeing if they could lower a basket of easter eggs from our bedroom window.  It was lovely hearing them all co-operating in completing this task.  And complete it they did!
The day ended with Alec challenging a group of young children who were playing on the green to a football match.  The children had a great time, as did some of the dads.  And this evening the children came to call to see if they could play another football match, so it looks like more friends have been made.

We also had a whole host of children around til near 9 pm bouncing on the trampoline in the dark.  A lovely relaxing day, all in all.

Saturday 23 April 2011

The moneyless man

I ordered this book from the library before Christmas, but it only just came in. I picked it up last Friday, and finished by this Thursday, that is really good going for me, and is a sure sign of a great book.

Basically, the author spent a year without spending money, living a life based on barter, working for food, and repurposing things, and bin-diving. It has given me some great food for thought, but not sure how that could all fit in with children in tow. He was a single man doing this project.

But the crux of it all was how community is vital, and I love the ideas of freeskilling, freeconomy, and love the idea of giving with no thought of receiving anything, but believing that when you most need something it will be made available to you. This has been my belief for a long time, but hasn't been at the forefront of my mind recently.

If you haven't read the book, I urge you to. A real inspiration.

Friday 22 April 2011

Easter gifts

The products of our creativity this holiday.  A sample of the easter baskets we have made for friends, yarn baskets, with knitted elf-like egg cosies and of course some chocolate eggs.  Hope we have managed to bring a smile to some faces, and used up surplus resources we have lying around the place, whilst not producing any waste.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

We made it out the house!!

After fighting bugs last week, we eventually managed to get down the allotment to get the potatoes in the ground, well, first and second earlies anyway!  Sophie and Ethan did some much needed watering, the ground is getting so dry already, it is one thing I am going to try to keep on top of this year, as the potatoes and onions suffered last year for not enough water.
 The boys all had a go at planting the potatoes.  You might just be able to see some green in the potato trench.  We line the trench with comfrey leaves which will break down and add nutrients directly to the growing potato plants, and comfrey is one thing we are not short of, especially as we are a little late getting them in the ground!
 We did more weeding (I wish I could find a use for docks, we seem to be so good at growing them!), and also some harvesting of purple sprouting, spinach and rhubarb.

 That was Monday.  Tuesday we ventured to our local park which was suprisingly not as busy as I thought it would have been. 
 The purpose of the visit was to see if Ethan could master riding his bike without stabilisers.  He has mastered balancing, it is just confidence he needs now.  So there was lots of bike swapping going on, and I ended up pushing Sophie all the way home on Ethan's bike, whilst Ethan road home in her trike!

 We didn't quite master the riding with confidence, we need to be able to build the speed up a bit, but that takes alot of trust and bit of courage.

A beautiful crab apple tree reminded us of the bounties this park provides us later in the year, it is my source of apples, damsons, sloes, hazlenuts come the late summer.
 Once home we had the playdough out, and Alec, Ethan and Sophie enjoyed making various things.  Isn't is great having younger siblings which allow you to carry on playing with things like this without any embarrasment!
 Later in the evening Stuart started reading a role playing book with Alec.  You have a story that you have to make choices with, and some dice rolling as well to determine the outcome of some battles.  It attracted all the children, and was lovely to see them all entranced.  They had to stop after about an hour, as Stuart's voice was about to give up!
These Easter holidays seem to be going so quick, but I am enjoying capturing all these precious moments.

Monday 18 April 2011

Random Beauty

Early morning sunshine casting shadows through the clematis and heart at our lounge window.


 It has been a long time since we met up with my Dad, getting on for 18 months!  Everyone seems busy with their own lives and getting to see each other just goes by the by.  So imagine the excitement when I phone Dad and he invites us to his boat for the day!  Sophie was especially excited, and kept on saying how she was going on the boat.  I had my old life jacket from many moons ago, which fitted Sophie perfectly, and she even insisted on wearing it for the car journey there! 

I think it is fair to say whilst the children were very excited, I was rather nervous, taking four children who had not been on a boat before, and one of them being a toddler who is rather headstrong.  I packed full changes of clothes for all of them, and gave them a pep talk too!  Well, if I was nervous, I think Dad was even more nervous, letting four children who had never been on a boat before onto HIS boat! 

The boys all had a go at steering, and Dad explained to Luke and Stuart all the gadgets and dials etc.  This is one serious boat, with GPS, sonar, and many other things I didn't understand!

 Alec's favourite place was the sun-deck!
 It was a lovely day, pootling down the river with the Malvern Hills in the distance, and the rhythm of the engine lulling us. Really relaxing, and took me back to the many weeks spent on the rivers and canals during my childhood.

 Dad's wife, Sue, provided a lovely buffet lunch, complete with jelly and blamange (sp?).  She was especially chuffed that the children ate it! 
 Sophie found it all a bit much in the end, and half way through decided she wasn't going to wear the life jacket any more, and that she wanted to go home!  I was able to get her to sleep in one of the berths, which is what she really needed! 

Ethan and Alec were busy discussing how we could sell the house and live on a boat, which I think means they really, really enjoyed themselves!

Friday 15 April 2011

School's broken up!

We are in  our first week of the Easter holiday.  I like the Easter holidays, not too much emphasis on having to do things (as there is at Christmas), but a well timed break, just as the weather starts to improve.  Unfortunately we have been bug fighting this week.  Sophie has a rather nasty cold and temperature, possibly a mild chest infection, but has spent the last few days demanding feed upon feed upon feed, which seems to be working, and her temperature is now gone, so hopefully we have turned a corner.  Luke has had a tooth abcess (must be about his 10th by now, poor lad) and this has been a really stubborn one, which he has not been able tolerate without regular pain relief.  Hoping that the anti-biotics are doing their stuff now. 
So, not much time spent outside really, more nursing the poorly ones, and letting Alec and Ethan entertain themselves, which has meant them playing outside with the neighbours children, or more often than not them all on the trampoline, trying not to fall out the enormous holes in the safety net (although I think one game was actually to fall out and get rescued by the others!)

Some crafting has happened, with varying interest from the children.  We made some yarn bowls that I had been shown here.  Ethan, Alec and Sophie lost interest at different points along the line, Ethan sat there for a while just picking the wood glue off his fingers (mind you I love doing that too!)
 We also had a go at making felted eggs.  I could only find two plastic eggs in the play food, so can only do two at a time, but Ethan and Sophie enjoyed helping me with these.
 The highlight of the week so far is probably the discovery of 3 mice in a box of Traidcraft stuff I had stored in the garage.  Fortunately there wasn't that much stuff in there, but blimey, they made a mess of what was there!  Two jumped out the box pretty soon after I had popped it in the backgarden.  They legged it down the garden, with chickens following in hot pursuit!
The third one stuck around for a few photos.  It was very sweet, and the children enjoyed watching it, but it too decided thought enough was enough and braved the chickens to earn its freedom!
Hopefully next week will see us enjoying the outdoors a bit more, and eventually getting the potatoes planted!

Monday 11 April 2011

A long awaited trip

We have been promising the boys a trip to legoland for about a year, but the time has never quite been right, combined with the schools making it very difficult to take the children out of school during term time.  However, as the boys broke up early for Easter, as well as having a teacher training day on the Friday, we jumped at the chance to take them.  For Alec and Ethan, it is like Mecca!  But we were all very impressed with what we saw.  A dinosaur made to look as if it is made from tecnic lego, but is actually made up of normal lego made to look like tecnic!
 Sophie wanted to play with the lego!  But was placated by an ice-cream!  (food prices were astronomical, we'll have to be better prepared should we go again!)
 Miniland, with all the lego models was really impressive, and we all enjoyed marvelling at the detail, and scale of it all.

 There were rides to be ridden too.  Sophie really enjoyed this little train, going on it multiple times, this time with Stuart.
 The boys all went on the driving school, although Luke stayed well hidden from the camera!

 We ate our lunch (more money!) whilst watching a puppet show, Sophie liked meeting this little duck close up.
 A fun time was had on fire engines, which required alot of effort on Stuart and Luke's part to propel the engine with a pump action, and then pump the water through the water cannons that Alec and Luke got to control.

 There were models all over the place, small ones, big ones, but I think my personal favourite was this dragon.
 We stayed overnight in a hotel by Heathrow airport, thankfully there was very little noise from the airport itself, well, Sophie drowned out any planes, as she was over-stimulated, tired, and wanted her own bed!  But, putting that behind us, on Saturday we had a lovely breakfast, followed by making use of the hotel swimming pool, where Sophie made leaps and bounds in her confidence, with the undivided attention of Stuart, and the distractions of her brothers.  We then returned to Legoland to do the few last things we wanted to do.  However, Saturday was a completely different kettle of fish, schools had broken up, and there was a Star Wars event on, it was absolutely heaving!!  We had a few photos taken with Star Wars characters.
 And then made for the sanctuary of the discovery zone, where they each had a kit to make up.  Quiet, cool, and relaxing, just what was needed.

We didn't last much longer, a mini golf course, and yet more extortionate food, and it was time to head home (via the lego shop!!)

We had a lovely time, but it has reinforced how we could never cope with doing such things in holiday time, just far, far, far too stressful! The boys continued the lego theme on our return home, with building and playing with more lego.