Tuesday, 22 October 2013

builders, puppies, and the light at the end of the tunnel

So first of all, look at our puppy. He's the cutest puppy in the world. This is Max and he's been at home with us just over a week now. Say hello, Max!

Max
Woof. I'm a dog. I can't actually talk.
Getting a puppy is a lot like having a newborn the second (or more) time round - you totally forget everything you experienced before and everything is an annoying surprise. You find yourself saying things like, "I don't remember Jasper barking all night like this!" and "I don't remember Jasper taking this long to house train!" but then you think about it for a while and yes, yes he did do exactly all these things.

We didn't expect to still be renovating now, so this has added a whole new dimension of stress. Dealing with a housetraining puppy, building work, grumpy children (you can tell we're nearing a term break), mess, keeping puppy away from tools/plaster/wood flooring/assorted building supplies, oh god the perpetual dusty mess, my allergies going mental, and not sleeping due to barking nighttime puppy has driven me to the edge. I just want my house back. I want to be able to walk on all of my floors and not have random men in my house every single day. I want to have a day that doesn't involve mopping up wee.

I feel like we're just coming out of the new puppy fog now and we're all finding our feet again. We're got more of a routine down pat and (shhh touch wood) I think he's getting the hang of not piddling all over my new floor. I don't feel quite as stressed and in fact, I feel almost optimistic now. The renovations are coming to an end and the house really does look great - bare plaster walls, dangly wires, and all.

But look, cute puppy. Really, really cute puppy. And gosh, it's so very nice to have a dog in the house again.
Max2
I am smiling because I have just spotted the next bit of floor I will use as my toilet.


Saturday, 7 September 2013

do you like our new kitchen?

So this is our temporary kitchen, which is in the dining room:


I just have to laugh, or else I will start to hyperventilate and weep. This is precisely why I will never, ever go camping.

dude, where's my kitchen?


So, the day I've been dreading has arrived: our kitchen is gone. I've got a freezer full of food, a BBQ, slow cooker, electric grill, and camping stove so we're well equipped. I was worried about the logistics of washing the dishes without a sink (and no other sensible sink downstairs) rather than about finding ways to cook, but our lovely plumbers left our dishwasher connected. We're borrowing a camping sink (a basin with a stand) from friends, which will also come in handy. I think now that it's done and I've managed to do breakfast without any trauma, it doesn't really seem that bad. Ask me about this again on Wednesday, though.

We went out for supper last night to our local pub, which was really nice. It was still warm(ish) enough to sit outside and let the kids run loose with their friends, while we had some lovely food and fizz with our friends. A very civilised way to end a long week. 

Everything else has come to a bit of a standstill as nothing can be done while they fit the kitchen. Then it's floor tiling, laying the laminate flooring, finishing off any plasterwork and electrics, and the utility room. And then we get a dog. No biggie. 

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

and then there was Max

So, first things first, this is Max. He's 13 days old today and he will be coming home with us in October. He opened his eyes to have a little peek at us, then promptly scrambled off to have his lunch. He's tiny and a bit wrinkly and very, very lovely. This is really the most important news you need to know; the rest is just backstory, but do feel free to stick around if you're curious.

When Jasper died, a surprising number of people asked if we would get a new dog. Dog owners, non-dog owners, dog haters, dog lovers, didn't matter - dozens of people asked us this question right after he died. At the time, I said no, definitely not. I am not putting myself through that heartbreak again. It was horrible and I didn't want to experience that kind of loss a second time. As time went by, I still didn't want another dog (and my stomach sank when Paul said he definitely wanted another) but I hated not having a dog. Jasper left a huge hole in our lives, crumbs on our floor, and the absence of toenail tapping on our floors. 

As we got to the six month mark, I started to feel like the time was right to get another dog. I had a look at the Kennel Club site for local breeders, and thought to go back to the breeders who gave us Jasper - but then somehow this seemed wrong. It's totally irrational, but I didn't like the idea of getting a dog that may be genetically linked to Jasper; it would feel like we were trying to replace him or that we would expect this dog to be the same. There was also the nagging worry that Jasper's cancer may have been hereditary, so getting another dog from the same line may have some risk. I had a long look at the KC site and narrowed it down to a few breeders, but one in particular caught my eye. They're called Copperwheat Labradors and they had quite a few accolades from the KC. I got in touch with them and they arranged for us to visit in a couple of weeks.

A colleague of mine was showing off photos of her new puppy at work the other day, which just happened to be a Copperwheat Lab. She said she spotted some handsome Labs at a horse event and asked where they got their dogs from, and they recommended Copperwheat. I took this to be a good sign and we looked forward to our visit.

When I spoke to Ken from Copperwheat, he said he didn't have any black boys available with their current litter (our preference), but invited us to come and see the pups and have a chat about what they do. He said they do have several litters a year, so I just assumed we'd have to wait for the next one - which is fine, seeing as we're in RenoHell at the moment.

We took Jack and Mia with us, only telling them in the car where we were going (they weren't that excited about it, to be honest.) Ken turned out to be a lovely, friendly man who is clearly enthusiastic about his dogs and training dogs for field trials. He talked us through the process of getting a dog, asked us about our experience with dogs, and we had a long talk about their health checks, hip scores, and lots of other things that will bore the socks off anyone who isn't a dog person. Then the fun began: we met the puppies.

It took huge amounts of restraint to not run off with all the puppies in my handbag. They were so small and sweet, curled up around each other. It ends up that one boy did end up becoming available and as Ken held him aloft, he said "This would be your dog!" Their mother greeted us gently, calmly, affectionately giving us her head for a pat. Ken's dogs are all so chilled, it's amazing. We're used to Jasper's lead-lined tail and the way he barrelled out of the house (and up the stairs and through the house), it was so strange to be greeted by a dog that simply wags its tail and gives you a little nuzzle. 

Ken then brought out several of his dogs, all different personalities, all ages, and various levels of training. They were all astoundingly well-behaved and beautiful. It may sound strange (or shallow) to keep going on about good behaviour, but a docile and intelligent dog that is highly trainable is ideal, especially for a family pet. Copperwheat also provide information on training, house training (very important!), and ask you to come back with the dog after a few months if you would like advice or just to let them know how you're getting on. It really felt like Ken ran the Rolls Royce of dog breeders. We were so impressed.

So needless to say, it took us about 2 seconds of deliberation to confirm that we would very much like that boy we saw at the beginning. By this point, the kids were markedly more excited. We left feeling excited and happy, me feeling a bit emotional. We never saw Jasper as a very young pup as we got him at 11 weeks old. We will see this pup again at 4 weeks, then we'll take him home at 8. 

I realised that this pup was born almost exactly 10 years after Jasper arrived in our home. Everything just seemed to fall into place. I know that this dog will break our hearts again one day, but the alternative of never having another dog in this house was equally heartbreaking. I also know that this dog is not Jasper, and will have a personality all of his own. 

And suddenly all the mess and the chaos and the stress of renovating seems a lot more bearable.

Friday, 23 August 2013

building mayhem

Our renovations are now in full swing and by the gods, I am stressed. It's the mess, the demolition dust that hangs in the air and sticks to my lungs, and the lack of privacy when I'm at home during the day. It's not appreciating that we would be pretty much without a usable kitchen many weeks in advance of the new kitchen fitting. It's having to lift off dust sheets, trying to remember where we've stored things, and brushing a layer of plaster off the kettle just to make a cup of tea. It's chaos. I'm grumpy and I've got constant heartburn.

"It'll all be worth it in the end," everyone and their dog tells me. Of course it will but for the moment, it's NOT FUN. I've got a hideous cold today and all I want to do is curl up under the duvet. Instead, I had to get up early this morning to let the plasterers in and take Isla to nursery. Then I had to go forage for food because I can't make anything in my kitchen while they are scraping the walls and slapping plaster up. At this very moment, I'm sitting on my bed with a bag of food next to me so I don't have to go down to the kitchen. This cannot possibly be normal.

They've put the new concrete floor down in the extension and have been plastering over the hideous Artex on all the ceilings downstairs. When I went down this morning, everything was covered in a layer of condensation. All the pictures, cards, and drawings on our fridge were soaking wet. I am breathing in this damp horrible smelling air while dealing with a chest cold. Thankfully today it's hot and sunny outside so with all the windows and doors open, this should get rid of most of the moisture. It's also letting a few wasps in, but I'm willing to compromise.

Our bedroom is my haven. Our other upstairs rooms are full of mess and clutter from the other rooms downstairs (sorry kids), so this is the one place I feel like I can escape the insanity. Paul has taken Jack and Mia camping for a couple of nights, so it's just Isla and I at the moment. Last night, we sat on my big bed watching movies and fell asleep together. I had a terrible night's sleep from my cold and the stress (I can't lie down without suffering from heartburn/reflux. It's like being pregnant again.) Isla snored away all night long, cheerfully telling me "I slept very well!" when she woke up this morning. Bless her. She is going to be so pissed off when she has to sleep in her own room.

The kids have been great, I have to admit. They've mostly stayed out of the rubble and away from all the tools and debris. Jack's been so excited since day one ("I really like our house! I can't wait until our new room is done!") and Mia...well, she's Mia. Happy but generally doesn't really quite grasp what's going on and doesn't seem to care that much. Isla seems to have regressed a bit - acting up, talking "babyish", and getting very clingy when I leave her at nursery. There's been a lot of change for her with all the renovations and with starting school next month. She's been enjoying the extra attention from us (when Jack and Mia went to their grandparents' last week) and from me this week. Mostly, she's been enjoying having total control over the television.

I am stressed out the wazoo. I don't deal well with unpredictability and a lack of control, but that's what you get when you renovate. Thankfully the building company we're using (Ambury Developments) are fantastic and very reliable, but things are still beyond our control as it's the nature of the business. Like today for example, when the plasterer told us that we should wait around 6 weeks before we paint the walls in the extension. SIX MORE WEEKS. That's bloody October. I had no idea we wouldn't be able to properly finish that room for so long. Then there's the kitchen - I didn't think about the fact that knocking down walls would mean losing quite a few cupboards/storage space. I hadn't planned on packing up the kitchen until the new fit, but we ended up having to pack up about half the kitchen the day before we left on holiday. That was a hoot. And then there will be a lag of up to one week between having our old kitchen completely ripped out and the new one getting started, and then another couple of weeks before the new one is finished. The kids are all like "Yay Dominos every night!" No. No we won't.

I am eternally grateful for the kindness of friends and family who have given us a sympathetic ear and have offered to have us over for meals to give us a break from the mess. I know that it sounds shallow and selfish to be complaining about doing renovations when there are families struggling with much bigger issues every day of their lives. I am also grateful for the fact that we're in a position to do things like this. But for now, please, I need to moan. I need to vent and get it out. I need a good cry, a large glass of wine, and a hug. I need to make it through deadline time at work. I need this cold to bugger off. I need to take a deep breath.

For now, I'll just hide up here with my mug of tea and pot of yoghurt.

Friday, 14 June 2013

european vacation

I decided that we had to get away and have a little family holiday somewhere during half term break. Our last break ended a bit sooner than expected and with the loss of Jasper, so a week away felt like a good thing to do.

I looked at Cornwall as an option as we're not having our summer holiday there this year, but almost everything was already booked because I'd left it late. Then I thought a return to Center Parcs would be a nice idea, until I saw that Elveden expected us to cough up over £1,600 for a one week stay. I remembered friends saying that Center Parcs on the continent was a lot cheaper, and right they were - I booked us in at De Vossemeren in Belgium for a week for £800. The Land of Beer and Chocolate! Yes, please.

I paid for our Eurotunnel crossing with Tesco vouchers (loyalty points), so our only travel costs were for diesel and our passport misadventure (see previous post.) Eurotunnel is something to behold. You drive your car on to a train. YOU DRIVE YOUR CAR ON TO A TRAIN THAT GOES UNDERWATER. I shit you not. In roughly 35 minutes, you go from Folkestone in Kent to Calais in France.
WE ARE DRIVING ON TO A TRAIN OMG
It's the most ridiculous and fantastic thing ever. I don't care how sad this makes me, the novelty of this thing still hasn't worn off.

We emerged on the other side chanting our mantra: "Drive on the right." After a long journey thanks to a delayed train, Antwerpian traffic, and one son hurling into a plastic bag, we arrived at Center Parcs. 

Center Parcs in Belgium is surreal because it looks like an English Center Parcs, has all the same logos, but everything's in four different languages. When  you arrive, you know this is not going to be like England - the "Meh, do what the hell you want" vibe starts right at the gate. You don't have to go through barriers and have your guests carefully counted and verified by someone,  you just drive in, get yourself parked, and wander over to an information desk where someone just takes your word for it.

The park itself is very similar to the one in Elveden - the villa floorplans are the same and they are surrounded by woodland, and the pool layout is almost identical. It's a smaller park, which makes getting around with small children so much easier. The other European kids weren't on holiday that week (except maybe the Germans) so it wasn't very crowded.
We didn't leave her in the woods.
The activities are similar (swimming, indoor and outdoor sports, bowling, etc.) but far cheaper. The pool area is amazing, not because it has anything extra (although the underwater aquarium pool is pretty cool), but because they just don't really give a monkey's who goes on the slides. The age minimum is supposedly 8, but after we watched several small children with armbands and float vests going down the rapids with their parents, we threw caution to the wind and took all three kids down and on some of the slides. Back home, we would be much  more limited which makes doing anything as a family difficult (I usually end up trapped in the toddler pool area for hours on end.) In Belgium, they stick two fingers up to health and safety. Go! Be free to slide down our big plastic watery tubes as a family unit!

The other thing you will encounter at a European Center Parcs is a lot of beer-bellied men in very small Speedos and very large women in bikinis who simply Do Not Care, which is fine by me. The fact that I won't feel fat and don't even have to bother shaving my legs makes for a pretty good holiday, in my opinion.

Now, if you're eating, you may want to skip this bit. Although I say the villas are like their English counterparts, the toilets are not. There is what I can only describe as a "poo shelf" in every toilet. It's like a normal toilet, except for reasons unknown, there is a little step at the back where your poo rests tidily until you flush it away. My German sister-in-law forewarned us about the Poo Shelf, claiming that most Germans are hypochondriacs and like to inspect their poo in a Gillian McKeith manner.

Okay, you can come back now.

Climbing our way up to the sports cafe.
The pool is in the market dome area, which is where everything is located - again, very handy when you've got a lot of kids in tow. It's a jungle in there, literally. The market dome is bursting with trees, plants, flamingos and parrots, rope bridges to climb and stone paths in fish-filled ponds. 

There are the obligatory useless and overpriced shops, a food store, and a few cafes and restaurants (one of which was closed.) The food store is okayish, but not great if you are doing any great amount of self catering. You're limited by the lack of an oven in the villas (you have a hob and microwave, but no oven) so it's already a bit of a challenge to come up with meal ideas, especially if there is no fresh meat or vegetables in the store that day. Stock changed radically from day-to-day, which I suppose is in keeping with the European market mentality; you buy whatever's there on the day you shop. It was excellent for baked goods, snacks, and booze, though. If you're happy to live on baguettes, Doritos, and beer for the week, you're sorted. Oh, and you must like edam or gouda. Want any other cheese? You're screwed.

The restaurants are also okayish. As mentioned, one was shut (seasonal hours?) which left three others to choose from: a pancake restaurant, a buffet (which we never tried), and a place called The Grill. The Grill was fine - not great and hugely overpriced, but that's what you expect at a Center Parcs. I made quite a few meals in the villa using the hob and an electric grill we brought ourselves (like a Foreman grill.) Which reminds me, unlike Center Parcs in Elvedon, the smoke alarm doesn't start blaring at you the minute you emit any heat from the kitchen, including the toaster. I should also mention that the sports bar makes an amazing mojito that packs quite a kick for €6.

In front of a bookstore in Antwerp
The great thing about this park is that it's only an hour from Antwerp and theme parks, museums, and is just meters from the Dutch border. You're not limited to the park itself, which makes for a more interesting week. We went into Antwerp for the day - a pretty, friendly, compact city. You can default to French if English isn't understood (which isn't the case in some other parts of Belgium) although it's so touristy that everyone speaks English along with at least three other languages. 

We had some lunch, an open top horse trolley thingy tour, and I bought chocolate from two different shops. (I've eaten it all now.) 

Could have made a little more effort. Lack of gnomes.
When we drove through Lommel to get to Center Parcs on our first day, I was impressed at how tidy this little town is. Everyone's garden is immaculate and all the buildings look new. It wasn't until we drove to Antwerp that I realised that all towns are like this, and homeowners obviously take great pride in their outdoor space. It sounds a bit creepy, but I thought it was lovely. 

Everyone we met was friendly and didn't seem deeply resentful about having to speak English to us. The Belgians love the Canadians, which is always a bonus. Thanks to our wartime efforts, there is a memorial plaque in Antwerp to honour our soldiers.

The week was wonderful, despite the passport drama, the three hour delay getting on to the Eurotunnel train, two cases of sick children in the car, and coming back with miserable colds. It was an adventure. So many languages, so many new things to see, so many waffles. We got there in the time it takes us to drive to Cornwall. Brilliant, brilliant fun had by all. We will definitely return and have our day in Bruges next time.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

why does mummy have that big vein popping out of her forehead?

We're off on holiday soon so I've been gradually, in a very organised manner, assembling our things in suitcases and making numerous lists. Feeling slightly smug and strangely calm, I did a quick check of our passports to make sure everyone was accounted for. And that's when I noticed that Mia's passport expired last March.

Well, shit.

After a lot more shits and fucks and crap crap craps, Paul rang the passport office to make an emergency appointment. You can pay quite a lot of money and get a passport within 4 hours, which is great...if they have any appointments. Passport Office Guy refreshed his screen and by some miracle, someone had just cancelled. We had an appointment at 10:45 the following morning in London, the only appointment available in the entire UK. By yet another lucky coincidence, I happened to be working at home and was able to go to the post office to get the passport renewal forms and pick Mia up early to get her photo taken.

Forms (I got an extra one just in case) and photos all sorted, Paul headed off to my teacher friend Liz's house to countersign Mia's application and signature. Normally you don't need a signature if you look the same as your previous photo but as Mia was a baby in hers, the passport office told me she had to have her photo signed. So, off Paul went. Then Paul sent me a text telling me that he'd signed the wrong part on the form and we'd need to get new ones.

Well, shit.

It was long past 5:30pm when the post offices shut and although you can fill out the form online, you then need to wait for the passport office to mail it back to you. Why? I don't know. Probably to keep someone employed. The Passport Form Posting Guy. Our only option was to head back to the post office when it opens at 8:30am, go back to Liz's for another signature, then head to London - and attempt to get to the appointment by 10:45am. At this point, I wasn't sure whether I wanted to laugh, cry, or throw up.

Liz had a marvellous idea: use Facebook to appeal to anyone who may have spare forms at home. After a minor meltdown on my status and being incredibly snippy to my lovely friends who were only trying to be helpful, the third amazing coincidence happened and one of Liz's friends had two spare forms. Paul got back in the car, picked up the forms, got Liz's signature, and all was much better in my world. To people who say social media is a horrible thing, I say it most certainly isn't. Most of the time, anyway.

This gave Paul much more leeway this morning, and he was able to head off to London with Mia with plenty of time to spare. We still don't have her passport in hand and I'm still pretty anxious (nothing new for me, though), but I'm feeling much more optimistic.

Needless to say, I've now put reminders in my calendar for all of our passports long before they are due to expire.

In contrast, my Canadian passport application process is as follows:
-print off a form from the web site and fill it out
-get my picture taken
-send in the form, photos, and money
-receive passport

That's it. No countersignature, no trips to the post office. May the gods bless Canada and their crack-smoking mayors and their bridge-breaking trucks.

Friday, 24 May 2013

oh. hey. hi!

How rubbish am I at updating this blog? I only just realised yesterday that I was supposed to be doing a photo a day/photo a week/photo when I can be arsed. Rubbish.

I have actually been taking a lot of pictures, so if you have me on Facebook or Flickr, you're all up to date. Hooray for you! If you're not, then I apologise. They've mostly just been pics of the kids and food, so if you've seen one,  you've pretty much seen them all. The kids are great and we've been eating a lot of food. There, you're all caught up now.

On the home front, it's all crawling along. Planning permission has gone through but we're still awaiting building regulation application approval and tenders (quotes) from builders. We've also got a lovely brochure with illustrations of our new kitchen, which is actually very exciting. After a consultation and a trip to the showroom, our kitchen plan has been brought to life. I really, really cannot wait to have a new kitchen. I spend so much time in there, it's sort of a little haven for me. As sad as that sounds. I love cooking and do a lot of it, and it's one of the ways I unwind (wine is usually the other method, which also goes well with cooking, I find.) Our kitchen isn't terrible - it's not a bad size, but very badly laid out. I've got a tiny amount of counter space, which drives me up the wall. All I want is more space to work, and less things on my counter. Except for my KitchenAid, which will go on a pedestal with a disco light shining on it at all times.

I keep labelling things I say and do as being "middle-aged" like getting excited about a new kitchen but truthfully, a new kitchen would have thrilled me in my 20s and 30s, too. And isn't it now trendy to be into old lady things like gin, knitting, and sewing? I love a good cup of tea (with a giant slice of cake, obviously), curling up with a great book, and grabbing every minute of quiet I can get. I think in my mind, I'm somewhere between 25 and 75. I'm still cool though, because I'm still loving my Converse running shoes and have shiny Doc Martens with spotty laces. Well...cool or horribly embarrassing.

Friday, 12 April 2013

eating, sightseeing, more eating: our Easter holiday summary

What busy bees we've been! The kids have two weeks off here for Easter (which is too long if you're not going away anywhere this time of year, in my opinion) so we've been filling our days with fun. I totally admit that I choose activities and places to eat based on things I like; you won't find me suffering in silence at a Chuck E. Cheese. So this break, we had days out in London and Cambridge, and a trip to the safari park. And quite a lot of eating.

The fun started in London with a trip to the museums. I was going to start with the Tate Modern, but I took us to the wrong tube station. I'm sorry, but Mansion House and Manor House are too similarly named for my liking. Anyway, we skipped Tate and went straight to lunch to Benihana's, which is one of Jack's favourites. I haven't been for years - probably since I introduced Paul to the concept on a business trip to Florida before we were married - and it was good fun. It was very quiet and we pretty much had the place to ourselves. The onion volcano was awesome.

Easter holiday fun

The next stop was the Science Museum (fun, but the kids got bored fairly quickly) then the Natural History Museum (more fun, couldn't pull the kids away.) Museums are free in London, all the time. How amazing is that? You do have to pay for special exhibitions, like the David Bowie one at the V&A, but it's free to wander around the rest of the museums. I love that they're accessible to everyone. All museums should be like this.

Easter holiday fun

Our day ended with a trip to Hamley's toy shop (overcrowded and overrated, and not at all like the toy shop in "Big" which is what all toy shops should be like) and supper at Mother Mash. It's a great concept but the food is not as great. Don't get me wrong, it's tasty but could be done so much better. I think it's a good place to go if you're not English and not used to getting pie and sausages that are well made - it's certainly better than your standard pub fare - but the food suffers from precooking and reheating. Needless to say, the kids absolutely loved it, service was excellent, and it was a fair price for all the food we ate.

Easter holiday fun

I took the girls to Cambridge while Paul took Jack to a rugby match at Twickenham with other friends. As always, my first priority was food, so we had lunch at Jamie's Italian. I signed up to their mailing list ages ago and was recently sent a "gold card". I wasn't sure what it entailed, but knew that it got me £10 off our first visit using the card. Much to my delight, not only did I get a discount, I got a free "taster" (fresh mozzarella with basil and oil), free pudding, and because it was my birthday the week before, a free bottle of prosecco. BEST DAY EVER.

Easter holiday fun

I've been meaning to check out the new science centre since it opened and it was well worth a visit. Don't be put off by its size, which is about as big as the ground floor of our house. Which isn't big at all. I thought the girls would look around for 5 minutes and want to leave, but they were transfixed by all the hands-on activities. We made maple tree "helicopter" seeds out of paper and flew them in a wind tunnel, listened to demonstrations about things like static electricity, and examined giant plastic eyeballs.  As we looked at the exhibits, staff came around to tell us interesting facts about what we were looking at. We were there for almost two hours, before I lured them away with the promise of cake at Patisserie Valerie. It's a great little place, and cost us a grand total of £6.

Easter holiday fun

Our final fun day out (before I had to go back to work, boooo) was at Woburn Safari Park, which is very expensive if you forget to order Tesco vouchers far enough in advance. Seriously, don't go unless you're doing it on vouchers. It's stupid expensive for what it is. The first part is a driving safari, which is pretty much the same concept anywhere in the world. You drive around, try to spot animals, then monkeys poo on your car and rip off the antenna. The other part of the park has bird shows, play areas, and a few more animals.

Easter holiday fun

As always, the day involved food. We had supper at Wagamama, a Japanese-inspired chain restaurant with long bench seating and a lot of noodles. It's good, but it won't put any authentic places out of business. They have a varied and interesting kid's menu, and the portions are massive, much to Jack's delight. The food is fresh, nicely cooked, and full of flavour. I had a humungous bowl of udon noodles with steak and veggies, and the girls had little cod balls with curry sauce and rice. Jack started to complain about having a child's portion of chicken ramen soup, until it arrived and was bigger than his head.

Easter holiday fun

It's been a fun, tiring break. I hope the kids got something out of it (other than big bellies) and I'm grateful that I have the opportunity to take them on days out like this. And now, after a long two weeks and a tough work schedule, I'm off to Ragdale Hall with a couple of friends to do nothing. I may be some time.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

we have officially become middle-aged

So I've been finding myself spending a lot of time looking at kitchen designs and pictures of living rooms for inspiration. This is a sure sign that I am no longer "young and hip", although I think that description died a death the day I got really excited about getting a bread machine as a gift.

We've had plans drawn up which are about to go to the council for planning permission, and Nationwide has been positive about re-mortgaging the house. The house, she will be getting bigger - not to fill it with more children, I hasten to add. We just need more space, especially when the kids get older. The new room at the back of the house will be a family den sort of thing, and the current living room at the front of the house will be my TV-free haven. We're also renovating the kitchen, which is something we've talked about since we moved in ten years ago. That melamine paint was supposed to be a temporary measure to cover the ugly 80s cabinets, but there they remain. So long, retro cupboards and lack of counter space! If budget permits, we're also hoping to add a utility room in the garage.

As with all things in my life, I am a little bit worried. The thought of living on a building site with three kids fills me with dread, especially when we will be without a kitchen for a little while. I feel overwhelmed by all the choices out there, and what's the best decision. Do we go for a dark worktop, or will that be impossible to keep clean? Wood flooring through all the rooms downstairs, or ceramic tile in the kitchen? Dark or light cabinets? What kind of cabinets? What colours will we use for the new room and the living room? Gah!

Thanks to bureaucracy, we will have a lot of time to think about all of this. It'll take quite a few weeks to get planning permission and another few weeks for the builders to get started, depending on how busy they are at the moment. I can't imagine anything will get started before August, which is fine. I think that because we're still in the very early stages and we have no idea what we're doing, it's all a bit overwhelming. Exciting, but kind of scary.

Being a grown-up is hard work sometimes.

Monday, 18 March 2013

missing


We went to see old friends of ours on Sunday, whose dog Jake is a couple of years older than Jasper. Although he's a cocker spaniel, he's got a very similar face - black with those big brown soulful eyes, and even has the same grey muzzle. He's always reminded me of Jasper, which is something I'd forgotten about until we went to visit.

He does that head butting thing that Jasper did when he wanted attention; if you stop petting him, he pushes his head under your arm. It was nice - really nice - to stroke a dog again and hold a little furry face in my hands, but god it was hard. It was only as I was saying things to Jake that I realised they were the doggyisms I said to Jasper. The way I scratched behind his ears and rubbed the top of his nose was the same. It made the absence of our dog more apparent, and that was very difficult to cope with.

Our friend asked if we would get another dog. Paul is certain that he wants another, but I'm just not sure. I hate not having a dog in the house. Hate it. It's unbearably, painfully quiet when I'm here working on my own. I miss the tapping of his nails on the floors, the thudding of his massive tail on the walls and radiator (or whatever he was standing next to at the moment), his bark when the doorbell goes. Having a pet is very therapeutic - I just can't feel shitty when I'm stroking a dog.

On the other hand, I never want to go through the loss of a pet again. Jasper was my first pet and although I always knew that day would come, it's been horrible. It's only been just over a month and everything is still so raw, and I know that it's not the right time to decide about doing this all again. I think, as my lovely friend Kari said, I will simply know when the time is right. Right now, I wouldn't be able to look at a new dog without comparing him to Jasper and perhaps having unfair expectations of how he should behave.

One day, maybe. Probably. One day.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

a mother of a day

I'm not sure why a lot of my friends and family back home get confused or are surprised that Mother's Day is much earlier here. I've been posting about it on Facebook every year since 2007, so obviously they are just not paying attention! The nerve.

So last Sunday was Mother's Day in the UK, which is related to Lent and Easter and is never on the same Sunday each year. Confusing, but it keeps you on your toes. It's always at some point in March; a bonus for me as my birthday's the 31st. Not that I demand much of anything or expect to be spoiled, I just love knowing I'll get at least two meals cooked for me one month out of the year.

DSC_0984

All three made cards for me, which is something I absolutely love. Give me handmade any day over Hallmark. Mia's class did their Mother's Day-themed assembly on Friday, and she did so well. I love her painting of me - I look surprised and/or like I've had some work done. All the paintings were brilliant and met with tears of laughter. The school needs to update their Mother's Day song, though. It was something along the lines of, "You may not have any education, but you can cook well and that's good enough for me."

DSC_0980

After the assembly, I went into work where a project manager greeted me with a bottle of fizz as thanks for my work on our latest release. What an excellent end to the week and start to the weekend! Our nieces came for a visit on Saturday for the night, which was a lovely treat - we don't see them very often. On Sunday, Paul cooked us an amazing roast dinner and a gorgeous bouquet of flowers arrived at the door.

Each year when I talk about the lovely things that happen to me on Mother's Day, it invariably and unintentionally makes someone feel like crap. I know I'm lucky to be with someone who's thoughtful and loving, and I don't take that for granted. Life is not perfect by any means and we've been through a lot of sad, tough times together. I am very blessed to have three great kids, who make me laugh and smile every day, and who force me to take time out to enjoy life. Being a mum is something I didn't even know I wanted until I was in my 30s and I don't think I'm particularly good at it (I don't even iron anything, for god's sake), but I am a much better person for it.

DSC_0989

Sunday, 3 March 2013

weekly roundup

So can we all agree that the photo a day thing is a great idea but it's never, ever gonna happen? Let's do a photo a week. Okay? Okay.

Here's this week's photo - Mia at her karate grading today:

Mia's karate grading

She is so little and cute when she does her grading, but she can hold her own. We find out Thursday if she gets her next belt (purple.) I think she did brilliantly, but I'm a bit biased.

I finished my first full week of work and I'm exhausted, which sounds pathetic, but I'm very much out of practice. Being full time at my day job and carrying on with all the errands, tasks, and other hilarity that being a family of five brings is goddamn tiring. I am feeling a bit smug about it all, though. I didn't forget anything hugely important, all children were fed and had clean clothes for the week, and I didn't lose any of them.

Truth be told, it's been stressful and I feel like I'm struggling to keep my head above the water but weirdly, this has been a good thing. Because my time is even more limited, I'm much more conscious about what I'm doing and getting better at prioritising. I'm putting aside the tasks that aren't really important and making time for those that are. Normally I would plough through menial crap like doing the dishes or tidying up when I could be sitting with the kids and doing something with them. I find myself asking myself, "Do I really need to do this?" and usually the answer is nah. Go cuddle a toddler instead. Laundry can wait.

Tomorrow, an architect is coming over to advise us about whether or not we can extend the house at the back and what our options might be. I can't even begin to tell you how exciting this is. This could mean a souped-up kitchen and extra space we can use as a family room. We could end up with a civilised living room for grown ups if the kids have another room they can use. I might get a sofa with a little loungey bit on the end where I can put my feet up and knit. I don't care that this is a middle-aged thing to get giddy about; I have no shame about my love for quiet spaces and nice kitchens.

And that's the week that was, plus a bit about this coming week. We're living on the edge!

Thursday, 28 February 2013

eight

Last Friday, my little boy turned eight. EIGHT! It feels like I've been a mother forever, and the memory of my time held against my will in hospital seems very distant. On the other hand, sometimes Jack does still seem very little (which he is) and I'm grateful that he hasn't outgrown the need for a cuddle and still tells me he loves me every single day.

He constantly makes me laugh. I love his Linus-esque observations of the world around him. When he's not fighting with them, he is really wonderful with his little sisters. He loves asking me about what he was like when he was a baby - his favourite story is the one about the time he farted so loudly, it scared the dog. That one never stops being funny, apparently.

He's the one that brought quite a few of you to this site, in fact (or at least many of you "found" me when I was pregnant with Jack.) I love my boy with all my heart. He's changed my life forever, for the better.

DSC_0883

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

about face

So the day after writing about wanting to do more things with Isla on Mondays, I've agreed to take on more working days for the next five weeks.

*hysterical laughter*

I just wasn't going to be able to produce all the documentation my client needed in time for their  product releases at the end of March, so I suggested that I work extra days to help meet the workload. I'm currently on a 3 day week, which is great and works well for me, but there's no way the work would have got done.

Plus, I suppose the extra money will be nice. I can put it towards buying Isla therapy one day when she realises that I gave up precious time with her and shoved her into nursery for an extra day a week.

Monday, 18 February 2013

day...erm...something

Today we went to the zoo. by Lisa Durbin
Today we went to the zoo., a photo by Lisa Durbin on Flickr.

Today we went to the zoo, and it was very cold. In this pic, Isla's pointing out all the letters on this sign that are in her name. Clever clogs.

She was SO excited to be here, but as soon as we got in, she kept asking "Where are the tigers?" (which are at the end of the little circuit around the zoo.) She'd look at each animal for about 10 seconds, albiet very excitedly, and then ask "Where are the tigers?" We finally got to the tigers and she was very impressed.

We then went to look at the camels, at which point Isla exclaimed "This is RUBBISH. I going." Which was fine by me because I couldn't feel my fingers and toes anymore by this point.

I don't know why I haven't been doing more things with Isla on our Mondays together. Actually yes, I do. I've been spending them getting caught up on errands that really could wait for another day, while Isla stares at the television. I have a terrible habit of being unable to prioritise and feel it necessary to complete this endless to do list in my head on my days out of the office. The fact is, we had time to wait for our Tesco delivery, go to the zoo, and do some cooking for the week ahead with plenty of time to spare. Granted, I totally forgot to sit Jack down to do his homework but hey - I'm just getting used to this new regime.

We have around 7 months left before she starts school and I lose my littlest daytime friend. Next Monday I'm going to take Isla swimming, and the Monday after that, we'll do something else. There is much more to life than laundry, washing dishes, and tidying toys. September will be the end of an era and I know it will come before we know it. Until then, we'll go visit the tigers.

pick me! pick me!


Blast from the past - how Jasper used to let us know that he wanted to be let back in. We always thought he looked like Donkey from "Shrek" or Tigger when he did this. (Thanks for reminding me of this one, Stephanie!)


Sunday, 17 February 2013

the week that was

I have been taking photos fairly regularly but just not getting them up on the blog as quickly as I'd like. So, instead of a photo a day (ish), here is a week (ish) in photos.

Last Friday-Monday we had a really lovely weekend in Center Parcs. On this particular morning, it felt like the longest, laziest morning ever - but it was only 9:30am. That was an amazing feeling.

Photo 09-02-2013 09 32 21 AM

Then we know what happened on Monday. I still expect to see Jasper in the kitchen or at the top of the stairs waiting for me. Isla thinks he's in the sky, literally. She keeps asking when he'll come back down.

On Thursday two dozen roses arrived at my office from Paul and on Friday, we had a delicious, uninterrupted meal at the Old Bridge Hotel. It was going to be a surprise on the night, but Paul told me ahead of time because he knew I needed something to look forward to. Horrible phone pic, but that's pork belly with a smoky bean and sausage stew of sorts, and parsnip mash.



Yesterday, my little boy had his 8th birthday party:

DSC_0833

I cannot believe he'll be 8 on Friday. There's something about 8 that seems a little more grown up than 7.

Finally, today the sun came out and the look on Isla's face sums up how we all felt about that.

The sun finally came out!

It's been a long, emotional, difficult week but to feel the sun on our faces and spend the day enjoying our kids made things a little more bearable.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

in honour of jasper t. dog

I can't even remember how or when we decided we'd get a dog, but I do remember that it was a very good idea and something I'd wanted to do for a very long time. Paul came up with his name, just blurting it out when we were pretending to call our dog (that we hadn't even got yet.) We thought Jasper was the perfect name for a dog. And it was.

In August 2003, before we were parents, we got a dog. He was 11 weeks old and was supposed to go off to America to be trained as a bomb sniffer dog, but the deal fell through and his entire litter suddenly became available. We got him from Fenflyers Labradors, and we were lucky because their dogs are high in demand. He had a silly Kennel Club name (My Captain Marvel, I kid you not) and an impressive pedigree. We didn't really care about that though, we just thought he was lovely. He wasn't a tiny puppy like in the Andrex ads, but he was still pretty small. He had huge floppy ears and enormous paws.

JasperSits

We were advised to get him a cuddly toy to keep him company, especially when we were out at work. We got him a stuffed dog called Doodles, who was from a kid's show called "The Tweenies" (which we didn't know about because we weren't yet parents and didn't have millions of CBeebies hours logged.) We came home one day to find poor Doodles in pieces, along with a tea towel and an ice cube tray.

 Mess

While we were away, he ate: the wall, a kitchen cupboard, an entire box of formula, and a whole loaf of high fibre bread. Labradors are chewy.

He loved the water, whether it came out of the shower:

Shower2

or if it was in his favourite river:

JasperRiver

After his first year, the children started coming along. He put up with little fingers in his eyes, little hands pulling his tail, being used as a step ladder or a horsey, and having his space invaded.

Jasper gives up

Never once complaining or fighting back.

When I was pregnant with Jack, he didn't act any differently or seem to be aware of the imminent arrival of a little person. When we came home from hospital he suddenly became the protector, leaning himself up against the moses basket when the midwife visited to create a canine barrier. When I was pregnant with Mia, he went on high alert during the last few weeks of my pregnancy. He'd follow me around with a slightly worried expression and started the habit of coming upstairs to lie at the end of my bed every morning. When Mia was born, he poked his head over the side of the birthing pool, had a little sniff, and retired to his bed. Even before I knew I was pregnant with Isla, Jasper sat and stared at me for an entire evening - maybe with recognition and protection, but probably more out of disbelief.   He stayed in his bed the entire time I was in labour, again only emerging to give her a little look when she was born.

He was a dog that even dog-haters (or dog-fearers) liked. I can't tell you how many times I heard people say, with sincerity, "I don't like dogs, but I really like Jasper."

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Then three months ago, an oncology vet told us that Jasper had cancer and had maybe 4-6 months left with us. All he had was a limp, but otherwise he was as energetic as a puppy. It really didn't make any sense. He had radiotherapy, got a little worse, had more radiotherapy, then got quite a lot better. We knew he wasn't going to get better, but it seemed like we'd have him around for a little while longer.

Last weekend we went away, leaving Jasper with my in-laws here at home, I think he decided it was time to go. When we got home he was so poorly; I sat on the floor next to his bed and stroked his floppy ears and that very soft spot just above his nose and told him over and over that he was a good boy and that it was time for sleep. Within an hour of our return, he was gone. Just like that.

Ferri Photography (2 of 10)

There is an enormous empty space in our kitchen now and the silence when the doorbell goes is heartbreaking. I miss his big floppy ears and his big licky tongue. I miss being whacked on the legs by his lead-lined tail. I miss being greeted by a furry being that thought I was the most awesome fucking thing in the world.

Our dog was called Jasper and he would have been 10 in three months. He was a very, very good boy.

Monday, 4 February 2013

this n' that

Went back to the nurse today to get my pointy finger examined and she said it was healing nicely. She also said it wouldn't be a problem if I took my wounded finger into a swimming pool, which is great news as we're off to Center Parcs this weekend. (Note: my in-laws are coming to stay here to watch the dog, so don't even think about robbing our house. And don't go off robbing my in-laws' house, either.) I won't venture down the water slides because bashing my finger probably isn't a good idea. I seem to have a knack for slamming only the injured portion of my finger into things over the past few days, and the children seem to be drawn to bumping into it or grabbing it. It's taken quite a lot for me not to swear.

In other news, I've deactivated my Facebook account. Which isn't really news, but I just thought I'd mention it in case you were worried that I'd been abducted by aliens or chained to a sewing machine at a Nike factory in Thailand. When it gets to the point when you're checking Facebook every few minutes (no matter where you are) and things as innocuous as people's statuses about their heart rate monitors* constantly wind you up, it's time for a break. My productivity levels were plummeting while my procrastination levels were skyrocketing. So, hopefully this will help on the productivity (and sanity) front.

In a similar vein, I'm very much looking forward to a break and a long weekend away with our family. January's been a bit of a bear, and a little chill out time and splashing around in a pool with our kids is what we need.

*My heart rate monitor pet peeve is regarding actual calories burned vs. what a monitor claims you burned, which is usually out by a factor of 10, give or take. But if you believe that you burned 900 calories in half an hour of pedalling a stationary bike, it honestly shouldn't matter to anyone else. There are far more important things to get annoyed about, like global warming and that horrible Tom Daley show "Splash".

Sunday, 3 February 2013

the finger

Warning: Don't read if you're squeamish or eating or hate stories about sharp objects.

So there I was, chopping basil for my breakfast fritatta (which makes me sound pretentious but really it's just eggs with stuff in them) when all of a sudden I cut myself. Pretty badly. I ran to the sink shouting out "Cut! Cut! Cut!" while Paul casually enquired from the other room, "Is it bad?" "YES!!" I shouted and he came running - and he confirmed it with a "Oh my god."

I actually didn't cut into my finger too badly and it didn't bleed much, but I did manage to cut a good portion of my nail off. (Sorry.) It stung like buggery and sent me into shock. I've never fainted in my life and still haven't, but the world did go dim and dark for a minute and I had to stagger off to be sick. What a weird and terrible feeling.

The nurse said it was a nice and clean cut, but advised me not to look while she dressed it. I got a tetanus shot but no sticker or chocolate buttons. Rip off. Jack has dubbed it my "disco finger" because I can't bend it and I'm constantly pointing.

It's not painful anymore, but it's damned annoying. I can't type well with nine fingers (it really messes me up that I can't touch type properly) and I can't knit at all. All is not lost because I can still drink wine.

I think I prefer it when my weeks are uneventful and boring, to be honest.

The finger. Ouch.
The assailant in the background, not looking at all remorseful.

Day 30: words about Jack

Day 30: words about Jack by Lisa Durbin
Day 30: words about Jack, a photo by Lisa Durbin on Flickr.

So behind. Surprised? Me neither. Anyway, this came home in Jack's book bag last week and I thought it was just lovely. It's a quote about Jack from his classmates, and every kid will get one during the school year. Isn't that cool? He was so pleased with this and we all had a good giggle reading through some of these.

I think grownups should do this, too. I mean how nice would it be to hear something positive about yourself from your peers?

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Day 29: sick day

Day 29: sick day by Lisa Durbin
Day 29: sick day, a photo by Lisa Durbin on Flickr.

I have a terrible immune system. Whenever I tell my friends and family that I'm unwell, the response is usually, "AGAIN?" I don't know if it's because I'm asthmatic or if it's because I have small children (think it's the former because Paul rarely has a cold), but this is my winter. Someone gets a bug, I get it too, I get better, another kid gets a bug, I get that one, etc.

I've tried a few things: changes to my diet, extra vitamins, cutting things out of my diet, getting the flu shot. Chicken soup seems to be the best healer so far (and getting caught up on sleep.) Thankfully I never seem to be unwell for long. I'll get a crappy cold for maybe 3 days maximum. Hey, at least I haven't had Norovirus this year so far. That makes a change from every past winter!

So today I'm at home, feeling like my head's underwater and aching all over. Oh and to top it all off, I burned my mouth on my soup. Pitiful me.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Day 28: knitty

Day 28: knitty by Lisa Durbin
Day 28: knitty, a photo by Lisa Durbin on Flickr.
This isn't just to show you my (rather sad and slow) knitting skillz, but to talk about the stitch markers.

A few years ago, I came across a pattern that called for stitch markers. Having absolutely no idea what they were, I looked them up on t'internet and came across some beauties by Annarella (who doesn't seem to have a blog anymore sadly, but her pics are still on Flickr here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/creativestitchmarkers/pool/tags/annarella/). I asked my friend Melanie if she could make something similar that I could buy from her, as she is the beady, jewellery making type. She took on the challenge and I eagerly awaiting my new markers. Not that I knew how to use them, but hey - knitting bling!

Melanie popped these markers in the post for me, as a gift, and I was thrilled. Not only did they have pretty beads on them, they spelled out my name. How cool was that?

I am now working on a shawl that requires all four of my markers, and they clack and jangle away while I knit. They are sweet and special, and they remind me that someone did something very nice for me.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

it's not just about the bacon

No photo today, sorry. I think it'll be more like "Photo Every Few Days or When It Strikes My Fancy".

When you do a less "conventional" diet (or "way of life" as many call it), you spend a lot of time justifying and explaining it to other people. Which, to be honest, doesn't really bother me and people are simply genuinely curious. In general, conversations tend to go like this:

Person A: "I'm on a diet."
Person B: "Oh, which one?"
Person A: "Weight Watchers."
Person B: [some words of understanding/reference to self or family member who followed the same plan]

Whereas with me:
Me: "I'm on a diet."
Person A: "Oh, which one?"
Me: "Well, it's not really a diet plan as such. I don't eat sugar, grains, or high starch foods and I do intermittant fasting."
Person A: "You WHAT?" [or, more often, "Oh, like Atkins." accompanied by a nose wrinkle.]

It's interesting because if you broke down what I ate and presented it to someone without specifying that it's low in carbohydrates, they wouldn't bat an eye. Once I mention low carbing, the assumption is that I eat my weight in steak and butter. Which I could, I suppose, but then I wouldn't actually lose any weight and I'd be bored shitless.

There was a really good, informative piece on the BBC about intermittent fasting (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-19112549) which turned out to be not really fasting (as you eat on your "fast" days) but the concept does work on the same level.  On my fast days, I wait as long as I can before eating (i.e. based on a genuine urge for food rather than habit) and eat a small amount that day. I tend to go around 18 hours from my last big meal to my first food on the fast day.

On my non-fast days, I eat low carb. I don't go nuts and eat whatever I want, but I don't count calories. Again, I eat when I'm hungry and I eat foods that I deem healthy. So today for example (a non-fast day) I had:
  • Breakfast: 2 sausages
  • Snack: a little nibbly thing of cheesy crackers from my Graze box
  • Lunch: leftover cottage pie made with cauliflower mash, with peas
  • Snack: another nibbly thing of dark choc and almonds from my Graze box
  • Dinner: duck breasts with a stir fry, topped with cashew nuts
And oh lordy, I'm full. My dinner was at 6:30ish, and I will likely not eat until around 2pm tomorrow. The kind of food I'm eating keeps hunger at bay and the fast days are generally pretty easy.

On a fast day, I might have:
  • No breakfast (OH NOOOO! It's the most important meal of the day! Did you know a cereal company came up with that tidbit of health-related information? Really.)
  • Late lunch: grilled chicken on salad, olives, carrots with a bit of hummus.
  • Dinner: grilled haddock, prawns, scallops with lemon squeezed on top, served on sauteed spinach and leeks
Doesn't sound too deprived, does it? I've lost half a stone (7lbs) in two weeks, although I know I always dump a lot at first. It'll slow down to a more reasonable level of 1-2 (or no) pounds from here on.

I'm not entirely sure why my way of eating requires more explanation than someone doing a low fat, low calorie diet. The criticism I hear most is that low carbing is unhealthy because you "eliminate an entire food group." (Since when was sugar a food group? I digress.) If you're on other more traditional diets, there is certainly some form of elimination (or severe restriction) going on in terms of fat.

I don't totally avoid treats, for the sake of my sanity. On my non-fasting days, I will have carbs and sugar sometimes (usually in the form of wine or cake) but like any diet, I can't go nuts with it. The fasting I think will work because I don't like to have to think too much about what I'm doing. And if I want to "binge", that's okay - because I can fast the next day. Psychologically, it just seems easier to me.

I'm not going all defensive and getting pissy about people asking me questions. I'm very happy to chat about food, whether it's about stuffing my face or trying to lose weight. I've learned a lot from many different people but mostly from trial and error. There are "tricks" I use on a low carb diet that I used to employ when I was on Weight Watchers many moons ago. It's all good and it's all about what works for you.

Monday, 21 January 2013

surprise

Day 21: flowers

I came home after an exhilarating and thoroughly enjoyable snow day with the kids to a card through our door - flowers had been delivered to our next door neighbour's house. For me! And it's not even my birthday.
Day 21: flowers
Joking to my friend, I said "What's Paul done??" I opened the envelope and saw that the flowers weren't from my husband after all:

Day 21: flowers

They were from a young family I'd been helping through the (very sparse, very sporadic) breastfeeding peer supporting role I've been involved in since Isla was four months old. To say this made me day was an understatement. Knowing that I was able to help someone feel a little better and get them through some tough times means a lot.

Also, we had a snow day today. We built a huge snowman and the kids raced down a hill on a sled for the afternoon. Not bad for a Monday, eh?

Sunday, 20 January 2013

comfort food

Day 20: comfort food by Lisa Durbin
Day 20: comfort food, a photo by Lisa Durbin on Flickr.

Day 20: pinched a few extra roasties after supper tonight.

I love Sundays. We start the day with a full English cooked by Paul (bacon, sausages, eggs, sometimes mushrooms, and black pudding) and end it with a roast dinner. Today was one of my favourite kind of Sundays - a lazy Sunday. Jack had his BFF for a sleepover, which kept him busy and happy this morning. No one got dressed until 10:00, and all we've done all day is watch movies and the falling snow outside.

If there's one thing I would take with me if I were ever to return to Canada (which I won't), it would be the Sunday roast. As sad as it sounds, it's the highlight of my week. The kids get so excited about it, too. What can I say, we like our roasties.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

tidy

Day 19: tidy by Lisa Durbin
Day 19: tidy, a photo by Lisa Durbin on Flickr.

Day 19: cleaning frenzy. I've spent most of the day clearing out the kids' rooms, in a fit of post-Christmas/pre-Jack's birthday decluttering.

I am on a mission to rid this house of junk, to get rid of the constant need to walk around stuff. You can't walk anywhere in this house without having to walk over or around things, every door has something piled up behind it, and the cupboards are packed full of stuff. Not even useful stuff, just STUFF.

I'm not quite at "Hoarders" level yet, but I have some sort of block about putting things up for sale or bundling them up for charity. It's not like putting items on eBay is a chore (although getting to the post office is a complete pain) and there are plenty of Facebook pages for our area if you want to sell items. I just need to get around to it, but for some reason I don't.

Maybe I can hire a decluttering intern.

Friday, 18 January 2013

fully stocked

Day 18: fully stocked by Lisa Durbin
Day 18: fully stocked, a photo by Lisa Durbin on Flickr.

Day 18: we're ready for Snowmageddon. Bring it on.

(So far, we've got about 1" of snow.)

Thursday, 17 January 2013

work work work

Day 17: I am in the office with a mahoosive headache. The frost was pretty this morning, but I didn't get a chance to take a pic.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

um...

I forgot to take a photo again today. It was frosty and pretty outside, though. You'll just have to use your imagination. (I can tell this photo a day thing ain't gonna last.)

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

flakes

Day 14: we got a little snow yesterday. It was fluffy and pretty, and the kids were very excited to wake up to it but it quickly melted away. Despite the Met Office's numerous warnings and alerts, all we got was a bit of a dusting.

Worst. Snowstorm. Ever.

Day 15: I forgot to take a photo. Nothing interesting happened today anyway.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Day 13: snow watch by Lisa Durbin
Day 13: snow watch, a photo by Lisa Durbin on Flickr.

Day 13: We're on Snow Watch. Due for our first snowfall since February 2012, and the girls are a little bit excited about it. Jack is out playing rugby at a match in Milton Keynes and is likely a little less excited about the whole thing.