Tuesday, 30 August 2011

No More Park Life

It's only a few weeks since the mindless violence of the riots were splashed all over the media. I avoided taking to my blog about it, I didn't see the point as it would have just got me riled. I was just one of the millions of people who sat open-mouthed at the 'idiots' who thought they were above the law for those few days. I'm just glad Mini Cheddar was young enough to be completely sheltered from the images that graced our TV screens and webpages.

See Saw Marjory Daw
Although there's something that's impacting on her right now that is getting me a bit hot under the collar.

We are lucky enough to live in quite a sought-after area with a lovely play park which is just moments from our house. As residents we pay a management fee for the area we live in which pays for the upkeep of the public areas, the play equipment and insurance of the park. We don't mind, it was something that was part of the house we bought. Mini Cheddar gets so much enjoyment from the park that it pays for itself practically on a daily basis.

However, the day we returned from holiday (14th June) there was a note through the door from the chairman of the management committee to say the park was closed due to vandalism.

It's not the first time. The park was shut last year as someone had damaged the seesaw badly.

Even when the park is open it's subject to the handiwork of the youths. The pictures below were taken before we went on holiday as we played in the park one day. 

However this time it wasn't just stupid graffiti.

They have now taken knives or some other sharp instruments and dug up large chunks of the blue flooring - it's in such a mess.

That was well over two months ago now and the damn park is still shut.

As residents we are responsible for the upkeep of the park which obviously has an impact on the insurance so we've had no alternative other than to close the park until we can put new flooring down. This has to be paid for out of our pot of money.

Access denied
I fully appreciate that the young people of today (man, I sound old) are bored, government cutbacks mean youth services around the country are being closed but is that really an excuse to vandalise young children's play parks? I'm 36 (almost 37 *sob*) so grew up in the 80's - we didn't have the video games or gadgets that the youths of today have but I never went around vandalising things.  

I know I sound all high and mighty, I know I sound like a total 'do-gooder' and I know I sound like a miserable bag but every time we pass the park Mini Cheddar looks so sad and asks me why 'her' park is closed. I'm just frustrated that's all.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Gallery - World Photography Day

I had grand plans for this weeks Gallery. Tara wanted us all to make sure we dug out our cameras to capture a moment from Friday (or the weekend) to mark World Photography Day.

Great I thought!

A perfect excuse to dust off my DSLR and take a photo with my camera remote control of Mini Cheddar and I doing what we do best - having fun together. More often than not, I'm the one behind the camera so very rarely do we get any photos of the two of us. I think the last half decent one of us was taken in March 2010 and resides on my About Me page.

I was excited! I even put her cute little camera t-shirt on to mark the occasion.

However, she had other plans.

She didn't want the camera set up, not even the remote control could get her interested. She had a strop, she got upset, she got all snotty and she dribbled. A lot.

So this is my entry this week. A moody toddler captured forever to mark a great day in photography. Shame on you Mini Cheddar.

Now head on over and check out all the other entries...

Monday, 22 August 2011

Tales From Tuscany

It's about time I blogged properly about my Italian holiday as it's been over 2 months since we returned. How slack am I?

I know a few photos have featured in a Gallery post and some Silent Sunday posts (here, here and here) back in June but it definitely deserves it's own post as I want a record of it (also, I know a few of you have asked me about it).

Our accomodation
Having never been to Italy before I was so excited to go. I'd heard so much about it and how I'd fall in love with it.

I did.

We booked to stay on an agriturismo in the hills of Tuscany - about a 30-40 minute drive from Pisa airport - called Bramasole e Ginestra. We also booked one night in Pisa in the lovely 4 star Hotel Bologna near the centre for our last night.

View from the pool
It was perfect.

The accommodation was lovely and spacious, the owners were so amazingly friendly and helpful and the facilities were fab.  They had lots of animals which Mini Cheddar loved - dogs, cats, chickens, chicks, roosters, sheep, goats and donkeys which she got to feed every day. They had play equipment, a barn with toys and a big swimming pool. She also got to spend the day with a large group of Italian school children and they all made and baked their own bread in the outdoor oven.

Baking fresh bread
It was just so relaxing.

With the Italians
There were only 3 apartments at the farm. Not perfect for us as we do prefer our own space on holiday especially after the amazing family friendly villa we stayed in last year but we immediately hit it off with an American couple (who live in Germany).  They had a 2 girls - a 3 year old and a 14 month old - so we also spent some time with them as the kids loved playing together too.

Om nom nom
On our holiday we relaxed, we read, we slept, we ate (boy, did we eat!), we explored the area visiting the gorgeous city of Lucca. We also visited Florence and Pisa. We visited small villages in the hills and saw                                                 some truly beautiful places.

Lovely Lucca

But what have I taken from my holiday? What does Tuscany mean to me? What are my most treasured memories?

In no particular order:
  • Tuscany is beautiful. Fact.
  • Fireflies are truly stunning at night and looking across the valley from our apartment seeing the hills twinkling with them is something I'll never forget.
  • It's fun catching fireflies and seeing them light up in your hands.
  • The food in Italy is amazing. 
  • I'll never be happy in an Italian restaurant in the UK again.
  • Mini Cheddar can give a HUGE Italian pizza a run for it's money.
  • The wine is also amazing. 
  • Apart from when mixed with a few limoncellos and a large B52 and especially not the night before you are due to fly home.
  • Hangovers and heat are not a good combination.  
  • Nor are hangovers and flights.
  • Having chicks and cats on the same farm isn't a good idea sometimes.
  • My husband is a great chick rescuer.
  • My iPhone translator app is rubbish up in the Tuscan hills. 
  • Or maybe it's my rubbish Italian pronunciation.
  • Italians are very friendly and welcoming - even when you struggle to speak to their language sometimes.
  • I now want to learn to speak Italian as well as Spanish.
  • Eating take out pizza al fresco at the farm with new friends is very relaxing.
  • Mini Cheddar can actually live without watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for 10 nights.
  • Il Tigli Restaurant in Colleoli serves amazing pizza and pasta (and wine).
  • It is totally worth eating in a restaurant you love 3 times in 10 nights - even if it was a good 20 minute drive up some scary hillside roads.
  • Italy isn't expensive like I was lead to believe.
  • Italians love children.
  • Roosters are very randy.
  • Sheep love crisps. 
See, sheep do love crisps!

So, there you have it. I think it sums up our holiday perfectly. Here's to our next Italian adventure.

A presto!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

10 Things You (Probably) Don't Know About Me

As you know, I've been slacking in the blog department lately.  My life has been a whirlwind of illness, work and just basic life.

So anyway, enough blathering about that, I was tagged in this '10 things' meme by Bloggomy a couple of weeks ago,  then followed by Jessies Crazy Kitchen.  When Dreaming Of Beer and The Real Housewife Of Suffolk County also tagged me the other day I thought it was about time I pulled my finger out and graced you all with my list!

I've done a couple of similar memes a while ago so it was quite hard to come up with some good nuggets I hadn't already shared but here goes...

1. I can't stand bananas. I was once dared to eat one in my old work place and I almost chundered in the bin.

Say cheese!
(I look like I slept with a coat hanger in my mouth)
2. I met Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr from the band The Strokes a few years back at an aftershow party (I may have mentioned this in another post somewhere - but here is the photographic evidence). Nick Valensi is even more gorgeous in the flesh and such a gentleman, he moved over so I could share his bar stool with him. Eep!

3. When I was really little my Mum used to call me Heather Feather which I loved. Years and years later a boyfriend found this out and insisted on using it so much I almost punched him.

4. I bite my finger nails. I've grown them a few times and then I get anxious and start again. Thankfully they aren't too bad at the moment.

5. I always had pet hamsters when I was younger. However, on a whim once I wanted a gerbil. I didn't really like him so was happy when he died and I could get another hamster.

6. When I was in my late teens I wanted a rabbit but my parents kept saying no. So I waited until they went on holiday and I went out and bought one - and an indoor hutch! Mum and Dad got quite a shock when they returned to find a rabbit residing in my Sisters old bedroom.

7. I couldn't go into high school one day as I was suffering with a severe hangover (sorry Mum and Dad!) after going to an 'Under 18's' disco at a nightclub armed with a concoction of alcohol drained from mine and my friends parents booze cabinets.  We actually got thrown out by the bouncers and had to stagger walk home.  I don't remember that much of the evening but I do remember my friend needing a wee and she stung her privates on some nettles!

8. When I was in Primary School I was a member of chess club but I wasn't a nerd. Honest.

9. I have a childish sense of humour. I find all toilet humour amusing and I'm a big fan of The Inbetweeners.  Oooooh friend!

10. I was once hypnotised as part of a stage show. We were all told to cuddle up with the person on our right and when the hypnotist clicked his fingers we would think we'd just had sex with them. Unfortuntely my brother-in-law was sat to my right. I remember at the time thinking "SHIT! My Sister is going to kill me!"

So there you go, I hope you enjoyed finding out more about me.

I always hate tagging people in these things but here goes, I'd love to find out more from these bloggers (sorry guys and gals):

All For Aleyna
Reluctant HouseDad
Mari's World
Mummy Beadzoid

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Gallery - Black And White

I haven't got a lot of time at the moment so I'm going to try and make this a brief Gallery entry and try and let the photos speak for themselves as much as they can (I have ended up with 3 this week, sorry!).

They were all taken in Vancouver so, once again, I appear to be dragging the 'travel theme' through the weeks.
Under The Boardwalk
Waiting For Master
The Search

If you'd like to know more about these photos, have a look at my Flickr stream.

Normal service will resume next week, I promise!

Now head on over and check out all the other entries...

Monday, 15 August 2011

The World According To Mini Cheddar

Sincere apologies for the lack of blogging action these past couple of weeks.

Life is a bit hectic which has meant blogging has taken a bit of a back seat.  Also, once you let things slide it's so hard to get back in the groove.  I even missed my first ever Silent Sunday yesterday!

I know! *shocked face*

Due to the horrible cold that Mini Cheddar and I suffered the other week we spent last week getting over that - therefore, last week was a bit of a 'nothing'.  I just did freelance work and sulked a bit.  I haven't really felt like blogging and I haven't really been reading any blogs either (that will be remedied this week, I promise!)

Being ill though has meant a lot of time in the house just Mini Cheddar and I which has been lovely. So much so that lately she's been coming out with some really cute things that melt my heart.

These past few months she's really found her voice and is never quiet.

She's always talking away about everything, constantly exploring and questioning.  I have to say that I am loving this age. I think 2-3 years is a really amazing period full of so much development and discovery of independence.

She'll always be my baby though.

I just wanted to share a few gems with you all.  The first couple are dedicated to 'Mr. Blooms Nursery' which she only discovered last week.

MC: I want an aubergine
Me: An aubergine?
MC: Yes! I love him!
Me: (gets a plastic aubergine from her play kitchen)
MC: (looks disheartened) It doesn't talk


MC: (throwing her arms around my neck) I love you Mummy
Me: Aw that's nice, I love you too
MC: I also love veggies


MC: (sniffing me)
Me: (laughing) So, what do I smell of?
MC: (looks at me as if I'm mad) Mummy


MC: (sitting on potty)
Me: Do you need a poo?
MC: Yes
Me: Ok then, do a poo
Me: (pretends to strain, grunts and pulls a face then giggles her head off)


MC: (eating a fig roll so fast it doesn't touch the sides) Mmmmm
Me: Is that nice?
Me: It is. It's very delicious in my tummy


MC: (Jumping on my head in the morning) I'd like my Weetabix now my tummy's rumbling


MC: My tummy is rumbling
Me: We'd best get you some food then
MC: Yes, help my tummy feel better


MC: (walking from the lounge into the kitchen where I'm busy tidying) What are you doing here Mummy?
Me: I'm cleaning
MC: (looks concerned) Come sit down and have quiet time


MC: (breaks wind and looks proud) I did a trump!


MC: (pretends to cry)
Me: What's the matter? Are you being silly?
MC: I'm crying in my home
Me: Why?
MC: I'm very sad
Me: Why?
MC: I don't know


MC: I want to watch Mickey Mouse
Me: It's not on sweetie, you'll have to watch Special Agent Oso
MC: I not like Oso
Me: Aw, he's nice
MC: I not like him (shakes head vigorously, gets up and turns TV off)


Me: (sniffing the air) Have you done a poo?
MC: No
Me: Are you sure?
MC: Yes, it was just a trump


I'm sure there will be many more of these to come!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Gallery - Water

I've not joined in with The Gallery since the 'Travel' theme. I've been brave and missed a couple of weeks so, although I felt incredibly twitchy missing my first week, I now know I can do it.
*curses Tara and her addictive link-up*

I've ummed and ahhed about which photo I could use for this weeks theme of 'Water'. I have some cute pictures of Mini Cheddar in the paddling pool.  I also have countless images of lakes, rivers and seas - some of which I've already shared but this week is going to be a different take on the theme. It also ties in with the Travel theme so is a good way to get back on The Gallery train.

On our last trip stateside, Matt and I spent some time in Seattle. Before we went we pre-booked a window table at the top of the Space Needle for dinner.

We expected it to be really cheesy as the restaurant rotates 360 degrees so as you dine you get to soak up the views of this amazing city and the beautiful Puget Sound (was so close to using a photo of this). However, it wasn't cheesy at all. The meal and champagne were fabulous and we loved seeing the city so clearly as we chatted and ate.

Then I went and ruined it all.

I ordered their signature Lunar Orbiter dessert.

Now let me explain... this is gourmet ice cream served with melted chocolate sauce and strawberries. Nothing extraordinary there? No, but it's served on a large bed of dry ice! When it arrives at your table the waiter pours hot water on the dry ice and you can imagine what happens.

Matt hates attention and the whole restaurant was looking at us as we disappeared in the massive ice fog. Eventually the dessert cloud lifted, we were able to see each other again and I was able to capture a photo.

The thing I love the most about this photo is you can see how red and embarrassed Matt looks. He's just trying to discreetly tuck in to his crème brûlée.

It never ceases to make me smile.

You can also see the beautiful Puget Sound out of the window. If you like, you can have a nosey at my other Seattle pics here and see the Puget Sound in all its watery glory.

Now head on over and check out all the other entries...

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

My Always Shining Star (My Birth Story)

This post has been a long time coming and a few weeks back I was prompted to mention it on a post by Karin at Cafebebe. She contacted me and told me she'd love to hear it and I think it will be a good one to blog about as a memory and may help some people out there facing an important birthing decision.

This will probably be the biggest blog post I've ever written and the most personal photos I'll ever share.

Before I start though, I'd just like to let you all know that I'm guest posting over at Chronicles Of A Reluctant HouseDad today so, after I've bored you with my birth story, you can head over to Keith's place and I can bore you with why I love being a Stay At Home Mum!

So, got yourself a brew? Comfy? Then I'll begin.

Back in July 2008 when I found out I was expecting my first child at the age of 34 I was ecstatic! So began my preparations over the following months - picking out nursery furniture to convert the spare room, buying baby clothes, choosing names and also writing my birth plan.

I wanted a water birth.

Think low-lighting, music playing.  I had the perfect picture in my head.

I started listening to hypnotherapy CD's to help me with the birth and I thought I was in control of everything.

My bump had never caused me concern until around week 28 when, at a midwife check, I was told the baby was feet down (breech). The midwife didn't seem too concerned saying there was plenty of time for he/she to move.

As the weeks went on it was apparent that the baby was not turning. By 35 weeks I was really starting to panic and booked to have a treatment of moxibustion to try and turn the baby naturally. We even continued this at home - yes, Matt ended up basically burning candles on my toes! I was also positioning my body to encourage turning and also playing music to my lady garden! The things you'll do.

I was in sheer panic at the thought of not being able to deliver my baby naturally. I cried endlessly and sought comfort in baby forums.  I was a wreck although I hid it from the outside world.  We had paid for NCT classes and felt we were so knowledgeable about natural birth but we weren't prepared for the possibility of a caesarean.

At 36 weeks I was offered an ECV to try and manipulate the baby to turn. I did a lot of research on the procedure and spoke at length to the consultant. As it happened, when we had a late scan, the baby was well and truly stuck the wrong way so Matt and I decided that it wasn't for us. We opted for an elective caesarean section. I fought with many demons over this decision but it will, to this day, be one of the best decisions I ever made.

I was booked in to have the section Wednesday 11th March 2009 (due date was 16th March).  There was only one person, other than Matt, that knew I was booked in and that was my Sister. We took the decision not to tell anyone to lessen their worry and also let it be a surprise when the baby was born. Again, this was one of the best decisions we made.

I used the next couple of weeks to prepare myself for everything I would need to get through the section with as little upset as possible.  I bought the NCT Caesarean Birth book which was excellent.  I bought myself a caesarean belt from Mothercare and I bought myself some arnica pills from Boots.

The night before the section Matt and I went out for a meal to the restaurant he'd proposed marriage and where we'd had our wedding reception meal.  It was lovely. The two of us were wrapped in this little bubble - we knew we were going to be parents the next day and our lives would change forever.

That night I woke up at 2am and I was really sick.  I had bad tightening pains that felt like severe
menstrual cramps start in the morning and I was leaking fluid.  On the way to the hospital I had a couple of really bad pains and I'm still convinced that I was in early labour and that the baby knew it was time to come out.

I was so calm at the hospital until the anesthetist came in to talk to me about what was going to happen. I felt uncontrollably teary and down the corridor I heard a baby enter the world with it's first cry and I started to shake.

Sexy *cough*
I needn't have worried though...my tears turned to laughter later when Matt appeared in the room looking more like some idiot from Scrubs rather than George Clooney in ER as I had hoped (sorry Matt!).

I couldn't believe how relaxed and friendly it was inside the theatre when we got there. The radio was playing and everyone was lovely.  The spinal block I had was fine although the sensation of not feeling your legs is a little strange at first! Matt was sat next to my head holding my hand. I felt quite calm.

Within 5 minutes of them starting the procedure I remember the midwife (who was standing next to us) saying "Your baby is about to be born".

Matt and I both got a little emotional as we looked at each other for a brief moment as 'childless parents'. Matt said "listen to the radio" and I heard an old early 90's song called You from Ten Sharp playing with these words:

You, you were always on my mind
you, you're the one I've been living for
you, you're my everlasting fire
you're my always shining star

Then our beautiful baby was held up by the for us by the obstetrician so we could both see she was a little girl.

New (and knackered and emotional) parents
We both started crying and I vaguely remember Mini Cheddar deciding to poo meconium at that point. Always one for an entrance is our daughter!

Matt was able to cut the cord and then she was passed to us for some immediate skin-to-skin.  We were just so happy, even writing this post makes it all come flooding back like it was only yesterday.

I was stitched up and we were taken back into the recovery room where we were able to cuddle our daughter and then phone our families.  They were so shocked as we hadn't told them. I'll never forget phoning my Dad, who was on the golf course at the time and I heard him get very emotional.

When I think back to how upset, angry, worried and frustrated that I couldn't have the 'natural' birth I wanted I have to laugh at myself. For me, my section was the most amazing experience ever.

Freshly wrapped Mini Cheddar
I took arnica from the moment of my operation and my recovery was excellent. I was in far better shape a week later than a friend who had a natural birth just 2 days before I had my caesarean. I was also back driving within 2 weeks and leading a normal life (as normal as life can be that is with a new baby!)

I know when there was the prospect of me having a caesarean I did receive a couple of comments (one from a stranger and one from a 'friend' who is anti-caesarean) who made me feel bad, like I was failing at being a 'real mother'. Well, you know what? I don't feel any less of a woman for not delivering naturally, in fact I'm proud of myself that I went through all that I did.

However a child is born us mothers are strong, determined and courageous to carry our bundles and give birth - whether that's naturally or not.


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