Wednesday, 31 August 2011

St Briavels Youth Hostel

We've been away (I know, I know, I'm a dirty stop-out and seem to be away more than I'm at home at the moment!).

This time it was me and the little ones, along with my mum, my two sisters, and their four children.  

We stayed for the weekend at St Briavels Youth Hostel in the Forest of Dean (England).  This means that there were four adults and six children under the age of five... all staying in one bedroom!

We met on Friday late morning / lunchtime at Whirlikids Soft Play in Chepstow.  We spent until 3pm there, allowing the children to play and run off some of their energy after various journeys.  Mine hadn't been as long as all the way from Scotland, as I had stayed nearby with some friends - who it was lovely to see.  At 3 we headed via the supermarket for a quick stock up, to the Youth Hostel in the Forest of Dean.  St Briavels is an actual 1200-1300 moated Norman castle.  Visitors can look around the courtyard and the outside, but the inside is used by the Youth Hostel Association.  We spent an hour wandering around exploring outside, allowing the younger ones to nap in the cars while we killed time until the hostel opened at 5pm.

Being directed to our room was quite an adventure.  Despite knowing in advance the ages of the children we were bringing, and I am convinced there were other, more accessible, large rooms, we were located at the very top of a tower, up a steep and winding stone and wood staircase with an overhanging low ceiling.  And of course, the toilets and showers were at the bottom of the tower.  Little C attempted the climb and descent a few times (very slowly, and always with a watchful adult below him), but more often than not I was trying to climb or come down the stairs with a six-month-old in one arm and a two year old in the other, trying hard not to fall, drop one, or crack one of their heads on the stone ceiling.  Even worse if I was also trying to carry a wash-bag, toothbrush, nappy bag or anything else!

On the Saturday we headed to Beechenhurst Lodge, a Forestry Commission centre in the Forest of Dean with an adventure playground and a sculpture walk.  We headed first for the adventure playground where we played in a drizzling rain, and never made it to the sculpture walk as we were then all hungry and some of the little ones were getting tired.  The Gavellers Cafe at Beechenhurst was rubbish, with no seats and only pasties and sausage rolls on offer (I've since seen on their website that there was a special event on so they were only offering a limited menu - being rubbish is not the norm!) so we headed into Coleford.  
In the afternoon we went to Goodrich Castle, which is a fabulous place to visit.  We wandered around the castle, and the children had a brilliant time exploring nooks and crannies, pretending to be knights or kings, climbing up and down spiral staircases and generally being proper kids.

The Youth Hostel has a medieval banquet on the Saturday night, so we booked in for that thinking it would be a great experience for all.  We were a bit disappointed.  At £15 a head for adults and £10 a head for children, we were expecting some entertainment, and a drink (even jugs of water on the tables would have been a good start, but I was hoping for even a taster of ale or mead for the adults - nothing).  I think it must be a money spinner for the hostel, because what we got was much less that £10 or £15 worth.  There were boxes of haphazard costume bits and bobs allowing people to dress up and get a bit of atmosphere going, and the lights in the dining room were very much dimmed and candle flickery.  The crockery was olde worlde and added to the atmosphere, as did the rule of no cutlery.  There was plenty of food, vegetable soup to start and then lots of veg and meat, followed by a  spiced apple dish and custard.  But not exactly luxury goods, and definitely cheap to make.  Our table got no potatoes, and the custard was so burnt that it was inedible.  Thankfully the custard didn't appear until most people had finished their first helping of dessert, so only the second helping was ruined by the custard.  A bit of a disappointment.
On Sunday morning, after packing up the room, we headed back to Beechenhurst where we did the sculpture trail, we should have picked up a map and guide from the shop, but didn't think of it, which meant that we only saw two of the sculptures - never mind, it was a nice walk!  Then we had a lovely picnic before hitting the road in our separate directions.

Overall - a fabulous weekend.  Watching the children playing together and getting to know one another was brilliant and Little C has since said several times: "C...... loves D.. and E..... and B...... and B....".  A complete bonus was that we did actually get some sleep.  You can imagine the fun we had getting six excited children under the age of five to sleep in the same room at the beginning of the night, and then two woke up wanting feeds or cuddles in the night, one woke screaming after a bad dream, and another continually fell out of bed throughout both nights.  I had gone with the expectation of no sleep - so some sleep was definitely a bonus, and a big well done to the oldest of the cousins, my nephew D......, who showed the other children what a big and sensible boy he was, by settling and trying to get to sleep.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

First adventures with food

Our little girl is now eating... or should I say, our little girl never stops eating!  Now that she's discovered the joys of food there's no stopping her.  
We stuck with just the good stuff (breast milk) until a little short of six months and then just threw ourselves into food in all its glory and wonder.  
We don't do puree, or jars/pouches.  We just give her a bit of whatever we're having and see how she gets on.  
If it's squishy (tonight it was mashed potato and tinned tomato) then we put it on a spoon and either hand her the spoon to feed herself or help her out, and if it's possible to hold in the hand, then we give it to her to deal with herself (tonight that bit was the sausage).
She makes some delightful faces, but she's really tucking in to everything.  The photo above is a wedge of nectarine.  She's also had spaghetti, sandwiches, lots of fruit, peas, potatoes, fish, chicken, bread, toast, egg, soup and lots lots more.  She struggles a little with the co-ordination required to pick the food up and get it to her mouth, and tends to sweep it towards herself and then dive at it, but there's been a marked difference already, as she's practising the skills so often.  When she gets too frustrated I hold the food and she grabs my hand (an easier target) and pulls that towards her mouth.  What a joy!
It's made a difference to Little C too: if he sees Little Sister eating something, then he wants to eat it too.  To begin with he regressed a bit with cutlery use and wanted a spoon or fingers the same as Little Sister, but then I pointed out that she was watching him to learn how to eat nicely, and I've noticed the cutlery being used a bit more again.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Birthday present inspiration

What to get for a two year old little girl?  It might sound easy... but she has an elder brother and between them they have all the toys.  I thought I'd done well with a tea set made from recycled plastic for Christmas, but the next time I visited it turned out they have about three tea sets.  The only things they don't have so much of are the "girly" things (which she's really in to) such as handbags and purses, dolls and dolly things.  Thing is, I'm not so much in to the girly thing.  Especially since it's all pretty much pink.

So I decided to get creative.  It's also so much nicer when you know that  you're giving a gift which they definitely won't already have and which can't be bought anywhere.

I then printed out some flower borders and some butterflies from the internet and made some lettering using WordArt.  I cut these bits out and stuck them on to the box using PVA glue, and then added some details and also some swirly patterns with glitter glue.  Mine were from Tesco and cost £1

The finished result looks like this:
(you can see the recipient looks well unimpressed - oh well!)

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Where have I been?

Where have I been?  Good question actually.  A long weekend in a proper moated Norman castle with nephews, nieces, sisters and mum (more in another post later).  And since then I've just been running around chasing my tail trying to keep up with the normal, mundane, day to day type stuff.  Until today.  

Today for the first time in well over two years (since I was pregnant with Little C) I went on my bike.  Now that Little Sis is 6 months she is big enough to wear the smallest sized splash suit that you can get, and big enough (just) to buy a cycle helmet and to sit in a bike seat.

So off we drove to cycle a bit of track we've been lusting after.  It goes from Glen Ogle down to Lochearnhead and is an old railway track hugging the hillside and with splendiferous views.  Being an old railway track means no cars, so the Waggy-tailed-one could race along at our sides.  For Little Sister's first time we kept things short, but even then we had to sit down on a mossy rock for a feed.  Little C didn't mind, we had a stash of chocolate buttons for him.

So yippee!  Now that she's 6 months, we can be an outdoor family!  Next stop - a camping trip in Wester Ross (more on that in a future post too!).

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Bed time letters

Little C loves his letters.  He knows at least half of them (capitals) and some lower case.  At bed time we usually go through the numbers to 10 and read a counting poem from a wall chart in his bedroom and do some counting, so I thought maybe he'd like to look at some letters at bed time as well.  
I roughly measured the slats in the bunk bed above him, and cut up a cereal box to make card the right size to slot into the gaps.  
Then I wrote on some alphabet letters.  
I ran out of card so will finish the alphabet when we finish another box of cereal.  
Last night while we were having a cuddle we played a game where he gave me a letter to find, and then I gave him a letter to find and so on.

Monday, 15 August 2011

On reflection...

How to entertain an almost 6  month old?

Spend half an hour in front of the mirror...

Sunday, 14 August 2011

A stormy sky

This was a bit of an experiment really.

It didn't quite work out as I hoped.  I thought that the paint wouldn't go on where there was wax crayon, but it did.  Anyway, here's the plan:

Take a normal white piece of paper.

Use wax crayons to draw a land or city scape.  If your children can do this themselves, so much the better, but for younger toddlers, do this bit yourself.  I used orange and green wax crayons to create heather, gorse and fern covered hillsides like those we can see out of the window.

Provide a small dish with a small amount of black and white paint and show your toddler how to finger paint the clouds.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Words of advice

Don't get washing powder in your eye.

I know, it sounds obvious doesn't it.  You'll be amazed how easily a granule of powder can flick up as you're hurrying to pour it into the drawer.  
It's a painful mistake to make.  
As I am neither permanently blinded nor in hospital you can tell that thankfully in my case the error wasn't too serious.  
Just serious enough to temporarily blind me as my eyes streamed and I tried very hard not to rub the offended one as that made things much more painful.  The thought ran through my head that if I couldn't fix it I would need to run next door to ask the neighbour to help / run me to hospital.  Thankfully the little ones were entertaining one another on the sitting room floor.  I was able to grope my way to the bathroom sink and throw lots of cold water at my face, which allowed me to see out of the other eye, so I could find the eye lotion and bathe the painful one.  In turn the bathing soothed and washed out the eye enough that I could examine it and find and wash out the remaining stubborn granule from under the lower lid.  
After that I was fine.  Eye bright red and watering for another hour, which led to concerned looks and cuddles from Little C, but fine.

I can't say I'll take more care next time - how do you take more care loading a washing machine?  Besides, when you wash at least one load every day what with food, poo, paint, sick, dribble, cloth nappies, towels, bedding and so on, you quite often shove it in without much thought.  Still, I will try not to get any more in my eyes.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Aims for the Week

Work through the lethargy - get stuff done!

I want to get a few of the jobs that have been sitting on my "to-do" list for a very long time done and out of the way.  The longer the job has been sitting on that list the better I feel when I finally tick it off.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Best pics from July

Little C teaches Little Sis how to use the baby gym 
chilling in the outdoors

Happy Birthday bike

just sucking my thumb

what a gorgeous poser

Little C's sunflowers

are we painting the box or the legs?

our latest garden inhabitant - driving the waggy-tailed-one bonkers!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Book Review - "The Wild Places"

"The Wild Places" by Robert Macfarlane

This is another travel-type book.  This time the author sets off on journeys around the UK, searching for "wildness" to travel and sleep in.  To begin with he aims for places far from the beaten track, searching for remoteness and hardship as his definition of wildness.  He aims for remote islands, beaches and mountains, including a very lonely and cold night up Ben Hope in the very north of mainland Scotland in winter.  Gradually, as he travels to river valleys, sand-spits, lost roadways and tors, sleeping out in varying weathers and seasons, and describing it all with eloquent poetic prose, he discovers that wildness isn't necessarily to be found only in remote places, but can also be lush unfettered growth and foliage, even in a very small place, like the crack in a limestone pavement, or the hedgerows around his home of Peterborough.

There are some heavier bits, and the prose, while eloquent and beautiful, can be a bit slow-going at times, but for a peaceful trundle around beautiful parts of our island, this is a good book.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Another little gift doll

Just a quick one, but here is my latest successful completion:

This is Lauren, a first birthday present for my little niece:
I've previously made these on here for Little C and my other niece, and at some point will start making for Little Sister.