Thursday, 29 June 2006
This evening we enjoyed the first salad from our own home grown vegetables! The kids were so excited, but not as excited as Steve! Sam and Jude both cut a broccoli plant for dinner, and Luke helped me cut two lettuces, one lollo rosso red one, and one leafy green one, then I cut some nasturtium leaves and flowers to go with it. We had lasagne with it. I never realised veggies cut and eaten straight away tasted so much better than the stuff thats been hauled across the ocean from Kenya and then sat in the Tesco storehouse for weeks before being sold at the last possible moment before the thing goes moldy. We eat all the veg raw, as its best that way. The broccoli was out of this world! Even the stems were nice to eat and the kids cut them into sticks and eat them. You cant do that with shop bought ones as they are too tough and stringy. We were all so excited about reaping the first meal from all our hard work that we had to take photos and blog about it!
Wednesday, 28 June 2006
Luke was up at the unsociable hour of 6am this morning. He didn't go back to sleep. Unknown to me at the time, Steve got up at 7 and took the three of them for breakfast in McDonald's! So I slept on till 9am, none the wiser. I wonder why I wasn't invited?
Sam wanted a trampoline for his birthday. We told him that if he got that then he wouldn't get much else. A few little treats maybe, but nothing big. And he wouldn't get to go out to the cinema or anything with his mates, because we just couldn't afford it. So he got a trampoline, which he knew was hiding in Jude's room. We did buy him a few small gifts so that he had something to open. Luke bought him some sweets, and so did Jude. I found a few books about football in Tesco's. Steve got the photo framed of Sam meeting Jack Charlton, and also got him a dartboard (I think he just wanted that for himself though and needed an excuse for buying it!) I also found a DVD in Tesco's of 'The Little Shop of Horrors', which is the play he performed in this year at stage school. It was the musical version so it has all the songs on it which he sang to death for weeks. So we gave him that too. He opened his presents first thing after getting back from McDonalds, and then we all set to work at the arduous task or erecting the trampoline. At the time we had the electrician in the house and said that it took him and his Dad 3 hours to put theirs up. So we set to it. I'm proud to say that we had the whole thing up and in working order in just 1 1/2 hours. We make a good team when it comes to assembling things.
So the kids spent all afternoon bouncing up and down. At 3 pm some of his friends from his old school came round to play. M and J both bought him new footballs, so he was very happy about that. M picked out the exact one that Sam had told me to buy him! It is the world cup one. So he was delighted. Then J bought him one aswell, so that was double prizes. We put a few treats out in the garden and then basically left them to it. They bounced, they wrestled, they sprayed water at passing pedestrians (!*!*!*!), they played football. Even Jude had a friend to play with as well. We didn't hear a peep out of Luke who had made friends with one of the 11 year old boys and was playing happily in his bedroom with him.
At 6.30 Steve, Sam and Jude all went to the fellowship meeting in Belfast. Me and Luke had our chance on the trampoline! We spent an hour together on it, and Luke just had the most exciting time. I don't think he has ever giggled so much before. We rolled from one side to the other together, we bounced together, I sat in the middle whilst Luke ran round and round in circles for about 20 minutes saying "round and round, round and round", and occasionally falling over and laughing hysterically. He pretended to be a baby lamb whilst I was a mummy lamb. Then I was a horse and he bounced on my tummy. It was great fun. Finally it was time for bath and bed. I'm betting his is going to sleep really well tonight.
Thanks to everyone who sent cards and money for Sam's birthday. He will be writing thank you letters soon to all the family.
The making of the trampoline.
Sam officially declares the trampoline open with the sentence "on behalf of my bum I declare this trampoline open!"
Mum came round on Monday night and had dinner with us. I cooked salmon and salad. (Actually, didn't cook the salad). The kids were pleased to see her. Luke showed her his new bedroom. That evening me and Mum went to the cinema to see The Lake House. We didn't really know what we were going to see. It was very good - Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. The both live in this lake house at different times and they fall in love through letters which travel through time to each other in this mailbox outside the house. Ok, it sounds awful, unbelievable, but it was actually very good, very believable, and a good evening out.
Yesterday the kids and I had a nature study day. We've been meaning to do it for a few weeks. So we left the maths books at home and set off with some paper, pencils, a camera and some reference books. The plan was to drive to my parents plot of land, where they are currently building a house. But on the way we stopped at Corbet Lough as all the swans were on land and waiting for company. Luke didn't like them at all and I had to carry him. He got panicky if I went too close. But Sam and Jude were in the middle of them collecting feathers.
There were two old fishmen there, getting their fishing rods ready. Sam sreamed "look its a Turkey!" and the men thought it was hilarious. So one of them started to tell him that it was a duck (a muskovy duck or something). He told them about how they are farm animals, and very tame like pets. He said that a pair of these ducks had been living at the lough for 2 years, and so someone must have dumped them there. He told them both stories of his childhood living on his Fathers farm. Then the other old man got his binoculars out and let the kids look at the wild birds in the distance. He taught them a bit about the wildlife in the area. They both said they enjoyed talking to the kids as it was very unusual to meet children who are interested in nature any more.
This is Sam with the 'turkey' duck.
So then we carried on to the field and building site. At the site we studied all the wild flowers. The kids took photos of every wild flower they found, and samples of some of them. They also drew sketches. They noted down any wildlife that we saw in the area. We found all sorts of wild flowers including scarlet pimpernel, sea holly, wild water mint, daisy, chamomile, foxgloves, and more that I can't remember without looking in their sketch books. They seemed to really enjoy it. Luke enjoyed exploring the half built house more than anything else. We had our lunch in Grandad's caravan and then headed on to Tyrella Beach. Here are some of the flowers that we discovered...
Sam and Jude with their sketchbooks at the plot. And Sam studying foxgloves.
This is a very bad photo that I took of the house. You can only see about a quarter of it in this shot! I will take a better one next time, with all the lovely fields around it. Well, we had no plans to visit the beach. If we had, I would have packed towels and clean clothes! I thought we were going to play in the sand dunes. Which we did for a while. Even Luke slid down some huge dunes. But then the kids wanted to go for a paddle. When they said paddle I invisaged bare feeted wading through the shallow water. But no! Paddling to my children means swimming up to the neck fully clothed! Oh yes. Sam and Jude took their shoes off and ran to the water, and little Luke ran after them, completely unafraid of the sea. He came back once to tell me that the sea was chasing him. He was a bit unsure whether this was normal. So I reassured him and then he ran back into it. He would have swam out to sea with his older siblings if I hadnt have called him back! Sam and Jude had such a great time in the sea. There was no one else on the beach. They had to strip all their clothes off to get back into the car and I popped into Peacocks in Downpatrick. They had a sale on and I managed to get t-shirts for 25p and trousers for £1. So they didn't have to freeze for the evening.
After the beach we drove to my Mum's house for dinner. Luke was so excited to see her. He didn't want to leave at the end of the day, and begged to stay over (on his own, without Sam or Jude). Aww. Sam and Jude shattered Mum by constant talking and examples of plays and dances that they had either made up, or Sam had leanred at stage school. Mum fitted me out with a complete new wardrobe of clothes that she has slimmed out of. I've never had so many nice clothes and now I need somewhere nice to wear them! At the end of the day the kids were shattered and had such great fun. It was far more educational and beneficial than school. Sam said it was like his birthday day out. It was one of those magical days that the kids will remember when they are grown up. And we caught some of it on camcorder too, so that we can watch it in years to come.Peas in a pod???
Two drowned rats!
Sunday, 25 June 2006
Here are some updated photos of our ongoing vegetable garden project. This one is tomatoes, onions and potatoes. They all seem to be doing really well.
This is the corner of the vegetable garden which looks fab at the moment. The french beans are starting to grow up the bamboo canes, those tall things at the back are Lukes sunflowers, in front of them are 5 pumpkins plants, and in the two beds in from you can see nasturians, onions, lettuces and broccoli.
This is the right hand side of the garden where most of the veg are growing. The nearest bed is the herbs (with a gigantic Fennel in the middle - looks like a tree). Then the next bed is the iceberg lettuces, which are almost ready to eat. On the right you can see the poles for the mange tout, but they were badly attacked by slugs at the start and never fully recovered. The next bed is the cauliflower and courgettes. Then there are two more bed, the left one is red cabbage, and the right (with the pyramid poles) is peas. Then there are two more beds with parsnips and carrots. The parsnips are ok but the carrots dont seem to be growing. Down the sides there are various fruit bushes.
Saturday, 24 June 2006
Jude was disappointed because she thought she was going too. So we had her friend from her old school round to play for a little while. They played Beano Top Trumps in the hammock for a while, made some things out of quick drying modeling clay, and then they both helped me to plant some seeds. T planted some red lettuce and some broccoli and Jude planted green lettuce and cabbage. The idea is that they will be ready to go into the soil just as we are eating the ones that are already there. T was very excited about the whole thing. She wrote her name on some sticks and put them into her seed trays. I told her that she could come back when they were grown and take home her own lettuce and broccoli (fortunately she likes both those veggies).
After she left, me and Jude spent the rest of the day sorting out her bedroom. We started it weeks ago and never finished it. Sam had sorted out a big box of things he didn't want any more, to sell at a boot fair. Jude sorted out half a box and we got distracted. So there has been a big box in the middle of Judes room for quite some time. Today we went through everything she owned and either put it away neatly or put it in the box to get rid of. It looks like a princesses palace in their again now. She quite enjoyed doing it with me. We had music on, and no boys to interrupt. So it was good quality time. And there's nothing like the feeling of going to sleep in a really tidy bedroom!
Tonight Sam has his best friend from his old school coming to sleep over. He is very excited about that. He came home from stage school elated this evening, because he was asked to sing the male part to "All I Care About Is Love", from the musical Chicago. He was singing all the lines... "I don't care about expensive things..." etc, and then all the girls (about 20 of them) were singing the ladies part "All he cares about is love". He said he started off quite shy but by the end he was singing his heart out. He was really pleased because he loves the soundtrack to Chicago and knows every word. Many a happy hour has been spent in his room in front of the mirror with a microphone singing "And all that Jazz". I'm glad he is enjoying the stageschool but wonder whether he will have time for it once he starts full time school in September.
Well, Steve is out mowing the lawn and I have to make some dinner. He needs some assistance in the garden for a while. I have 4 butternut squash plants that need planting into a bed somewhere, but no where spacious enough to put them, so Steve is going to make another veggie bed for them. But I have to tell him where to put it. I am suprised the butternut squashes are growing. The seeds went through the washing machine. They didnt get detergent on them as they were in a sealed plastic bag, but we thought the heat had destroyed them. They took a lot longer to germinate than the other squashes, but they did eventually, and are growing fine now!
Friday, 23 June 2006
Its been quite a tough week, one way or another. But today the kids were 'off' and the day was pretty relaxing. I took them into the town to get some bits for Sam's birthday. Luke wanted to buy him some sweets for a present, and made no secret of it. We also bought some wrapping paper and a card. I wanted to get a few other bits but Sam didn't get the hint to clear off so it wasn't possible. Also managed to spend Â£24 on a new pair of shoes for Jude. Tomorrow Steve will get the trampoline and safety net whilst in Belfast. Which means he wont be able to take Luke and Jude whilst Sams as stage school, as he usually does. So I won't have a peaceful day to myself. Ah well.
One night this week Steve dedicated a whole evening to spoiling me. He ran me a hot bubble bath, then when I came out of it there was a hot foot soak in the living room. He gave me the remote control, and a cup of tea. He put the kids to bed quietly, without the usual stress and groaning that comes with the task. It was really nice to relax. I think he must think I'm about the crack or something! This evening I went to collect him from work and when we pulled into the drive he gave me a present... all wrapped in shiny blue paper. It was a photo from our trip to Brussels last year. He had it printed and framed for me. I was so touched. It is a photo of me eating lobster! But it is a good one.
This week, despite all the bad news, we had some good news. My sisters boyfriend David finally popped the question! And she said YES! Well, popped the question is a bit of an understatement. David only turns out to be the most romantic guy on the planet. Ladies, you may wish not to read the rest of todays entry as your husbands may suddenly seem less wonderful.
Firstly David phoned Dad to ask for Hannah's hand in marriage. How genteel. Like something out of Pride and Prejudice. I wonder did Dad offer a dowry? Anyway, Dad obviously said Yes. Then David made Hannah follow a set of clues all around the area from his childhood home. With each clue she found a gift. Cute. Then when she found David he took her for a walk along an area that was important to the first part of his life. He took her there so that he could make her, and it, part of the second stage of his life. He then took off his jacket with his back turned and his T-shirt back read 'Hannah', and when he turned round the front said 'Will you marry me?' He then produced a big shiny rock for her finger - which just looks 'so Hannah'. It's perfect. I've got a photo of it to upload sometime. Anyway, the whole story sounded so much better the way Hannah told it! It's not quite so romantic coming from me. I'm not doing the gooey gushes, and the fluttering eyelids, and the lovestruck look. That really helps with this kind of story.
Here are a couple of photos of the happy, gorgeous couple (stolen from Hannahs Bebo Site)
Wednesday, 21 June 2006
Today we got the phone bill for our two mobile phones. I think we might have to get rid of them! The bill was close to £100. It seems such a waste of money. It was allitemizedd and most of the calls were made by me, even though Steve is running a business from his. It's strange, because I always think I never phone anyone. There were a few real long calls this month on it which came to about £20 ! No more nattering for me anymore.
It looks like summer is over already! I shouldn't complain since some years we don't have a summer at all. It is such a shame, but it hasn't stopped raining all week, and I even had to put the heating on twice today (not good - as we have no oil left). Its only one week till Sam's birthday so we can't buy more oil or the poor child will get no presents. He is still hankering after a trampoline.
Well, Im going to get this little man to bed and then I have the rest of the evening to myself. I spent hours today marking maths work and am finally up to date with it. I'm convinced our Sam and Jude are really Bart and Lisa. Marking Judes work was a delight. Tick, tick, tick. Ive got a double bill of Desperate Housewives to look forward to this evening. The last in the series. I have to go as I am now pretending to be the checkout lady at Tesco's whilst Luke passes his groceries across the keyboard. (It seems the buggy was actually a trolley!)
Also on Sunday Luke was delighted to find a huge snail crawling up the outside of our bedroom window. He is at that age where he gets such delight from finding creepy crawlies. This was a great event because we could see all the snails muscles moving through the clear glass. Luke was just so amazed and asked us to take a photo.
These are the 2 photos from our trip to the Chinese Restaurant on Sunday which go with the post below.
Monday, 19 June 2006
"One thing you have to know is that God has brought us together for a purpose. This is the divine love of God working in you. The Almighty God is speaking to you inside your heart about me, a condemned prisoner. Be assured that this friendship is from above". I'm inclined to believe him since I didn't make a mental decision to write to him myself. It will be interesting to write to him, although I am a little concerned. The pending execution of my 2 year friend in Georgia is enough for me to handle. I don't know if I can go through it twice. I guess the Lord will give me strength.
Anyway, Sam will be celebrating his 11th birthday soon and he wants a trampoline. After enjoying 2 days of bouncing at Jenny's house he is convinced this is what he needs. I have told him it will be his only present because of the cost of it, and he seems fine with that. I will need to get out to the shops some time to buy it... not an easy task when home educating three children.
A few weeks back our fellowship helped one of the men, Barry, move house. His house needed a lot of work done to it to make it leaveable! Every Sunday and Wednesday for 3 weeks everyone cleaned and packed and tidied for him. During this process Steve and the kids collected all the spare change that they found and put it into bags for him. Steve has since spent an hour every day counting that change! Jude would take a bag at a time to the post office to be changed into notes. At our Sunday meeting yesterday Steve told Barry to guess how much money they had collected. He had no idea. Someone guessed about Â£200 !!! No. They had collected no less that £820 from around his house! Isn't that amazing! So Barry took the fellowship out for Chinesese meal on Sunday evening, with cash from his house. The rest of it is being used to buy a car. Steve made a heap of jokes about informing the royal mint. I wonder how many years it had taken to collect that. He reckons he has about another Â£200 worth of coins at home that still need changing. We all went toChineseese restaurant here in the town after our Sunday meeting. We had a big round table that we were all able to sit around. Even Luke had a big seat and felt the business sitting with all the adults. The food was lovely, and it made a change to tea and fruit loaf! We did take photos, they will follow soon.
The weather seems to have taken a turn for the worse. The beautiful sunshine has gone, but not before giving my veggies a boost. The sunflowers are now about 3 ft tall. The potatoes and onions are HUGE. But alas, my tomatoes and strawberries have been attacked by greenfly and I had to spray them despite wanting to go organic. But they were covered with them and I was frightened of it spreading to everything else. I must get some sort of organic pesticide for emergencies. The cabbages were attacked by tiny caterpillars but we found most of them and squished them! Nice. Hopefully they will improve. Next year I will just grow the things that we have great success with, I think.
Well, I better go and write a letter whilst I'm still awake enough.
Friday, 16 June 2006
Tuesday, 13 June 2006
Steve and the kids also had great fun whilst I was away. They had aunty Hannah staying for the weekend and Sam was involved in a little production through his Helen O'Grady drama class. Here are some photos that they took.
Sunday, 11 June 2006
I had the most amazing weekend. On Friday we went to the Pure Day Spa in Killinchy. None of us really new quite what to expect from it. We hoped it would be good, but we didn't realise how utterly amazing it would be! From the second we arrived we were treated like royalty. They took our shoes and gave us some special slippers that massage the vital points of our feet. We changed into our swimming costumes and robes that were provided. The place was just awesome. It was so clean, and quiet, and tranquil. Peaceful music was gently playing and every little nook and cranny had something special about it - candles, water features, lillies. It was pure luxury. After changing into our robes we were taken to an area with three luxurious chaise longe style loungers. They covered our legs with blankets and then offered a choice of champagne or fruit juices. We were given magazines and a bowl of organic fresh fruit salad. The attention to detail was amazing. On every massage table there would be left a fresh Lilly on the pillow. Then our 3 beauticians (for want of a better word) came and took us to different rooms. Heidi was my girl and she was just lovely. She took me into a room that was lit with candles and smelled of essential oils. There was a ray of sun shining across the room through the shutters - it was just surreal. First she asked me to sit on a bean bag whilst she did a foot ritual. I had no idea what a foot ritual was! She put my feet into a china bowl full of smooth pebbles and warm water. It had little rose petals floating in it. Then she sat on the floor and bathed my feet whilst asking me questions about my life - health, food, exercise, etc. She asked how I most wanted to feel at the end of the day. My answer was 'relaxed'. By doing this ritual she could find out how best to tailor my treatments to my expectations. Then she asked me to choose a stone from the table. I chose a smooth round dark green stone, and she told me that this particular stone represented relaxation!
My first treatment was an aromatherapy facial. Heidi gave me various different oils to smell so that I could choose the ones I liked the best. All the various oils I chose were from the relaxation range! (although I didn't know that at the time). She said my body obviously wanted relaxation that day. I lay on this heated massage table for about an hour and half whilst I had the facial and the Indian head massage. The facial was the most relaxing thing I've ever experienced. It wasn't just a case of cleaning my face! No, it was a full on face, shoulder and neck massage. Whilst the mask was on my face she gave me a hand massage too. I've never had so many creams, lotions, oils and masks on my face at once! She massaged various pressure points around the face, neck and temples. The whole atmosphere with the candles, smells and gentle music was just like being in heaven! The Indian head massage was different to how I imagined. I thought it was just a good massage. I had no idea I'd come out with a head full of pink mud and aromatherapy oils! I looked a sight! But it was well worth it. She poured various oils through my scalp and massaged in different ways that I couldn't really describe that well. She massaged pressure points, and then did a sort of pitter-pattering massage with her fingers. She spent 5 minutes massaging my ears! It was just paradise. When she had finished I could barely get off of the bed, I was so relaxed. Little did I know that whilst I was enjoying this pure bliss, poor Brenda and Heather were suffering torturous pain through a treatment called exfoliation and body brush! Which basically involved being rubbed down from head to toe with scouring pads and floor brushes! But they also enjoyed a session of reflexology which they both raved about. I will try that next time myself.
After these first two treatments we were taken to the showers and then we spent half an hour or so relaxing in the jacuzzi. (see photo above). The photo below shows the jacuzzi (from their website). You can see how classy the place was from the website photos much better than you can from our photos. We were brought drinks of water to have whilst in the jacuzzi and I asked the lady to take our photo. We never saw another client whilst we were there, so I don't know if we had the place to ourselves or whether they time the treatments so that we don't bump into each other. After the jacuzzi we had another shower (beautiful spa shower gels and lotions were free for use at any time) and then spent 10 minutes in the steam room, before having yet another shower!
Then we were taken upstairs to a little relaxation room. We were able to sit on the sofas there and the lady covered our legs with fleece blankets. We sat and chatted, signed the visitors book and eat chocolates for half an hour. It was so nice to not be rushed in between treatments. It really added to the feeling of luxury and rest. Then we were taken downstairs to yet another little area where tea was laid on. This area had a soothing water feature. The table was set for the 3 of us with teas, juices, coissants, buns and biscuits, which we were really ready for. Another lady took a photo for us, but you really cant tell from this picture just how nice the place was. Everything was presented so well.
Then we went to separate rooms again for our body massages. We had such a laugh at the ridiculous plastic pants that we were given to wear! Myself and Brenda were in stitches over them. They were more like plastic thongs than anything else and just looked hilarious! Once again I enjoyed the pure bliss of a hot oil body massage whilst Heather and Brenda suffered the torture of a Swedish body massage! Whilst they were having deep tense knots removed from their bodies I was being drenched in gorgeous hot oils and gently massaged from top to toe! Poor Heather had finger bruises on her arms the next day. Although I think they really did benefit from the Swedish massage and they also had a great time.
After the last treatments we were taken to a little sunny area outside to sit and relax before getting dressed to go. Our ladies each came out to see us and advised us about skin care, and gave advise about what they had noticed about our skin or bodies. They advised various products to deal with different problem areas. It was possibly the most amazing and purely paradise like experience of my life so far. It is something I would recommend to anyone! You simply have to do this at least once in your life.
After we left the spa we drove down to white rock and had some lunch in a restaurant there. (click on the small photos to see a larger version) Then we went for a walk along the pebbly beach area. Heather practiced her skimming skills in the water and I was throwing large stones into the water as I found the loud plopping noise they made very satisfying. Heather took the opportunity to thow a huge rock into the water just in front of me and soaked me! She took great pleasure in that!
Friday was just great. A day of pampering, no rushing, beautiful sunshine, what more could a girl ask for? After all this we drove to the Dunadry Hotel where we stayed for the two nights. Margaret joined us here and she shared a room with Brenda which was joined to our room. We had a great time over the weekend. Lots of chilling, no rushing. I managed to read half of my 5 languages of love book whilst the girls went shopping. We played countless games of boggle, and sat up chatting till the early hours of the morning. We even managed a stint in the gym and a swimming session!
But it was great to get home and see the kids and Steve again. I enjoy being away from home but I always enjoy getting home too. Needless to say that all the men and children coped perfectly well without us!
This is the four of us outside the hotel entrance.
(Notice my fabulous new hair cut - courtesy of my sister Jenny)