Thursday, 29 January 2015

Christmas crafting

Ok....A little late, but may be inspiring for someone next year

So my wonderful friends got spoilt this year.  This is thanks to Paul's team assistant at work.  She went above and beyond when it came to us flying back to England this year, and I wanted to give her a christmas gift to say thanks.  I came up with a hamper idea, thanks to Pinterest.  I thought, seeing as I was making one, I may as well make more!

So in these hampers were: a tupperware full of chocolate fudge.  This was soooooooo yummy.  There was some Candy Cane vodka.  I ended up making this with Starburst Candy canes, so there were 2 different flavors.  I have been told this is yummy.  We have a spare one sitting in the cupboard.  It may get opened on the 1st February.  It took more candy canes than I expected, 6-10 per mason jar.  And it took a great deal of filtering....  There was some gingerbread sugar scrub. I made a couple of batches of this, just to be sure I got the right consistency.  I have used these in the shower.  My word, your skin is so soft afterwards! Think it is the coconut oil.  Then there is the named picture frames.  I took inspiration from this, but changed it slightly.  Very easy, did not cost a lot, but means something to everyone.  I know Paul's colleague has hers at her desk, and I have seen my friends out on display at their houses.

I then wrapped them in cellophane, which took me to Jo-Ann fabric and craft store.  This is now my new favorite store (more on that to come).  For my friends with children, I added in some bags of sweeties, the one below is for a friend with a small baby, so she got a teething toy rather than some sweets. 

The 'tags' were another experiment.  Melted peppermint candies, check out the post here on how to do it.  I experimented with red and green candies.  I made many different batches of these.  I found some to be quite brittle, and break easily.  You have to make sure you put the whole for the string in quite soon after they come out of the oven, before they harden...  I coated mine with mode lodge, so had to make sure I wrote on the back for people not to eat!

The baskets and the tinsel came from Dollar Tree, dead easy, and cheap too!

Back to the fudge.  I ended up making about 5 batches of this during december.  It was just so yummy, and a real quick and easy present for people.  The boys made their cinnamon ornaments again and painted them.  I covered them in modge podge, they wrote a message on the back, and we distributed them to teachers on the last day of term. It makes such an easy gift, plus the teachers have a decoration for their tree to remember the boys..... anyone could forget them! 

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Its not too late....


...... To sponsor me!!!!

All through January, I have not touched any alcohol.  Those who know me, know how difficult this could be for me!!!! I have even been on 2 nights out!!!!  Ok, so I was designated driver, so that made it easier.....

I did this last year.  but this year I am raising money through sponsorship for Cancer Research UK.  Given everything that happened last year with my mum and Gran, this seems like a good way to give back.

So please sponsor me.  I have raised over 50 quid so far, and am so grateful to those who have donated.  My target is 150, so I am over a third of the way there.  There is only 4 days left in january, so please find the time to sponsor me.  Even just a dollar or a quid.  It all counts xxxx

Heres the link

Monday, 19 January 2015

Sebastian is FOUR!!!!

(If you thought Isaacs post was full of photos, prepare yourself.....)

My baby is four. I can't quite believe it.  Seb was an early baby, born at 36 weeks, weighing 5bs 15oz. He also came very quickly.  My waters went at 1.15pm, he was born at 2.45pm.  Paul just about got home in time, my mum got there to look after Isaac and get Oliver from school.  The ambulance crew and midwives got to the house about 20 minutes before he was born.  There was no time to get to the hospital, so Seb was born at home, in the playroom, on the car mat (we still have the car mat.....).  We were taken to hospital, and were fortunate enough to only have to stay in for one night.

He fitted into life straight away. Don't know if it was because of the school run, or all the groups we used to do, but he found a routine quite quickly.  Saying that, when he was very small, he would like to feed at night, and invariably ended up staying in our bed.  Even now, he is the one boy who will come and get into bed with us.  He was a very cute baby.

We weren't afraid to let him be up a little later, so we could dedicate time to get the older ones to bed. He fed well, and nursed till just over a year.  We did the usual bottle of formula at bedtime, always seemed to help them know it was bedtime.

Seb has always been a water baby.  He was introduced to a pool when he was about 4 months, as Oliver was having swimming lessons, and family were able to use the pool at the end of term.  He was a bit unsure at first, but it wasn't to last.

We took Seb to France for the first time when he was 7 months old. He travelled well in the car and on the boat.  He liked the beach a lot.

He loved spending time around the mobile with Nanny and Granddad Lee.  

By now we were weaning Seb, and went full throttle down the baby led weaning route.  This suited our needs, and certainly suited Sebastian.  Here he is with broccoli, and a spoon covered in yogurt.  I am guessing just out of shot is the pot.  I cannot rave about how good this was for our family.  Seb was able to eat pretty much everything we could.

I think this is his first Christmas at my mums.  So smart.  The joys of being third baby: plenty of hand me downs from brothers, and friends!

I just love this photo of him.....

This was taken just after his first birthday.  He had just started walking.  He certainly didn't rush to do anything, such a change from how Isaac was.  It's funny too, as I find it harder to remember what he did when.  Think it is all starting to merge into one....

Because of his older brothers, Seb may have been introduced to chocolate a little earlier than his brothers

Again, another photo I love of him.....

This one was taken in France, he was about 19 months old.  We had gone out for lunch at the restaurant on the campsite.  The weather was pants, but we managed to keep him amused.  See how happy he looks

A month later we were on an airplane.  This was all the small boys first experiences of flying.  Nothing like a transatlantic flight to break them in gently

Fast forward another 2 months, and we were living in America.  Getting used to a totally different way of life.

Seb stopped communicating around this time.  Could be cos they were in the play room, with out us constantly watching over them, could be the change in accent everywhere we went, could be he was happily contented in his life and didn't need to ask for anything or that he couldn't get a word in edgeways.  Who knows?  We never will.  

He was still a happy chappy, and celebrated his second birthday stateside. 

Followed 6 months later by a trip to Disney.  Seb loves the film Cars 2, and was enthralled to see lightning McQueen.  I think he enjoyed that holiday.  It was here we discovered he didn't like shows.  He freaked out at Disney and sea world killer whale shows.  Not sure if it was the people, the anticipation, the noise....

But noise has never been an issue when it comes to NASCAR.  He has been to two races, fell asleep during his first one at Martinsville. Sebastian loves cars, in fact most vehicles.  

He loves playing with his and his brothers toys.  He has trains, cars and all of his brothers stuff too.  It has taken him a while to learn how to use technology, but he has finally cracked it. He can even play some of the basic car racing games on the Xbox now.

Seb has seen his first proper snow since he has been here.  That hat?  Been through all 3 of them.  So cute, from Gap.  Cheers Aunty Jen!

Seb started school last February.  I say school, it is daycare.  It took him a few weeks to settled, which I was completely expecting. But he got there.  They have been really good with his lack of speech.

First day

I love his school, they are so good at sending us photos and reports of what he gets up to every day.  He seems to have a really good time.  Since moving classrooms at the start of the school year, he has really come out of his shell.  

Seb went into a bed last April, the last of the boys to do so.  It was a sad day when we got rid of the cot.  Seb has also been dry at night (pretty much!!) ever since.  

Didn't stop him happily going into a cot when we did our big road trip last summer.  Some mornings he didn't want to get up.

Seb has adjusted fairly well to all the changes in the last six months.  It is hard to know that he won't really remember nanny in the same way that the other two will, but I will do my best to make sure that he knows all about her.

Seb loves life.  His speech in the last year has developed so much.  This time last year I would have said that nothing had changed in the previous year.  That is not the case now.  Ok, he is still talking in vowels, but the tone and inclination on the syllable sounds are there.  The boys involve him so much, which helps a lot.  Their relationship is beautiful, but they are boys, so they do fight, and they can be hard work.  Seb in particular can be very hard.  Because of the lack of speech he can't get himself understood some time.  But he can be reasoned with.  I know him well, so I know if he gets upset, I can pretty much know what it is that is bothering him, and try and help him sort it out.  We are on the waiting list for speech therapy.  By the time we get seen, he will most likely be talking!

Seb likes to be involved in everything.  He has a word for me and Paul now, anny and addy.  Oliver is oher, Isaac is iaac.  He is so getting there.  He has had a really bad cold for the last 3 days.  Friday night, all he wanted to do was snuggle up to me, and he fell asleep watching TV.  Same last night, but it was a little bit later.  It was so cute, but I felt for him being ill.

While my children can be wildly independent, I think Sebastian is going to be the one who needs us more.  He is building a beautiful relationship with the whole family, and is a little character. Doesn't stop him being a royal pain in the butt, but he will always be our baby.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

New year, new.......

Well, not a lot to be honest!

We saw in the New Year at home, as usual.  We let the boys stay up as late as they could.  Sebastian made it till 9, Isaac was just before 10, and Oliver 12.05

Here he is with some sprite to toast in the New Year.  The boys went back to school on the 6th January.  Man, was I glad to get my me time back.  That probably makes me sound selfish, but it keeps me sane.  

This semester the boys are doing after school club.  Oliver is doing remote control car club, and Isaac is doing science club.  Luckily for me, they both fall on the same day.  Daddy should be able to pick them up also, which is a brucey.

Oliver has now begun his games in Basketball.  He is doing ok, spends about a 1/4 of his time on the bench, but at least that way he is learning as he watches.  He has decided he does not want to do baseball this spring.  That is fine by us, he seems to have lost interest in all sports apart from football (soccer).  Both him and Isaac want to do soccer camp this summer, fine. 

January is a dry month in this house.  Both Paul and I over did it over the holiday season, so no alcohol this month.  I did it last year, and found it ok.  This year I am doing it again, and enjoying it even more.  Not sure why, could be cos Paul is doing it with me, or could be because I am trying to raise money for Cancer Research UK.  Check out my Justgiving page here.  Still no sponsors yet, but hopefully someone will by the end of the month!!!!

I have been spending my evenings playing with my sewing machine and iron.  Exciting, I know.  I have made a couple of envelope pillows (tutorial here).  They are awesome.  I used some small pillows we purchased at Ikea as the insides.  These are only $1.49 each, so are very cheap.  Shame the don't deliver, might have to take a trip back there....  I am educating myself with the help of Pinterest, and I can already see my skills improving.  

I am thoroughly enjoying sewing, and crafting generally.  Which brings me to a point about my blog. At the moment, it is a blog about expat life style, but I may start putting more crafting stuff up.  Does any one take issue with this?  Is there anything people would like to see me make?  I have in my head to make a quilt out of the boys old clothing.  I bought a fair few supplies this morning.  I tend to pick up most of my material as remnants.  Jo-ann Fabrics are currently doing 75% off their remnants section.  Needless to say, I went a bit crazy this morning!  I think I am nearly at the stage to begin the quilt.  I also have a few other things in mind.  So watch this space.....

With regards to traveling, we have booked our first vacation of this year.  Spring Break will be at Kure Beach, near Wilmington, NC.  We have a house right on the beach, which we got for a bargain price.  Because of this we are going for a full week.  I am so looking forward to being able to see the sea again.  There is plenty to do in the area if the weather isn't great.  Plus it comes with usage of an indoor pool.  That should tire the chimps out nicely.....

Think that is about all.  Boys are doing good, I am good, Paul is good.  Its Sebastian's birthday on Monday, can't believe he is going to be 4.....

Friday, 9 January 2015

Day 3 - Cherokee and the Great Smokey Mountains National Park

The next day dawned much brighter. It was so lovely to watch the clouds roll over the mountains.  We had a rough plan for the day, so got up and out fairly early.

Previously we had not noticed our closeness to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  We visited the north of this park almost two years ago, when we went up to Pigeon Forge / Gaitlinburg.  This time, we had to travel through Cherokee to reach the park from the south.  Cherokee was not much to look at, particularly in the off season.  A few tourist shops, but most looked quite run down.  

We drove a couple of miles into the park, before coming to Ocanaluftee Visitors Centre.  When we visited Cade's Cove previously, we did not stop at the visitor centre.  We now realize what a mistake this was. The visitors centers are a wealth of information, and worth stopping at, even if we do have to make sure the boys don't wreck anything!  As well as being a visitor centre, Ocanaluftee has a Mountain Farm Museum. This is a collection of historic log buildings from throughout the Smokys and preserved on one site (source).  The boys had great fun running through the buildings and exploring.  Thank goodness for wellies!

The boys exploring and plotting

Paul had been researching other things we could do in the area, and we noticed a waterfall not too far from the park.  We took a little drive, and eventually found it.  Mingo Falls can be found on the Cherokee Indian Reserve, just outside the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  We parked the car, and began the ascent.

There are many, many steps covering just under half a mile.  I have since discovered that it is considered moderate in difficulty, but our 3 boys (2 in wellies) managed it ok.  Seb was a little slow.

It was certainly worth it, absolutely beautiful. 

We took a nice slow walk down, and the boys attempted to posed for some photos at the bottom.  Ha!

We drove out of the park, and headed back towards Cherokee in search of some lunch.  We hadn't passed anywhere that looked appetizing, so fast food was on the cards.  I then noticed a sign for Johnny Rockets Restaurant, on the same sign as an advertisement for a casino, so we drove out to have a look.

Turned out the restaurant was in the hotel/ casino complex.  This building is completely out of place here.  It is quite an eye sore!  I am sure it brings great revenue to the area, but looking at the buildings around the complex, I am not sure how well that the wealth is put to use.

We eventually settled on Burger King for lunch.  Nice and easy, and everyone ate.  After lunch we drove back into the centre of Cherokee.  We visited the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. This was fairly well priced, and provided a couple of hours of entertainment.  Admittedly the boys rushed around, but they did find it interesting

There is a lot of history here. A lot of wrong doing by the British and American governments.  I am no historian, so will not even try and document it.  The museum was originally opened in 1948, move in 1976, and totally renovated in 1998.

As I say, fascinating, if the boys had been a bit bigger, we may have been able to read the exhibits with a little more time.  But we all enjoyed it.

We took a little stroll around town.  Dotted all around are bear figures, decorated in different styles.  The Bear Project started in 2005 with the intention of showcasing talented artists in the area (source).  They are well cool!

We headed down towards Ocanaluftee Islands Park.  Nestled in the centre of Cherokee, this is a collection of island in the middle of the Ocanaluftee river.  The water is shallow, and looks fairly clean, so I imagine it would be good for wading in the summer.  Not in January though!  They have an amazing bamboo forest you can walk through.

Nice to see geese in the water, rather than a field!

Not long after, we headed back to the cabin.  We had certainly enjoyed our time away.  Going away over Christmas is a pretty good idea.  I think it may be something we do again while we are here.  Particularly when the boys are off for nearly 3 weeks. Maybe next year we will go somewhere hot.  Caribbean cruise anyone?

You wouldn't get a view like this though.......