threekidsintow

O'Sullivan family travels and beyond


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June is bustin’ out all over!

Sunshine, then cold blustery storms, then prolonged heatwave … honestly, we can wear clothes for every season in the same month!

June is a busy time for us – birthdays, Father’s Day – so we are still as hectic as ever. Ian’s birthday was first. We bought him a samovar, a much smaller and less elaborate (for that read ‘cheaper’) version of those we saw on the Trans Siberian Railway last year. Actually, truth be told we are not even sure if it is Russian. The seller researched a bit more after we bought it and now thinks it was used in the war, possibly in Anderson shelters during air raids. Whatever its history, we just hope it makes a good brew at the allotment. We also chose a lovely selection of local beers from The Bottleneck in Broadstairs, so if the tea is not flowing, no doubt the Gadds, the Romney Porter or the Whitstable Ale will be.

Father’s Day was equally fruitful, with presents of Bamberg Rauchbier from the little ones and tickets to the British Beer festival from Eoin … I am beginning to see a theme here. He also got some lovely homemade cards and some local honey, another of his favourites.

This month Ian also went to spend time with a friend in London, visiting London Bridge and Borough Market where the terrible attacks happened very recently. We feel it is important to carry on positively at these times. However, more sad news followed, with London experiencing a terrible tower block fire. It is unimaginable to lose everything so quickly. The month also saw a horrific attack outside a Mosque as people were returning from prayer. Truly saddening times.

Ian enjoyed being back in London, as did Seamus, who was well and truly spoiled, although obviously it was a tiring journey.

Speaking of being spoiled, Orla enjoyed quite a few celebrations for her birthday, opening lots of presents and then enjoying a trip to the cinema and a meal with school friends and family the following day. We went to see Beauty and The Beast, which everyone agreed was great. I don’t think anyone noticed me crying at the end.

As a family we loved the annual Le Weekend celebration in Sandwich. The town embraced all things French, so there was a real French Market with visiting French stall holders selling their local produce and wares such as bread, cheese, tartiflette or Jacques Tati movies, alongside live music and entertainment. We loved the Can Can dancers (who hailed from Canterbury!) and the folk bands. Oo la la! The town was decorated in tricolor bunting and there were stalls and many visitors everywhere. It is so nice to see such vibrant activities and something where everyone mingles and soaks in the atmosphere. Vive la Sandwich!

Whilst there, visited the (very) small Guildhall Museum where Seamus enjoyed dressing as a knight and the girls answered an activity sheet.

Closer to home, we saw the wonderful St Peter’s Village Tour when we walked to our local Co-op. Let’s face it, not everyone gets to see Queen Victoria when they pop to the shops for some milk. Seamus loved the guys in the stocks and was invited to throw knitted vegetables at them as their punishment. It seems the naughty step is not such a recent invention.

With Dickens’ Week well under way, Seamus and I took advantage of a nursery inset day and managed to join the Victorian Bathers as we strolled along Viking Bay.  It was hilarious. Thank you for making us feel so welcome and for letting us take part in the fantastic Dickens Festival celebrations.

 

The festivities last throughout a week in June every year.  It’s wonderful to see costumed characters promenading around the town and a host of great events.

 

This month, we were fortunate to be invited to a friend’s graduation ceremony at Beech Grove, a Bruderhof community of 250 people. It was wonderful to hear the speeches given to and by the graduating students and nice to spend time with everyone after the ceremony. Although the community welcomes visitors with regular open days and meal invitations, this was a more private occasion (hence respectfully I wouldn’t wish to take or post any photographs) and it was an honour to see our friend at such a pivotal moment. The open days are so interesting and the community members have always made us feel welcome. Their values are strong, their ethos to help others is shown all they do (we spoke with people who had recently worked with refugees in Lesbos) and as a family, I think we take something from every visit.

Our family took time to support the #greatgettogether a weekend of community events in memory of Jo Cox MP. We went to a get together at St James’ in Margate and met people from the local area, some of whom originated from Kansas, Germany and London. Homemade cakes, tea and a chance to meet new folks…. love it! I really hope the Great Get Together is repeated in years to come – such a lovely idea from such a terrible tragedy. It reminds you how wonderful it is when communities come together.

 

So with a house full of lovely language students every week, and the final school term well underway,it’s as busy as ever. We have been lucky to enjoy fabulous walks, (cycle and scoot) to school in glorious sunshine…

… sometimes stopping to feed the donkeys or visit the horses on the journey home. How great is that! Let’s hope the good weather continues for the up and coming sports days,an inter schools’ race tomorrow and other events we have planned over the coming days and weeks.

 

 

 

 


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Half term is here again

Wow, the year is whizzing by. Half term arrived again. It started in typical fashion – with a storm, heavy rain and thunder and lightning, but that cleared after about 30 minutes to bring glorious sunshine and scorching temperatures. Seamus loved splashing and singing in the rain while it lasted, even if he was still in his pyjamas!

So when the blue skies returned and the temperature soared, we were needed at the allotment. We answered Ian’s call in style, marching into the allotment singing Hi-Ho, like the seven dwarfs going to work … albeit slightly fewer in number.  It was all hands on deck to help cover Ian’s poly-tunnel. It’s so large we are considering naming it The O’Sullivan O2! Once the doors are on, it will be great for the tomatoes. I felt like I lost a few pounds being inside it as we fixed the plastic, it was unbearably sauna-like in there! To say Ian’s happy that it is one step closer to completion would be an understatement.

But the holidays are not all work, work, work.  Italy may have the fantastic Mille Miglia, but as we are UK based, we headed to Margate to see super scooters. Last year we had to wear woolly hats and scarves but this year it was sun-cream, t-shirts and shorts. Viva la Vespa!

We have been joined by another child this half term, so the three kids in tow blog needs to be temporarily renamed and renumbered to four (not counting our langauge students who live with us each week).  I took all four kids to enjoy the wonderful music at Broadstairs Bandstand. This Sunday, the band was Goosebumps, who were really good. The bandstand is a perfect spot for chilling with an ice lolly or cup of tea. We often go with a home made picnic. We are so fortunate to have a choice of lovely places and free events to take everyone. Our half term ‘staycation’ is well and truly within budget so far.

Everything is better is cake though. We popped in to support The Four Candles (one of the local micropubs) charity cake sale and ate them at the St Peter’s Dickens Mosaic opposite. It is Britain’s smallest brewpub, so it was quite a squeeze to get in to choose what we were going to buy and sitting at the mosaic gave us much more elbow room. The Victoria sponge got the biggest thumbs up, but my vote went to the chocolate beetroot cake, which was yummier than it sounds. We hope they managed to raise a good amount for the fantastic Macmillan charity.

The mosaic is lovely, depicting characters such as Oliver Twist, Ebeneezer Scrooge and Mr Bumble. There is even Bullseye, Bill Sykes’ dog.  Soon it will be Broadstairs’ Dickens Week, so we will be surrounded by Dickens characters and Victorian costumes around the town non stop, so this was a good way to get us in the mood.

This bank holiday Monday, we spent time in Ramsgate to see the Spring Spectacular which featured bi-plane aerobatics and a display from a Mark 16 Hurricane and the “Spirit of Kent” Spitfire. Naturally, the kids only had eyes for the fun fair, which was extremely loud and more than just a bit grubby – especially in the kiddies fun house. It was quite tricky to see the cycle show due to the number of people crowded round, so sadly we missed most of the stunts and tricks as I couldn’t get the kids near enough to see very much.  All in all, what should have been a lovely day out, was much more expensive than planned (I didn’t know the fun fair was going to be there) and although I enjoyed them, the attractions/displays we went especially to see left the kids a bit underwhelmed and moany… always a good recipe for the bus ride home.

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However, it was particularly lovely to walk back via the harbour, which looked wonderful. We took time to pop into the Sailors Church too. The Sailors’ Church and Harbour Mission was built in 1878 by Eustace Brenan. He saw the need for spiritual guidance and physical help for the men and boys who made up the crews of the sailing smacks who fished out of Ramsgate. It was dangerous, arduous work, especially for the young apprentices who were called Smack Boys. When the apprentices were ashore, they were provided with some comfort in the rooms above the church and later, in the Smack Boys Home next door. It is a small church, but quite interesting and regularly holds services inviting everyone to attend.

  

Broadstairs really looks wonderful in the summer – day trippers, language students and locals all enjoying the beach and more. I didn’t take the photo below, but it shows the promenade off in all its glory.  Soon we will have fireworks in the evening to look forward to. Always lovely, especially when they combine it with music at the bandstand during July and August.

There are some lovely things to see in Broadstairs, some little hidden gems in places too.

One way to get to know our area better was to try the Explorer’s Pack which is avaible to hire in Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate. #coastalexplorers. The waterproof backpack can be hired for £5 and contains activity cards and equipment to help discover the natural environment and local heritage. There are marine identifaction guides, compasses and a trail map showing where you do activities such as ‘art on the beach’, ‘seaweed and shell search’, ‘write a postcard’, ‘play hopscotch’ and learn about the weather and clouds. We learned how to make a sundial in the sand, how to spot whether the tide was in or out. Cards give information about the area and its history, encouraging kids to spot clues and make stories. Seamus loved the binoculars, Orla liked the mini microscope and net. It was a different way to get to know our beach. #coastalexplorers. We hired ours from Lillyput Minigolf, but Ramsgate and Margate packs are available from their visitor centres.

 

As all seaside towns, we have the amusement arcades. The kids love to visit and play on the 2p machines. I honestly think they like the machine which converts the change as much as the actual amusements! A few ‘lucky’ wins, a lot of 2ps inserted randomly resulting in noise and flashing lights, we were then able to trade our tickets for two key fobs and a badge! Of course, the kids were delighted and think this represents a grand haul in recognition of their skills.

The following day, we had beautiful sunshine again while we played mini golf at Lillyput Crazy Golf. The grounds looked lovely with flowers in bloom. Admittedly, there was a wee bit of cheating going on at times (I said I wouldn’t mention any names, didn’t I Seamus?!) but everyone seemed to enjoy it.

Pierremont Park has been a lovely little oasis for us, sitting under the trees for shade. It’s a perfect spot to eat our chips or sandwiches and close enough to pop to the Co-op for some refreshing ice lollies. We made a couple of trips there this half term. At lunchtimes, it fills with students from the local language schools, gathering together to chat and share pizza and giggles, but is equally used by families and those wanting to spend a few moments reading their book. I was lucky enough to pick up a book left on the seat, inside was inscribed that it was free and to be passed on … I may drop a few around town myself to keep the spirit of sharing going.

Back in the house, the first of the broadbeans have been harvested and eaten. Seamus and Orla did a good job of preparing them for dinner soon after they were picked. As you can see, the usual pose of sitting on the kitchen floor has been resumed!

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May 2014 – baby Seamus starting young

And finally, as the week draws to a close, preparation is well underway for Ian (Daddy’s) birthday. The kids have been painting the box for his gift. Best not say too much more incase he reads this! Fingers crossed, we hope he likes it. That reminds me, we need to pop to the shop to buy a few more candles!!

All in all, we have been extremely fortunate to have had such lovely weather this half term. As usual, there has been lots of things to do in Thanet for children. The countdown for school has begun as I start to put the PE kits in their bags and dig out the shoe polish. School on Monday – phew, I’ll be glad for a wee rest!

 

 


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Mad Science, May Queens and more Mayhem…..

Well, the Easter holidays are over and it’s back to school for everyone.  Not that my children had the ‘Back to school blues’ as they had so much to look forward to this term.  On the first day back, Aoife’s class dressed up to learn about the Tudors.  Granted, her costume may have ventured more toward Maid Marion than Anne of Cleaves, but it did the trick.  It seems almost impossible to buy girls’ costumes without them being extremely short, very tight or so revealing they look like it was bought from a branch of ‘Anne Summers’. Argh!!  Anyway, I think we pulled it off and she looked good in this dress hence the Maid Marionesque style rather than medieval wench.

A day or two later and it was Seamus’ turn to dress up. He had to wear red and white for ‘England Day.’ He made a small St George and the Dragon from a paper plate and a toilet roll tube to take in, as he had been learning the story in nursery. They played cricket, ate strawberries and sang happy birthday to the Queen who is celebrating her 91st birthday.

I am even more convinced my children’s schools have shares in Amazon and ebay as before the week was out, ANOTHER costume was required. This time it was Orla’s turn. Her school has decided to have a topic about potions so children could dress as scientists or wizards. We gave our Harry Potter outfit to a friend and Orla went as Professor Orla McClever-Cloggs, the lab’s chief scientist and Hadron Collider polisher. Her hair looked amazing when we backcombed and sprayed it and the oversized lab coat added to the desired effect. I see a career in science on the cards.

The science theme continued when we spent a lovely Saturday in nearby Ramsgate to visit Thanet Space Lab. This is a pop up event by Discovery Planet working alongside the university and UK Space Agency. The kids made and measured craters and then designed plating to protect a space craft, which was tested by firing a gun! Needless to say, they really enjoyed that bit. As always, the dress up box came in handy and Seamus went as an astronaut.

The weather was lovely, so after the event (and with our little astronaut in tow) we went to have a picnic of home-made sandwiches and then enjoyed a lovely walk around Ramsgate sea front.

Discovery Planet then held a competition for children to show how they would make clear ice at home. Seamus took part. He wanted to make it in a funny shape, so after discounting using a rubber glove and he decided to pour water in a plastic brain shaped jelly mold. He froze it in the freezer and then took a photo the following day, reporting back on the experiment. Later, he went round the house saying “My brain is melting!” Ha ha ha.

We attended a great event at the Theatre Royal in Margate, solving a real life Scooby Doo Mystery.  The bad guy would have got away with it if it hadn’t been for us meddling kids!  The kids and I invited a friend and his mum to join us and had lots of fun.  Together, we ventured round the entire theatre – the box office, the stalls, the gallery, back stage, in the prop room – collecting clues and cracking codes which eventually led to the missing treasure and meant the theatre is safe again. Phew!

 

During the Bank Holiday Weekend, we also enjoyed a beautiful afternoon in Sandwich during their 1940s three-day event. Dressed as a Land Girl and evacuees with little labels, the kids saw re-enactments, fantastic costumes, military vehicles and more. The whole town got into the spirit of things with shop window displays decorated in 1940s styles and we it was lovely to potter around.  Even the Park and Ride bus was playing Vera Lynn and Gracie Fields.  Seamus particularly enjoyed joining the Desert Rats, and so did Aoife.  Though Orla said the high light was going to the park and sweet shop.

The kids were asked to participate in the St Andrew’s Church / Reading Street May Queen event. Both Aoife and Orla were asked to be attendants and Seamus, a chimney sweep. We thought it wise to swap the authentic heavy sweeping brush with a lightweight plastic one!

We made lots of cakes to go with the afternoon tea which followed. The event saw Morris Dancers, maypoling Brownies in the church, and the afternoon tea was supported with entertainment from a fabulous duo called Einstein’s Children and a lovely performance from Kent Show Choir. It was a really nice community event and a lovely get-together. This is the kind of thing I love!

 

In the words of Monty Python,”And now for something completely different…” it’s time for a tadpole update. They grew and grew. We gave some to the local infant school so they could chart the life cycle and also donated a few to the junior school pond when Orla said the Nature Club frog was MIA, however the majority are now living in plush accommodation at the allotment. Ian made a pond, recycling an old Belfast sink and when it was ready with pond weed and rocks, we re-homed our tadpoles. Seamus really enjoyed the whole process of looking after them.  Oh, and finally, my kitchen is now a frog free zone 🙂

So as May is underway, the rugby season has come to an end. I survived my first complete season helping coach the u6s … and more importantly survived the after training water pistol fight! Brrr!!

Hopefully, if we organise a few beach training sessions over the summer the weather should be warmer, but this is England so there is no guarantee.

One thing for sure, our family will keep trying to find lots of fun things to do in Broadstairs and beyond.

 

 


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Spring forward

Well, the nights are getting much lighter and my daffodils are out, so it must be mean that Spring is finally here.

The last few weeks have been busy with after-school activities – Aoife representing her school at tournaments of hockey, rugby and netball, Orla running in the Cross country and singing at Margate Winter Gardens Festival of Song, Seamus’ Nursery presentation for parents, as well as Orla having various friends to tea …. Thank goodness we have a calendar.

     

 

However, it looks like the sport will be on hold for a while with regard to Aoife due to her injured foot but Seamus (and I) will have to still keep playing every weekend – rain or shine.

 

Nevertheless, that wasn’t an excuse for Aoife to do nothing. She still chose to complete her full shift at Tescos packing bags to raise money for the team kit and their tour…. although I did hear that the customer in the final picture was the trickiest, ha ha.

 

Seamus has been looking after his frog spawn, which he gathered from our neighbours’ pond. Big debate as to where they should live – they are currently in the kitchen on the strict understanding that this is reviewed when they start getting legs. The Tadpole Diary is well underway and he thinks it is fascinating. It reminded me of visiting Sedgefield Country Park as a child with a net and a jam jar – I wonder how much of this Seamus will remember and whether he’ll inherit Ian’s mother’s love of wildlife.  He’s taking the job of caring for his tadpoles very, very seriously.

Ian is currently planting. At the time of writing, my living room window sill is filled with brussell sprouts germinating, the laundry room has potatoes chitting and my dining table is covered in newspaper while he transplants his leeks. Can’t wait for them to make the next part of their journey – to the allotment!

The kids are often ‘roped in’ to help too. Aoife has been collecting seaweed and hops, whilst Seamus is known to make the regular trip to the stables for manure with a wheelbarrow. Orla earns her pocket money as sorting the seeds and being a chamber maid, helping me change beds for the students.  Ssshhhh, don’t tell them about minimum wage entitlements.

 

During a rare student free weekend, we made a visit to Bristol to see Eoin – a very long round trip with an overnight stay and a very welcome beer (or two) after the drive. We know we are getting old when we reminisce how his student flat has much more than Ian and I ever had at our respective ‘digs’ – more than one bathroom, a dishwasher, wifi and heating!

Seamus is still getting used to Eoin having a beard and can’t wait to grow one to match, although we have explained that may take sometime.

It would have been nice to stay a bit longer and see more of Bristol, as it is fair to say that it was a rush getting back to pick up our next group of language students. Lots of numb bums on the way home.

 

Did I mention how far it was …..?

We might no longer be traveling, but as we’ve mentioned, the world is still coming to us in the form of international students. And even when they are from very familiar countries, we try to extend that even further by making food from around the world.  A recent evening meal transformed into Mexican night with fajitas, salsa and nachos. The sombreros and moustaches made for some quite interesting selfies for the students and we hope they had a giggle and will remember us fondly. The kids enjoyed the silliness and it’s one of their favourite meals so we might have to make it a regular. Ian, you’ll just have to feign surprise if we give you a Mexican themed birthday meal later this year.

We love keeping up with traditions closer to home too, and it’s time to turn our hand to Easter Bonnet making.  Last year’s travels meant getting rid of a lot of our ‘junk’ before we went, so we had to shop for new Easter chicks, hats, feathers and other seasonal tat required for our individual masterpieces.  Fingers crossed they hold together long enough for the school parade.  Note to self – don’t let the four year old choose a design requiring feathers and glue next year.

What do you reckon? Cool, eh?

As the weather has (sometimes) been kind, we are really enjoying our walk to school, particularly as the magnolia is in bloom. But it’s fair to say, the kids are also looking forward to the end of term. We’ve got the Broadstair’s Easter trail and also a Thanet Coastal Scavenger Hunt to look forward to and hope to be able to fit in a beach trip or two.  Til then, we’ll keep plodding on  xxx

 

 

 


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Dressing up and more…

It’s been a busy start to the year, including a bout of chicken pox. Now we are spot free and hurtling towards Spring.

The fun this week has come from World Book Day, where the children were able to dress as different characters. Shay’s school had a Roald Dahl theme, so he went as James and the Giant Peach, despite my best efforts to persuade him to be an Oompa Loompa. He helped with the costume and was over the moon with the result.  Orla also had the challenge to be photographed reading in an unusual place. Is this wacky enough?!

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The dressing up theme continued with Orla dressing up as a Roman to support the class topic. This must be the most recycled costume ever – I’ve used it for Nativity angels (twice), a previous Roman day, and an Egyptian day. Managed to get my money’s worth after being stung by Amazon delivery prices after all.  Orla and I made the headdress from cardboard packaging and the sash is an old bedsheet, which also a homemade Statue of Liberty Costume at one point. Surely some parental brownie points are due for effort 🙂

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We have been enjoying more than our fair share of pancakes too. Firstly at a community event which held a Pancake Party. We had soup, hotdogs, pancakes with toppings, with a sing a long and a nail-biting beetle drive to boot. Aoife was a champion pancake flipper, managing an impressive 59 flips. The evening was a lovely idea – thank you to those who organised it.  On Shrove Tuesday, we had pancakes at home for tea. After this, I think I will find it easy to give up pancakes for Lent.

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We’ve also celebrated Aoife’s birthday with a pizza party at the fabulous Pizza Express, near Ramsgate harbour. They all had great fun making their own pizzas and it was lovely to see the girls chatting and giggling together.  Sadly, Seamus was too spotty to join us but spent a nice time with Daddy at the harbour and got to eat a lot of spare pizza.

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Good job we have rugby to burn it all off.  Aoife continues to enjoy playing and Seamus loves being with the U6s every week. I am getting increasingly more muddy every week as I help out ‘coaching’ his team.   Washing machine, don’t fail me now.   Rugby has been brilliant fun for the kids and we are lucky to have Thanet Wanderers RUFC so close by.  It is great to see so many kids (and shivering mums and dads) turning out each Sunday.

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Orla has kept the sporty theme going by taking part in Thanet Schools’ Cross Country event again.  She ran with over 130 Year 4 girls in the freezing cold. Well done, Orla!

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Even on cold days, we’ve ventured to the beach occasionally, but mostly motivated by the promise of an ice cream from Morelli’s and a trip to the penny arcades.

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We were also lucky enough to be contacted by some long-lost friends who were traveling to Margate for a day trip to the Turner Gallery, It was fantastic to catch up after and I hope they keep their promise to come to us this summer.  The exhibits at the gallery were beautiful and interesting, with displays made from fabric and furnishings.  One exhibit was the models of penguins. They were like small children and had plimsolls on their feet – definitely a Dr Who plot in the making.   At the gallery, the kids also were able to take part in the weekend workshops which were wonderful – weaving, knitting, drawing and card making.  Our London friends really enjoyed their visit, as did we.

 

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Half term was equally busy. We were joined by a boy from Spain who was on a break from his boarding school and lived with us for the week. So with ‘FOUR kids in tow’, we managed arts, cooking, cinema and Scalextric challenge at Hornby Visitor Centre along with a trip to Powell Cotton Museum at Quex  keeping everyone busy….. I know I was shattered!

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After all that, we are just waiting for Spring, … and of course, getting ready to make our Easter Bonnets!


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Happy New Year 2017

This time last year we were packing up, enduring lots of injections and getting ready to travel.  Goodness knows where we would be now if we had been able to keep to our plan of 18 months away. As it is, we’re home, it’s winter and the days are whizzing by.

We did manage to find a gap in our student hosting schedule to have a few days away over Christmas. We went to The Netherlands and Belgium, so we DID get to spend Christmas abroad. We went to De Kempervennen CenterParcs in Holland as it was not too far to drive yet would feel like a break from the UK. We stayed for a few days over Christmas. The kids loved it.  They did get their Christmas stockings filled and hoped that any larger gifts from Santa would be waiting for when they get back. We self catered but we did have our Christmas meal in the restaurant. I don’t know if Seamus was under the weather, too excited or too tired, but he chose to only eat half an ice cream cone and ignore the rest of the buffet options. Don’t you just love them when they do that?!

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The chalet was lovely. The children loved the on-site farm and we went to visit the animals on Christmas morning. Guinea pigs are going to be on next year’s Christmas list. Seamus loved feeding the goats, Orla like the deer and Aoife loved a very small fluffy sheep.

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We paid a visit to Valkenswaard War Cemetery nearby.  The kids were surprised at the age of the soldiers and the range of regiments they came from.  It is quite heartbreaking to think about all those young lives wasted and although sombre, we always take time to visit the war graves whenever we are in Europe.

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Perhaps most surprising was our visit to Mechelen . Although frequent visitors to Belgium, it was our first time here and we loved it.  We visited the historic sites, walked along the river at night and ate Belgium chips and waffles. Beautiful and uncrowded (we popped into our old favourite, Bruges on the way home and it was ridiculously busy!) I would recommend Mechelen and would love to go again.

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The highlight of any trip (and the only non-child specific activity we did) is going to a brewery. Ian and I sat with our tasters of Belgium Beers at the Carolus Brewery and the kids were great playing cards and eating cheese. Ooops, looks like we over ordered. Hic!

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All in all, we were only away for a few days, but it was amazing what we managed to squeeze in.

Now it is back to the usual routine and it looks like we are going to have a busy year with back to back students, so no real chance for another break for some time. We currently have Japanese students staying with us and next week we will have Belgium teenagers. The house is busy and my laundry is never-ending!

Today, as Aoife and Seamus’ rugby was cancelled due to the frost (hooray!!!), we went to Margate. We saw The Little Prince Pub  where there is only room for 6 customers! Afterwards we walked to the Shell Grotto … again! It can be tricky trying to find things to do with three kids and our students, but we do our best and just hope everyone is having a good time.

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Baking has been popular in our household recently… guess we are missing The Great British Bake Off.  The kids made biscuits and delivered them to all the neighbours (11 houses!) on New Years Day, which went down a treat. They got thank you letters and muffins in return! We have been encouraging the students to cook too, even when that means they want to make enough cakes and cookies to share with the whole language college the next day!

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Our next event is Aoife’s birthday at the end of this month. She is having a pizza making party and looking forward to spending time with her school friends.  We’ve made up the party bags (a dream catcher kit and some chocolate) and now she wants to make her own birthday cake … oh joy, more baking!

 

 


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Christmas is coming….

“Where’s the tape?”

“Here it is, under the paper.”

“Now where did I put the scissors!”

“Where’s the tape … I swear I just had it!”

This is a scene on a constant loop at the moment in our house as Christmas preparations are well underway… and yes, I DO talk to myself!   Lists have been written and sent to Santa, carols have been sung and for the first time ever, we weren’t the last ones to put our tree up.  However, I am getting ahead of myself.

It’s been a busy month with language students

and also Ian becoming the minibus driver for the language college. We have been lucky to have had some wonderful students stay with us and hope they have had a wonderful time in the UK.

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We’ve tried to do memorable things, such as having an English cream tea. Seamus made a wonderful waiter, showing everyone to their seats. Check out the tie! We had an early Christmas celebration bringing out the Xmas crackers and mince pies as well having as sushi and noodle nights too.

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We’ve also had the kids and students baking. Team Cupcake vs Team Cookie. We’ve even perfected the “British Bake Off pose” of waiting by the oven as the lovely cakes and biscuits cook. The students got to take lots of cookies to their class friends, which went down very well, although I must say the supervised batch was better than the later efforts 🙂

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We visited the impressive Shell Grotto in Margate, where millions of shells set in intricate patterns were discovered in 1835. It is not known who decorated the grotto, when or indeed why.  It’s worth a wee visit for those who are in the area and due to its size, it doesn’t take too long to see meaning we then had time to pop into the Turner Gallery on Sunday afternoon after rugby.

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Staying in Broadstairs, we always enjoy going to feed carrots and apples to the donkeys and alpacas near Elmwood Farm, very close to our house. We pass them every day on the way to school. Seamus thinks they are very funny. Usually it is the greedy donkeys which come the closest but we were lucky enough to have a visit from the alpacas (…or are they llamas, I don’t really know)

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We took the kids to see the beautiful lights on the boats at Ramsgate Harbour. Each year, more and more boats take part and the effect is wonderful. It was great to see the houses decorated with Christmas lights on the way back. It is amazing the effort some people go to.

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Orla has recently been asked to join the school choir and it was really nice to see her performing at the Tree Festival in St Peter’s Church where dozens of trees had been decorated by schools, shops and community groups such as the Scouts, walking and friendship groups. We went with our lovely neighbour and we even saw Father Christmas there.

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Our own tree is equally impressive with a team effort on the decorating front (bar Daddy, the armchair supervisor) I always love having a Christmas tree and have collected decorations over many years. Some were made by friends who are no longer with us, many were made by the kids when they were small and some come from different places we have visited. The tree is so special to me and I can’t imagine not having it each year. Thank you kids for doing such a great job and for not breaking my one legged pipe cleaner elf.

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There is still 11 days to go, and the kids have a school panto, nursery party, year 4 party, school carol service and U6s rugby party to go. We will be meeting up with big brother before Christmas too and hope he takes his present of beard baubles in good humour! it was that or a shaving kit.

I still have wrapping to do. Seamus helped me make the ‘punch a present’ game which was very popular last year even though everyone was ill (photos 2 and 3 were taken last year) Everyone has to perform a little task before being able to break through the paper for their present. Here’s hoping we are all still in fine form to enjoy it again soon… and I get the rest of the wrapping done in time for the big day itself!

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