threekidsintow

O'Sullivan family travels and beyond


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Eking out the rest of the Easter holiday

Whoa, it must be said that this has been a long school break. The actual Easter Bank Holiday seems such a long time ago, although we still are working our way through too many chocolate eggs as we dig out the PE kits and polish the school shoes.

The first week was quite busy, but we still had a lot to fit in the second one too…

Ready, steady, bake. We were busy in the kitchen making cakes. Seamus was in charge of chocolate crispy cakes – he seriously believes it is a secret recipe! Orla and Aoife decorated cupcakes with different flavoured butter-creams and chocolate decorations. My role – washing up!

Their wares were taken to the rugby club for a fund-raising sale to boost the Under 6s fund. Seamus and the team made lots of great signs, parents and kids contributed with some wonderful looking cakes and it came together brilliantly.  Orla and some older siblings manned the stall whilst we played but then everyone took turns to sell, buy and eat.  In total through donations, the U6s raised over £130 and a huge sugar rush! Wow!

 

More cake was enjoyed when we made a visit to the Pavilion Youth and Community Cafe.  Recently opened it is a brilliant little cafe, open to the general public in the morning and early afternoon but becoming a youth cafe after school. During the Easter holidays they provided free sandwiches for children as well as some great activities. The kids painted pictures, played table football and chatted. Outside they played swing ball and football. It is a wonderful addition to the area and such a great, friendly concept – we had a fantastic time.

 

We enjoy being out and about and have made the most of a few bright Spring days to visit the park.

Wetter days saw us in the library or finding things to do at home.

Aoife and Orla each took a friend to join us for a fun day out to the cinema to see ‘Duck Duck Goose’, followed by a fluffy slime workshop. The children loved measuring and mixing, choosing colours and creating some very strange gloopy concoctions resulting in their stretchy slime. Aoife in particular loves playing with it.

Much more natural beauty was enjoyed when we visited the Garden Gate Project’s Open Day. We made Green Man masks out of leaves, chalk pictures in the style of the cave drawings of Margate Caves and shared cake and good company in wonderful grounds. The Garden Gate is a place where people, particularly those with learning disabilities, social anxieties and mental health issues can work, learn, share skills, socialise and enjoy. We loved sharing their public open day and look forward to their upcoming events.

Seamus had to return to school earlier than his sisters, who made the most of an additional inset day with a trip to Go Ape at Leeds Castle. They wore harnesses and walked amongst the trees on wooden gangways and platforms high above the ground. Both were in their element on the zip wire and increased in confidence on every circuit. The staff were amazing and the setting was stunning – what a fun experience and great family day out (ssssh, just don’t tell Seamus!)

However, he hasn’t missed out as he was included in lots of activities out before he went back and has been busy at home too. He and his sisters organised their own magic show (ticket sales were a little disappointing: 1 … but at least I got the best seat in the house.) Orla had been learning magic at an after school club and Aoife received a magic kit for Christmas. They shared out a variety of tricks to show and were actually quite entertaining …

 

On another day when the weather was dreary, we took the train to Deal to go swimming. It had been such a long time since we swam, and this was our first visit to Tides, but we had a lot of fun. The kids enjoyed the water slide and stopping for pizza afterwards before we headed home.

 

Now that the weather  is finally improving, it is so nice to enjoy some sun. The horses are in the fields, my favourite Magnolia trees are at their best and the walk back to school has never been more pleasant. It has been a busy half term, and we are fortunate to have many things for kids to do in Thanet, many of which are free or low-cost and some great places to visit… let’s hope we just have the energy to keep going to them.

 

 

 

 


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Hatching a plan for an egg-citing Easter!

Happy Easter!

On the last day of the school term, Seamus wore his Easter hat for the school parade. It was so lovely to see a sea of bonnets on the way to school.

School finished early that day for both him and the girls, so with a school friend in tow, we went straight to Broadstairs to join in the Chamber of Commerce’s Easter Trail, where a variety of shops gave out sweeties and chocolate eggs to children wearing Easter bonnets. Thankfully we completed the whole route before the rain started and gathered some lovely treats … and a carrot.

Easter got into full swing when we went to Planet Thanet’s Easter Beer Festival on Good Friday, joined by big brother. Taking our usual spots in the balcony (so we weren’t in the way) we got to try a few wonderful CAMRA beers and ciders … and for some, apple juices! Cheers.

The following day we headed to the Spring Food Festival at Broadstair’s Pierremont Park to sample and buy food from the region. The brownies went down particularly well!

The next day was Easter Sunday. Sporting our Mad Hatter’s hats we joined the colourful Ramsgate Parade through the High Street to the events at the Harbour. The Marina was filled with people enjoying the spinning teacups, an egg hunt, having their face painted and glitter tattoos and browsing round the stalls.  It was lovely to stop for some cake and have our tea (squash) poured by the Mad Hatter when we got to have a sit down. A massive thank you to Ramsgate Town Team, AiR and everyone else who helped make the day happen … and to the people who bought our hats in the Mad Hatter’s charity auction (especially the kind lady who donated one back to us!)

 

We enjoyed a peaceful afternoon at the Shell Grotto, making the most of our family pass. It’s amazing, although curiously frustrating, that so little is known about its history.  We also want to know who had to count the 4.6 million shells!

If you’re looking for things to do with kids during the holidays, we really are very fortunate here, with lots going on and some wonderful places to visit. Many of the things we do are free or low cost and as you can see, there is an amazing variety to see and be part of . We’re still discovering new places.

The sun shone as we headed to forest school in Margate. Thanet Community Forest school, a brilliant community project, opened it’s doors (or should that be gates) for a morning of fun family activities. Seamus loved sawing branches to make his wooden bunny, the girls wove willow wreaths and made wonderful woollen displays. Making bird feeders and bug hotels, we really got to be hands on and try so many things. The Easter Bunny made an appearance too, so we headed to the brambles to hunt for chocolate eggs he had hidden. It was our first time visiting and we had fantastic fun. We can’t wait to go back!

The great outdoors beckoned again when we headed to Ramsgate Beach for the Seashore Safari. We completed a scavenger hunt and collected ray and shark egg cases (mermaids’ purses) to be counted. Orla surprised everyone by finding 21!  The morning finished with some wonderful sand art where we made sea turtles, sharks and jelly fish out of sand, shells and seaweed. Thank you so much @ThanetCoastProj

We are very fortunate to have access to some wonderful coastline and it was brilliant to learn more about the bird and marine life we have on our doorstep. We also talked about hazards which endanger our coast and seas, such as litter and plastic. It’s dreadful to think of the damage we humans do, so we’ll try to pop along to the Big Beach Clean later this year to do our bit.

 

Now that Spring is here, the wildlife is everywhere and the frogs are returning to our pond. The kids enjoyed spotting them and noticing the first of the spawn at the allotment. Ian is spending a lot of time there at the moment, potting and planting, all ready for the start of the growing season.

So we’re only 7 days in to the school holidays (phew!) but we’ve been extremely busy and have had a cool Easter so far.  What with frog spawn, Mermaids’ purses, chocolate eggs – we really have been seeing eggs everywhere … including huge dinosaur eggs at our local shopping centre! Watch out, it’s hatching!!!

 

 


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Spring has sprung but the snow keeps returning

Signs of spring briefly started to show, bringing a bit of cheer for us all.  It was so nice to see the bulbs peeking through …. but then Mini Beast from the East struck, bringing with it even more snow. What a month!

I was invited to spend time at the girls’ school for an afternoon Mothers’ Day tea. We were treated to lovely cupcakes and time with our children. Orla performed in the choir, which was very sweet to hear. A lovely idea repeated for every year group and even featured in the local newspaper (here’s the link)

The Girl Power continued when we celebrated International Women’s Day with a bang! We joined lots of people at the launch of POW Thanet (Power of Women) at Margate’s Turner Contemporary. The event began with the premiere of Voice100, the audio art piece marking 100 years since women achieved the right to vote. Award winning artist Emily Peasgood interviewed 100 people, which included us! We had recorded our voices at her studio earlier this year and had no clue how the finished piece would sound. A brilliant evening with both of my girls celebrating art, history, empowerment and women (it was too late for Seamus to join us, despite his voice being featured in the piece.) We met some lovely people, saw some bizarre art which made us think and smile, and supported artists who were brave enough to bring their ideas to life.  POW!

 

Aoife has been very busy with her sport. She recently competed in Primary School Quick Sticks Hockey competition which means her school team will now go on to represent Thanet in the Kent finals!

As well as that she’s been playing in Netball friendlies and a tournament these past few weeks which resulted in her school team losing out 1-0 in the final to achieve the silver medal.

All this sportiness was celebrated in school further with events to raise money for Sport Relief. The girls got to wear sporty clothes instead of their usual uniform.

At home,  Seamus has worked really hard titivating his Easter Bonnet ready for his school parade. He obviously decided against the ‘less is more’ approach to creativity, so it’s got chickens, eggs, feathers, lots and lots of flowers and huge felt carrots on it.  A true one of a kind creation!  Aoife’s featured a spring garden of homemade origami flowers and Orla went for delicate blossoms on top and even underneath the brim. Sadly there’s no Easter Bonnet parade in Broadstairs this year as the venue in the park is changing owners, but we’ll have an opportunity to wear them at the Broadstairs Easter Trail later this month.

We kept working on our Mad Hatters hats at home too.  Aoife continued her passion for origami, covering her hat with delicate paper butterflies and featuring a small Alice and the snooty caterpillar. Orla’s hat has chess board squares and the Cheshire Cat with a big pink and purple tail at the back. Seamus’s looks very tasty indeed with biscuits, ‘Eat me / drink me’ labels and colourful bottles. It even includes the little dormouse balancing on the rim. They spent a long time perfecting their creations and I love how they each had different ideas within the same Alice in Wonderland theme. We took them back to the workshop at AiR (Art in Ramsgate) to add a few finishing touches and are looking forward to the Ramsgate Easter Parade on 1st April … even though Easter snow is forecast.

 

Here’s hoping the weather improves … although Seamus doesn’t seem to mind.

The return of the bitterly cold weather throughout this month has meant we had to cancel rugby a couple of times due to frozen pitches but we did manage to play on Mothers’ Day, where Seamus seemed to get especially muddy! Cheers boy!

We had the pleasure of the Lifeboat coming to the club one Sunday to raise sea safety awareness. Orla and Seamus loved dressing up in all of the kit.

We used the time of one of the cancelled sessions to have a bracing time at Margate.  The kids loved the huge waves crashing over the Harbour Arm, so much so we went back again after our hot chocolate and then once more after our walk around the old town before finally heading home!

They were mesmerised watching hundreds of little seabirds sheltering in the calmer side of the harbour, watching them feed and fly again and again.

The hot chocolate was definitely needed, if only to warm our hands as the temperature didn’t get above freezing all day. With the wind, it felt more like -7C but it was a lovely day.  We loved going inside the Old Kent Market and sitting at the top of the double-decker bus cafe, listening to the music. There is a great selection of little shops, a bakery and a tiny pub. We were able to get back home in time to see the last of the Six Nations. A cool St Patrick’s Day … although Guinness free.

 

Orla has continued to be in fine voice this month. She was selected to sing in the Festival of Song at Margate Winter Gardens. I volunteered to help out at dress rehearsals, so I was word-perfect when listening to the show later that evening. She joined 300 children from 16 local schools to perform a celebration of pop music to a packed audience, which included the Mayors of Margate and Broadstairs. Orla even got to introduce the final song. I absolutely loved ‘True Colors’ and Labi Siffre’s ‘Something Inside So Strong’ although I think the kids favoured the stomping ‘We Will Rock You’ best judging by the noise!

We had another evening out when we watched Aoife perform at Thanet Festival. Her school drama group recently won the coveted School Drama trophy and as a result, they were asked to perform in the Gala Concert at the Sarah Thorne Theatre. The group showed a short mixture of songs from their version of We’ll Meet Again. Trophies were awarded throughout the evening to singers and musicians by Newsnight’s  Evan Davis. However, we had to leave early as Seamus fell asleep. Trying to get a taxi home on a Friday night wasn’t fun at all, thankfully we were offered a lift home – thank you!

One of the best events in a long while was at school where we enjoyed a Harry Potter themed evening. Magic and excitement was promised and it really delivered. Orla dressed as Luna Lovegood, with her homemade costume of Spectra Specs and copy of The Quibbler Magazine. She really looked the part with her dream-catcher necklace and Butterbeer cork complimenting her look.

Aoife shunned the idea of pink and chose to be a Death Eater, Bellatrix LeStrange instead. This involved wearing a long black cloak over her Harry Potter t-shirt, back combing her hair and sporting a secret tattoo.

The school transformed into Hogwarts and we made potions with Professor Snape, cast charms in drama, visited Hermione’s History lesson where we learned about mythical beasts and even played Quidditch. In the Great Hall we had photos taken with the green screen background and could buy drinks including Butterbeer to go with Hogwarts hot dogs, cakes, chocolate frogs and delicious other goodies as well as souvenir scarves and wands. We had helped by making posters and sharing our homemade Harry Potter props and were delighted to see them on display. A fabulous evening with lots of smiles. Truly Magical!  We look forward to an owl delivering more invitations like this.

 

The event was covered in Education Life too – here’s the link!

There’s a few more days of school before the Easter holidays begin. But with spells, songs, sport, sea and snow ….. what a busy few weeks we’ve had already!


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Fabulous but frosty February

30 days hath September, all the rest I can’t remember …. nevertheless, we’ll try to pack a lot into the the 28 days of February!

The biggest and best came from spending a fabulous day in London watching Orla perform at The O2! She was part of the Young Voices Choir, along with 7,980 (yes, seven THOUSAND, nine hundred and eighty) other children with guest artists including Alfie Sheard and powerful soul artist Natalie Williams. They sang a great selection of songs, from Ed Sheeran to Stevie Wonder, with a wee bit of Andrew Lloyd-Webber and some real golden oldies thrown in for good measure. The choir were joined by talented young dancers, Urban Strides and wonderful professional musicians to make a great show and an amazing experience! Well done Orla and all who took part – we loved it! What an incredible opportunity and inspiration for young people, showcasing talents and also raising some well needed funds for the Teenage Cancer Trust and FareShare.

Aoife continues to be busy with her sport. Her school team achieved bronze medals against other primaries in a Handball tournament and she was also part of the Basketball team who represented Thanet in the East Kent finals.

(photo from Kent school games instagram as none could be taken at the event itself)

We needed lots of energy to celebrate her birthday too. Joined by 8 of her school friends, 2 siblings and her very enthusiastic dad, she headed to Laser Tag. Our concerns that Seamus may struggle to keep up with the bigger kids was totally unfounded – he was in his element; dressing in his camouflage jacket and trousers to totally look the part. Everyone seemed to enjoy working in teams, hiding and sneaking up on each other. After quite a few ‘battles’, they had their food rations served in mess tins and we all sang Happy Birthday to Aoife.

Not content with one cake, another was required so she could blow out the candles on the ‘actual’ day. However, not one to go for the easy option, she wanted to make it herself. She had copious helpers; Seamus, Orla, our two Japanese students and two of their friends all wanted to be actively involved.  Despite the saying about too many cooks, it all turned out very tasty! Mmmm. One massive cream-filled chocolate cake (smothered in ganache, decorated with white and milk chocolate buttons) plus 48 buttercream topped cupcakes later, everyone noticeably disappeared when the washing up part of events loomed.

The cooking continued with a ‘make your own pizza’ dinner later that week. Catering for vegetarians, meat eaters, allergies, dislikes and sometimes just plain fussiness meant it was a good option and everyone was happy. Lots of discussion ensued about who made the tastiest one though!

We’ve needed to have lots of warm food, especially when we brave the rugby pitch at the weekend. It’s been so cold and very, very muddy. All I can say is that I am so thankful for my washing machine! Aoife has been playing matches both home and away whereas Seamus and I have been busy training with the U6 tag rugby team, which is fantastic fun. Orla takes the ‘hot chocolate in the warm club house’ approach to rugby – some weeks, I have to admit I think she has the right idea!

 

 

Orla does seem to like the finer things, and so was very excited when this beauty rolled up in our street recently. She was out like a shot pestering the neighbours. I guess it’s safe to assume she prefers it to our Skoda.

Ummmm. Try as I might, there is no way I can think of to add this next bit in seamlessly, but (without the kids who were at school) I attended a fascinating talk at Open School East this month about the art and history of embalming. Interesting and not at all morbid. It was a free talk complementing a series future workshops and the ‘Elixirs of Life Eternal‘ project of artist Marguerite Humeau, based on architecture, design, sculpture and the quest for eternal life. Having lost a few friends so far this year and having funerals to attend, I found the talk by Phillip Gore quite reflective and I was so pleased I went.

However, it does link somewhat bizarrely to a topic based drama piece performed by Orla at school before they broke up for half term where they have been exploring the Plague. There’s nothing quite like watching your child act out the Black Death(!)  Strangely emotional and at times quirky and intentionally funny, they certainly gave it their all and it was amazing to watch. I’ve been cracking the same joke for a week as a result of having to juggle a few things in order to attend the performance; “Orla, I am so glad I caught The Plague.”

History continues even outside of school time. We wrapped up warm to visit the archaeological dig in Margate. Check out the link, we get a wee mention in the local news! The site is being explored for only 10 days before the excavation of the caves begins. We were there when they uncovered a small piece of jaw bone, likely to be an animal which headed for the cooking pot. Dan Thompson showed us round the site; explaining the finds which includes the tiled floor of Bryan House – a Georgian school which was the first school to teach science to girls. There was pottery (Aoife picked up what is possibly a piece of 20thC pottery just by her feet) and iron age ditches which were being uncovered before our eyes. The finds will be on display in the planned visitor centre which will be built on the site when the caves are re-opened to the public. A massive thank you to Dan for taking the time to explain everything to us and we hope you and the crew found time for a tea break to enjoy the biscuits we brought.

More discovery, but this time of a more experimental kind, came from our visit to a slime workshop. We’ve attempted to make slime at home before without success, despite youtubing every combination of recipes, so the workshop was ideal.  The kids delighted in choosing colours, fragrances and glitters to add to their concoctions, resulting in some stretchy, gloopy mixtures which they love. They brought their wares home, much to the delight of our students that evening who now all want to make slime. I guess there is no escaping that I will have slime in my house for the foreseeable future.

After a day creating, we had to put on our Tech Heads when we took part in the Digital Den at Broadstairs library. The kids made routes for Ozobots (coding robots), they also made circuits, art pictures featuring battery powered LED lights but most impressive was the musical bananas! A great hands on event, encouraging both girls and boys to learn more about all things technical.

 

 

We’ve had a lovely visit one weekend from big brother and some family friends and headed for a treat of waffles, crepes and ice cream desserts. The three amigos chose the same Oreo sundae and despite their best efforts, no-one was able to finish! Maybe next time: one dessert, three spoons!  We headed home for an afternoon of board games, fun and giggles.

So although we’re only a few days into the short school break, the month is half over already and I for one am ready for more signs of spring and some warmth! We’re doing our best to find fun things to do to keep us active and busy – alongside boring but necessary trips to the dentist and the hairdressers – although we are taking in time to have some cosy things to do too. The kids and I have had a wonderful time at the cinema to see Disney Pixar’s Coco, where we each cried buckets (take a box of tissues and go and see it!) and have enjoyed some arts and crafts at home too.   We’ve still got a few play-date/meet ups planned and a pancake party to look forward to before the dreaded panic of last minute homework and re-packing the PE kit bags begins, so all in all Frosty February may have to be named Fun February. Here’s hoping it continues.

Must dash, I have to leave some (not so) subtle reminders that it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow xx

 

 

 

 


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Remember, remember, it’s already November ….

Well October passed by in a flash and the dark nights of November have come around all too soon.

We did manage to squeeze one last bit of Trick or Treating before the month changed and gathered an impressive haul of sweeties from the local estate where houses were decorated brilliantly. We came home to Jelly Brain for tea …. urgh!

We had a French friend visiting for a week so were busy with jaunts to Canterbury, Ramsgate, Margate, Sandwich and The White Cliffs of Dover to make sure she had an action packed week. I am not sure what she thought of Tracey Emin’s Bed when we went to the Turner Contemporary … it certainly divides opinion! The kids shared their thoughts quite loudly, right next to a tour guide and an enthusiastic coach party. Other displays are equally baffling but interesting nevertheless.

 

The month of November is synonymous with remembrance. The children have been learning about this at school and have supported by buying their poppies. This year is the 100th year and we have seen some wonderful commemorations. In Ramsgate, the waterfall was decorated with crocheted poppies and in Broadstairs, a carpet of knitted ones looked stunning. The time they must have taken to make! A wonderful display to honour the memory of so many – thank you. Sadly the ones at Ramsgate were vandalised but were able to be put back in place before Remembrance Sunday.

 

At rugby we marked the silence at our Remembrance Sunday training, and I was so proud of the Under 6s for managing the full 2 minutes and joining their much bigger counter-parts pitch side.

Events of a more upbeat nature were in full flow earlier this month on Bonfire Night, with an impressive display on Broadstairs beach. We wrapped up warm to watch them. The entire area was packed with people – a fantastic turn out for a night of music and fireworks.

 

Fun was had at the Children’s schools to mark Children in Need. Seamus had to dress in spots and had ‘walk to school’ activities all week, resulting in his Infant School raising over £370. Orla took in cakes for her school’s cake sale and paid her contribution to go to school in her pyjamas on Friday, where they raised over £1000!

We have been as busy as ever with the children’s sporting and school commitments. Aoife took part in the Primary Schools Netball competition and achieved a silver medal after losing 2-1 in the final. Well done to all the Thanet schools taking part. She is also representing the school later this month as the Basketball team have a place in the district finals. Fingers crossed.

Orla took part in an all day opera workshop at school which resulted in joining other schools for an evening performing pieces from Handel’s Semele and work they composed with professional opera singers on stage later that week. Absolutely fantastic. Thank you Garsington Opera  and Looping the Loop Festival. I really hope they manage to secure funding for opportunities like this to continue. Orla loved taking part and we really enjoyed watching everyone. She can now tell us the story of Semele and Jupiter and even Seamus has been singing opera around the house “Lucky Omens….Lucky Omens…Bless our rites!”

The theatrics continued with Aoife performing in the Shakespeare in Schools Festival, Romeo and Juliet to a paying audience at the Theatre Royal Margate. We weren’t able to take photos on the night and much as I support these endeavours, I felt the ones they were selling were sadly so overpriced that I couldn’t consider paying any more (£7.50 plus a further £1.50 p&p for ONE 6″x 4″ photo was the cheapest option) hence the recreated image taken on our stairs. Anyway, that aside, it was a wonderful night.

 

She was treading the boards after some great company, as the previous week we had attended an absolutely fantastic performance of Gyre and Gimble’s The Hartlepool Monkey, based on a legend of my birth place. The acting was first class. The cast, although small in number, never stopped for a moment. But it was the puppetry, from the makers of War Horse, which was most breath taking. An absolutely brilliant evening out. We even got to say thank you to a few of the cast as they headed to the pub! #HartlepoolMonkey

‘Twas a cultured few weeks in the O’Sullivan house.  We even got a chance to be ‘hands on’ by taking part in a performance of Almost Always Muddy  a story telling tour with a twist. The children and adults get to build the scene … literally. With everyone adding to the build, the performers then linked everything, with suggestions and ideas thrown in from the kids, into an amazing adventure with puppetry, music and improvised character acting. Seamus giggled throughout and Orla wants to do it again tomorrow. We built with planks, tubes, netting, wheels, material and a huge array of junk to make amazing shipwrecks, factories, islands, aeroplanes and more. A great event, especially as Seamus was able to be included.

A massive thumbs up for Looping the Loop 2017 we’ll definitely take part and watch what’s on offer next year!

We also managed to squeeze in a lovely evening with our friends in Beechgrove Community to see their music festival – with a nod to Scottish, Irish, English and of course some good ol’ USA songs in the mix. We enjoyed the choirs, the Scottish dancing and the fabulous folk band! Seamus was so impressed he now wants to learn the bagpipes! A lovely evening from some very talented young people. Thank you.

Talents of a different artistic nature have been keeping us busy at home with Christmas requests from school – designing Christmas cards and decorating jars. No doubt I’ll have to buy these back at the up coming school fayres! As much as I try to delay it, the Christmas countdown has begun … best start digging out that wrapping paper and finding the tinsel! Here’s to making the most of the dark winter nights.

 

 

 

 


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Fall into Autumn

Busy, busy, busy … the past few weeks are a blur.

After scooping up real bargains at the Scouts’ Jumble sale (change from £1 after buying a throw, an apron for Orla’s cookery club and joggers for Aoife’s camping trip!), we had a lovely time visiting St Peter’s Church when they opened their doors for Gift Day. The girls took their time to complete the guide quiz, only to find it was double sided and they had yet more answers to find.  Seamus was very content to play in the children’s area, surrounded by books and toys.  Aoife tried her hand at bell ringing, which had her a little worried at first as she imagined herself dangling from the bell tower. Thankfully, she got to ring the smallest bell and managed fine.  We had home made cakes and a welcome cup of tea. What a charming start to a weekend!

Beech Grove Community were celebrating their Open Day too. The sun shone, so the children were in their element enjoying the grounds, playing with others and collecting conkers.  Aoife and Orla loved the flower garlands, then they paid a visit to the animal area. It made such an impression that Aoife has written a Dragon’s Den style pitch outlining why she should own a guinea pig.  Seamus loved the trikes driving school and painting paper plates with the spinner. We always enjoy spending time with our friends from the community and so organised a reciprocal visit, where a small group joined us at home for dinner.

We had more guests for dinner when the teacher of our Japanese students joined us. We made a selection of Japanese and European food for everyone and afterwards played some family games. It has been a busy year having students staying in our home and the pace is finally starting to slow down as winter approaches.

The change of season is definitely telling with regards to the allotment. Our Honesty Box has come to an end, with some very kind comments, thank you cards and even new friends as a result! We’ll be sure to share again next year. The children loved the responsibility of restocking and arranging our excess vegetables, and even made a few requested home visits for some people who couldn’t make it there. We’re working our way through the final glut of the tomatoes and pears and have started to see our potatoes becoming part of our meals.  Aoife is still working hard, regularly helping Ian gather 30 sacks of horse manure from a local stable and both she and Orla go with him to collect the brewery hops. Oh, the glamour of the Good Life.

Out and about, we enjoyed the fantastic puppetry of Fireside Tales with Granddad at Dreamland’s indoor event area – the story telling was excellent and captivating and the show was visual with different styles of puppets supporting Granddad’s tales of grumpy trolls, hungry sharks and making underpants for a giant. Settled on huge red beanbags, and despite a very fidgety audience, it was a nice way to spend an afternoon.

 

  

Aoife has caught the acting bug. She is involved in Shakespeare in Schools Festival, which saw her attending rehearsals at Margate’s Theatre Royal. She’ll be performing Romeo and Juliet there next month.

The wet weather returned when we paid a slightly soggy after-school visit to Broadstairs Food Festival on its opening day. There were wonderful displays of cakes and brownies, an array of local produce, aromatic curries and tempting tasters which made us forget the grey skies.  The annual festival lasts for three days and is a foodie’s dream with everything from organic vegetables, freshly baked breads and cakes, Kent cheeses, pickles and preserves alongside award winning beers, ciders, spirits, and delicious freshly cooked street-food.  There are stalls selling hand crafted goods and also additional workshops which offer a chance to make (and taste) even more. ​Most importantly, Ian got lots of advice from the Isle of Wight garlic growers where he buys his seed garlic every year.

Equally tasty was my visit to the MacMillan Coffee Morning in Reading Street. There was a wonderful selection of cakes to choose, nice stalls and a friendly welcome. Best of all, the family were in school so I didn’t have to share! Over £900 was raised, and despite buying lots of tickets, I didn’t win the raffle.

We had a much quieter week when Aoife was away with her school outward bound week. She loved canoeing and raft building and had a fantastic time. She was allowed to take a camera with her – I felt absolutely ancient trying to explain how to use a disposable camera. “You won’t be able to see the picture when you’ve taken it.” “You need to ‘wind it on’ after each photo.” “You only have 24 photos.” “You’ll have to take it to a shop then wait for a few days before you get to see if what you’ve taken is any good.” She looked at me as though I had gone crazy.

It’s been just as busy for Orla too. She competed in another Inter-Primary School Cross Country. This time she has to run 1.5km …. plus the additional few 100 metres to get to the start line in time! Ooops. Well earned trip to McDonalds afterwards.

Rugby is back with a bang – every week, rain or shine, we are there. Aoife has been playing home and away as well as training, whereas Seamus seems to find endless energy for the weekly tag rugby sessions. I hope that energy is maintained as we have another few packed weeks ahead, with a school Dance-a-thon, Halloween and secondary school visits to fit in.

 

 


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Margate Rocks

Well the final week of the holiday whizzed by. We enjoyed attending a wedding in Margate over the Bank Holiday. The weather was glorious and the couple looked fabulous – especially when they drove off on their scooters.

We made another visit to Margate to see the new installation of Antony Gormley’s Another Time, part of his series of one hundred, solid cast-iron figures. The solitary man looks fab … although admittedly we got the tide timings wrong on our first visit!

 

While we were there we popped into the nearby Lifeboat station and to have a look around, making sure we left a donation during our visit.

Margate seafront looks great in the summer. We saw families enjoying the beach as we traveled along in style on the Seaside Special open top bus. The kids loved waving at folk and we passed The Turner Gallery and Margate’s iconic Dreamland on the way.

   

There are some lovely hidden gems around Margate. We love the Old Town in particular – it’s always encouraging to see improvements, refurbishments and new businesses pop up and we are hopeful that continues to bring more to the town. Not just financially, but culturally, socially and to bring that much-needed positive vibe. There are parts which still need incredible amounts of investment and care, including sadly the sparse High Street and near the station, but even there we found some wonderful art and things that made us smile.

Making the most of the sunshine, we had fun at the playground in Cliftonville. The kids love it there as it is large with lots of equipment and it is suitable for older children too. It is always busy, especially on a sunny day but it’s a great place to visit with lovely views of the sea. I imagine you get the best view from the top of the pirate ship but I’ll take the kids’ word for it rather than risk getting myself stuck!

As the week went on, we had a truly fabulous day at Quex Park, the estate of John Powell (1721-1783).  We explored the Maize Maze, taking turns to try to find the markers. Goodness knows how many miles we covered (especially when Seamus was leading the way) but we made our way out eventually, only to try our luck in the next one!

 

After we refueled with our picnic, the kids loved playing at the outdoor fun area. With the huge jumping pillow, the hidden nature play obstacles and the pony rides, there was something for everyone. However, most giggles lay in store for the cheeky chicken coop ride, where you sit in the trailer with a huge water pistol shooting targets on the trees as the tractor rides around Quex’s grounds. More than once, a full size chicken leaps out and squirts you back! We shared the ride with a couple of enthusiastic teenagers and another family with a soaking wet grandpa. It was bumpy, funny and very, very wet! If you try it, bring a poncho, towel or spare clothes. Thankfully we didn’t have to go straight home so we had time to dry off a little in the sun as we went to explore the gardens.

 

We topped off the day by popping into the Powell Cotton Museum and gardens. The museum houses natural history specimens and cultural objects collected on the family’s expeditions to Asia and Africa and has diorama displays mounted animals against backdrops of their natural habitats. We used our Children’s Centre card for £1 entry. It was more than worth it; I think it has improved since out last visit, especially with the addition of the handling area where you can touch bones, artifacts and even dress up. The grounds are particularly lovely and the children loved the dens and the interesting hiding spots under the trees.

I had a really lovely birthday treat at Chez Nous. Thank you to Aoife for organising and cooking such a brilliant meal (pasta with homemade tomato sauce) followed by fresh fruit cheesecake. Thanks to Orla for the excellent interval entertainment of surprisingly funny jokes, Seamus for being such a great waiter despite ensuring he had the first slice of birthday cake and big thanks to Ian for his patience in overseeing all of this, including the emergency dash to the shops for forgotten ingredients. Oh, and thanks for buying number candles, ha blooming ha, very funny!

And now it’s time for school as the new academic year begins. The uniform is all pressed and labelled (I hope that saves me from rummaging in the lost property box for at least the first few weeks), the PE bags are packed with clean kit and the busy routine begins again. Shay starts his journey into education next week which we are sure he will love, until then he can enjoy a few visits to the park ‘sans sisters’.

We’ve a few more exciting local events happening over the next few weeks and another family birthday to look forward to. The rugby season has begun and the nights are noticeably starting to draw in. The shops are stocking Christmas wrapping paper (groan!) and we are already noticing subtle changes as autumn approaches and we look back on our action packed, if not consistently warm, six weeks of summer.

#threekidsintow