threekidsintow

O'Sullivan family travels and beyond


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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.

Photo taken by Ed Lewis

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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April and Easter

According to T.S. Eliot, ‘April is the cruellest month’, but we’re finding that so far, it is going very well indeed. The weather has been warm and sunny allowing us to make the most of the (very long!) school holidays. Although it must be said that Ian is complaing about the lack of rain.

However, we ended March, celebrating Red Nose Day at school and nursery, with funny noses and red clothes, followed by Mother’s Day, where the kids help make a lovely breakfast. I was treated with flowers and plants (bought with their own money), a pasta bracelet (“Don’t eat it, mummy”) and some very sweet cards (inscribed with a very heartfelt message of ‘ I love you because you feed me!’)

 

The month had also ended with news of shocking attack in Westminster, London, which happened at the very time our French language students were near the Houses of Parliament.  We were very much relieved to get the message that they were safe, even though some of their group had been so close that they were instructed to run by police. We hope their memories of the UK are so much more than that horrible time.

Our own trip to London, a few days later was really nice. It was good to see and feel the positivity of people carrying on with their day to day life and whilst that should never lessen our thoughts to those who were injured and the families who have experienced such great loss, the fear of terrible events that can be inflicted so frightenly easily, should not define our every day. We are lucky to be able to feel safe and we should embrace that. We spoke to and smiled at police officers throughout the day, we saw tourists enjoying the famous sights and many families, like ours, enjoying what London has to offer. #Londonisopen

We love the choice, energy and diversity London has – especially when it comes to food. We paid a visit to a family favourite, Wong Kei, in Wardour Street  which years ago was once described as ‘the rudest restaurant in London’. It is a little friendlier these days, but can still have it’s moments, however the food is good….just look at the photo of Seamus which is worth any good Michelin critic’s review.

We visited the wonderful National History Museum walking through the dinosaur bones and seeing a huge, moving T-Rex, which captivated Orla and Seamus’ attention for a long time. Seamus took his toy dinosaur with him so he could see his big family.  With Aoife still wearing her support boot for her injured foot, it was a tiring day but lots of fun.

It’s good to remember that sometimes, especially in the big city, we need to just stop and take time to smell the flowers. Here we are in a small oasis in Covent Garden. A 10 second respite before being hassled by other tourists who wanted a quick snap.

Covent Garden 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

This time of year is truly beautiful though and we are fortunate to be in such a nice area.  Making our Easter Bonnets made me recall previous Easter and Spring days we have enjoyed since moving to Broadstairs.  They say you remember childhood as endless sunny days and I hope that my children will. Here are some wonderful photos of Easters past which made me smile.

This Easter has been equally special. Starting with a fantastic school Easter service in the church by Orla’s Year Group. She sang wonderfully and her classmates were fantastic.

The girls made Easter pictures as part of the school display and competition. Their hard work paid off, on the last day of term Aoife won the Year 5 group and Orla won the Year 4. A lovely big Easter Egg each!

Seamus’ hat/bonnet was worn with immense pride all the way to school for the Nursery Parade….bar a little tantrum on the way, but thankfully it arrived with its feathers in tact.

 

and it got another outing at the Broadstairs Easter Trail – a brilliant event organised by the Chamber of Commerce where the children could get sweets from many of the High Street shops. It makes me feel so positive about the local businesses and we want to keep supporting them – Thank you to all the shops (big and small) which take part. We even got our photo taken by the local newspaper.

A bit of glue to repair a few feathers and flowers, and a few days later we headed to the Mayor’s Easter Bonnet parade on Easter Monday at Pierremont Park. The hard work paid off yet again and Aoife came away with 1st prize for most floral bonnet, and Orla and Seamus came 3rd in their respective categories. Result – even more chocolate eggs!

Easter is not Easter without a trip to Planet Thanet Beer Festival – we were one of the first there on Good Friday. And due to being lightweights and having threekidsintow we were one of the first to leave too. However, the short visit was worth it for the salted caramel cider, although Ian is more a chocolate stout fan. We sat high up in the stalls to keep from under the feet of the serious beer drinkers in our own self made kiddies corner.

 

Other local events have been fun. The kids and I took part in the The Great Egg Case Scavenger Hunt at Viking Bay. This is a fabulous event organised by Thanet Coastal Project. We looked for Mermaid’s purses and other natural treasures, we learned about things which harm our wildlife and then had a wonderful time making marine sculptures. We had beautiful weather and we all would highly recommend this activity – it’s fun, it’s interesting and it is a fabulous way to learn more about the habitats of marine and bird life found on the North Kent coast. Our Egg case findings were counted and will help with their data collection of life on the beach. Come along, join in!

We also had a great time at the Garden Gate Open Day – a community garden in Margate which works with people with mental ill health or learning difficulties.  The sun was shining as the girls made jam jar flower arrangements. We walked aroung the lovely grounds, sculpted plasticine selfies and ate the wood fired pizza – we weren’t brave enough to try the Nettle Soup though! The gardens themselves were lovely to see, the colourful tulips were stunning and the kids were fascinated seeing glimpses of tadpoles in the pond (Seamus’ tadpoles are still residing in our kitchen)

   

 

The Tom and Barbara Good Life gardening continues at home too. Seamus has been planting the potatoes, Orla has been digging the trenches ready for the beans and Aoife has been helping as much as she can too. They are talking about setting up an honesty box scheme to sell their produce when it is ready, so get your pennies ready to exchange for rhubarb.

We’ve been to Ramsgate during this half term holiday (school shoe necessity) and loved eating our chips on top of the Maderia Walk Waterfall. We even spotted newts in the water.

We then had a lovely time at the Children’s Centre making Easter baskets from paper plates. It made me giggle when the kids were asked to give their evaluation. Orla said, “it was good because it gets us out of the house”, as if they are never taken anywhere!  Our crafting continued at home, with the girls making felt foxes. Orla sewed hers into a purse, whereas Aoife sewed a 3D stuffed toy.

 

Another trip to London this month was to mark big brother’s 21st birthday. We enjoyed a lovely meal with some fantastic people to help him celebrate.

We then spent the evening walking along the Thames at Greenwich to see the Tall Ships. It reminded us of all the things we love about London – especially walking pst the Cutty Sark and the pub I used to frequent with work colleagues many moons ago.

So that’s another month well underway. The year is whizzing surprisingly quickly and I am already packing the school bags for the start of another term. I am never quite sure where these words typed into thin air reach as the blog is initially just a way of collecting our memories ( a sort of digital diary as it were) but the stats say we have had visitors from US, Spain, Germany, Vietnam, Russia, India, Slovakia, Israel, Estonia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta and many more wonderful places. Granted most of these ‘clicks’ may be as a result of a Google search that went a bit wrong but nevertheless, if you are reading this we just wanted to say ‘hello’ and pop back to see us again soon.

 

 


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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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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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