September and October

The last two months have officially been the busiest we’ve ever had. I knew it was going to be busy when we received two wedding invitation for consecutive Saturdays in September, both down South.

The first was down in London, the lovely wedding of our friends Jen and Rob.

We had a great time seeing the sights on Saturday morning:

London

The afternoon wedding at The Barbican was lovely too. It was definitely the easiest wedding venue I’ve ever been to with a toddler, as the venue had several pools with fish in to keep him entertained, and the whole venue was enclosed. The whole weekend was really made fantastic by the chance to stay at the Barbican, which meant we could walk to and from the venue – something that doesn’t often happen to us!

Thanks for inviting us Jen and Rob – and congratulations!

The week after that was crazy – Tim came down with flu and had to spend all week in bed. Working full time plus looking after Ben plus Tim was exhausting to say the least. I have such admiration for any parent who does a lot of flying solo. Anyway, I did manage to get to Manchester to see War Horse at The Lowry, which was amazing.

With Tim still ill, and faced with the prospect of a 5 hour drive on my own with a toddler, and back again, we pulled out of attending the second wedding. I was so disappointed, but honestly don’t think I would have coped with the rest of the term without that weekend at home. We hung out and did things like feed the ducks.

Feeding ducks

Sorry we didn’t make it Emma and Dan – but congratulations!

Me working full time has been a huge adjustment for us all. I worked part time last year (3 days a week) and loved my days in work and my days at home with Ben. With the change of job, I’ve had to go to full time, and it is really demanding. In order to spend a few hours with Ben each afternoon after work, I have to work every evening, and usually put some time in during the weekends. I know this is partly because I’m at a new school, but in many ways, this is the teacher’s lot: long holidays, but 60+ hour weeks in term time. So any quieter weekends have often been swallowed up in snatching moments to plan or mark books.

At the beginning of October, there was no chance for working. We had our niece and nephew to stay. It was loads of fun, and they were absolutely brilliant. Tim planned a whole weekend themed around the idea of knights and castles, and we took them up to Clitheroe Castle, dressed as knights with wooden swords and shields. It was a complete hit. All three children were exhausted by lunchtime on Sunday – as were we!

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That week, I had received news that I was really looking forward to: my sister had had a baby boy, Sebastian. We took the opportunity to head down to Somerset to meet him when he was less than two weeks old. They all seem to be doing really well, and Sebastian is absolutely gorgeous.

Ben loved seeing his new cousin, and, of course, his grandparents, aunt and uncle.

Taunton

Now that I’ve got half term, I’m finally able to catch up on some of this stuff – and catch my breath a bit too. It’s become known as The Time of the Crazy Weekends, and fortunately, it seems to be calming down a bit over the next few weeks. I’m hoping we’ll have some time to get things straightened out in the house, as we’re entertaining a bit too.

I hope you understand why it’s been so quiet on the blog recently. Bear with me while I try to get some perspective on things! As always, I love to read your comments, so please add them to the blog.

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We moved house!

Back on 22nd August, we packed all our belongings into a fairly small removal truck, and locked the door on what had been our first home together: both our first married home, and Ben’s first ever home. I have to admit, it was a fairly emotional moment.

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The move was going to mean a lot of changes for us. Not only would we be moving to a new house, in a new location, in a completely different area, but I would also be starting a new job at a new school, and Ben would be going to a new nursery. ‘New’ has been a big part of his vocabulary over the last few weeks.

The night before we moved, we thought we were totally ready. Of course, you’re never quite ready, and Tim was rushing around adding labels to objects right up until the removal men arrived. I was fascinated by how they managed to fit a lot of our stuff into their van.

Removal Van

After driving into Clitheroe, we had a fairly anxious coffee until we received the call we had been waiting for: “Congratulations, you have a new home.” I have rarely been so relieved.

The house is actually much better than we thought it was, if that’s possible. We had almost talked ourselves into not being disappointed by it, and our narrative had been so successful that we had forgotten how lovely it was. It is more spacious, and more lovely, than we remembered. Three weeks in, and we’re still incredibly pleased with it.

I’m taking ‘Before’ photos, but I’m not quite ready to share them yet. We brought very little furniture with us from the old house, and haven’t yet chosen everything for the new house. So in some rooms, we still have unpacked boxes, and in the living room, we’re using bean bags as our sofa and chairs are still being made. I will do ‘Before’ and ‘After’ photos when we decorate, but I won’t bore you too much.

Being in the countryside is just amazing though. We can see fields out of our windows, we walk along country lanes into the village and even in my classroom I look out onto hills. On our first night, I couldn’t get over how many stars I could see. Since then, I’ve mostly been too busy or too tired to look at the stars, but I must make the effort. Everything just looks so much more beautiful.

River

We are almost certainly becoming more relaxed, although it hasn’t felt like it in the first few weeks of term! We have less time in the car, and shorter commutes. Tim has been home before six every single day since we moved – that was a rarity when we were living in Manchester. That said, we seem to have so many events in the next few weeks and months that we’re grateful for the extra time in our home.

Ben KitchenBefore moving, I wrote a post about making an effort to get involved in our new community. I didn’t ever publish that post, but we have made an effort – I baked biscuits which Tim and Ben then delivered to our neighbours.

Biscuits

We think we’ve found a church that suits us, so we’re looking forward to getting involved there. I may also have found a book group to join, so that’s a start. As always at this time of the academic year, my evenings are mostly taken up with marking and planning, so I am trying not to over-commit myself. The adjustment to working full-time has been a tricky one over the last few weeks, so I’m being careful.

Tim gave me a huge surprise on moving day, which is something I’ve wanted for a long time. I am now the proud owner of a KitchenAid. I can assure you that it has been well-used already, and that I have a few recipes lined up to blog about. And I promise I will do a house tour soon!

KitchenAid

60 Days of Summer: Week 5

60 days of summer logoThis past week has been crazily busy. When I went through my diary last Sunday, we had something scheduled in every single day, and all of those things were out-and-about things. So it’s been a really fun week.Sunday 10th

Sunday was our Godson, Sebastian’s, first birthday party and dedication. We are really good friends with Carina and Andre, his parents, and they are godparents to Ben. We were privileged to be asked to be his godparents, and we really enjoyed visiting our old church for his dedication. Tim and I prayed over him during the service, and Ben had a great time too.

His party was lovely – an animal themed party in the church hall. Carina made an amazing lion cake, which Ben thought was brilliant. It was lovely to meet so many of Carina and Andre’s friends too, many of whom I had heard about but never met. 

Monday 11th

On Monday, I met up with my Sister in Law, Pippa, and my Brother in Law, Si, and their three children. We went to the viewing park at Manchester Airport. The children really enjoyed the play area and running around through puddles, and I think Si probably enjoyed the plane-spotting most.

Tuesday 12th

Another place on my ‘Places to go before we leave Manchester’ list was Dunham Massey. We’ve been several times, but I really wanted to go around the house as it is currently being the ‘Stamford Military Hospital,’ as it was during WW1. We met Tim’s parents there, and they kindly looked after Ben while I toured the house, which was excellent. I’m hoping to do a separate blog post on it when I have the time, so I’ll leave you with this photo of a deer. The deer were the most settled, and the closest to the house, that I’ve ever seen them. 

Wednesday 13th

 

On Wednesday, we went to Reddish Vale Farm with some of our NCT friends. Ben had a new splash suit that he was very proud of, and spend more time playing in the soft play area than actually feeding the animals. But we got him and Ariana to share a bucket of carrots and pose from some photos. 

Thursday 14th

We did do exciting things on Thursday – swimming and a play date – but I didn’t take any photos. So I took a photo of our trusty car going over 185,000 miles on the clock. Let’s hope it lasts until we move house!

Friday 15th

On Friday, I took Ben to ‘Play and Cake’ at the Chill Factore, Manchester’s ski slope, with real snow. This is a session aimed at under 4s, and is a combination of soft play and snow play. Again, I’d like to do a blog post about this, but let’s just say it was really good fun. 

We went to the Trafford Centre after this. I was hoping Ben would fall asleep in his buggy; he didn’t. Instead, he played in the Barton Square Beach – a huge sandpit, where buckets and spades are provided. Fortunately, he was then so exhausted that he didn’t protest too much as I dragged him round the home shops.

Saturday 16th

On Saturday, we headed over to Liverpool to celebrate our nephew Luke’s 6th birthday. He was on holiday in South Africa for his actual birthday, so he had his cake in the shape and design of the South African flag. Ben loves seeing his cousins, and we had a great time with our family. 

Andre, Carina and Sebastian came over for dinner on Saturday evening, which was lovely. We now have only 5 days left (all being well) in this house, so packing is well underway.

I think I will be taking a break with 60 days of summer for a couple of weeks while we move, and until we get our broadband set up. Instead, I’ll leave you with a photo along the lines of the next week.

Boxes

 

 

 

60 Days of Summer: Week 4

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This has been a week of birthdays in our home. We went to a 2nd birthday party on Sunday, and Ben had an incredible time on the bouncy castle.

Sunday 3rd Aug

Ben also met up with some of his friends from his old nursery, which was hilarious as he remembered them. Thanks for inviting us to your party, Annabella!

On Monday, it was Ben’s 2nd birthday. We had three of his cousins, his grandparents and his Aunt and Uncle over for the morning and for lunch. He absolutely loved opening all his presents, and did recognise that his hurriedly-made cake was a dinosaur. I got to meet my newest nephew, Joseph, as well, so I enjoyed some baby-cuddles before my own son got too jealous.

Monday 4th Aug

 

On Tuesday, we took his new balance bike out to the park for a bit of a practice. Ben just loves pushing it along.

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We also visited the National Football Museum in Manchester, which was fun, and also heard that we have exchanged contracts on our new house, hooray!

On Wednesday, we had a quieter day and stayed at home. We did lots of painting and playing with glue and glitter.

Wednesday 6th AugOn Thursday, we went swimming and then went to the park in the afternoon. I went out for dinner with my NCT friends, and completely meant to take a photo of us for the blog. However, we were so engrossed in catching up that I completely forgot. So instead, here is a photo of Ben on the roundabout at the park.

Thursday 7th AugOn Friday, we went to a place I have been meaning to go to for ages, Brookside Garden Centre in Poynton, where they have a miniature railway. Ben is train-obsessed, and this place was perfect for him: a train-themed play area, a shop for all your Thomas the Tank Engine based requirements, and a really good miniature railway. Rides were a bit pricey at £1.80 for all over 2s (should have gone last week), but he absolutely loved it. It’s also a lovely garden centre, with lots of playhouses and a good aquatic centre where were spent a while watching the fish. I think we’ll try to go back before we go.

Friday 8th AugSaturday was the day before my birthday, so I arranged to go out for brunch with some of my best friends to The Ash Tea Rooms. If you haven’t been to The Ash, I highly recommend it: in a converted hotel, you will find a chocolatier, a cake-decorating business, and a gorgeous tea room. The food is excellent, and the cakes are divine.

Again, it was lovely to catch up with the girls, and really lovely to have some grown-up time – we actually managed to have whole, complete conversations, and the only distraction was the food.

Saturday 9th AugI hope you’ve all had a lovely week too. I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to.

 

 

 

 

 

60 Days of Summer: Week 1

It’s been a while (on the blog, that is) since I did anything as disciplined as A Month of Slow Cooking. To be honest, it took us all a while to get over that. However, as the summer holidays are almost upon us, I’m going to start a new series.

Introducing… 60 Days of Summer!

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The idea is inspired from Project 365, but, quite honestly, if I took a photo a day every day, some days you’d just end up looking at piles of exercise books. But during the summer, I’ve got time to have some fun. Seeing as one of the reasons I blog is to make memories, this seems like a really good way of doing that. Also, I want to take the blog more into this direction: sharing what our family is up to as we prepare to move away from Manchester.

I’m starting this on a Thursday, mostly because I don’t work on a Thursday at the moment, so Ben and I tend to have fun. So our first week is a it longer than 7 days long, but that’s ok.

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On Thursday, Ben and I got the train to Marple, where we had lunch in a lovely cafe, walked along the canal and went to a lovely play area. The train was definitely Ben’s highlight.

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When Ben napped on Friday (after a tantrum-filled morning), I went out into the garden and tidied up a bit. This hydrangea is looking beautiful.

Saturday

Tim got up early with Ben on Saturday morning and they went outside to play in the garden. They found a little frog, and so tried to make him a temporary pond in a bucket with some branches and leaves. The frog stay around for a good half an hour before leaping away. You can see it in the photo perched on the edge of the bucket.

Sunday 13th

On Sunday, we went to visit Tim’s parents in North Wales. Even though Manchester was in blazing sunshine, in North Wales it was too cold for a barbecue, so Tim and his dad barbecued outside and we ate inside. Ben loves his Grumps, especially doing ‘Half a pound of tuppenny rice,’ like in the photo.

MondayThis is a selfie taken after work. Ben’s current catchphrase is ‘What’s that?’ and that’s just what he’s asking.

Tuesday

Fun with Play Doh after nursery.

Team english.jpgThis is me with my English department. Kim (our lovely head of department) and I are both leaving this year, so we went out for a lovely meal in Gusto in Didsbury to mark the occasion.

Thursday 16thScooting in the park before it got too hot!

Friday 18thBefore going to my leaving staff meeting, Ben and I went to the Trafford Centre. He hasn’t really been there before, as I work so close, so if I needed to go in I would pop in after work. He loved the dolphin fountain!

Saturday 19thIt poured with rain all morning yesterday. So when it finally brightened up, Tim said, “I think we should all get some fresh air,” and we walked to the park. Ben had an amazing time splashing in puddles and got his shoes well and truly soaked.

That was our first 10 days of summer!

10 things to do in Reddish with a baby or toddler

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I’ve lived in Reddish, Stockport, for nearly 5 years. I moved here when Tim and I got married, and was fairly happy with the area: it was a reasonable commute, close to the train station with a fast and cheap train into Manchester. I missed the bars and trendiness of my former residence, Chorlton, but Tim had a bigger house than I did, and a garden.

Fast forward 3 years to August 2012 when Ben was born. We were still living in Reddish, but now I was on maternity leave, complete with baby. Not to mention, without a car. In that year, and the following year, I discovered some of the treasures of Reddish.

So, without further ado, here are my Top Ten Things to do in Reddish with a Baby or Toddler.

1. Reddish Vale

We have spent many happy hours here feeding the ducks.

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There is also a lovely playgroup in the visitor centre on a Thursday morning, and if you happen to get caught in a downpour, you can wait it out inside. The staff will even give you a cup of tea and a biscuit.

2. Reddish Vale Farm

This deserves a separate entry, because it is an entirely separate event. We’ve been several times, and it is absolutely lovely for young children. Buy a bucket of carrots on entry for 50p, and you can feed the cows, llamas, alpacas, pigs, goats, donkeys and sheep. If you can reach high enough, you can also feed Kylie the shire horse. There’s also an area with rabbits, guinea pigs, ducks and birds, where staff will help you to hold the animals safely.

Around the corner in the barn is a soft play area – beware, the ball pool is deep! – and a concreted area with ride-along tractors and trucks. A current favourite for Ben is the climbing frame and slide, which is just the right height for him.

We’ve also been to a birthday party at the farm, which was excellent, although Ben really didn’t want to have a pony ride as part of it!

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3. Swimming at Levenshulme Baths

If, like me, you are car-less, there’s an excellent bus service to Levenshulme run by Manchester Community Transport. We relied on this bus quite a lot last year, as it went into Fallowfield and Withington.

In Levenshulme, there are the Victorian Swimming Baths. On a Thursday morning, they do baby and toddler swimming lessons, which are excellent. They get fairly busy, but never too over-crowded (the earlier and later sessions are quieter), and the instructor is excellent. We also go to the family swim sessions and casual swim sessions, as the baths are clean, warm and the people are friendly. The only downside is that the changing cubicles are pool-side, which can be tricky with a baby, but I have discovered that the ones in the corner are double-sized, so grab one if they’re free!

4. Debdale and North Reddish Parks

From around the time Ben was 8 months old, and the weather eventually started to warm up (the winter of 2012-13 was a long one), we started taking him to the park. First he loved the swings, and would shriek with laughter when we pushed him.

Considering how much he loved the swings, we have hardly any photos of him on them.

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He’s now big enough to climb up the ladder on the small climbing frame, crawl through the tunnel and slide down the slide.

Both Debdale Park (which is huge) and Reddish North Park have excellent children’s play equipment. As a bonus, the park is always free!

5. Levenshulme Market and Heaton Moor Market

Levenshulme Market is a fairly recent discovery, although I have been following them on twitter for ages. Ben and I toddled down there a couple of weeks ago, and it’s brilliant. A really vibrant, exciting community market, with handmade goods, vintage finds and amazing food. I tried some Spiced Bun Ice Cream from Ginger’s Comfort Emporium and was not disappointed.

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The day we went was absolutely beautiful – yes, the sun does shine in Manchester – and Ben was more than happy to spot the trains arriving at the station while I perused the stalls. The market has a fantastic array of food, craft and vintage stalls, which changes every week. I highly recommend it.

6. Manchester Gymnastics

Behind Gorton Tesco, off the A57, is a large, one-storey building. It always looks closed up, and the metal spikes around the roof are less than inviting. But get yourself buzzed through the door and you will discover a huge, clean, professional gymnasium. On one side is the proper equipment, and on the other side is a layout of crash mats, trampolines, beams, ramps, slides, bars and all sorts. You can even dive into the foam-filled pit if you choose. On weekday mornings (check the website for details), you can attend an ‘Under 4s’ session, where toddlers can run around and try out the equipment in complete safety. It’s a really excellent session, and, as it’s a bit low profile, usually very quiet. My only issue with this is that it’s quite pricey: £4.00 for a 45 minute session, plus a drink and biscuit afterwards. That’s a bit more than soft play, but I think it’s worth it – Ben is always exhausted when he’s finished!

7. Reddish North Children’s Centre

When I was on maternity leave, Ben and I did three courses at our local children’s centre. All were excellent, and I would highly recommend them.

The first was when Ben was around 3 months old, and was Baby Massage. Then, at around 6 months, we did Baby Moves, which was a sensory course. Then, at around 9 months, Little Explorers, another sensory course but with a focus on encouraging crawling and co-ordination.

All were free.

All courses gave me ideas for what to do with Ben, and connected me to other mums in the area.

8. Anchors Away

Soft play at Anchors Away is probably the reason most parents come to Reddish. I have to admit, for a toddler, it’s not the best – their little Under 4s area is quite limited, and often over-run by bigger children. But I did come here quite often when Ben was a baby. There’s space for the children to crawl around, and quite a wide range of Jumperoo-style toys for non-crawlers.

We’re giving it a bit of a break for a while, as Ben’s not big enough for the really good soft play section, but I’m sure we’ll be back at some point.

9. Trains at Reddish North

I don’t know what happens, but sometime before the age of 2, little boys seem to become obsessed with trains. For Ben, a visit to Reddish North Train Station is heaven. Trains go in, trains go out. If he gets to go on a train, that’s even better!

Catching the train from Reddish North into Manchester is easy and cheap. On the way back you’ll need someone to help you with the pushchair over the footbridge, but I’ve never had to do it on my own. Another good trip is to Marple, and then a wander along the canal.

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Ben looking for trains at the station!

10. Reddish Library

I’m a big fan of our local library, and it has an excellent children’s section. They have a very popular after-school homework club, and there are always reading programmes advertised in the school holidays.

Ben has been a member since he was about 3 months old – I’m an English teacher, it was a major priority – and we’ve made the most of the books. There’s also a good Sing and Rhyme session on a Monday morning.

I didn’t really appreciate living in Reddish until I had Ben. It’s been a great place to have a child, and I’ll be a bit sad to leave his first home.

But I’ll be more excited about moving on… More to come on that prospect!

 

 

 

Easter Holiday Plans

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The Easter break is a lovely one for teachers.

Firstly, most of the exam prep and controlled assessments or coursework are done for your exam years. Secondly, you feel like you might just make it to the end of the academic year in one piece. Thirdly, we get two weeks!

Right now, at the beginning of those two weeks, there’s a sense that I could actually be productive. It’s been a long and difficult term for me professionally: Ofsted at the end of January, then a series of job applications and interviews. I actually accepted a new job last week, but that won’t start until September. So I do feel a distinct sense of relief.

On top of that, this last week of term has been tricky. Ben has been ill with hand, foot and mouth, which means that he’s been off nursery this week. He’s also been awake a lot each night. I had to stay at home on Monday to look after him. Tim looked after him on Tuesday, and Ben’s grandparents were due to do Wednesday, which was amazing. It sounds awful, but I was counting the minutes that I would miss teaching my Year 11s. No matter how good the cover work you set, it is never the same as you being there.

Anyway, I left home on Wednesday morning to go to work. At the end of our road, the car gave an almighty bang and started growling, like a really souped-up boy racer car. Except it’s not. It was a very broken car.

Tim to the rescue again: he quickly handed over the keys to his car and told me to go. He would sort himself out.

So we’ve staggered to the end of term really. We’re exhausted, and despite the clocks going back last weekend, often ask each other if it’s too early to go to bed. Hopefully we’ve avoided catching Ben’s virus, and he’s mostly better now, so we can look forward to the holiday.

So one of my plans for the holiday is to do very little work! If I can condense it all into two days, I should get enough sorted to get me going at the start of term, and caught up with my marking. That’s the plan, anyway.

Another plan is to do some Spring cleaning – cleaning those areas which don’t really need it every week, but which have built up.

But mostly, I plan to rest. I want to watch TV while finishing a jumper I’ve been knitting for months. I want to read a book. I want to potter in the garden. I want to take photographs with Tim’s camera, so I can finally learn how to use it. I finally want to make a red velvet cake.

If I don’t write these things down, I won’t do them. So that’s the plan.