Saturday, 31 December 2011

Goodbye 2011

As the sun sets on another year it is the time to reflect and review all that has happened over the last twelve short months. 

Last few days of the decorations

This was the year cancer became a word known by our family in a very real way; which has given us a new perspective on how we view life as well as make us all so thankful for health and the precious people we share our life with.  Our hope in a Saviour who daily bears our burdens has been the strength we have been able to draw from. It is amazing how even in very dark times there is beauty; the love and kindness of friends has been very special to us over the last few months.

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Saviour,
   who daily bears our burdens. 
Psalm 68 v 19

It is such a delight and always a humbling privilege to see our children grow  and watch them develop their own very individual character and personalities.  Seeing them go through  both good and hard times,  become increasingly independent, yet still dependent on us for so much.  We are learning the balance of parenting teens  and tots,  again reflecting on how family life changes as the kids get older.

A bargain bay to adorn the front door

It has been a year full of the usual events of  our large family life:  Including starting school, taking GCSE options,  patching a lazy eye, music grades taken and passed, moving on from Beavers, football injuries and success at county level, far too many casualty visits, orchestra performances, lots of birthday parties, too many bills, household budgets to trim  and always parents working to keep the right work/life/church balance!

So as we move into a new year, may you all know much happiness and blessing and also strength to manage any hard times ahead. 

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Happy Christmas!

May you know the joy and peace of our Saviour this festive time of year.

The art work which was taken from  a card is of the talented artist who can be found here

Friday, 23 December 2011

Christmas Traditions

Not many decorations at toddler level this year!

Over the years we have been parents  (fourteen now) we have worked hard to build a secure family basis for our children, we aim to create a place where they feel loved and accepted and a valued part of the nuclear family group.  We are in such a privileged position to be surrounded by not only a wonderful extended family but also a very supportive church family.

The advent countdown made when my oldest was tiny.

It has been so helpful to watch others who are further on in the parenting journey and take note of the wonderful ways so many parents are working to build a strong and secure family unit.  Many things have been helpful to us including  parenting books, a positive parenting course  and a marriage course .   We have seen the value and importance of creating family traditions;  these have evolved from our own childhood ways of doing things, using ideas from other families as well as repeating things which have been fun.

Christmas is a time for creating and enjoying many traditions,  our children know all these and insist we do them all every year!  Some of ours include:

* writing a Christmas Eve letter to Santa and leaving out a carrot for Rudolf, a beer and a mince pie for the man himself

* He always replies in very shaky handwriting, one of our children has pointed out the similarites to the tooth fairy letters, we have no idea what she means!

* He always leaves a footprint and the reindeer leave some poo (looking very like raisins!)

* Watching a Christmas film a day in the run up to the big day

* Having a yummy Christmas (Just us) breakfast using the special plates which come out for birthdays and special days

* Using the same decorations every year, keeping as many as possible made while they were small

* Having Christmas Eve tea in front of the fire watching The Polar Express in  pyjamas and eating lots of festive cake and chocolate.

* Stockings in the morning on our bed which always include an orange and chocolate coins amid the rest of the presents.

* Letting them open one present before church but making them wait until after lunch for most of them!

* Always encouraging the children to be as creative as possible in their understanding and interpretation of the Christmas story *

What traditions do you create in your family, we are always on the lookout for new ones!

Love is....

It is the week before Christmas in a very busy house which is full of over  excited children,  hoovers needing to be mended, visitors  prepared for, a mad dog to take for a walk and a million annoying jobs to catch up on.  The lovely Mr oldpolicehouse  who is calmness and kindness personified agreed to the idea that we needed to brighten up our house  and it had to be this week.

Life has been busy since we moved in three years ago and we have never found the time to decorate the living room.  Having just had several large bills (just what we needed at this time of the year)  we needed to be a frugal as possible in our attempt to cheer up the house.

Hunting in the garage we found an almost used up pot of paint, my absolute favourite colour and one which I knew would look fantastic on the chimney breast.  It took about half an hour to paint and looks so fantastic we had to have a big clear up in honour of the gorgeous wall.  I am very tempted to rewrap all of the old toys discarded behind the sofa but  unfortunately they will probably realise that now!

Sexy Pink  Paint you have made me very happy but not as happy as the wonderful man who I share my life with!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Twenty Two

Twenty two will always be the number we associate with little Ruby. Apart from one of our girls who shares a birthday with Mr oldpolicehouse, all the children have different numbers of the month for their birthday. Today our little twenty two girl is twenty two months.

We had good news from the Orthoptist last week,   her eye is improving really well.  Such fantastic news, all our hard work  patching has started to be rewarded.  

It has been lovely watching all the children spend time together this week and Ruby has loved all the attention.  "Row, Row"  is a constant demand to her oldest sister and she loves playing boats in the washing basket with her brothers.  The dummy is a love of her life and her latest trick is two at the same time!  

Christmas is such fun this year although we have had several incidents along the way,  the chocolate advent calendar  was discovered and devoured  by Ruby on December 2, the (bargain at 10p) replacement calendar also had the same fate.  The presents under the tree have been unwrapped a few  times already,  although we are not entirely sure it was not a rather cheeky four year old instead!

Three more sleeps left everyone!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Christmas Dress

When you are the youngest of six there is really not much you need in the way of presents,  the oldpolicehouse is already overflowing with toys and games for every age group.   However everyone needs a little spoiling at Christmas  and I wanted our littlest to have a special just for you gift.  Ignoring all the many presents yet to be bought and wrapped, I hunted through my ever growing pile of lovely fabrics and chose a festive colour for a new dress.

It was really quick to make, despite many interruptions it was finished in under two hours. The  pattern (from here) included a very simple tutorial which made the whole process very easy, this was also where I bought the gorgeous baby cord fabric.  I am sure  Ruby will get lots of use out of this very practical as well as pretty dress, the neckband is elastic which hopefully will make it easy for her to dress herself in the future too.

I am off to make a matching eye patch now,  conveniently ignoring the ever growing to do list. 

 Our advent candle is telling us there is not much longer left before the big day!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

It's Christmas in our house!

So I was told by my four year old very early this morning.  Looking around I would have to agree, the tree is up (and rapidly being dismantled by the littlest child), there are cards strung around the walls, a variety of decorations hung and the television guide is being read and favourite films circled.

I really love the cover of the  Christmas Radio Times this year: the festive colours and simple design work so well together, I am hoping it will not get too destroyed as I plan to save it.  We only buy a television guide at Christmas and usually a  much more frugal version but I was totally swayed by the fantastic design this year. The free Gruffalo book will be a favourite with little man too.

The middle children have been busy writing special letters, using the most lovely of Christmas packs bought from Primark.  They were only a pound and kept them quiet for ages as they included a great Christmas activity book, colouring pencils, a door hanger to make and a special pencil with a festive rubber,  excellent value for money!

These then had to be put in the special envelope and sent to the busy man himself.

Let's hope Chimney post is more efficient than the Royal Mail!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Lemon Drizzle

Thank you everyone who gave me such lovely feedback about my last baking post.  I have been doing lots of baking recently,  and am loving using my gorgeous new early christmas present.

It was a massive extravagance. My  funky orange   Kenwood  broke a while ago, it was from the early seventies and had served my mum and then us very well until it finally gave up.  Not wanting to waste the limited family budget I deliberated over buying such an expensive item, until I saw a fantastic offer and having just done some extra supply days gave in to temptation! I am so glad I did; baking has become  much easier and everything  I have made has turned out really well.   

It is just soooo lovely and shiny!

Today I made super easy lemon drizzle cake, using a recipe given to me by a friend many years ago.  We used to be neighbours, were both teachers and both newly married, after a long week teaching we used to share a cuppa and cake with our hubbies on a Friday after school.  This cake always brings back such lovely memories of that happy time. If you want to look impressive with minimal effort, this is the cake for you.

 Nicci's Lemon Drizzle Cake

8oz Self Raising Flour
8oz Sugar
8oz Margarine
4 eggs

1 Lemon
                     3oz  Sugar (for the topping)

1. Mix the Flour, Margarine & Sugar.

Could be done by hand but a bit of an effort

2. Grate the skin of the lemon & stir into the mixture.

3. Transfer into whatever  greased baking tin you have to hand.

The cake works equally well in a bread tin and then sliced when cooked or in a tray bake type tin and then cut into smaller squares, I used both today.

Put into the oven for about half an hour (will be less if in a shallower tin) on 180 degrees C,  it is done when the middle is springy and not squidgy.

4. Take it out of  the oven and put to one side to cool.

For the Topping 

5. Squeeze the lemon juice into a small bowl

6. Add about 3oz of sugar to the lemon juice and mix,  the juice absorbs the sugar, if very runny add a little bit more sugar

7. Using a fork make a few holes in the cake

8. Pour the sugar and lemon mixture over the top of the cake, trying to make sure it drizzles evenly

It should look yummy and tasty like this, ready to be  cut into small (or large) squares.

Apart from the cooking time this takes about ten minutes to make.  It freezes really well and can be used as a posh pudding if sliced thinly and served with fresh fruit and creme fraiche.  I usually double the amount and freeze one as it takes as much effort to make two as one

Here it is ready to be demolished by the hungry hoards after school

It never ever lasts for long!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011


Today is public sector industrial action day here in the UK.  No good teacher ever takes the decision to miss a day teaching lightly however, for the sake of the future of education, which is far more important than our own (rapidly decreasing) pension  we have both chosen to support the strike action.

This article from the guardian online, written  by a  state secondary teacher in north London, says everything I want to say.

I'm going on strike to make you show teachers some respect, Mr Cameron

If the government wants to attract the best graduates to teaching, it must prove to them that they are valued

Unionists prepare placards for Wednesday's strike
Members of the University and College Union prepare placards for Wednesday's strike. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/AFP/Getty Images

As a teacher, I'm always a bit cagey when someone mentions time off. I have been doing my best to avoid any conversations about tomorrow's strike for the fear of the familiar retort: "Because that's what teachers need isn't it? Another day off!"
Teachers are constantly vilified as an inefficient and ineffective bunch, more interested in coasting to a comfortable retirement than unleashing the potential of the young talent of this country. But I firmly believe that this campaign is not just about how well-off I will be in my autumn years. It's about fostering respect for our profession, it's about ensuring that teachers are valued.
I doubt anyone would argue with the assertion that successful societies need successful education systems, and these need good teachers. But bright and dynamic people require some incentive to enter the profession: a bit more respect would help.
There's an awful lot of teacher-bashing about: it seems every ill in society has its roots in our "failing" state schools; even the August riots have been blamed, at least in part, on us.
Respect for teachers and teaching has dwindled in the last 20 years: not just in the media but in the minds of our peers, parents, students, even ourselves. I delayed entering the profession for fear that I might have "settled" for it.
One way for the government to attract talent to teaching is through good pay and conditions. It sends a signal that this profession is important, that the people we have slogging their guts out in our schools are worth investing in.
The new pension proposals will have a serious impact on the financial future of teachers: we are expected to pay more out of our salaries now to get less out of the pension pot in the end.
Remember, teachers do not operate in a market place. Terms and conditions are set by the government. Good teachers can't negotiate a better pension deal elsewhere. We are stuck with what the government offers us. So that offer needs to be attractive.
Yes, Mr Cameron, industrial action will be disruptive, but then that's the point. It's time you all sat up and took notice of us. We really are that important.
Posted by Kate Treacy Tuesday 29 November 2011 16.00 GMT 

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Cornish Farling Biscuits

The wind is howling and it feels very  November grey and miserable outside so I decided to entertain the little lady and make something delicious for the rest of the family after school.  

After making a yummy latte in my favourite Cath cup I was ready to begin cooking with a toddler...

This delicious and super quick and easy recipe was given  to me by my mum.  I have always called these little ginger biscuits "Cornish Farlings" because that is what she wrote at the top of the recipe, however I found out today (thank you google) they are actually known as "Cornish Fairings'.  Fairings being any item bought as a gift at a fair, edible or not.  Anyway history aside I decided to share it with all my lovely blog readers, and keep it as a handy reference to save me having to hunt for it in the future.

Find a helpful little girl and give her a bowl.

You will need these ingredients:

4oz Butter (but I always use marg)
1 tablespoon Golden Syrup
6oz Self Raising Flour 
Pinch of Bicarb of Soda
1 teaspoon of Ground Ginger
3 oz Caster Sugar 

(I always double or quadruple the amount but I  do have  lots of hungry children to feed!)

1. Heat marg and syrup in a pan over a low heat

Starts like this...

Looks like this very quickly

2.Stir in sieved (I never bother) flour, bicarb, ginger & sugar  - Mix well

It looks a bit like this
3. Make small or large balls of mixture (keep to the same for each otherwise they don't cook well) and place on a greased baking tray.

4. Bake for around 10 minutes (until golden in colour) at 200 C or gas mark 5

5. Leave on a tray for a few minutes then transfer to a wire cooling rack 

Then return to your lovely cup of something delicious, feeling like a wonderful mother whilst trying not to eat them all!

Not forgetting the small child who needs a reward for all their 'help'.

What is your favourite biscuit recipe?  

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Twenty one months

Time is just flying by so fast and little lady is twenty one months today,

She shared the day with older siblings who had an inset day.  It was so nice to have a relaxing play in the garden after breakfast,  much of the morning was spent building dens and moving toys around the garden.

She thinks she can avoid her patch by sharing her new  trick with me,

and showing me the flower on her new dress,

Mummy will always win the patch war little girl!

Whilst we were having a photo shoot in the misty morning garden, little man was busy inside

he is loving school and "my phonics" and is so proud of being able to write a few words.

If time could only stand still for a moment so I can catch up!

Monday, 21 November 2011

Craft & Gift market

What's the use of having a big church building in the centre of town at the start of the busy Christmas season unless it is filled with lots of people having a happy time? This weekend is the opening of the Christmas market and ice rink in the Cathedral grounds and is also the first ever craft and gift market run by Winchester Family Church.

There are lots and lots of clever people selling fantastic handmade items, although sadly I had no time to join them this year.  Among them are the ever so talented Bethany Athill, who weaves and makes beautiful items. This lovely lady who makes lots of different handmade items and many of my talented friends including the maker of these gorgeous shoes, who really needs her own blog to share all her delightful creations!

There will be lots of other stalls selling cards, children's clothing and who knows what else.  I am sure you will be able to do lots of gift shopping as well as have a lovely cup of tea and a sit down.  There is also face painting for children, what a fun way to spend a Saturday!

It would be lovely to see you there!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Catching up..

I planned to post a photo of Ruby on the 22nd of every month this year to record how she was growing.  Work, grocery shopping and a thousand other things seem to have got in the way but here are the nineteen and twenty month photos.

Nineteen months:

Playing with the Cousin's toys.

A precious picture with a Grandad who has been very ill.

Twenty months:

Showing off those growing teeth!

Adventures in Patching!

A visit to the consultant last week led to us being told that unless we patch our little girl for most of the day, she will be blind in that eye by the time she is sixteen.  We have been patching (covering her good eye to force the poor eye to work) her for  a while now but she does not like it and has become very adept at removing it about thirty seconds!

We are now matching little Miss determined with our own determination as we know it is up to us to make her lazy eye work again and obviously we do not want her to lose the vision in that eye.  If I put the patch on as well as a hair clip, she is not sure which one to remove first and  if we then  focus all our efforts into entertaining her  after a while she seems to have forgotten about it.  We have been having much more success but it is a very time consuming process, very much worth it though.

Today we played in the garden and even patched up her baby.

However despite my best distraction efforts I noticed Ruby had pulled the corner of the patch up a tiny bit, after watching her I realised she was using it to see.  This is not the point of the patch, which is to force the poor eye to be used before the brain learns to see using only the good eye.

Just as well her determination is totally matched by mine; the opthalmologist suggested putting armbands around her elbows to stop her bending her arms, I will be searching for them  this afternoon.   I am also spending time doing craft and play doh with her in an effort to occupy her and take her mind off the patch. 

Has anyone got any tips or suggestions about how to keep an eye patch on a toddler?

Monday, 12 September 2011

First day at school.

Despite the wind and rain little man scooted along to "big" school this morning.  Very excited to be wearing his new "super speedy" school shoes and insisting on carrying his bag which is far too big but was exactly what big boys have at school.

Smiling on the playground  and ready to face his new adventure:

After lining up beautifully, finding his peg, putting his book bag away and placing his water bottle in the basket, he decided he really didn't want to be at big school   and was far too tired and feeling very sad.  He knows just  how to make his mummy feel bad and spend all morning hoping he was having a good time and wondering  how time has gone by so quickly, four years has gone by so fast.  Happily he came out smiling at lunchtime and  it was so good he may even go back tomorrow (and for the next seven years my lovely)!

School is alway much better when you have older brothers and sisters to look out for you, lucky little man has several of those.

The mornings adventures have all been a little too much for this little August boy, too tired to even make it to bed.

Now to wake him to collect the others.....