258.365

150914

Some might call it “cruising”, some might call it “exploring”, some might call it “learning”… I call it “getting too damn close to my surround sound speakers”!!

The little lady is moving in oh so many ways now, there is literally no putting her down and leaving her without considering what she can reach, no matter where it is in the room, or any other room for that matter! Its such an exciting time, I can’t wait for those first few independent steps, but we are going to have to reconsider all the things we leave lying around… well, more so me as I am the one dumping cameras and other such gadgets about the place!

Tonights post will have to be short and sweet as it has been a busy evening and I am already looking at going to bed far later than I had intended. I have a very busy schedule at the moment, and just not enough hours in the day. If I could clone myself, that would work wonders right now! Sadly I am unsure about the legality and practicalities of such a convenient idea at the moment!

It was a tough Monday at work as I was still pretty tired from the weekend, and it was the first day I’d had to cycle through rain to get to work, on top of which it was the first day I’d had to cycle without any glasses on my face to protect my eyes. People driving past me probably just think they’re shades so I can look cool, when in reality they are only there to keep bugs, stones, rain, wind and oily spray from the road out of my eyes! At 35mph anyone of those things can really put you off! Consequently I have been back on my favourite shopping site, Amazon to buy some more. I do love Amazon, there really is no beating it. I still remember when I thought they only sold books, and then Clare tells me that she’d ordered her wedding shoes from there! I nearly fell over! Now my big debate is whether or not to invest in one of these helmet cams that I see so many people wearing. Its a bit of an extravagant spend, for something that doesn’t offer any direct benefit to my cycling, but if something was to happen and I had a nasty accident with a car a) if they drove off I’d never have time to see or write don their registration plate number b) if they contested it and said it was my fault, I’d have actual proof, and c) if they got angry about their precious car, I’d feel a bit better knowing (and telling them) that they were being recorded! Something to think about anyway.

Right, its now far too late, the bread maker is set to start baking just before we get up, so hopefully I’ll have some nice fresh bread for sandwiches in the morning, but now I am off to bed!

Night all!

257.365

140914

So its a slightly earlier blog than usual, hell, I’m actually doing this at a normal time tonight! I may even stand a chance of getting to bed early, what a crazy thought!

I woke up at the usual time, as Olivia was waking up, and was feeling decidedly exhausted after last nights casino antics! Clare was brilliant and took Olivia downstairs leaving me to sleep for a bit longer, although with a visitor due in the morning, I didn’t want to sleep in late, but that extra hour made all the difference. I got up and could function normally again without wandering around the house all dazed and confused. My day started when my friend turned up ready to sit down and have a look at the business opportunity with me, I think it will be right up his street and hope he makes the decision to jump on board and work towards changing his future!

Thankfully we’d already put the slow cooker and bread maker on in the morning and given ourselves a head start, so lunch was already well under way and soon we were ready to sit down to a lovely lunch thanks to the wife who had been busy in the kitchen.

My one priority for today was to put together Olivia’s new trike that we bought her for her birthday. We didn’t have any plans for today, it was a very rare quiet day, so out came the tools and together went the trike. It looked good and Olivia loved it, so off we went for a little walk while the weather was still good. Its a funny time of year where we just can’t predict the weather at all, it was fairly pleasant out and there was even a bit of sunshine, but bear in mind that the Birmingham Christmas Frankfurt Market opens in just 8 weeks and thats usually an afternoon where you need to wrap up if you want to spend a few hours outside wandering around looking at all the stalls. So if we’re only 8-10 weeks from wrapping up, how much longer have we got these nice afternoons for? I still want to squeeze one more bbq in before the end of the year, I think it is going to have to be in the next two weeks or not at all. We headed out anyway, and enjoyed a bit of fresh air and stretched our legs for a bit, it felt nice, especially after missing my run yesterday.
DSCF6663

We walked back past the in-laws and stopped in for a cup of tea, they are always eager to see Olivia, so dropping in at a moments notice is never an issue. They’ll take any excuse they can get for cuddles with their granddaughter! We could only stay for an hour as it was tea time for Olivia, and she was able to tuck into a delicious sandwich with todays freshly made bread, that wasn’t all full of salt and other nasties! Its a snack that she can easily feed herself, which she loves to do, including a banana which she got all over her face, so it was most definitely time for a bath by the time she was done. Then there was just her bedtime bottle of milk left to go and she was ready for bed! Even though she was clearly exhausted, we still had hardly any noise out of her, she’s just so well behaved. Our little diamond!

256.365

130914

Saturday morning often starts with a run, which for me is the ideal way to start the day, but not this weekend. Both my running partners were unavailable, so I took the chance to have a rest day and let my legs recover for another week of cycling. It had been a pretty late night on Friday anyway, and my energy levels weren’t exactly soaring. It was however a double birthday, both my sister and my niece sharing the same day, and so I wanted to try and squeeze in a visit to both. My one sister who’s birthday it was, was at my moms house, which was ideal as my mom got to see Olivia while I saw my sister. My other sister was due to come to us later that day so I could see my niece. The timings all went out the window and my two sisters were potentially not going to see each other, so I decided to say goodbye to my mom and head home where both my sisters could come and meet up, see each other, say happy birthday to my niece and see Olivia too. It was really lovely having both of my sisters over, I need to do it more often! I was due to head out that evening, but thankfully so were both my sisters, so the afternoon was wrapped up in plenty of time for me to go and get ready, and I didn’t end up having to usher them out because I was watching the clock. I managed to grab todays photo in the morning before we went anywhere, as this little madam really is on the move now. The whole of downstairs is now a roaming ground for her, and nowhere is safe unless we religiously close doors behind us. Although there have been occasions where she has shut the door after us and sat behind it so we can’t get back into the room, the little monster!

Saturday was not only the birthdays of my sister and niece, but the birthday celebration of one of our friends, who was the first in our group to turn 40, and it kinda highlighted how close we all are to hitting that mark now. I still have a couple of years left, but that dreaded number is fast approaching all the same, and there is no avoiding it. Our night was starting with a few drinks, followed by a meal at an Argentinian restaurant. The only time I had eaten Argentinian was on the couple of times I had visited Amsterdam as they have countless Argentinian Steak Houses, which sell some of the tastiest steak I have ever eaten! The kind of steak that almost makes me want to book a flight out there just to eat it again! Our restaurant tonight had a similar meat based theme, and you really needed to like your meat cooked rare to eat here, there was plenty of red in these cuts, but they tasted sooo good! We ate later than I was hoping to as we didn’t even get seated until 9:30pm, having not eaten a lot all day, so I had to be careful not to drink too much before the food appeared, as we’d all met up from 7pm , which meant a big gap between meeting up and sitting down to eat, with the obvious chance to drink a little too much on an empty stomach! While it was my friends 40th, I was having a really nice time just chatting to friends, and didn’t want to be slurring my words or end up halfway through saying something and forgetting what the point of what I was saying actually was! The food came out and was amazing, meat, lots of it, cooked perfectly and full of flavour. The bill was all put on a tab and split, which made the evening easier, and this time I wasn’t driving and so didn’t feel cheated about paying for everyone else’s drinks while I had a lemonade, as has happened more than once!

After the meal we headed out for the short walk onto a local casino. I’d only been in a casino once before and was quite drunk at the time, knowing full well to keep my money in my pocket in the state I was in or I’d end up losing the lot! Consequently I wasn’t quite sure what to expect this time, but it was a very pleasant surprise, and far less pretentious than I thought it was going to be! It was a modestly small venue and was quiet enough to not feel intimidating, but busy enough that all the tables had something going on that I could join in with. I decided to take my chances on a poker table and ended up making money. In fact I’d made more money than I came out of the house with that evening! Even after the meal and drinks I was still in profit! A few of us shared a taxi home as it was getting very late, and I can now approach next weekends stag do feeling abit more confident about money, as I was aware that two back to back weekends could have left a bit of a hole in the bank account. Thankfully that isn’t the case as last night was essentially free!

255.365

DSCF6630

Ah the sweet taste of Friday! A fairly relaxed day at work with the kids, and thankfully all the staff managing to avoid some kind of injury which is always a good thing! The weather was great for cycling, although I’d forgotten to to put a much needed clothes wash on, including my cycling jerseys, and only had one left, which was more of a winter top that had a lovely soft lining, but not ideal for warm, uphill rides home!

I was home a little earlier than usual after work, and spent some lovely time with Olivia, who is now a far cry from the little baby we used to put down in one spot and still find in that spot five minutes later! This new and improved version doesn’t sit still any more, in fact as you can see from todays photo, its a damn good job I put the stair gate up last week. We’d been talking about it for a little while, and I knew we were close to needing it, but I didn’t realise just how close! She is most definitely on the move and is quite happily and quickly shuffling/crawling from one room to another. In fact, at this rate, I think it is becoming very obvious that buying only one stair gate was a big oversight, as we are very soon going to need on for the top of the stairs as well!

Her crawling around in white leggings apparently also highlighted an urgent need to do a much better job of cleaning the floor! Oh well, its on the list of things to do… that is unless we can just tie dusters to her knees… hmm!

Once Clare was home (and equally horrified at our little girl climbing up the stair gate!) I was able to disappear to the supermarket as I need to pick up a number of different things such as pizza for dinner, some birthday cards, some strong flour and a few other ingredients for our bread making machine, a couple of beers for myself, nothing too substantial… yet I still managed to spend the equivalent of a weekly food shop in there and left feeling rather poor! I was home just in time to say goodnight to Olivia before she was taken up to bed, and with the pizzas in the oven, that gave me 15 minutes to get the bread maker set up, and the ingredients in. It was an extremely simple process and I’d hit the start button before the oven timer went off to say that dinner was ready! As I had been originally supposed to meet with a friend tonight who had subsequently cancelled on me, this meant I could get to work on sifting through a few more wedding photos that I need to get on top of. I do love weddings, but the editing process afterwards can seem to take forever! I hate to keep people waiting, but I just don’t seem to have enough hours in the day at the moment! I’m already pushing the limits of how little I can sleep and still have the energy to not only function normally, but exercise as well. Take into account the full time job, the 1 year old daughter, and essentially running two part time businesses… its no wonder my hair is going grey!

One little bonus before bed, was the sound of the bread maker beeping and alerting me to the fact that it had finished and my first loaf was ready! I had already been smelling it during the baking part of the process, and it smelt delicious. The smell even caught the attention of Clare who had gone to bed some time ago! I just had to taste a slice before I went to bed, and it was delicious!! Definitely the right choice, I can now happily give Olivia bread and toast knowing it is not full of too much salt and other unnecessary ingredients. Here is an article from The Independent newspaper which didn’t make me decide to buy a bread making machine as I’d already ordered it before reading this, but did reassure me that I had made the right choice.

http://andrewvokes.wordpress.com/the-shocking-truth-about-bread/

254.365

110914

Almost the weekend, which is a pretty grim way to look at the week considering its still only Thursday! Still, the weekend is about family time, and that’s something I can’t fully appreciate during the week.

Thursday meant one thing, Olivia was at nursery again and I had to pedal my little legs off to get home as fast as I could so that I could get changed out of my cycling clobber to head out and pick her up. It is only a short walk, and I am there in only a couple of minutes, and no matter how good my day has been, this always feels like the best part of the day for me! I love walking in there and seeing the smile on her face, the staff always comment on how good she has been and how well she has settled in. It has only been a couple of weeks now and she is eating fine and taking all her naps there, which is very reassuring. I think its a big stage for any parent to be leaving their little one in someone else’s care, and their biggest worry is that their child will be upset and spend the entire day crying. When you are obliged to be in work after dropping them off, what do you do?? It proved no problem with our little girl, she took to it like a duck to water.

I can’t deny that becoming a parent really has changed me in so many ways, there are so many things I see differently. I have definitely become more concerned with the future and my health for a start. I took up running years ago to get fitter, lose a bit of weight, but mostly to look after my heart, and now I continue to burn the calories during week cycling to and from work, and still squeezing in the odd run at the weekend. The running is something that I love, although having somebody alongside you to give you a bit of encouragement makes a lot of difference, and it also gives you that extra incentive to get out there and actually do it when you know someone is waiting for you, rather than just sitting at home making excuses! I’ve been lucky to have a couple of running partners to keep me going, and now I’m faces with the decision of whether or not to sign up for this years Birmingham Half Marathon which will be my fifth. Last year was hard work and put me off, I hadn’t trained enough and wasn’t feeling 100% on the morning! Although I am still tempted to try and beat my personal best, providing I can get enough training in between now and then.

I finished off the day with a visit to a friend to show the business to them, as every parents financial nightmare, the dreaded nursery fees are looking to cause a bit of an issue for them. If I can show them a way to change things so they don’t have to worry about nursery fees again, then it makes me very happy to think I can really help my friends out. I’ve left them to think about it, as only they know if its right for them.

253.365

100914

I’d like to take a moment from my normal blog updates to recognise one person.

One special person who has made such a huge difference to my life, that words can’t even begin to describe how grateful I am, and how much they mean to me.

That is my wife, Clare. My rock.

She is such an amazing woman, and no one single incident has inspired this post, I just wanted to let her know how wonderful she is.

It comes as no secret to people reading this blog that I have started a new business from home. It takes a lot of time. At the end of the day, if I wanted instant cash, I would go out and find a part time job to fit around my full time job. This is not a part time job, it is a business. Some businesses take years before they see a profit, I am already seeing profit from mine, and although it is not life changing amounts of money, it is still profit, nonetheless! What I am currently doing is essentially sewing seeds for the future, where I will begin to reap the benefits in the coming weeks and months. It is fun, and a totally different way of thinking, but it still takes time. Do I have a wife who whinges and complains about that? Hell no! I have married an amazing woman who totally trusts and believes in me, even though we won’t see the real rewards just yet. She gives me the chance to do whatever I need to do in order to gain skills, make contacts and learn new things that are all going to help me to make this business successful in the future.

I just wanted to take a minute to thank her for that, and let her know that everything she does, from looking after our daughter when I am not there, to taking care of the house, getting dinners ready, to just supporting me and not raising a single objection, is truly and completely appreciated.

Thank you Clare, I love you!

So in summary, a good day. Cycling has been made especially pleasant thanks to the mild and dry weather we have been having, although I do need to start preparing for the autumn weather as I’m not geared up for wet weather at all, at the moment! I made sure I was home as early as possible to see my little girl as I would be going out before she went to bed, there was more home based training at my friends house, which sadly meant a bit of a drive and leaving the house before Olivia was in bed. Not ideal, but I have to make sacrifices somewhere, and its not exactly every night!

252.365

090914

A chaotic start to the day as I left the house to cycle to work and found out that yet again the local traffic lights at a major junction were out and causing carnage! This is happening on such a regular occurrence now, I can’t understand why nobody has fixed it. Getting across a junction where nobody wants to wait for anybody, and everybody is angry makes you feel a little vulnerable on two wheels, but thankfully I was able to position myself quite closely behind a bus and get across safely. Not many will argue with a bus!

On top of this I was late leaving the house, but due to being able to zip through the traffic, the sheer amount of cars on the road (which always seems worse on a Tuesday for some reason) doesn’t really slow me down much and I was still able to get to work in time to grab a shower. It’s such a refreshing way to start the day with 20 minutes intensive cycling, followed by a nice hot shower, it’s a great start to the day! The days seem to have settled down slightly as the kids begin to settle in, but working in a special needs school can always be unpredictable, the kids can become quite upset very quickly and the chances of getting scratched or bruised are very likely. Still, we don’t do this job for the money, we do it for the love of it. This term is still going to be long, although all the retail and office friends I know I’m sure will have very little sympathy. By the time this term is finished, it will almost be time for the Birmingham German Christmas Market to start, so I guess we can expect these mornings to start getting colder and colder, which reminds me, I still need to get the last of the loft panels laid to keep the house as warm as possible. I have a few busy weekends ahead of me, so I really need to plan this time in or the job just isn’t going to get done! I’m finding that using a diary planner is essential lately as I have so much going on a so many things to remember! If I don’t write it down, it doesn’t get done!

Today was also the first day back in the Samurai Jujitsu dojo this evening, and I knew I had to get home as early as possible to pick Olivia up from nursery so I could be ready to go out on time. Although on cycling home I was soon presented with the grim reality that the traffic lights that were out this morning, had either gone out again or were still out from this morning, the traffic was nothing less than sheer chaos! While cycling down the middle of the road, in between all the stationary cars proved to be no problem for me, as I was still getting home at a pretty normal speed, totally unaffected by the carnage I was weaving in and out of, I knew that it would be a different story for Clare who would be coming home on the bus and was going to get stuck in the middle of all this. I don’t want my wife sat in all this traffic, but is also can’t leave on time for jujitsu if she’s not home to take over looking after Olivia. It was a win-win for everyone if I strapped Olivia into her car seat and went out to pick Clare up from a bus stop further from home where the traffic wouldn’t be so bad. She was very grateful, I was able to leave on time and it was job done!

Back in the dojo I was feeling a little out of practise, it has been a number of weeks since I’ve been thrown onto the floor! I do enjoy the jujitsu, but I am beginning to question if I have the time for it at the moment. Tuesdays are becoming kind of hectic and my week is busy enough as it is. Building up a new business deserves all the time I have to get it going, yet I’m still working on wedding photos at the moment. Oh if only there were more hours in the day, or I didn’t need that little luxury we call sleep!