Monthly Archives: December 2013

Day 365/365 – 2013 completed!

“Approach the New Year with resolve to find the opportunities hidden in each new day.”

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So the sun has quite literally set on 2013, and we can almost hear 2014 tapping on the door. Yet again, going through facebook, I see posts from all sorts of people complaining about what a terrible year they’ve just had and how they hope next year is going to be so much better, pretty much like everyone did last year as well. With every year there are highs and lows, and yes the lows have affected me too with the loss of my aunt and of my work colleague, but the highs have been amazing, most of all with the arrival of my beautiful daughter Olivia who has really blessed and enriched our lives and made us feel like the luckiest parents alive. I don’t want to look back on 2013 and hope that next year will be better like so many, I am truly grateful for all the opportunities and experiences that this year has presented, and I open my arms to embrace 2014, with all the great potential it offers. Our little girl is going to go through a massive learning curve in the next 12 months, and I can’t wait to watch this little baby grow and become a proper person. I am excited to teach her new things and be able to spend real quality time with her, and help her grow and develop. I know there are a few people following this who are keen to share this journey as well, rest assured the photos and the stories will continue. The other highs of the year I kind of went over in yesterdays post, but its fair to say that becoming a family and moving into our own house is going to be hard to top in 2014!

We have decided to keep things pretty low key for our first new years eve as a family. With some of our friends still pregnant and others new parents like us, the options were limited anyway, but we’re trying to get Olivia into a proper bedtime routine and with the wife not the biggest fan of new years eve anyway, it seemed like the logical decision. So we sat down to a candlelit dinner together, with a drink in our hands and appreciated what we have around us. With food done it was time to give Olivia a bath before bed, although she was already far too tired to enjoy it, so it was over pretty quickly. Now with Olivia asleep, its time to kick back, pour ourselves another drink and get a good film on!

So happy new year everyone, and thanks to those of you who have been following this regularly and to those who have recently found me. Have a wonderful evening, and for those in Australia, I hope you HAD a wonderful evening! All the best and see you in 2014!!

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Day 364/365 – 1 day to go!!

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”

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The day started dark, cold, windy and not very inviting… which fairly reflected my mood when I got up, as the first thing on my agenda was the funeral of my friend and work colleague Frank, the gentle giant. Tea and toast from the wife helped start my day as I put my suit on and got ready to head out of the door. It may have been monday morning, but the traffic was especially kind and I was at work in no time to meet others and drive one of the minibuses that we were taking to the crematorium. The service was lovely, and very emotional, and I was quite overwhelmed and totally not prepared for the sheer volume of people that had turned up, it was completely full and there were more people standing than sat down!

After the service we stopped to chat with family and old friends over sandwiches and hot drinks, before I took the bus back to work, dropped the staff off and headed home in the car. The next part of the day was going to Merry Hill with the the wife and daughter. I wasn’t prepared for the traffic that was also there trying to find the same parking spaces that we were! After much crawling through slow traffic we got lucky and found a space pretty quickly, although the ridiculously busy shops didn’t inspire me to hang around any longer than absolutely necessary!

On the way home we stopped in at the in-laws for a cup of tea and I felt especially glad to see Olivia spending time with her grandparents (hence todays photo) after this morning and losing a man who was so loved by so many and clearly a fantastic family man and grandfather. Maybe i’m just a bit tired today, maybe i’m just more acutely aware of time, maybe its the funerals i’ve been to this year, maybe its the fact that this entire year has gone in a flash, especially so since Olivia arrived… even keeping a record of events in the form of this 365/blog haven’t helped slow the days down at all, maybe its just feeling a bit reflective at the end of the year. Who knows, but I’m hoping that 2014 is a time we can slow down a bit and spend much more time with family and friends. If we take away the funerals, then 2013 has actually been a fantastic year, a complete roller coaster of amazing events for the wife and me. The house, announcing the pregnancy, our first wedding anniversary, our babymoon to Paris, the arrival of Olivia, friends having babies or announcing pregnancies, the fantastic summer and so much more. Next year will not have many of these events, but I will be totally preoccupied by the development and growth of our daughter as she explores and learns to do so many new things. It is going to be an amazing year, and I can’t wait, one more day to go!.

Day 363/365

“Never put off till tomorrow what may be done the day after tomorrow just as well”.

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Started the day with an under the weather wife who clearly needed more sleep than she’d had, so I took Olivia downstairs with me and left Clare to sleep. We were due to meet friends just after lunch for a little housewarming, although it ended up being just me and Olivia in attendance so that Clare could stay home and rest. The friends we were meeting are expecting their first child in three weeks, so it was nice to be able to offer help and advice from actual experience that I genuinely think will be of use to them. Olivia, of course, behaved perfectly, smiling and being all angelic. A nap, a nappy change and a bottle and she was ready to go home. After eating with the wife, I headed out to me a photography friend for a trip to the Lickey Hills monument for tonights photo. It was my first attempt at steel wool spinning, and a very windy night, but it went okay thanks to Rob’s help. It was quite easy and I look forward to trying it again soon. I was kinda hoping to end the year with this shot, but the weather is looking a bit rough for new years eve. We seem to be suffering a lot of storms at the moment in the UK, one after another. Some people may wish for a white christmas, but there are still people in the UK at the moment wishing to have their electricity back on and some people praying to keep the roof on their house. Bonkers weather, and whilst not evidence of global warming, is still undeniably peculiar! I even looked out into the back garden this morning and saw a fly buzzing around… its December, they’re all supposed to be dead now!! It can only mean one thing, we have a whole lot of snow and ice to come yet. This year we had it in January and March, and to be honest, I’d expect the same next year, which is going to be a nightmare on this new road that we live on, as there is so little traffic to clear it away. A few bad days of snow and we could be pretty much house bound, especially with a baby in tow! I think we need to be stocking up on supplies like long life milk and such in case we get stuck for a few days.

I’m not going to confirm it right now, but I am thinking that there is a good chance I will be doing another 365 project/ blog for 2014 as I have quite enjoyed this one, and have been pleasantly surprised by all the lurkers who read it on a regular basis, but I rarely find out about! A few have become evident over the year, and its nice to know that people care enough to take the time to read my ramblings. For me though, it has been great to be able to look back over the entire year and not just think “I don’t know where the time has gone”, but to actually be able to find out and remember each day! It has been such an eventful year, with so much to remember, house moves, babies, weddings funerals, holidays, the list goes on! The only difference being that I will no longer posting this onto my facebook page, for those who have been accessing it that way.

Two more days of 2013 to go!

Day 362/365

“Glory lies in the attempt to reach one’s goal and not in reaching it.”

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Today was mostly about visiting more friends, this evening we were going to see the Holtermanns for dinner. They have two little girls now and an established bedtime routine, and so we have mostly been going over to see them for the last couple of years, which is a problem for neither party really, except for the fact that we feel slightly guilty at not being able to cook for them for once in a while. All that is set to change now, as we enter a period where a) they have found a baby sitter that they are happy with and knows their girls, and b) we are leaving our grace period of having a newborn who will sleep regardless of where we are and entering a time where bedtime routine for Olivia is becoming very important, soon to become essential. Thankfully our baby sitting situation isn’t going to be as difficult as theirs, as we have more family around us, but we still need to get the bedtime routine up and running. In just a few weeks we will be making the transition of moving Olivia from her moses basket in our bedtime, into the cot in her own bedroom. Yes, our little girl is growing up fast, as people warned us would happen. As you can see on the clothes hanger in the photo, 3-6 months, our baby is already in her next size of clothing and has already outgrown many of the items that looked baggy and oversized when we brought her out of hospital.

We had a lovely time with the Holtermanns, such a friendly couple. Its nice to know that I have managed to stay in touch with some good friends from school, Andrew of course, being another friend I have known for around 25 years now. Seeing him and his wife Kate is always a pleasure, and this evenings takeaway was a great chance to relax and unwind without the distraction of at least one person being stuck in the kitchen. We are both catching up with another of our school friends tomorrow lunchtime at their housewarming, our good friend Richard, who was one of the first people I ever met in secondary school, so I have known him about 26 years now.

We have entered an amazing era with the arrival of the internet, and I am thankful to have been able to track down some of the people I went to school with, thanks to the invention of things like facebook. Its its infancy, people had many opinions about facebook, and I often heard people say things like “well if I wanted to stay in touch with them after school, I would have done”, which you might think is a fair comment, but when I left school, we didn’t have the facilities to do so with such ease as we do now. We had one phone number for their home landline, and an address at best. I went to school several miles from home, and so keeping in touch with people wasn’t as easy as just walking across the road and knocking on the door. Friends heading off to university and full time jobs, on top of new relationships and new friends meant that it was easy to let old friends slip away. I have managed to rekindle some friendships that I very much missed and now we have all matured, got married and settled down, we find ourselves getting on better than ever.

The practical upshot of all this is weekends like this one.

Day 361/365

“I don’t care too much what happened in the past. I prefer to focus on what is coming next and I am really looking forward to it.”

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Finally, a quiet day, one of the few over Christmas. Time for the three of us to just spend a bit of time together at home on our own. I know I said previously that Christmas is about the people, friends and family and spending time together, and I still stand by that. We have seen a lot of friends and family over the last week, and will be seeing more friends over the weekend, but it is equally important to have time at home for just the three of us, to relax and unwind.

Olivia was awake early this morning, she never cries when she wakes up, just chatters and gurgles and chunters to herself, and so Clare took her downstairs to allow me a little longer to nap before I got up. It was an hour or so later when they both came back upstairs, Olivia much quieter and Clare clearly not had enough sleep. I heard a noise outside and spotted our neighbour hurrying to get his bins out ready for collection as the bin men were on their way round. After a second I suddenly realised I had totally forgot too, and that the noise was the bin men arriving and not leaving, so I still had time too! After throwing on some clothes and gathering up all the rubbish and recycling and sorting the bins out, I realised that this was me up for the day, I was awake and there was no going back to bed now! Olivia was still wide awake, so I took her downstairs and left Clare to get back to sleep, which was very much appreciated by the looks of it.

We didn’t get a great deal done today, which was a nice change, as Olivia was clearly very tired after her early start and has spent a lot of the day sleeping. When she hasn’t been sleeping she has been so happy, smiles and laughing, and so much eye contact. This little girl is changing day by day, and all for the better, and even as much as I miss having a newborn around the little person I see growing before me nearly melts my heart on a daily basis. People always tell you to appreciate these days, as they are soon gone, and there aren’t wrong. We have a little girl who is almost four months old now, and I can’t tell you where the time has gone. The only thing I can say is that I am glad I started this 365 project/photo blog this year and kept track of it all. May add another post later, I think all these photos and blog posts deserve a “Round Up Of 2013”.

You lucky, lucky people!

Day 360/365

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

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Its fair to say that Christmas was a total success, and boxing day, for the the last few years, has been a day where we usually get together with the wife’s family for food. This year however, one of the Clare’s relatives had a little luck on the lottery and decided to take the family out for lunch, which was thoroughly appreciated and a nice way to spend the afternoon. With a no jeans policy at the venue, it meant my new suit got to see the light of day for a second time. We spent the evening round at the in laws house after eating out. The wife and me stopped at home on the way, to change into something more comfortable and pick up Olivia’s carry cot so that she could sleep in it in case we stayed late.

So while boxing day is a great day for a bank holiday and spending time with friends and family, it can’t be denied that absolutely no-one has any idea of what boxing day is actually about. There are plenty of theories and ideas and possibilities, but no-one is actually sure. Hence, todays photo, taken from my kit bag from my martial arts training. Most countries don’t even celebrate it except for us here in the UK and a couple of others.

Today has been a very nice day and it wad great that we got home in time for our annual tradition of sitting down to watch the Big Fat Quiz Of The Year together.

Day 359/365 Christmas Day

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”

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Well thats Christmas day 2013 ‘done’ in the Vokes household, and Olivia’s first ever Christmas. So, how did it go, I hear you ask. Just about as well as it could, really, we all had a lovely day! We had a quiet start to the day, opening presents for the first time as a family, although its fair to say that Olivia needed a little help with hers! We all had some lovely gifts and were very pleased with them, and Olivia was truly spoilt, she had lots of gifts, all lovely and extremely appreciated. WHen I was showered and dressed, I prepared our goliath hunk of turkey according to Delia’s suggestions and put it in the oven. The veg were already prepared by Clare last night, and so were ready to be cooked later in the morning. My family were the first to arrive, bringing gifts and a dessert for later. Dinner was well under way at this point, and Clare’s parents arrived shortly before dinner was due to be served, as they’d already been somewhere else before they got to us. Dinner was served up with the help of a few extra hands, as Olivia decided to choose this point to have a screaming fit, as she suddenly realised she was tired and overdue for a nap! Once she was settled and asleep, I could sit down and the dinner itself was pretty amazing, I enjoyed every single mouthful, even if I had stood and cooked it myself. As we finished dinner and were about to clear up, my friend Millie turned up with her son, my godson, to deliver some presents for Olivia. Thankfully there was enough help to wash and dry the dishes without me having to abandon our new guests. She had warned me about her arrival, but my failure to check my phone meant that I missed the text message and it was a bit of a surprise. Millie only stayed until we served up dessert, where I got a chance to put brandy on the Christmas pudding and light it. Look at me, fully acting out the whole “Dad” role by carving the turkey, wearing my christmas jumper and lighting the christmas pud! I think the only stereotype i’m missing is falling asleep in front of the queens speech! We rounded off the evening with a traditional christmas viewing of Raiders Of The Last Ark, after which the last of our days guests left us and headed for home, and suddenly peace descended upon us again. I had promised the wife she could take over the tv with her 2 hr special of Downton Abbey, so it seemed a perfect opportunity to get this photo up, and now I”m done… time to pour another drink. Well, why not, it IS Christmas after all!

Merry Christmas everyone, and thanks for joining me on this 365 journey so far this year, with now only a week left! It has been a fantastic Christmas day in our new home, and with my new family, and a great start to the final week of my project.

Day 358/365

“The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other. ”

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Christmas eve is finally here, and what a full day it has been!

We headed off to see Scott and Julia this morning and their new little arrival Ewan, and after a cup of tea and a cuddle with the baby we headed off to see Richard and Tracy for an hour before heading home and starting to get the house ready for tomorrow. After a bite to eat we headed over to the in laws on the way to church for Christmas mass. Now we’re home, all the presents are wrapped and under the tree, the wife is preparing some food for tomorrow in the kitchen, even though Christmas lunch is my responsibility. I will be mostly catering for eight people tomorrow, thankfully no vegetarians! I’ve had to do that before… my record is Christmas dinner for eleven people, when I lived in a shared house, one of them was a vegetarian, just to add a bit of fun to the days cooking, as if cooking for eleven wasn’t enough of a challenge!

The weather for the last two days has been bad enough in the Midlands, and I’m just glad we don’t live on the coast where flooding has been commonplace and homes have been damaged. The worst we could expect today was “heavy showers” which arrived and looked like the end of the world! I took todays photo after one such downpour, and sadly missed the rainbow that followed it!

Merry Christmas everyone, with a Pass Out for a few hours, i’m now off to the pub!

Day 357/365

“Through a frosty winter night. In a sleigh with reindeer flight. Bringing joy to large and small. Merry Christmas one and all.”

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“Weather warnings” seemed to be the words of the day on the news, and granted, it was a bit grizzly outside when I got up. I had conspired with one of the other antenatal dads to meet at a local garden centre around midday as they had some real reindeers for people to visit, and we’d kept it from the wives until the last minute. It would have been a total surprise, but Clare was reluctant to go outside with the weather being as miserable as it was, and needed some motivation. Thankfully she thought it was a good idea when I told her about the plan and we met up with not one, but two of the other antenatal couples and their little ones. I’m sure the babies weren’t too fussed about seeing the reindeer, but us as parents thought it was wonderful. We had a wander around the christmas section and stopped for a spot of lunch and a chat in the cafe before heading home. The heavens completely opened as we went to leave, with rivers running down the car park, so we held off a bit before we headed back to the cars.

After we got home I realised there was one more trip to the supermarket to make, to grab a few supplies for dinner and some drinks for christmas day. I waited until later in the afternoon, when the crowds had died down a bit, and it was definitely the right decision!

Now just waiting for one of my sisters and her family to turn up for some dinner. I may just pour myself a drink! Christmas is almost here and for me, its not about the presents or the cards, its about who you spend it with. Last night we had some friends round, tonight its family and then we’re cooking for eight on Christmas day. I just wish we could squeeze even more people into this week! I hope no-one reading this is spending Christmas on their own, its people that definitely make it what it is!

Happy Christmas everyone!

Day 356/365

“Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts.”

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Sundays plans for visiting our friends Richard and Candice were put on hold at the last minute when they had to postpone the day because of water coming through the ceiling. Thankfully the damage doesnt sound too bad, so we’re back on for next week instead, but this left me without any plans for the day. As we were having friends visiting in the evening for some food, I decided to brave the crowds and head to Asda for some food for the evening. The crowds weren’t too bad, but the parking was chronic, maximum patience was required to not get out of the car and beat people to death with my bare hands! I had to double check I had everything before heading through the checkout as there was no way I was heading back in there once I’d left!

We made our free afternoon productive and gave the house a good clean from top to bottom, ready for our guests, Ella and Alan. I went to school with Ella, and so have known her almost 25 years now, which just seems crazy! I still don’t feel old enough to have known someone for 25 years. I found out a few weeks ago that Ella and Alan had made the decision to move to Ireland, where Alan is from, on a permanent basis. So this was just a two week visit back to England over Christmas for them to see friends and family, so I felt quite honoured that they’d decided to spent one of those evenings with us! We got through a few pizzas and had a few drinks, and had a lovely evening going through some photos. It was great to see them, and look forward to the next time.

Unfortunately, after they left I suddenly realised how warm and relaxed I had become, and after a few drinks that evening, could not keep my eyes open. I made an attempt to pick up my laptop and start typing, and promptly fell asleep on the sofa until about 3am. So this is a second ‘morning after’ blog in a week. Not a huge concern with just over a week to go, and I can begin to pat myself on the back as I have pretty much completed the year, or as good as! So to continue the debate with myself as to whether to take on a second year or not…

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