365 project, Journal, Parenting, Personal, Photography

More of the 365 project: days 102-110

A damp and windy April is beginning to draw to an end, and my birthday month is almost here, the big 4-0 is creeping closer and we have actually begun making plans for a party to celebrate it. I don’t know why i’m bothered about leaving my 30s behind and entering into my 40s, I didn’t have this concern on the transition from 29 to 30. I do have to put things into persepctive and appreciate that I have everything I could possibly hope for by the time I’d reached this age… a wonderful wife, two beautiful daughters, a house, a nice car a great circle of friends. I guess its just getting used to the mentality that for most of my life, like most people I guess, I have considered 40somethings to be “a bit old”. Yeah let’s face it, I am not 21 any more. While I can’t fool myself into believing I am still some kind of spring chicken or peter pan, the grey hair certainly removes any doubt about that!

So on with the 365 anyway, what have the last few days been about…?

102: The day after an unexpected mid-April snowfall, and I find myself out walking in the sun in just a t-shirt. The wife had suggested abandoning the idea a cooked Sunday lunch, and heading out for a carvery. Thankfully the closest is within walking distance, and so we took advantage of the sun, and left the car at home. One of the big attractions of living where we do, was the lines of cherry blossom trees running along the local roads, which look amazing for a few weeks each year.

Day 102 - April 17th
Day 102 – April 17th

103: After climbing off my bike at the end of a Monday, the thought of putting my feet up is a very tempting one, that is until my daughter runs at me with her arms open shouting “I do painting, I do painting!”. Its hard to say no, she loves it so much, its easy to clean up, and she’s usually done within 20 minutes. I like her to get her hands messy and feel the paint, and make the marks that can’t be undone with a delete button. There are so many apps for my iPad where she can paint, colour in, make pictures and not get in any mess, but its no subsitute for the real thing!

Day 103 - April 18th
Day 103 – April 18th

104: Charging up the helmet camera that has been a useful addition to my cycling. What I don’t want to become is part of the helmetcam vigilante brigade, a few who take it too far, and what most drivers think cyclists who wear cameras are! There are so many idiots on the road though, and so many who hold no regard whatsoever for the life of anyone who decides to climb onto two wheels instead of start the engine of four. Our lives seem to be worth significantly less when we climb onto our bikes, but this helmet camera has helped to give me a better chance of getting home alive to see my family. It has been useful in capturing bad and dangerous driving where a van driver was reported to their company, but primarily I want it to act as a deterrent. I’d rather people see it, and think better of a close pass, giving me more room to continue my journey safely.

Day 104 - April 19th
Day 104 – April 19th

105: There is something especially satisfying about riding home in the sunshine, knowing that the winter is well behind you and the weather can only get better. When I got home, I noticed how beautiful everything looked at the clouds parted once more and everything was covered in the light of the setting sun.

Day 105 - April 20th
Day 105 – April 20th

106: On returning from work, I find that the wife has been busy in the daughters room, with a new set of wall stickers, to which the daughter is delighted. Gone are the unisex animals and leaves, now replaced with fairy princesses and a castle. Even better than the satisfaction she gets from it is the beautiful portrait it makes.

Day 106 - April 21st
Day 106 – April 21st

107: Gotta love that Friday feeling, the end of the working week. Its even nicer when you can spend it with family, and so I had my two sisters and their partners over for dinner and drinks. A lovely way to spend an evening, and something we don’t do often enough. I managed to cook up my signature risotto and it went down a treat, and no meal is complete without wine and a candle on the table!

Day 107 - April 22nd
Day 107 – April 22nd

108: Saturday is one of those elusive days that can disappear in the blink of an eye if you don’t have a plan. Its sometimes nice to slow down after a week at work and do very little, so we spent the morning having a little fun around the house, before the wife thought it was a good idea head out to the shopping mall at the busiest time during the week! We had to go toy shopping for birthday presents, but at least got to treat ourselves to a little lunch while we were out, I guess I can cope with a few crowds for a tasty lunch.

Day 108 - April 23rd
Day 108 – April 23rd

109: Sunday morning and time to go swimming, the bonus is meeting our friend with her little girl, and the double bonus is Clare coming along with Chloe to watch Olivia in the pool, as previous swimming sessions have been a bit of father/daughter time and Clare has missed out on how well Olivia is getting on in the water. Swimming is followed up with a visit to Boo Boo Coffee shop across the road, as they have a fantastic menu and even a childrens area. We missed out on soft play with some more friends because of Olivia’s need to nap after a busy morning swimming, but at least we caught up with them later on. All in all a weekend well spent!

Day 109 - April 24th
Day 109 – April 24th

110: The joy of being back to work on a Monday, but at least the nights are getting lighter, although a confused two year old is still questioning why she has to go to bed when “its daytime”. Once she was asleep in bed it was time to grab myself some dessert, as dinner had left a spot needing to be filled by something sweet!

Day 110 - April 25th
Day 110 – April 25th

365 project, Journal, Parenting, Personal, Photography, Portrait

365 project update: days 95 – 101

So its back on the myfitnesspal app again for me, and today was all going so well… cycling into work, followed by a 2 mile run on the treadmill as soon as I get to work, before I hit the shower. I even pack a sensible lunch, and all is going well… until that is, I get home and discover the daughters home made biscuits and weaken!

Its no secret, my 40th birthday is edging closer and closer and there is simply no hiding from it. I was really hoping that when it finally landed I could at least feel slightly better about things by being at least a few pounds lighter, but that has really not worked out very well so far. I was doing especially well with the half stone head start after my recent bout of gastroenteritis, but think I’ve probably put all that back on now. My failing is not in my lack of exercise, its clearly my weakness for food! Still, at least I am back into the running again now, and there is still hope, one slip up does not mean the war has been lost!

At least one thing I have been able to keep up successfully is the 365 project, and I have even managed to break through the 100 days barrier, which feels like quite a landmark event.

95: A birthday party to go to, and Olivia is ready in her pretty dress. She still needs her afternoon nap, and this particular party was right in the middle of nap time, so we had to push through, but she made it, and had a wonderful time dancing!

Day 95 - Apr 10th
Day 95 – Apr 10th

96: Practising with a little off camera flash, which I always think makes for a more pleasing portrait, and this little lady is changing daily. The endless screaming everytime she is awake has virtually disappeared now, unless of course she is either hungry or super tired, and she is making some lovely faces and cooing noises, but even better is her tracking and the way she actually watches you and turns to look at you.

Day 96 - Apr 11th
Day 96 – Apr 11th

97: A black and white abstract perspective shot, something a bit different. Sometimes you need to be stuck for a photo at the end of the day to force you to see something normal in a different way.

Day 97 - Apr 12th
Day 97 – Apr 12th

98: A little bit of warm weather and Olivia can’t wait to get into the garden, she loves being outdoors. Part of todays excitement was the watering can and the plant spray, any excuse to play with water. After repeatedly watering the weeds for me, she discovered the joy of spraying everything, including herself!

Day 98 - Apr 13th
Day 98 – Apr 13th

99: Nothing is cuter than a sleeping baby shot, and even though she is spending longer and longer awake, Chloe is still sleeping for huge portions of the day. I went for a slightly desaturated look in this shot, taking some, but not all of the colour out of it. She is growing at a rate of knots at the moment, and I don’t think this moses basket will be big enough for much longer. Best get that spare room sorted asap!

Day 99 - Apr 14th
Day 99 – Apr 14th

100: Yes! 100 days of not missing a shot, even if some of them have been a bit rubbish along the way. I love this close up shot of Chloe the focus was more on the hand, but it hasn’t made the eye look especially out of focus. When doing portraits, usually it is a priority to get the eyes, if nothing else, in focus. Typically it is one of the rules of photography, but once you have learnt the rules, you can start to break them.

Day 100 - Apr 15th
Day 100 – Apr 15th

101: The middle of April, and all we want is a bit of sunshine to break up the rainy days… so what on earth is happening when we throw open the curtains on Saturday morning to see snow everywhere? I spotted on the video monitor that Olivia was awake, and as soon as she was up and saw outside, she wanted to be out in the snow. So we got dressed and headed straight out and got some snowballs on the go! I couldn’t help but be slightly disappointed when the whole lot had melted by midday! It was fun while it lasted!

Day 101 - Apr 16th
Day 101 – Apr 16th

Journal, Personal, Photography

To Facebook, or not to Facebook…

Like several hundred million others around the globe, I am well connected to social media, including the most famous of them, Facebook.

Recently, after some chronic battery issues with my iPhone which I have thankfully managed to fix, I was left in a position where I had no choice but to erase everything on my phone and frustratingly set it up as new again. When I began looking into the battery issue, it made me realise what a battery drain the Facebook app was on my phone, and when it came to reinstalling all my apps, I was left with the dilemma of whether or not to bother putting the Facebook app back on my phone.

It does seem a little silly that such a simple app has even become the subject of such dilemma for me, and that my thoughts about whether or not I should even have it on my phone have even become a talking point. I have a couple issues stopping me from putting the Facebook app back on my phone just yet, the first one being the issue with the battery usage, due to the app itself being open and the huge screen using power. The second and most important one being the massive distraction that Facebook can be. I find myself picking up the phone far too frequently, to literally check that nothing amazing and life changing has happened in the last five minutes that I might have missed. Its almost akin to smoking, the act of just doing it without thinking and subsequent cravings when its gone.

So how am I finding this Facebook free period of the day? Well I now have no way to access it while I am at work, and yes, the practical upshot is that my battery life has improved massively, and I am not picking up my phone just for the sake of it any more, like it is some kind of comfort blanket… but I can’t help feeling a little annoyed at what feels like a huge inconvenience.  I have always said that facebook, far from being a place to whinge, air your dirty laundry, or just show off about how great your life/children/partner is, is actually a really useful tool for staying in touch with your friends and family, its why so many of us are literally hooked on it, and likewise one of my old college friends who still refuses to sign up to any kind of social media misses out on so much of what is happening with everyones lives.

So is it just withdrawal symptoms? I know in reality that I am probably not missing out on that much during the day, especially when I get home from work and pick up my iPad, only to find just a couple of notifications for something I am really not that interested in anyway. Will it just get easier if I just try and push through it and leave facebook at home solely on my iPad, or will I continue to become annoyed with what feels like a huge inconvenience and crack? 

The truth is, yes, I will most likely end up putting it back on my phone at some point. The battery on my phone is good enough to not suffer too much, and I just have to learn that all things are good in moderation, including facebook!

365 project, Parenting, Personal, Photography, Portrait

Keeping up with the 365 project: days 84 – 94

Oops! I think this is the longest I have left it between updates. I certainly can’t be doing that again, it has made keeping track of things and finding all the photos quite tricky and time consuming! I had to make notes to remind myself and everything!

What a week and a half it has been! Obviously I have been off work as it has been the easter holidays, but it hasn’t all been straight forward. There were many chores to do, as well as people we wanted to see, and it hasn’t all been possible, even with two weeks off work. A house full of germs in the second week has really put the brakes on a lot of our plans.

84: On the Wednesday I was out in the morning, looking after my friends son before heading home to see our friend who was visiting with her son, and heading out with them and the kids to the park.

Day 84 - March 30th
Day 84 – March 30th

85: With Olivia in nursery we decided to treat ourselves to a fancy lunch with the in-laws and visited the new Miller & Carter restaurant up the road from us. It was a new experience as we’d never been to a Miller & Carter before, and it did not disappoint! We were lucky that Chloe slept through the entire thing so we could eat lunch uninterrupted, although the crying is starting to be replaced with smiles more lately anyway. Straight after lunch we shot off to nursery to see Olivia’s easter bonnet parade.

Day 85 - March 31st
Day 85 – March 31st

86: Off the the Birmingham Childrens Hospital today for Chloe to have her harness looked at. It has been on for two weeks now, although it feels more like two months! Olivia came with us, all dressed up in bright colours, and behaved so well even though we had to wait a while. The Childrens hospital is quite a sad place sometimes, to see parents in tears, standing in corridors consoling each other is just heart breaking. As lovely as the staff are, I’ll be glad when the harness is off and we don’t have to go there again.

Day 86 - April 1st
Day 86 – April 1st

87: Saturday was a much more cheerful day. After a very early start to head into town and visit the Apple Store about the battery issue on my phone, we were off the the Birmingham Nature Centre to meet some friends for a spot of lunch and a wander round the park with the little ones looking at the various animals. Thankfully it stayed dry, and the kids had a lovely time.

Day 87 - April 2nd
Day 87 – April 2nd

88: What better way to start a Sunday than with a trip to the swimming pool to meet friends. Olivia got to swim and play with her friend Amber before we headed off to the cafe for a drink and a biscuit.

Day 88 - April 3rd
Day 88 – April 3rd

89: Monday we couldn’t go far as we were waiting for the men to turn up and put up the scaffolding outside our house, ready for the window to be replaced in a few days time. Olivia decided to set up camp with her lunch and watch the men, make sure they do a proper job!

Day 89 - April 4th
Day 89 – April 4th

90: The germs decide to settle into the Vokes household and bother all of us. Olivia had a bad nights sleep with what we suspected might be whooping cough, so we kept her off nursery for the day. A trip to the doctors ruled out whooping cough, although it was an hour and ten minutes of waiting in the surgery waiting room beyond our appointment time to find it out. So we milked the appointment while we were there, getting both Olivia and Chloe checked out in one go, with Chloe┬áneeding two separate checks. Getting 3 for 1 value almost made the wait worthwhile. As we didn’t go far, I decided to take Olivia out for a little walk, where I snapped todays shot with my phone. The blossom is starting to come out early on all the trees running down the roads around where we live. Beautiful while it lasts, but in a couple of weeks it will all be gone and the trees will be empty again for another year!

Day 90 - April 5th
Day 90 – April 5th

91: A slow start to the day, and all three of my ladies in bed snuggling. Not much room for me though! Olivia had another unsettled nights sleep, so we only got as far as visiting a friend for the afternoon.

Day 91 - April 6th
Day 91 – April 6th

92: After looking after my friends son in the morning, it was home to tidy up and prepare dinner as we had a friend joining us for food that evening. I took a snap of Chloe as she is starting to smile so much lately, it really is lovely to see. We’re also getting a few babbling noises as well, she seems to be changing so much.

Day 92 - April 7th
Day 92 – April 7th

93: The weather forecast was wet, but our plans were fixed… we were off to the zoo to meet friends. I think the weather made the parking easier and kept the queues down, but thankfully it was only showers so we got around to see all the animals and even when it did pour, the kids enjoyed it!

Day 93 - April 8th
Day 93 – April 8th

94: Another morning looking after my friends son, and a walk around the Lickey Hills. It is so beautiful here when the sun comes out, and I always wish I’d remember to take the family when I am there!

Day 94 - April 9th
Day 94 – April 9th