365 project, Photography

Day 166 – Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

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Day 166 – Aug 30th

With the six week holiday stretching out before us back in July, there was only one way to make sure we didn’t waste it, and that was to make a list of the things we wanted to do and people we wanted to see. I knew that we’d never tick all of it off, and the poor weather we had at the start of August really didn’t help with any of our outdoor plans, but we didn’t do too badly in the end. There are still a few people I was keen to catch up with, that we’ve simply run out of time to see now, but the one thing I was particularly passionate to tick off the list was a family day at the seaside. A day on the beach doesn’t feel like enough, but its better than not seeing the sea at all! Ideally I’d love to have gone with friends, but in the end, with just a few days of the holiday left, we couldn’t make it happen and were just glad to be going as a family.

We’d been organised enough to prepare lunches the night before, and I’d made a list of things to take so we could pack the car up a bit quicker in the morning. I’d suggested getting out of the house far earlier than the wife had expected, much to her annoyance, so I had to make sure that getting out of the house was fairly uneventful.

The nearest beach to Birmingham is Weston Super Mare, but its not somewhere I particularly enjoy going to, as its always really busy due to its proximity to the Midlands, hence its nickname “Birmingham-on-sea”. Plus, on top of the fact that its always so busy, we never seem to see any sea at all while we’re there, the tide is always out in the middle of the day, and goes so far out that we can’t even see it!

Instead, I had opted to take the family to Barmouth beach, probably the second closest beach to Birmingham. It took longer to get there than Weston, due to the lack of motorways through North Wales, but it was a much nicer drive through countryside and mountains, past quaint country houses and quirky pubs. I arrived at the beach already feeling relaxed!

When we arrived I was especially surprised at how many spaces were left in the car park on such a nice day, as well as how much space there was on the beach. The beach itself is surrounded by mountains, and so wasn’t especially windy, but there was still a nice breeze to cool us down a little. The weather was perfect, slightly warmer than had been forecast, but not too hot though, and beautifully sunny with just a handful of clouds in the blue sky. Its almost as if we’d booked the weather with some kind of online system!

This was Chloe’s first time at the seaside and she loved it, even splashing in the sea, which was a lovely temperature, and warmer than I expected. We’d got our blankets down, enjoyed a little lunch with some music on the side from the ANKER bluetooth speaker I’d taken with us. The girls enjoyed building (and knocking down of course) some sandcastles, with their new buckets and spades.

As we hadn’t expected such lovely sunny weather, both me and Clare had come unprepared for the warm weather and had to roll our jeans up so that we could join the girls splashing about in the sea.

We finished the day with some dinner, a traditional fish and chips, which just has to be done when you’re at the seaside, and the food was amazing. The girls sat and ate well, and did us proud, they were so well behaved. Not surprisingly they were both soon asleep when we set out in the car on the return journey home, so we were able to push through and do it without stopping.

At last, my holiday was complete, our day at the seaside was fantastic and I now felt that I hadn’t been robbed of a decent break because of the miserable Birmingham weather.

Barmouth… we’ll be back soon!

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365 project, Parenting, Photography

Day 165 –┬áThe art of turning 40 and getting fat

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Day 165 – Aug 29th

It had been a quiet, stay at home kinda day. and one of those days where I am not quite sure where the time went. After I walked Olivia to nursery in the morning, Chloe and me spent a bit of time together at home while Clare popped out. The day seemed to fly by, ask me what I’d done with my day, and I couldn’t really be sure, I almost believe I must have fallen asleep for part of it… although obviously I hadn’t, I’d been busy creating material for my website, and looking after Chloe, it felt like I’d slipped into some kind of time warp where everything in the house was going at normal speed except for the clocks!

One of the things me and Chloe did together while was to dig out some of Olivia’s first books, and sit down to look at them together, some of the simpler baby and toddler books that Olivia doesn’t look at any more. I love to read stories to the girls, and always try to make them more fun by adding enthusiasm and different voices to the characters, and Chloe enjoyed it too, she loved the books. She hasn’t really been interested in books much before, apart from looking at a few of the pictures, followed by either standing on the books or throwing them across the room!

It was a simple day really, enough for me to get quite distracted by one feature that had been persistently annoying me lately. It was the concern with my currently ever growing waistline. Since getting my motorbike last October, I had almost given up on cycling to work, and after a few injuries, illnesses and other excuses that had got in the way, the gym I had signed up for was seeing me just once a week some weeks. I’d always strived to try and get fit in my 30s, and although never quite at my ideal weight, was always far fitter through my late 30s and turning 40 than I had ever been during my 20s or early 30s.

Just lately though, things seem to ache and hurt a bit more. Is this something to do with physically turning 40, or just something thats going on in my head? Are things hurting because I’m expecting them to?? I had a bad knee from September last year right the way up until the new year which stopped me from running, and recently I’ve been trying to get back into running, increasing my durations on the treadmill at the gym, only to find myself suffering the following day with some serious heel pain. My love of food and drink has not subsided, and without the much exercise to keep me in check, my jeans all seem to be getting a lot tighter lately. The infamous dad belly is now in full effect and it has to go. I’ve made promises to myself to get back into the myfitnesspal app and hit it hard… but I seem to get so distracted by nice food, I need to find an approach thats more sustainable!

With the uncertainty of August weather coming to an end, I’m hoping for a slightly drier September so I can really get back into the cycling and try to make sure my jeans fit a bit better! I guess some forward planning on food is going to help here, and less snacks in the cupboards!

Parents, how do you cope with kids biscuits, crisps and chocolate in the cupboards?

365 project, Photography

Day 164 – Bank holiday sunshine? What is this craziness?

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Day 164 – Aug 28th

Bank holiday in the UK means either one of two things, pouring rain or sunshine and blue skies. Anyone living here would argue that it is more commonly the former, although today would prove not to be. Yes, it is bank holiday Monday and the sun is out and the day is warm and pleasant. The kind of day where you enjoy the sunshine, but still feel inclined to take a little shade so that you don’t overdo it, although many obviously do, its something us British are famous for around the world. Like the famour Rudyard Kipling saying goes, “only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”.

Today we were meeting friends at Rowheath Pavillion near Cadbury World for what was described as a “small pop-up version” of the Bournville Food Festival. It was very much a family friendly day out, with picnic blankets every where, kids playing games, craft activities, some delicious food on offer, plus the bar was open… oh, and apparently free prayers if you were so inclined, as it was organised by the local church!

It was a fun afternoon, the kids had a great time, we had a bite to eat and I even managed to grab a beer, which went down very well in the sunshine, and it felt like all the worries in the world had faded away for a few hours. We finished off the afternoon with a walk around the fishing lake before heading home. It was a good way to spend a bank holiday.

How did you spend yours?

365 project, Photography

Day 163 – Summer isn’t over yet

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Day 163 – Aug 27th

Its a beautiful Sunday morning outside, and I’ve made the executive decision that we’re getting out early and doing something. The initial suggestion was swimming, a firm favourite with the girls, especially Olivia. I am keen to get Chloe in the water more as she has only been in a couple of times so far, and Clare was happy to join us, which meant taking both the girls was a lot easier… until we realised we were out of swimming nappies! These little things are essentially when taking little ones swimming. They’re not going to stop a toddler peeing in the pool, but the reality is that its half a cup full in several thousand gallons of water that is already pumped full of chemicals to remove any traces of body fluids anyway. No, the nappies are only to stop the number two’s, those bad boys can only be contained by a nappy that won’t disintegrate in the water, and so the swim nappy is as essential and swimming costumes!

Being a Sunday meant that the supermarkets did not open until 10am, but we needed to be at the swimming pool for 10am for the first session or we wouldn’t get in on time, and consequently wouldn’t get out on time for us to get home so I could see the one thing on TV that I had been waiting weeks for, the Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix!

Thinking about it a little, I figured that swimming was an indoor thing anyway, and something we could do in any weather, so stressing about nappies, and times was pointless, lets get outside and enjoy the sunshine, after all, we’ve waited weeks for it, and we’re not even sure how long its here for!

So the decision was made, Clent Hills it was. Its only 10 minutes away, its a lovely walk, and we can be out there for as little or as long as we want. The girls can stretch their legs, explore nature, burn off a little energy, feel the sun on their skin and the wind in their hair, which is something I have always been keen to make sure we do with them, from even before they were born. This generation of techno-addicts who are either glued to a xbox/playstation console or a mobile phone seem to have lost touch with nature, and I always wanted my girls to enjoy the world around them, ask questions about the changing colours of the leaves, taste the blackberries on the brambles, listen to the sounds of the birds, climb the trees, and just be kids. There is a time and a place for technology, and I am fine with them using it, but as the age old saying goes… everything in moderation!

Once we got home we treated the girls to a splash in the paddling pool to cool off a bit, as it was still sunny and warm and they both love any excuse to play in water and splash about, not surprisingly they were straight in there in no time at all. We threw the gazebo up over them for a bit of shade, and although it was a little late in the day for a gazebo to be going up, the following day was also supposed to be sunny again and even warmer, so it was worth putting up for two days.

What do you like to do when the weather is nice?

365 project, Photography

Day 162 – Game of Confusion

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Day 162 – Aug 26th

Gotta love the Argos fast track delivery, yesterday’s brand new BBQ was ordered in the afternoon and here in the evening, but it was too late to put it together. 

With the in-laws due over for a BBQ lunch, I had got some time in the morning to put it together, but was frustrated to find some damaged parts when I unpacked it. With no time to waste, I was straight on the phone, and thankfully Argos were really good and said that they’d have some new parts out that evening, even though I explained that I’d have to use the original damaged ones before they got here and took them back off me.

It was a lovely afternoon and great to be out in the garden enjoying our new furniture with the sun shining down on us. The in-laws hadn’t yet seen the newly renovated garden and were suitably impressed by it and also enjoyed their lunch cooked on our new BBQ which was much nicer to cook on than the old one.

With the girls in bed that evening, it was time for a little Sunday night drink, which is of course fully acceptable due to it being a bank holiday weekend. No Monday morning blues for us! With drink in hand, we turn to the TV and put on Game Of Thrones. Initially we’d put off watching it at all, as we were convinced it wasn’t really our thing, but with the constantly growing chatter about it everywhere we turned, it couldn’t be ignored. It was literally all over facebook, our friends were talking about it, and we just couldn’t seem to escape it. In the end curiosity got the better of us and we sighed and gave in. Thankfully our subscription to Sky TV allowed to access their boxsets collection and get started on the first season, right up to the last but one episode where, without warning, it deleted the entire first five seasons and left us high and dry not knowing what happened in the final episode. Both the wife and me, if we’re completely honest, still weren’t completely sure what was actually going on, it was all very confusing. There were so many names that were hard to remember, so many characters, so many different stories going on… we were promised big things with Game Of Thrones, and yet here we were almost at the end of the first season knowing that if anyone asked us to tell them about it and describe it to us or tell us about what had happened, we’d just respond with blank expressions and a shrugging of shoulders. I had to go begging and managed to borrow the first two seasons on DVD from my sister. We could finally finish the first season and cross our fingers that watching the second season would help us to understand what the hell was going on!

Tell me I’m not alone… I can’t be the only one thats given it a go and struggled to understand it?!

Photography

Day 161 – Make hay while the sun shines

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Day 161 – Aug 25th

The last Friday of the holidays that I don’t have to consider work (although I clearly already am thinking about it, proven by just the fact that I am typing this!) as next Friday will be the final weekend of the summer holidays.

So what do we do with a Friday and no plans? Well, with the weather forecast continuing to look dry and fairly pleasant, so one thing that I have to do is get all the wood in the garden cut into little pieces that will fit in my chiminea, ready for some late night burning.

Life was made a little easier by Chloe napping and Clare disappearing off to her mothers for an hour with Olivia. This meant I could get the saw out and chop up wood to my hearts content. It’s about all you can ask for when you have kids.

Again, as is traditional on a Friday night, we attempted a film. This time we had opted for one we’d seen before, as Clare had nodded off the last time we tried to watch it. Sadly naaaaah, she missed the last 10 mins of this one too, even if it is a good film! We were doing so well at the start, and even up to half way through. So close, and yet no cigar! 

365 project

Day 160 – The best camera is the one you have with you

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Day 160 – Aug 24th

Thursday means an early start, making sure we are out the house by 8am to walk Olivia to nursery. We’re also now at a stage where its hard to do much without Chloe wanting to get involved too, she is very aware of being left out. So today I figured I may as well be pro-active about it but his morning and bring her out for a walk with me so that she can take her big sister to nursery, which thankfully is only a few minutes walk away. 

With Olivia dropped off, Chloe and me headed home. The sun was out and it was a gorgeous morning, so no need for any coats, and as we came down the alleyway leading on to our road, with the sun in front of us and Chloe walking ahead, I knew I had a lovely photo… only I’d left the house without a camera! As this is my fourth year of doing the 365 project I am used to having a camera on me pretty much everywhere I go, although I don’t always have it out, as I don’t want to look like some kind of weirdo, so I usually keep it hidden away in a shoulder bag. All I had on me at this point today though was my phone. I have previously mentioned the capable ability of my phones camera, and have previously used photos from it for the project. It just seems a little funny that with the numerous cameras I have, and all the professional lenses to go with them, that it should be down to my phone to save the day. Hence the title of today’s post.

As usual, a nursery day is a day to get things done around the house, which is one of the reasons we still send Olivia to nursery while I am off work, apart from the fact she enjoys it, has friends there, and learns from it… as well as the fact that we’re paying for it anyway. We’ll soon have her going during term time only to bring the costs down a bit, as we’ll need to save as much money as we can once Clare goes back to work, the nursery fees are going to rocket with both of them in full time day care. Its a prospect we’re aware of and not looking forward to much. On a plus side, it will only be about 12 months or so after Chloe starts before she gets her allocation of free hours. It is a necessary evil, we need to go out to work to earn the money to pay for someone to look after our children while we are out working. It seems a little illogical when you look at it like that, but its a great preparation for them ahead of starting school, with the social skills and academic skills they will learn. Its the sort of experience they could never have if they were being looked after at home by the wife, or even grandparents once the wife was back at work, even though the latter is no longer really an option any more.

We’ll work it out, its going to be difficult for a little while, not forever, and other parents seem to cope. Although it is a changing world we live in, and the days of stay at home moms looking after the children is becoming increasingly rare as women are generally more focused on careers and feel an obligation to return to work once their maternity leave is over, to maintain the lifestyle they are used to. I remember growing up, my mom was always about, taking us to school, and picking us up, there if we got sick and had to stay home. It kind of makes me sad that in my job its going to be almost impossible to do that when the girls are in school, we may be relying on breakfast and after school clubs, which seems to be very much the modern way of doing things. How lovely it would be if a work-from-home position came up!

How does everyone else cope?

365 project

Day 159 – Don’t forget to look behind you

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Day 159 – Aug 23rd

A proper day out with the girls, driving down to Bristol to meet some friends at the zoo. Bristol is about 80 miles from us, but our friends live in Devon, so its a half way point for us both to meet at.

We’d not been to Bristol zoo before, and the parking was our first obvious problem when we arrived. I knew there was a chance it would be a bit busy, but the car park was completely full and we were instantly redirected to some overflow parking, that just happened to be a marshalled area in a field across the road, which I missed the turning for and managed to park on the street for free anyway.

Thankfully our timing was spot on, and we arrived at the same time as our friends, managing to meet them before we walked in. The zoo itself was nice, but a little underwhelming, it seemed to be missing some of the main animals you expect to see at a zoo. No tigers, no giraffes, no hippos, no rhinos, no elephants, no camels, no orangutans… and while it was a pleasant walk round, you couldn’t help but notice the absence of what would generally be considered “main attractions”. The sort of thing that when you ask a child what animals you’d find at the zoo, these are the first ones that will always reel off! There was definitely an element of “is that it?” when we got to the end.

With a 90 minute drive home, neither me or the wife had any inclination to cook, and so treated ourselves to a chip shop dinner on the way home. I know its not the weekend, and this kind of food is usually a Friday or a Saturday thing, but sometimes you just have to go a little crazy.

This is obviously some far removed usage of the word crazy that I was previously unaware of 10 years ago! Going crazy when you have turned 40 and are a parent means something altogether different to the carefree days of your 20s, and even 30s for some, where your only real responsibilities are paying your rent and turning up for work on time!

As it happened, I didn’t really want to be looking for an easy photo of a zoo animal for today, I felt like it may be a bit of a cheat, and so I happened to spot this scene of Clifton Down when we got to Bristol and parked the car, it was just crying out to be photographed!

365 project

Day 158 – She’ll grow into them

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Day 158 – Aug 22nd

Day 2 of motorbike training on the beautiful Suzuki SV650 and I was really wishing I could afford to take one of these bikes home once I’d finished my training, but sadly the finances aren’t going to stretch that far at this current time.

Todays weather was vastly improved, in fact we were starting to overheat in all our protective clothing every time we stopped, still I’d rather get home sweaty with some scuffed clothing than with half an arm missing after the road turned into a cheese grater should I come off the bike. At least this meant the roads were dry and there was no worry about coming off in the wet!

I was gutted to hand this beast back over at the end of the day, but at least I had built up my confidence on riding a big bike, it was just a shame the test is still so a few weeks away.

I came home keen to cool off a bit and dumped my stuff, only to find Chloe promptly trying to fit into the motorbike boots, she loves trying other peoples shoes on! She’s such a character! The trousers and jacket were a little sweaty, so thankfully she didn’t touch those!

365 project, Photography

Day 157 – Rubber side down

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Day 157 – Aug 21st

Only one thing going on today… and it involves motorbikes. Its the first day of training for my full motorbike license, the weather is not as warm or dry as I’d hoped it would be considering I was going to be taking two rather powerful wheels out on the road, but the rain was at least trying to hold back.

It was a reasonably early start at 8:30am, but thanks to having two little girls who have yet to learn the joy of sleeping in, I was up in plenty of time and jumped on my own little 125cc bike to head down to the car park of the Makro store where the training was being held, just across the road from Streetbike who I’d booked it with.

It was not long before we were on the bikes, and boy were they fun! I didn’t do a bad job considering the extra weight of these 650cc bikes, and the fact that one wrong turn of the throttle could result in death or at least serious injury! We practised various off-road stuff such as low speed manoeuvres around cones, hazard avoidance, controlled stop, emergency stop and a couple of hours out on the road. I got the hang of this new bike fairly quickly, and sadly began to fall in love with it quite quickly too. Not only was is powerful, well balanced and smooth, it also had some nice technology built into it!

Its safe to say that it has ruined my riding experience, as the journey home was the first time I can honestly say I didn’t enjoy being on my own motorbike, it was like riding a lawnmower home!

With all this going on there wasn’t much chance to pick up a camera, and it seemed a little ironic that with so many cameras lying around, I couldn’t find two minutes to pick one up before bed time!