Friday, 1 March 2013

Nothing like a bit of spring

The best thing about having a dog is the having to go out and get some fresh air and some exercise - if you don't Duke goes mental and is very annoying - and it turns out that applies to the rest of us too; a nice walk and some fresh air does us all the world of good and, despite my own preference for hibernation, we all feel so much better afterwards. 

The way I find best to fit this into my day is to drop Jellybean at pre-school and walk the dog with Midget Gem along the lane the school is on. Then when we collect Jellybean we either walk that lane or go to the park so the boys can play in the playground and Duke can have a good run around the field with his doggy girlfriend Lily the retreiver fetching sticks. 

This is one of our down the lane walks from yesterday.

Little baby moo cows are very fluffy

(Jellybean thought the sign wearing a wooly leaf hat was hilarious, he's still talking about it today!)

Midget Gem always likes to stop and look at things he thinks are interesting so is usually following behind us.

These sheep are  like a huddle of little old men complaining about the youth of today. They like a good shout.

The boys wanted to feed the baby moo cows but they weren't very interested.

Midget Gem had stopped again to look at the sheep

In contrast to Midget Gem's dawdling and staring at things Jellybean likes to run ahead and explore and tell us what he can see - his curiosity is endless.

The views around here aren't bad, really - can't beat some green.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the kind of thing I miss from where I grew up, and the kind of childhood I want my boys to have - walks in the countryside, a fun dog to play with, and lots of fresh air and animals to look at. This makes me very, very happy - very happy INDEED.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Poppy's chair arrived

I am THRILLED to report to everyone who contributed to Poppy's chair that it has arrived - and is a huge hit with the little lady herself!

Sophie - Poppy's Mum - said that Poppy is often scared by new things but that she took to this right away - and that she is supported, comfortable and - for the first time in her life - can sit at the table with her family.

Every single thing that makes Poppy's life easier is wonderful - and it's thanks to all of you that the family can sit together and enjoy a meal, anywhere.

Poppy is definitely saying, in this photo, Mum, away with the camera, I have some playing to do and you're being all emo, it's embarrassing. Quite right too! 

Thank you all so much - it means the world - Poppy is a very happy little poppet! 

Nice birds

I like birds. Today on our walk Jellybean said that he likes birds because they sing music that sounds absolutely beautiful pretty. He's right - they do, and even more brilliant is that it's properly turning into something resembling spring so the birds are singing all the time, and it's NICE. 

Another nice thing is that the weather has attempted to get a couple of degrees warmer, it's not poured with rain for a few days so there's less mud, and we got some fresh hay and threw it around in the hen patch - so the hens are much happier.

They express this much happier feeling by crowing, hopping on and off things, scratching around and LAYING EGGS!


They haven't really laid eggs for AGES so it's really nice to find that not only are we getting eggs, but we're getting a really nice variety!

We get small green eggs, small dark brown eggs, normal light brown eggs and blooming great big white eggs. 

It's really nice having eggs that are properly fresh, and having an interesting mix to show the kids - it's nice going out there and hearing the hens all having a little celebration when someone has laid, and seeing the cockerels strutting around like kings. We have three cocks - it wasn't deliberate, but we hatched our own eggs out and they never fight so we've never had to 'get rid' of anyone, which is a bit of a relief. 

They do get quite loud, but we live beside a farm and they don't mind our chickens being loud - they get their own back with their noisy cows anyway! The fence beside our hen run is where their cowshed backs on to our property and the cows are in for winter, so we're quite a noisy little neighborhood really!

This magnificent creature is the big boss - he's pretty gigantic and likes to show you who is boss - he's very tall and quick to defend the girls when he thinks something is a threat - like the dog, or me, or any passing breeze. He likes to think he's hard but he hasn't ever pecked me - which is good, I think he'd hurt, he's pretty massive! We call him Cocky - not very original but it suits!

This pretty lady is very proud of her shiny white eggs - and very vocal about laying - I always know when to go out and collect because I can hear her, and usually when she clucks about it everyone else joins in. She's very broody at the moment, and is spending a lot of time in the nests - I think she might be our girl for hatching some Easter chicks. 

Mmmmm warm from the chicken bottom!

We also have a few quail still - we started with these before we ever got chickens and they aren't laying at the moment but we have just moved them into a nicer abode - this is their indoor area and they have something three times this size outside - within the hen run but seperate - quail are very small, very quick (hence the blurry shot) and very nervy - we've lost a couple when Midget Gem tried to feed them and opened their hutch - which is why they were relocated! I hope they're ok wherever they are - I like to think they've run away to join the landlord's peacocks! (Though I do think it's rather more likely that they've just perished in the undergrowth - which is horrid.)

This is my favourite little hen - I THINK she lays the tiny dark  brown eggs; she bustles around like Mrs Tiggywinkle, so that became her name - she seems very like a little old Mum type and reminds me of my first ever teacher, Mrs Hinton, she is adorable. Far smaller than the other hens and a very pretty colour with lovely fluffy feathers.

This is one of the other cockerels - he's not quite as bossy as Cocky and is called PomPom. Obviously. His missis lays lovely big eggs, and is usually missing most of her head pom pom because she gets terribly bullied by him - we have magical purple spray that we treat her with but the poor love is constantly getting raped by this brute. He's terrified of Cocky though who often wades it to rescue her. In fact as I was taking this photo Cocky decided that PomPom was getting ideas above his station and popped over to put him in his place - and then pecked my camera!

Know your place, PomPom! Cocky is the boss of you!

I didn't manage to get photos of each individual bird, and I'm not sure of their breeds - Daddytwo knows but it goes in one ear and out the other with me unfortunately! 

I think this lovely ordinary looking lady at the front is laying and behind her the dark chicken is one of our first hens, who came from Daddytwo's Grandad Charlie. At the back is Mini-Cocky, who looks exactly like Cocky but is half his size. He's very sensible and keeps out of everyone's way and hangs around with Mrs Tiggywinkle.

As well as the chickens and quail we have Pogo - one of what was a pair of lovebirds. His lady wife Pirate didn't last very long - the trauma of moving from home to home before they found their way to us did her in, she was quite mangy looking for a few months then fell off her perch - I hope she liked her time with us, even if it did kill her! I'm not sure how old they are - or rather he is - because they had been shipped around from person to person for quite some time before we rescued them - Pogo reigns supreme over our downstairs living room, shouting at everyone who enters his throne room and being rather bossy. You can see from this picture that he's rather full of himself. 

Anyone for poached eggs for breakfast?

Finger twister!

This week my husband invented a brilliant game for the boys which is fun and educational and can be played anywhere (as long as you have a pen and paper and some fingers)

It's called finger twister - and both boys play. 

It's pretty simple - draw lots of circles and put numbers in them, then call out numbers and the kids have to touch them and see how many they can do without lifting any of their fingers off! 

Midget Gem plays just by touching the numbers - he's only little after all! Jellybean plays by keeping his fingers on and twisting his little hands all around, and we're doing simple sums with him like find two numbers that make up four - and he'll do the sums. 

It's way more fun and amusing than it looks - try it with your preschoolers!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Do you use vouchers?

I've never really been much of a one for those voucher or money saving websites - I have kept a rather skeptical, suspicious view of them and always wondered what the catch must be. 

But this week I watched a documentary that made me re-think my opinions a little. 

I've seen documentaries before of people in America who basically make a living from 'couponing' - where they spend such a massive amount of their time collecting and cutting out vouchers for things that they end up being paid to get their shopping. 

I always thought 1: who has that much TIME? and 2: there HAS to be some kind of catch. 

Then this documentary I saw on 4od had me thinking again - it was called the Ultimate Guide to Penny Pinching (why with the caps on every word 4od!?) and whilst the woman featured wasn't quite as manic about couponing as the American documentary I watched she really did have some good tips - as did the guy who checks prices online before doing his shop. 

It made me look again at the voucher websites - and I had a really good dig about love my vouchers in particular. I did think, clicking around, that I wasn't really GETTING it because it seemed like a lot of the offers just linked to the brands own websites - but then I thought 'hold on, how often do I go to the individual websites looking for this?' and the answer was, well, never. 

I have been looking for ways to make our lives cheaper - things are pretty tight at the moment, but though we've cut back in a lot of areas I don't want us all to miss out completely on things like the occasional meal out or gifts for upcoming birthdays and anniversaries. There are always luxuries on top of the bills that I would begrudge NEVER being able to have. 

So if we're careful, if we budget sensibly, and we don't splash the cash on silly things (hello giant 99p shop baskets full of crap) we do still have a little money to treat ourselves - and if I check out love my vouchers and find a 'two for one' or a deal on two courses rather than just one we can take the kids out for the odd pizza or lunch at the weekend, or get a family day out midweek (thank you not-in-full-time-school aged children) for a good discount on the usual cost. 

So I'm a new convert to the idea. Why go without when, with some careful browsing around, you can get the things you like for considerably less than usual? 

Now - can someone please tell me where I can get those giant coupon books the Americans have?! I want some free shopping! 

(This was a sponsored post - I did, however, watch that documentary and agree to do the sponsored post because I was already looking at the voucher websites - and the money I'm being paid is taking us out for a pizza this weekend.)