Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Page 4 of 78

In the summer time

According to Mungo Jerry in the summer time when the weather is fine you have women on your mind. Well the weather hasn’t been fine and I haven’t had women on my mind I’ve had a little lady on my mind because in a weeks time Matilda will be starting school. Yes that’s right SCHOOL. That feels very odd to write I can tell you, how exactly can this little thing be old enough to go to school?!

New born baby

However she is most definitely ready to go even if I think she’s still a baby; she’s told us on a number of occasions during the holidays that she missed being with her preschool friends and if we have just a slow day at home you can see how bored she is. She needs to be learning new things and challenging her brain everyday otherwise she annoys everyone with her fidgeting and silliness. As an April baby she’ll be towards the young end of her year but I don’t think it’s going to make any difference and she’s desperate to learn all about letters and numbers.

What I’ve discovered about having a child going to school is that the summer holidays are suddenly full of shopping to tick off a long list of items they need for school and figuring out where the best deals are. Plus of course the important decisions of how many skirts, dresses and shirts to buy. There must be a clever maths equation for the optimum amount; not too many that you have loads sitting in the drawer not being worn and they grow out of them but also not too few so you are washing uniform every day of the week.

Matilda in Uniform 1

Fortunately Morrisons sent us some uniform from their Nutmeg clothing range to try out and tick a few more items off our list for us. We’ve become big fans of the Nutmeg range since I started working with them (exactly a year ago today it seems!) and I know you’ll be thinking who wouldn’t when you get sent clothes for free? But it’s the truth, Henry is still wearing the shirt and jumper he received a year ago. In fact both are among his favourites so have probably be worn almost every week and washed the same number of times. Yet both still look great, they haven’t gone hard or frayed at the edges and he definitely puts his clothes to the test.

Matilda in uniform 2

So we have high hopes for the school uniform too, its great value too; £4 for a dress or cardigan and £2 for a pack of polo shirts. If it washes as well as their other clothes then it should last most of the year unless Matilda has a big growth spurt. Just a shame we can’t hand them down to her brothers, although I’m sure Henry would be up for wearing a skirt.

Now all we need to do is buy some shoes and as Matilda has such narrow feet we have the choice of 2 pairs both costing £38. Best start saving for next year when Henry joins her

Just one more week?

I’ve a serious case of the back to work blues tonight and I’m not even back to work for another 12 hours. The last week of holiday has been fabulous, hard and tiring at times as you would expect with 3 small children but that’s soon forgotten when you are making memories isn’t it? That’s after all what family holidays should be all about, making memories, creating those stories that you reminisce about for years to come. I know I still talk about things I did on holiday as a small child over 20 years ago and I hope Matilda and Henry will be doing the same.

We’d planned to go to the Lake District camping for 4 days after our wedding anniversary celebrations had finished which would have been awesome, but a weather forecast of heavy rain and 40 mph gusts of wind soon changed our minds. Who wants to be in a tent with 3 children and a dog in weather like that? It’s a real shame as I think we would have had an amazing time and I really wanted to be in that landscape again. Instead we did a bunch of day trips; we went to the Cotswold Farm Park (Adam’s farm for you Countryfile fans), Leigh Woods in Bristol, to the lake for a swim and bacon sandwich and then to the Cotswold Wildlife park (a big feature in both mine and the lady of the manor’s childhoods).

We had such a great week, a good mixture of visiting attractions and then low key days in the forest with Bracken along for a run around too. I also grabbed time this weekend for some daddy son and daddy daughter time with the 2 big ones; Henry and I went to the canal to look at the boats and I went to Avebury with Matilda (which is fab for kids if you haven’t been). Funny that the weather in April for our holiday was better than August but that didn’t matter, however I now want to have another 6 weeks just like the last one.

While I go off to buy a lottery ticket here’s a few photos from the past week.

Alex and Rupert

Henry by Lake 32

In Leigh Woods

Matilda and Henry feeding the horses

Matilda outside Avebury Manor

Penguins at cotswold wildlife park

Pops

 

Bracken

Matilda with a Rabbit

The definition of happiness

10 years ago today I stood up in front of family and friends and said ‘I do’ to the lady of the manor, 10 years! 10 whole years that feel like just yesterday but also a lifetime ago. In my wedding day speech I said that happiness was marrying your best friend and I feel very privileged to be able to call this incredbile woman my best friend. It’s incredible to think that what started out as teenage lust and a snog at a house party all those years ago has turned into this wonderful marriage. Where even in our normal sleep deprived state we laugh together and that lust is definitely still there, stronger than ever (hence 3 children under 4!).

tipping 114

An awful  lot has happened in the last 10 years and when I look back at our wedding photos it would appear I’ve aged at least 20 years while the lady of the manor barely looks any different. It hasn’t always been easy, we’ve been through some real low points that have pushed us to the brink, but also some amazing highs not least the arrival of these 3 crazy little things that seem to follow us around. However no matter what I know that we make the perfect team and will get through anything together.

Drinks 34 - A+B by car 5

This year as you all know has been one of the toughest and we almost didn’t celebrate this occasion because it didn’t feel right doing it without Nanna. But we decided that she would have wanted us to be happy and spend the day with the family that were so important to her. So on Sunday after weeks of preying to the weather gods we had a garden party at home in glorious sunshine with cake and fizz on the menu. You have honestly never seen so many mouth watering cakes in one place, all made by friends or family and almost all eaten before the day was out. It was such a perfect way to mark the occasion, surrounded by friends and family, drinking the same Prosecco we had on our wedding day.

 Family photo at anniversary party

We feel very blessed this week knowing that we have these amazing people around us to help us through the tough times giving us the support we need, but who are also there to celebrate the good times with us. I’m not the most social of people, I don’t have masses of friends but the ones I do have I value highly and they mean a lot to me. This week I’m reminding myself of their importance to me and in particular this amazing woman next to me who is my best friend.

With that I raise my glass to love and friendship and to Alex who I love now, forever and always.

P.S. this also means I can now tick another thing off my Bucket List!

DSC_7076

Long live the beard

Big news people, I am officially not fashionable when it comes to facial hair, something I didn’t realise was possible but it seems that I can add that to the list of areas I’m not fashionable in. According to a survey conducted by Braun 52% of British men now sport some kind of facial hair and 7% of British men claim having facial hair has made them more successful at work. Not entirely sure about that 2nd stat, unless of course all those men are extras in movies about Roman gladiators. The most popular beard is the full beard if you’re interested, clearly a better choice than a Lewis Hamilton chin curtain (even the name sounds ridiculous) or a soul patch whatever that is.

However not having a beard isn’t necessarily a choice for me, you see I am quite incapable of growing one properly. The combination of fair hair and not very thick growth mean that instead of a stylish thick beard I end up with something that from a distance looks like my face is just dirty. That didn’t stop me sporting a beard on my wedding day though, oh no, aged 23 I thought I looked awesome but looking back I realise I really didn’t.

Drinks 34 - A+B by car 5

Which is why I am generally clean shaven these days, not to mention the fact that Henry hates me having ‘prickles’ and refuses to cuddle me when I have stubble. I do quite enjoy going 4 or 5 days without shaving over a long weekend or if we go camping and have that bit of growth but it soon starts to get itchy and annoy me so I have to get rid of it.

I’ve tried out a couple of Braun shavers in the past which you can find here and here, but I’ve been lucky to have had their very latest model the Braun Series 9 (released on 1st July) to use for the past couple of weeks and I’m extremely impressed. The look of it isn’t dramatically different to other models because how different can a shaver really be? But it doesn’t have some cool features like the digital display showing how much battery is left and the button that locks the head in place for when you are trying to cut fiddly bits.

The Braun Series 9 comes with SyncroSonic™ technology which the cynic in me thinks is just nice marketing talk but whether it’s that or the 4 cutting blades this shaver gives a seriously good shave. As close as any wet shave I’ve ever had but with zero irritation, cuts or soreness and best of all you can of course use it in the shower. Which I know sounds incredibly lazy but most of the time I’m shaving in the morning after my 6am run so I love being able to stand in the hot shower a bit longer and have my shave there rather than in front of the sink.Braun Series 9

My one note of caution here is that I’ve found with the other shavers I’ve tested that after a few months of use the cut isn’t quite as good and takes a little more effort to ensure you don’t miss any. I wonder if this in part because I do use it in the shower and we have very hard water here so that could be detrimental to the blades. The Series 9 comes with some oil which it’s recommended that you use every so often if you use the shaver in the shower, so I’m going to try and be fastidious with doing that and see how I get on.

But that doesn’t stop me giving a top rating to the Braun Series 9, it cuts beautifully and you can really see the benefit of having 4 cutting elements. I love that it tells me how much battery is left, such a simple thing but means you have good warning and don’t get stuck mid shave waiting for it to recharge.

You can find more information about the Braun Series 9 and details on where to buy by visiting the Braun website here.

Disclosure – I was clearly sent this item for review, all words and opinions here are my own.

Tired

The lady of the manor and I are tired. Knackered. Exhausted. Done. If we were a steak we’d be well done, left on the coals until slightly shrivelled. We’re physically tired but also mentally tired. Tired of not having evenings without needing to resettle Rupert at least 3 times. Tired of the big ones waking up at 5.30am every day and having a meltdown if we tell them to go back to bed. Tired of needing all our energy just to tread water and not ever make progress. Perhaps most importantly tired of not having time for us, we don’t go out in the evening because we don’t want a baby sitter to have to try to resettle Rupert.

I love my crazy gang and I LOVE being a dad, my favourite moment of every day is opening the door in the evening and hearing the shouts of DADDY as Matilda runs to meet me, but this past few weeks has pushed us close to the edge. Rupert has had the triple whammy of reflux, teething and a cold. We’ve average 4 hours sleep a night for the past week or so and it has not been pretty. Going to work and trying to engage my brain to deal with meetings and email has been a challenge, although I’d say it was an achievement not to have nodded off at any point.

Clearly none of this is Rupert’s fault, I’m sure he’d much rather sleep all night than waking up gagging with the acid from his reflux, but when you spend 40 minutes rocking him to sleep it doesn’t always feel that way. I found myself a few times shouting at him in the middle of the night ‘just shut up and go to sleep’. How ridiculous is that? To be shouting at an 8 month old baby who most likely has no clue what you are saying. When he did finally drop off I’d creep back to bed racked with guilt for being such an uncaring bastard.

The face of innocence

The face of innocence

The glimmer of hope right now is that last night was better, we actually got a block of 4 hours sleep. 4 hours! Hilarious to be celebrating such a small amount of sleep but it really makes a difference. He is now the proud owner of 2 big teeth (4 months earlier than his siblings) and his cold is abating, who knows when his reflux will go away. Although if one more person tells me it’ll stop when he’s eating I’ll shove the leftovers from his 3 meals a day in their face. Same for the ones that say ‘he’s a big boy, bet he sleeps well’, such old wives tales.

If anyone has any top tips for dealing with reflux please keep them to yourself.

Me and mine June 2015

Better late than never with this post and without wanting to sound like a broken record for these updates actually having an evening that didn’t involve resettling Rupert 4 times would be quite conducive to writing more. For now at least I shall just ignore that rather large elephant in the room, especially as it isn’t going away ‘because it’s just a phase’ or ‘it’ll stop when he’s eating solids’ or any other vain attempt at creating hope. Right now there is no light at the end of that tunnel.

But despite all that June was a pretty darn awesome month, not least because it involved a week of glorious holiday with the lady of the manor and the little people (children that is, not gnomes or dwarfs). We had somewhat of a staycation, visiting my parents for a few days (and the Eden project while we were there, our favourite family day out) then a couple of days at home before camping in the New Forest with some friends. All done in fabulous sunshine of course, perfect.

This months photo was taken during said weeks holiday and as you can see features a little girl who has decided she most definitely does not want her photo taken. However the 2nd photo below was taken by Henry who it seems she is willing to strike a pose for and I think you’ll agree is a great photo of her.

Us in the tent

I have of course been doing lots of triathlon training in June, I’m really enjoying the open water swimming and it feels like things have clicked with my swimming fitness all of a sudden. No longer one long struggle to breathe which is always good. Being on holiday meant that I could also head down the lake with the whole family so that the kids could see me swim in the lake which they thought was hilarious. I also loved meeting up with the fabulous Corinne for a tramp around a forest near Sheffield while we were up there for a wedding. Her boys and our 2 had great fun running around and climbing trees, so great that blogging can give you friends like that who live miles away but feel like old friends.

The lady of the manor has run her first race (a Race for Life 5km) and a sub 30 minute 5km at that. She loved watching one of her oldest friends get married even if it did mean a stay in a Travelodge with 3 children. Finally she had a very rare night out to go to the cinema with her sister, very well deserved just hope one day soon we might be able to go out together.

matilda portrait

Matilda has been enjoying have time with her nanna, helping plant seeds and water the garden. So nice seeing them together just chatting or reading the same books I read as a child. She’s also been getting ready for big school with visits to meet her teacher and also have lunch with the school, feels like such a milestone but she’s definitely ready for it.

Henry was very happy to have gone back to visit the domes again at the Eden project, mainly because it involved a ride on the tractor train which is his favourite. He also seems to have spent most of the month eating which I can only assume means he’s having a growth spurt. Either way with Rupert eating decent meals too our food shopping doesn’t last long at the moment.

Photo taken by the ever so talented Corinne

Photo taken by the ever so talented Corinne

Rupert has been learning to crawl! Then just 10 days later he’d also figured out pulling himself up at the sofa, I think he’s in a rush to catch up with his siblings. He’s also decided that he just wasn’t unsettled enough when he slept so it was time to get some teeth also and now has a very sharp little tooth poking through his gum. As a consequence he has slept even less if that’s even possible. Amazingly he actually slept slightly better in a tent despite our worst fears.

A wood fired pizza oven cooking day

One thing you learn when you have a wood fired pizza oven is that it takes quite a bit of effort to get it fired up and at the right temperature for cooking, so once it’s hot you might as well maximise the use of it. It takes me about 2.5 hours to get mine hot enough to cook a pizza, then less than 30 minutes to cook 8-10 pizzas for a pizza party. Which is probably still worth it as the pizzas are awesome but why not keep the fire going and cook more?

Which is exactly what we did last weekend; we cooked some pizzas for dinner with the kids and then kept the fire going to cook some tapas in the evening for just the adults. It takes a bit of prep work but then if you want instant cooking using a pizza oven probably isn’t for you. We had a friend over for the weekend so once the fire was burning nicely we set to work on the prep, checking on the fire occasionally to add an extra log or 2.

Pizza oven fired up

We mixed up some dough for the pizza and also for some pita breads to go with the tapas. I’ve been wanting to make bread of some kind in the oven for a while and these seemed like a good starting point, I’m also itching to make naan breads which should puff up perfectly. Once the doughs were proving we got the tapas ready, on the menu was; lamb koftas, lemon and chilli scallops and some marinated squid. All cook really quickly so although the prep takes a while the cooking bit is easy and of course you just serve straight from oven to table.

Pita breads cooking

Our cooking weekend also timed nicely with the delivery of a pizza challenge from Morrison’s, they’ve launched a new in store pizza service available until 21st June to celebrate father’s day where children can build their dad’s face on a pizza. My challenge was to make a pizza that looked like me with a little help from Matilda and Henry. Now while the Morrison’s pizzas taste great, I bet none are quite as good as the ones cooked in a real wood fired pizza oven. There was much debate about how to make best use of the vegetables supplied to create a pizza, I’m particularly pleased with our use of the black part of the mushrooms to make eyebrows. The result I’m sure you’ll agree is an uncanny likeness, they do say you are what you eat….

Pizza in the shape of my face

Making a day of the cooking was so much fun, quite tempted to expand it to brunch also, the choices really are endless and while it’s a steep learning curve understanding how to cook in an oven that doesn’t have dials it really is a fab way to spend a day. This tapas cooking could easily be extended to include many more dishes and by cooking one course at a time then eating it make a great evening dinner party with friends.

The combination of the rich lamb with the spicy scallops was perfect and the pita breads were amazing. The dough for them was quite weird but once they were in the oven the just puffed up perfectly. They’d be really good with some slow roast lamb in them and some good homemade coleslaw (I’m salivating a little just at the thought of it!)

pizza oven tapas feast

I would also thoroughly recommend the wood fired oven cookbook, it has some great recipes in it and instructions on how to use you oven, but it also gives you some ideas for menus and cooking days so you can maximise the heat in your oven. This was our first real attempt and I learned a lot about how to maintain the fire and the size of log that was most effective to add to it each time, there’s definitely an art to cooking this way.

Disclosure – Morrisons sent me the ingredients to make pizza, but all words and opinions here are my own.

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