this house living malarky

well, truth be told our year of being back in a house has been a tricky one. i know we had no end of problems under canvas but i have to say i’d rather be there than here. yes i missed baths and easy cooking, yes we had neighbour issues but i still prefer that to this. i slept better, physically i was better, the children were more chilled out. i miss the simplicity, i miss the outdoors, i miss dim lighting and a lack of electricity, i miss the closeness of the whole family. here there are too many rooms to escape to, to many walls to put between us, we end up shouting out at each other and still not hearing, we end up sitting apart, even at night when we were up and the girls were asleep there was a proximity, now they’re a doorway, a set of stairs, another doorway and the other side of the room away, we go to bed and i can’t sense them sleeping nearby. we’ve just spent 4 nights at Tribal Earth and i loved it. i slept better, i was more awake and able to function in the mornings, when i woke in the night i could look over and see the girls. cooking was a bit rudimentary, but simple enough, i missed our compost loo but the loos were adequate and now we’ve discovered the beauty of the bucket shower my  bathroom requirements are easily satisfied (also at tribal earth they had a water trough with a fire beneath – something we talked about last year but were too busy to actually get round to). I don’t actually want to be in a tent again but a yurt or a hut of some kind would do the trick. i’m not sure how long i can live in a house, it’s stifling, it’s just so unnatural! would like to work out some kind of freezer/decent fridge solution though as keeping food cool & bulk(ish) buying becomes a bit of an issue with no cold storage.

anyway, there’s my latest rambling, and rambling it is.

A plea to the universe

People keep telling me that if I don’t tell people what it is I want, or rather if I don’t ask for what it is we need then I will never get/someone who can help will never know. So, that leads me to this blog post.
We do love lots of aspects of this house. We do not love some aspects of this house.
Truthfully though, we miss the woods, Boo misses her freedom,not just her freedom though, the ability to climb 20 different trees in a day, to build 3 dens, all different, to watch birds, lots of different birds! I crave hens, and pigs, and sheep, I crave the peace of woodland, coupled with the meditative quality of dappled shade. Ed, she just craves the woods – which seems amazingly odd considering how much she hated living in the woods…. In reality, it wasn’t living in the woods she hated it was in actual fact the disorganised life we had in the woods that she hated. The absolute awfulness of the weather (and Niges work hours) meant that the functional cooking area never became a reality, nor did the clean up area, the weather meant the shortish trek to the shower became a hike around the perimeter of the 5 acres of woodland we were living in. And then there was of course the planning issue. Ed did not like being watched, she did not like her comings and goings scrutinised by a miserable busybody who really had nothing better to do with her life than make ours miserable. If the weather had been better we might have been in better spirits, more able to shrug off the awfulness that was her constant spying but it wasn’t. I mustn’t forget the other two either, Yogi misses it, she says so a lot, I think it’s because I was more present with them, also she did in fact love squelching through the really icky mud in barefeet, feeling the mud squish up between her toes, she loved the compost toilet, the wee bale and she loved playing fairies amongst the trees. Finally we have Nige, he was happy in the woods, he likes nature, he likes it to surround him, he loves the sounds, the smells, the sights.
What I’m saying is, that although this house ticks many boxes, it doesn’t tick enough. We can happily survive in a much smaller house, I miss my childrens constant presence now that they run off and hide in their rooms, I miss the sparcity of ‘stuff’.
What we need dear reader is a house with some land and for some of that land to be wooded – or alternatively we need some woodland with a clearing and space for a yurt. We do not need a lot of indoor space, 2 bedrooms a kitchen and a bathroom will do us, but we do need outdoor space, I’d like to raise our own meat and grow our own veg, but for that we need space. We can’t afford much however and we need to stay local – the local home ed community is amazing and we have some truly wonderful friends, and of course Ed has been accepted to her preferred college and we need to stay on or near the bus route for that.

Someone asked today whether it was possible that moving back into a house (or this house specifically) might be what had triggered my illness. I don’t know, I can’t say but I feel things would be better viewed through the door of my cottage, with the hens clucking around in the background and the delighted squeals of my children as they clambered and swung in the trees.

So, if you can help us please do get in touch. It sounds like such a huge ask but if I don’t ask no one will know and things will never change.

Eating paleo

Well, it’s been a few months now since we returned to paleo, allowing for the bits and pieces of cheating that’s been going on I just had to say that I discovered this week that not only have I lost ‘lots’ of inches, but it turns out I’ve lost 11.5 kg – the worst thing about that I think is admitting I have lost that much considering how far I still have to go – I remember seeing the shocking truth on the scales way back in September and almost crying – but it had been a particularly trying summer with a diet of either junk food (predominantly McDonalds), or very high in grains and legumes. I still need to get back to being good on my paleo diet – I was doing well and feeling better and then Yogi had a birthday and we ate Pizza…. that was less than a month ago but I haven’t been brilliant about it since, and with a relapse in my health proper cooking tapered off again. It’s prompted a renewed/revised meal plan for the second month running, including actual recipes each day rather than a ‘this is the meat, improvise’ attitude, and a definite attempt to actually plan lunches too. I’m still dodging the AIP bullet, I just don’t seem to be able to manage it. I find cooking with tomatoes so much more inspiring, and with a fusspot at the table I need the food to be as delicious as it can be and with health being what it is I need meals to be as easy as they can be. Combine fusspot, with ease for me and you come up with tomatoes. It might be easier once our herb garden emerges but I’m still worried that without the beautifully slowly reduced tomato in the sauce I’m going to lack in the delicious flavours that encourage Yogi to eat her meals – she definitely favours those full of tomatoes and herbs, be it beef, chicken or pork. She also likes them roasted with a drizzle of olive oil and nothing else but I (and the others) need more from our meals! I’m trying to find somewhere local that does a good quality fish sauce which I know will add a delicious depth of flavour but until I do I can’t really try it out. So this month, the AIP is put on hold in an attempt to get Yogi eating more – although I suspect she needs to be on the AIP herself. I need to get back to health quite desperately, but also to accept my health as it is in order to not drown in frustration/desperation. My days are currently spent attempting to drag myself from one hour (or 10 minute slot) to the next and to not forget to feed the children or tend to their other needs. Luckily, they are wonderful and apart from having to break up occasional (although when I’m feeling very rough it feels like every 5 minutes!) rows between them I think I’ve got it pretty good with them.

Now, if only Yogi’s health would improve they’d be darn near perfect.

Drusillas Park visit November 2012

Sunday 25 November 2012

We headed down to Drusillas Park as a family with our two girls aged 7 and 4.5. We were visiting as part of the Moneysupermarket competition to find Britains best family days out. A sudden black cloud and rainstorm as we got within a few miles almost turned us around but we decided to go ahead and give it a go! We had chosen to go on a Sunday as although it was still considered off peak more was open than during the week.  We knew as well that we were going just before the Christmas special features started up and we were happy to avoid these.

Entry was really quick – there was no queue, I suppose that was to be expected after the deluge of a few minutes earlier. First thing to be spotted were the children’s activity booklets and challenges to do around the zoo.  The girls loved this and straight away grasped their books and pencils eagerly as they zoomed to the first animals.  There was an animals spotters book and ink stamps as we went around, and then also some ‘zoolympics’ challenges throughout (can you jump as high as a cheetah, which animal can you run as fast as?).

The route is quite long, with no obvious resting places, but good and varied in the way the animals are viewable: some behind glass/plastic, some more open air so they could be seen over or through the fence, some underwater or mirror viewing windows etc.  Much of the route around was covered as well so although we actually didn’t get a lot more rain it probably would not have been much of a problem.

The animal highlights for us were:

-          The porcupine: Nige was amazed at how large they are

-          The meerkats: the children get to go through a tunnel and look through a bubble at ground level in the middle of the meerkats enclosure.

-          Penguins are always funny with their waddling and diving and swimming

-          We saw the ring-tailed lemurs being fed – you walk right into their enclosure and they leap around you and walk past you so it’s great and very immersive.

just a blur!

just a blur!

So, we got to the end of the zoo part and were pleased to emerge into an impressive outdoor playground area with towers and bridges and swings and tunnels and lots for the girls to go wild in after the relative order of walking around seeing the animals to this point.

Unfortunately we were pretty hungry by now too, we had planned to have our own food as a picnic, but the rain was starting back up and there seemed to be no undercover picnic space.  The Christmas features were taking over the normal allocated area, and signs everywhere reiterated that you were in no way allowed to sit at the cafes or other seating areas! So we shivered and struggled and ate half of our supplies huddled standing up under a roof of a shop area.  Later we managed to establish there was some tolerance in one of the cafes with a covered picnic area: and a later email conversation with Drusillas admitted that they need to improve this information for visitors.

The information leaflets and maps at first didn’t make it clear to us that there was an indoor play center, so it was a welcome, warming place for us, including space for me and Nige to have a bit of sit down and rest for a while.

We took an obligatory Thomas the Tank engine ride which we found quite disappointing.  I’m sure that littler ones would love it just for being a train and for it being Thomas, but there is very little to see whilst you are on it so it felt a little odd and pointless. Nige had certainly expected that you would get some peeks of the animals as you went round.  The promise of a Thomas ride was a big anticipation for our two and they too seemed a bit let down when it quite quickly came to a halt after just one short lap when nothing very interesting was spotted (I think (if my memory serves me correctly) you might be able to see the Llamas but they certainly weren’t out).

A happy discovery was a walk around maze which was themed around the four elements fire, water, air, earth with some interactive display pieces and riddles.  The girls found it both a bit spooky scary (a number of things suddenly make noise or talk based on infra-red beams) and intriguing, imagination-inspiring and fun.  Our 7 year old wanted to go around it again, alone, and then our 4.5 year old also wanted to go round it again although not so much without one of us.  It might be the sort of thing that older children would find a bit naff and pointless (in these days of high spec computer games), but our girls were willing to get into the idea of it and enjoy it for a bit of make believe, even on a drippy wet day when it spooked them a bit.  A nice feature of the maze was a raised viewing area, where I could see our 7 year old cruising around it from a high up birds eye view, although I couldn’t see her for about half the time she was in…. so not ideal for letting kids be unaccompanied (although I think the sign said they should be anyway)….

We decided we’d done enough, except for a quick pop back to the huge play area to explore the bits that Nige and the girls hadn’t quite managed first time round, and then some chips for all and a final cuppa for us before we strolled back to the car and headed home.

We were given Moneysupermarket discount vouchers to review this attraction free of charge.

Would we pay the full entry fee for a trip there? Unlikely. As home educators, we might be interested if they would offer a good value educational group rate.  Otherwise we would probably go there under some kind of offer such as using voucher or an adults go free offer or similar.  We would generally try to save money and avoid café food by taking our own, so a better message and adequate facilities for picnickers in all weather is important and they may need to sort this out first (although if they weren’t using the space/shelter that is available for their Christmas Wonderland when we went, this might be OK – although it might still be a bit chilly as it is a high roofed open fronted structure).

A new start on the paleo track.

With a new level of organisation comes the realisation that it’s time to organise my body/health.

We’re not sure quite what’s going on with my health but if we are honest we can see clearly that it is autoimmune in nature. This realisation/admission means it is time to get serious with Paleo again – the summer adventures meant paleo went by the wayside – and this time to not just do straight paleo but to trial the autoimmune protocol (AIP).

Honestly, I’m a mess. My right side is weak, I’m in constant ‘discomfort’ and almost constantly in pain that painkillers are only just about taking the edge off, sleep is becoming a thing of the past and so the whole ‘organised day’ thing is a lifesaver. Grumpiness is reigning supreme in my list of moods, with grouchy and weepy a close second. On the other hand Nige and I seem to have rediscovered humour (I did literally laugh out loud the other day – in a spit saliva all over everything kind of way (you’re glad of that image aren’t you?)), maybe it’s a defense mechanism to combat the murk that exists. Did I mention I don’t seem to be able to hear very well and I have frequent vision issues (right side only so far), my fingers are ridiculously unresponsive (which means I can’t knit or sew and forget learning to crochet), and my children and husband look at me in utter confusion as I ask them to ‘pick up the toilet’ or ‘jmumph the cutable’.

Ah well, it could be worse, I could’ve been converted.

Anyway, having gorged on cheesecake last Saturday I have now spent a week grain, dairy and excess sugar free (actually I had porridge midweek, oats but with coconut milk). Honestly, I’m in less pain – not no pain, just less, I’m not quite sleeping properly yet, I’m still pretty grumpy but I’m hoping things are going to steadily improve.

yummy paleo lunch

yummy paleo lunch

The thought of never eating a cake in a coffee shop again, or tomatoes or grabbing some chips on our way home from somewhere or other is initially daunting but then, the realisation hit that these things are really minor. They actually don’t matter in the slightest. Food is delicious, good home cooked, crapfree food is fantastic especially if it’s not hurting my body. With any luck a lessening of pain might result in an increase in physical activity and the two combined might actually help to shift my very not skinny butt…

organised, not chaos (maybe)

It seems that a new level of order is descending upon our house. What I once thought of as order and routine is no longer enough.

I have to say that some of it is down to FlyLady, I’m not saying I’m following everything because I’m really not even close BUT getting the emails each day makes me think – even though I currently don’t read them. Her control journal has been something I have picked up on, but I think that having grown up with ADHD and seeming to have not really grown out of it has meant that I have always liked lists in order to keep myself organised and I had more or less forgotten this somewhere between meeting Nige and now…. We now have not only a weekly meal plan, but a monthly meal plan. I’m aware of the budget and seem to be successfully grasping the concept! I cook pretty much every night exactly what was planned, and usually on time (not tonight though I’m running late but today didn’t really go to plan). Everyone (except Yogi but then miracles don’t really happen) actually likes the food I cook, we’ve even had guests over. Having guests over is a big thing on two counts 1. I felt up to cooking for others (and I didn’t even get stressed about it) and 2. the house was tidy enough to make it possible.

Our calendar is out and in use, I know what’s happening, who it’s happening for, where it’s happening and even when… The few workbooks the girls actually work out of are easily accessible, as are the pencils and the pencil crayons. The paper, the colouring things, the paints, the ink pads and stamps; all of them are there to be used whenever we need without too much effort. The girls have room to play with the Lego or the Playmobil without having to scrabble about and then hunt the pieces. The reference books relating to our current project are right here next to me on the shelf (Vikings in case you were wondering), and when we went to the library today all the books that needed to be taken back were, none needed to be renewed just because we couldn’t find them.

It’s lucky though that I’ve managed to get here as there are murky things on the horizon. Fingers crossed they’ll drop off the edge never to be seen again, but if not then hopefully the order that has been restored (I’m not sure I can use the word restored as it implies that there has been order at some point in the past….) will help us muddle through.

On a lighter note we’re planning a trip to Drusillas, hopefully this weekend, as I was lucky enough to be sent tickets from Moneysupermarket.com as part of their Britain’s best day out campaign  – I’ll be reviewing that for them just as soon as we get back. I haven’t been for years (about 12!) and I’m really looking forward to it, as are Nige and the smalls.

repurposing a doll bed into a fruit basket

Today was a day of calm for me – amazingly as Boo had a friend over to play.
While the children played I sat and repurposed.

I picked up a toy Moses basket from a charity shop, about 3 years ago now, with the intention of fixing it up. It has sat waiting all this time. I almost did repair it, on about 3 separate occasions, but my heart wasn’t in it. It just didn’t seem like something we needed/wanted. The girls co-slept and didn’t use baskets so I suppose it didn’t seem right to get them to do this with their babies. Today I realised we needed a fruit basket, and considering fruit is a large part of our diet I decided we needed a largish one. I wandered round the house, and garden trying to find something suitable but couldn’t find anything and that was when it occurred to me to take off the shaped edge of the Moses basket and make an original fruit basket. A nice, oval, fruit basket. Of course once you cut some off you have to re-affix the edge. And then of course there’s some of the original damage that still needed repair!