Category Archives: Family

September 2021: New Opportunities

September: the month where everything seems to reset and start anew. As I have previously mentioned, G has made the move to a local college to study a BTEC in psychology instead of continuing with her A-levels. She catches the train to college 3 times a week at the moment and following an apprehensive start, has embraced that challenge as well as discovering the joys of travelling by public transport -delays anyone? – instead of simply being able to walk to school.

M has settled well into Year 11 and our delayed Year 10 parents’ evening revealed that he is doing extremely well and his teachers are expecting good things from him with his final GCSE results. He was unsurprisingly identified as being clinically vulnerable and was offered his first COVID vaccination as part of that first cohort, which he was keen to take up as soon as he could. Our GP has been very switched on this year and he has already has his ‘flu vaccination too as has G.  Unfortunately, September also saw M testing positive for COVID and having to self-isolate for 10 days, which was not ideal at the start of his new school year. He has been unwell with it and spent a lot of time either sleeping or coughing without much let up. We’re hoping that the vaccine, which fortunately he did have more than 2 weeks before he got ill, will do its thing and that recovery doesn’t take too long.

There has also been some great opportunities that have manifested thanks to G and M’s involvement with the young people’s forum at our local hospital. M was invited to join the judging panel for this year’s staff awards a few months ago and was later asked to be part of the presentations of some of the awards to the winners. Never one to miss the opportunity to dress up, M chose a brand new suit and wore it proudly into the hospital for both of the presentations he was able to attend. The first recognised the value and compassion shown by one of the receptionists, especially when speaking to bereaved families, and the second was to recognise the hard work and efforts of the vaccination team over the last 18 months. He particularly enjoyed meeting the vaccination team, even if his first question was about when he could have the COVID vaccine – little were we to know that his invitation for it would be waiting on our doormat when we got back home!

And finally, I was invited to become a member of the interview panel for a new clinical nurse specialist role within the gastro department at the hospital. I was super excited to receive this invitation and had a great afternoon turning my interview technique in a different direction to the usual finance-based questions I find myself having to ask. I even got to flex my acting skills as I helped run the role play element of the interview. It was a real privilege to be involved and fascinating to learn more first-hand about the process undertaken to select the right candidate for the job.

Summer Photo Round-up 2021

As well as our travels to the Lake District this summer, we also enjoyed theatre trips, filming, beach visits, hair-cuts, boules and a journey to the moon:

Enjoying the best of the Lakes – Part Two

When I said that the second half of our week’s holiday was just as busy as the first in last week’s blog, I wasn’t joking. Everyday saw us exploring a new corner of the Lake District in a myriad of different ways:

Borrowdale ValleyOur walk here was inspired by an article I had read about the so-called “Borrowdale Banksy” and a desire to see if we could find one of these stunning pieces of art whilst we walked the hills. Sadly we didn’t manage to uncover the location, which is a something of a secret, but we did find some stunning views and had the chance to climb the most spectacular hill of slate to look out over Derwentwater. It was a challenging walk, but we had a glorious day for our trek around the loop.

West Lake Adventures: During our visit to Lake Windermere, G and M spotted several people paddle-boarding and kayaking on the lake and asked if we could squeeze a similar excursion into our week for them. We hadn’t previously booked it, so were a little sceptical about what we might find, but were lucky to come across West Lake Adventures who offered a 2-3 hour kayaking session on the much quieter Wastwater. Wastwater can be found at the foot of Scafell Pike, which meant some absolutely amazing photos of both children and Mike kayaking with a simply jaw-dropping backdrop.

Whinlatter Forest: When G said she’d love to horse-ride whilst we were away, M made it equally clear that that wasn’t something he wanted to do and so we looked for an alternative adventure for him for a different day. The answer was a forest segway trail with Go Ape at Whinlatter Forest. Whilst the boys tackled the trail, G and I headed off on a search for the Gruffalo, which led us to a most perfectly positioned picnic area looking out over Derwentwater, somewhere we returned to with Mike and M to enjoy our lunch. We were very impressed by the cafe here too as it served the most amazing allergy-friendly sandwiches and ice-creams, something that came in very handy when we realised that Mike had left the children’s packed lunch in the fridge back at Brockwood Hall.

Morecambe Bay: Our final stop as we began our homeward journey, and one I insisted on, was at the delightful seaside town of Morecambe Bay. Of course best known for it’s iconic statue of classic British comedian Eric Morecambe, Morecambe Bay is more than just this depiction of its most famous son. We had perhaps the best weather of our whole trip as we strolled along the prom and walked out along the stone jetty to gaze back at the peaks that had been our home for the last week. Charming in every regard and the perfect ending to a truly stupendous holiday.

Enjoying the best of the Lakes – Part One

The one thing we made really clear to G and M when we booked our week away in the Lake District was that it was not going to be a “lie on the beach or in the hot tub” type holiday, but rather one involving lots of exercise, especially walking. M has recently been confirmed as having hypermobility and so has been having physiotherapy to work on the strength needed to support his hips and knees as his intense growth spurt over the last 18 months has had a knock-on effect on those. I was a little concerned that he may struggle whilst we were walking and climbing far more than normal, but thankfully his joints held up well to all the challenges presented.

Black Combe – the first walk we tackled was just a 10- minute drive from our home-base at Brockwood Hall and an ambitious one for our first full day in Cumbria. We didn’t make it all the way to the very top, but got high enough to enjoy some spectacular views, albeit we weren’t quite able to see all the way to Scotland, Ireland and Wales as the very best days allow. After so many months of staying so very close to home, it was simply glorious to be out in the fresh air and feasting our eyes on a completely different part of the country.

Cumbrian Heavy Horses – G has been a fairly keen horse rider over the years, though it has been a while since she last rode. Mike found the opportunity for her to ride whilst we were in the Lake District at this centre a mere stone’s throw from where we were staying and booked her in for a 2 hour ride on the Sunday morning. Despite it being the wettest day of our entire week, G absolutely loved the ride and came back with a beaming smile. Mike joined her for the ride and managed to get some great photos of it all.

Silecroft & Haverrig beaches – wanting to get out of our lodge for some fresh air and a stretch of our legs, I suggested we headed to nearby Silecroft beach for a somewhat blustery walk. It was undeniably cold, grey and windy, although spotting a seal swimming and popping its’ head out of the water was a definite highlight for us all. A mere 45 minutes or so later, we finally gave into the moans emanating from both children and climbed back into the car. Much to their disgust, I convinced Mike to drive a little further around the coast so we could walk the sandy beach at Haverrig as well. Much to all our delight, it was as if we had entered an entirely different climate and instead of the grey blusteriness of Silecroft, we basked in glorious sunshine, whilst G and M clambered up and over the dunes.

Lake Windermere – no visit to the Lake District would be complete without a day trip to one of the Lakes and so we headed to Lake Windermere for almost a full day. We parked a little outside of the town of Bowness-on-Windermere and stumbled across a beautiful lakeside path as we strolled towards the centre of the town. The plan was for a lakeside cruise with Windermere Lake Cruises and we picked one which would take us on a circular route starting and ending in Bowness. It then turned into a busy day as we squeezed in a quick visit to the World of Beatrix Potter -another of my holiday picks – although we’d have been hard-pressed to spend much more than the 30 minutes we did spend there. Our evening finished with a fish supper courtesy of the wonderful Vinegar Jones that I mentioned in my last post.

The second half of our week was just as busy as the first, but you’ll have to tune back in to Part 2 to find out what else we did!

Eating Out with Allergies in the Lake District

I have to confess that I didn’t do as much research into allergy-friendly restaurants for our stay in the Lake District as I would normally do when we travel. Part of that was that I wasn’t really sure how comfortable I would be in eating out during the week as the COVID restrictions have lifted and knew that we could take advantage of our self-catering lodge for our meals if we wanted, albeit that would mean not as much of a holiday as I would perhaps have liked. However, despite my unusual lack of planning in advance, we found some wonderful places to eat that were more than able to accommodate the various dietary requirements for us all:

Bentley’s Fish and Chips, BlackpoolI mentioned this wonderful chip shop in last week’s blog, but absolutely felt it needed including in my round-up of our allergy-friendly eateries. They boasted a dedicated gluten-free fryer for the fish and chips and the portions were more than large enough to satisfy the appetite of the teenage M for at least an hour or so! I enjoyed the scampi, whilst Mike added battered haggis to his order, and although neither of these were gluten-free, they were delicious.

The Punch Bowl Inn, MillomThis was an unexpected find less than 10 minutes away from our base for the week and we were so impressed by their offerings on the Saturday night, that we booked to go again the following Wednesday. They change their menu on a weekly basis, always making sure to include some new allergy-friendly options alongside the regular gammon and steak offerings. G and M chose the gammon and chips, which again were generously portioned and a big hit with both children. Mike tried their allergy-friendly king prawn curry on the Wednesday, which also got a good review.

Vinegar Jones, Bowness-on-WindermereThere’s nothing better than spotting a place that’s keen to advertise their allergy-friendly options and Vinegar Jones’ large window display stating that they serve gluten-free fish and chips daily absolutely did that. Obviously a popular destination in Bowness-on-Windermere, we joined the lengthy line that was queuing along the pavement and kept our fingers crossed that it could meet the requirements of my discerning duo. Given it’s presence on this list, it’s perhaps needless to state that it was another resounding success and somewhere I’d be more than happy to recommend to anyone visiting the area.

The Flying Pig Pub, Bowness-on-Windermere: This was an unexpected late addition and not somewhere we had planned to eat at all. M had spotted swordfish on the menu at the nearby Hyltons restaurant whilst we were waiting for our food to be cooked at Vinegar Jones and asked if we could pop back on another evening. We hadn’t really expected to have the time, but a quicker than anticipated visit to Keswick meant that we had time to head back to Bowness, only to find the restaurant in question closed for the evening. Instead, we found the Flying Pig Pub, which proved to be a reasonable replacement, although they didn’t offer swordfish much to M’s disappointment. G once again plumped for the gammon and chips, whilst M tried the chargrilled steak burger without the cheese. Both were happy with their meals and I certainly enjoyed the moules marinière with fresh bread.

 

July 2021: Yet another school year done…

…and what a year it has been.

G started her A-levels in the sixth form at our local school after 6 months of practically no school whatsoever following the outbreak of the COVID pandemic and ensuing lockdown in the UK. It has not been the easiest year for her whole cohort as they’ve struggled to get back to learning with not only the added challenges of online schooling and social bubbles within school, but also that monumental shift into further education. It has quickly become apparent that traditional A-levels do not suit G’s learning style or allow for her exam nerves, and so she has bravely made the decision to move to a local college and study BTEC courses instead. It feels like a very grown-up choice for her to have made, not least as she will be catching the train to college each day, but with her 18th birthday approaching far too quickly, it is unquestionably the right time for her to make this change.

M, on the other hand, has, for the most part, embraced the challenge of his GCSEs and has shown a definite flair for both the artistic (photography and performing arts) and the scientific (Computing and Science) in his Year 10 mock exams. His cardiology appointment in May revealed that he grew an incredible 12cms and gained 15kg in 15 months, more than he’s ever managed before and he continues to grow like a weed and is fast catching up on me! I’m not sure it would be fair to say that he’s looking forward to moving into Year 11 in September, but he is beginning to think about what he wants to study next and G’s move to another college has helped broaden his outlook on where he might go.

Our summer plans are fairly quiet, though we are hoping to squeeze in a week away at some point, COVID allowing. G is helping out with the Stagecoach summer school for 2 weeks and M has volunteered to help with the sound at a couple of the summer camp family days that our church is running. They both have some school work to complete too, but the rest of this week is mostly going to be occupied with lots of sleep and an outside performance of Macbeth (one of M’s GCSE texts!) to enjoy, our first trip to the Theatre for an awfully long time…and I simply can’t wait!

June 2021: Eating our way around the World

Whilst we still can’t do much more than dream about resuming our international travel adventures at the moment, we have been talking lots about where we’d like to go once we can start again. We’ve discussed weekends away, city breaks, longer holidays and birthday treats, not least because G will be turning 18 at the end of this year. Some destinations have been something of a surprise (Hungary and Russia in the middle of the winter to name a couple), whilst others have been on one family member or another’s wish list for a long time.

There has also been a definite fatigue within the 7Q2D kitchen over the last few months and so, taking inspiration from all of our conversations about travel, I decided to pick a handful of countries and their cuisines to influence our menu choices. It started with a return to a recipe I’d adapted whilst we were watching the Great British Bake-Off last year and both children fancied trying the Japanese steamed buns that were prepared. I made them in the Autumn using duck as a filling and had surprisingly great success. However, I hadn’t turned my hand to them and so decided one weekend to give them another whirl, with plenty of time to fit in a family walk whilst the dough was rising.

In the spirit of travel-inspired foods and, quite frankly, building on that success, this past week has been all about Italy  – another of G’s picks as well as Mike’s hopes for a Roman weekend. So far we’ve enjoyed Gnocchi (though I must admit it wasn’t home-made), risotto, pizza, arancini di riso, and pasta on different nights and with plenty of enthusiasm from even my pickiest diner.

I’m not quite sure where next week’s travels will take us, but it’s been fun and an entertaining alternative so far to the same old dishes that I seem to cook week after week.

2021: 15 years today! – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 51

The last in the family to celebrate a birthday in lockdown, M somehow managed to miss it last year by the skin of his teeth and at one point we wondered if he might escape it again this, but it wasn’t to be. He is delighted though that despite his fears that today might be the first day back at school for a while, instead he won’t return until Wednesday and so he really does get to celebrate his day at home in the way he was hoping.

A lot has changed for M in the last 12 months – he has probably enjoyed one of the healthiest years of his life as his diet continues to expand steadily and his growth spurts have taken him to towering over his big sister and slowly creeping up on me. It’s a joy to be celebrating his 15th birthday at home with him today in a way that is very much his teenage approach to life – sleep, PS4 time with friends, doughnuts and food, lots and lots of food!

Happy 15th birthday M – we love you always, even all your teenage quirks! xxx

2021: Yet Another Lockdown Holiday – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 48

I don’t know about you, but a definite sense of COVID and lockdown fatigue has hit our household and G and M were more than ready for their February half-tern break this week. For M, spending close to 6 hours daily in live online lessons has been surprisingly tiring and the loss of his walks to, from and around school have definitely impacted on his sleep patterns as he is mentally, but not always physically exhausted by the end of the day.

As Mike and I have both been working from home this week as normal, G and M have had their days to themselves. Before the week even began, I suggested that keeping up with some schoolwork would be a good idea and so each morning has been filled with homework, tutor sessions and, in G’s case, making sure that all her A-level notes are legible and neatly written up from her occasionally messy notes. They’ve been out for daily walks, had great fun making their recordings for their end-of-term virtual Stagecoach performance and even took over the kitchen on Shrove Tuesday to whip up a batch of delicious M-friendly pancakes for us all to enjoy.

However, our evenings this week have been dedicated to family time and what better way to spend that time than in some friendly rivalry around a board game. To avoid squabbles as much as possible, G and M have taken it in turns to pick the evening’s game and we’ve had a real mix so far this week. From honing our art talents in “Telestrations” – we soon discovered who the weak links in the family are – to developing our deduction skills in “Cluedo“, all via a musical interlude on the kazoo in “Play that Tune”, there have been a lot of giggles to be heard. We’ve revisited some long-standing family favourites as well as playing those bought at Christmas, although the Reindeer Hoopla has yet to make an out-of-season reappearance!

Like so much of the last 48 weeks, this half-term might not have been quite as we would have liked or planned, but we’ve had a lot of fun together, perhaps even more so now that the children are older and can be challenged a bit more in our games. I’d be hard pressed to pick a personal favourite from our table filled to the brim, but would highly recommend “Telestrations”, a game we can’t wait to play with my Mum once we’re able to visit her once again. The topic of which game is picked for that evening’s entertainment has been a key part of our dinner table conversation and it’s been fascinating to see which games each child chooses.

What’s your recommendation? Any family favourites that are always picked, or something new to you that you think we might also like to try to?

17 Today – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 38

When we marked G’s sweet sixteen this time last year, we were looking forward to a year filled with next steps and new adventures. Her GCSEs were looming and plans were slowly being made for her Sixth Form choice and beyond. And then COVID-19 hit and everything started to look a little different. Weeks on lockdown at home together have flown past, the new school year arrived before we were really expecting it, long hair was cut into a stylish and far more grown-up look that I certainly was ready for and just like that, here we are celebrating G’s birthday once again.

This year continues to be unlike any other and G’s hopes for a small dinner out with her closest friends have been put on hold as we linger in the restrictions of Tier 3. Instead, it will be just as she has asked – a quiet day together as family with a film of her choice, a Chinese takeaway supper and the one thing that hasn’t changed since she was small, a birthday cake baked and decorated with all the love in the world.

Happy 17th birthday sweet girl, love you for ever and always xxx