Tag Archives: half-term

Daddy’s new toy

Somehow, and I’m not entirely certain how, we have limped our way through what has proved to be a tough 5-weeks and finally Term 3 has drawn to a close and half-term has arrived. M’s health was hit hard when he came down with Aussie ‘flu just into the New Year and the term has been turned topsy-turvy as he’s struggled with high temperatures, heavy head colds, aching joints, lethargy and low energy levels. He’s also been trying to cope with unbelievable bouts of insomnia since the end of last term, a problem that has taken its toll not only on M, but the rest of the household too as Mike and I have juggled home and work as well as the impact of the serial bed-hopping that has become an almost nightly occurrence. Except on Wednesdays. I’m not yet sure what makes Wednesdays so special, but over the last couple of weeks, M has achieved something that has been such a rare event that I can pretty much count the number of times it has happened in his lifetime on the fingers of one hand. In bed – his bed – fast asleep and then nearly 10 blissful hours of interrupted sleep for the rest of us!

One of the highlights of half-term has been opportunity to finally try out the new toy that Mike had for Christmas. A stove-top smoker. Following the discovery of what quickly became a new favourite with M when we were in Greece last summer, Mike has been exploring whether there was any way to replicate the delicate flavours of this smoked chicken at home. He talked a few times about the possibility of buying a smoker, but as so often happens in our household, the chat didn’t lead anyway and eventually the idea faded away into seeming obscurity. However, whilst all thoughts of a smoker had disappeared from Mike’s head, it had taken up permanent residence in my mind and I was undertaking some research of my own.

Finding the perfect Christmas present for my other half is always a challenge, particularly as his birthday is just 2 months before, but waiting until December gave me enough time to read around the subject and pick out what I hoped would be the perfect choice. It came as a complete surprise on Christmas day and a present that both Mike and M were looking forward to experimenting with in the New Year. Sadly ‘flu got in the way of any such trials in January, but Mike being at home with the children for half-term gave them the perfect opportunity to give the smoker and a variety of wood chips a whirl.

By the end of the week, it turns out that Mike’s worked hard to see just what flavours he can produce and M feels that there’s still some work to be done to perfect the chicken to his exacting standards. It appears it’s all too easy to over-smoke the meat and end up with a bitter dinner, rather than the aromatic flavours we were hoping to find. M has suggested adding lemon and herbs to help flavour the chicken and I’ve no doubt that Mike’s new toy will be a source of much fun and experimentation over the coming months.


Halloween Pumpkins

Ok, so it might not be Halloween just yet, but I thought I’d share some photos of the pumpkins that Mike and the children have spent time designing and carving over half-term. Halloween has never been a time to celebrate for me and was certainly never a significant time of year when I was growing up. My childhood was spent making a Guy for Bonfire night, rather than carving a pumpkin for Halloween and I never imagined it would become a regular part of our household’s routines. However, 20 years on from when I first met Mike in Canada and experienced trick-or-treating North-American style with my university friends, Halloween has become a family time with the children not only carving pumpkins with Mike, but often also with my Mum during half-term.

I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of Halloween at all. We don’t go trick-or-treating with the children, though I absolutely support the work of the Teal Pumpkin Project which encourages households to provide non-food treats as a safe alternative to sweets for allergy children, so they can be a part of the experience alongside their friends. And I spend most of the week leading up to the day itself in an increasingly dark mood as October 31st is the anniversary of losing my Dad. It is always a difficult time of year for me, but I’m glad that the children are able to enjoy some fun time being creative with Mike and carving the pumpkins helps them celebrate their dual heritage in a unique way.




Station X

date (2)It might have been a damp, chilly October morning when we left home, but we didn’t let the weather deter us from completing our “top-secret” mission for the end of half-term – a visit to Station X, otherwise known as Bletchley Park. The purpose of our weekend away was actually to visit one of my Godmothers in nearby Milton Keynes, but the opportunity to take the children to see the home of unparalleled code-breaking during WWII was too good to miss. It was something of a last-minute plan, but I was confident that M would be fascinated by the history of code-breakers and spies that is so intricately woven into this beautiful Manor House and, what’s more, 20151031_115918it fitted wonderfully well with some of the English home-work G had been set over half-term.

From the moment we drove in through the front gates, the children’s interest was piqued as we were questioned at the gate as to the reason for our visit and directed to the nearby car park. Members of staff were on hand to make sure we headed to the entrance and didn’t wander into any areas that are still in use today and not accessible to the general public. We started by picking up our multimedia tour packs, before heading into the grounds of Bletchley Park itself. M was keen to follow the guide exactly and so we started by the lake whilst listening to an introduction to all there was to see there, which believe me, is a lot. Once we had circumnavigated the lake, we were then taken around the rest of the site: starting at the Manor House, around to the garages and cottages, via the memorial to the Polish men and women involved in code-breaking during WWII and on to the restored Huts; 20151031_130649all before ending up at the Block B Museum.

The Multimedia guide was absolutely brilliant and I’m really glad we stopped to pick them up despite G’s initial reluctance. Mike, M and I all chose the adult version, whilst G opted for the family friendly one. The map showed the key places for starting the audio recordings and you could then choose how many additional subject areas you wanted to listen to on a variety of different topics. The screens were all interactive and M had great fun “wiping off” the current images to reveal how each location would have looked during the 1940s. G had the added bonus of interactive puzzles to complete and loved working out how to break each code. The guides were included in the price of the entrance ticket and whilst they weren’t integral to our visit, they certainly revealed more of the story than was on display,

I would be hard-pressed to state which was my favourite part or indeed choose which I think the children enjoyed the most. There was just so much to see, so much to read and almost too much to absorb. From the history of Bletchley Park which led to its use during WWII, to the interactive displays of the Bombe machines in Hut 11, the Enigma machines on display in Block B and the children’s corner with puzzles and dressing up supplies, as well as an extensive area showing some of the props and costumes used to20151031_125114 film last year’s blockbuster, “The Imitation Game“, there really was something for everyone. Sadly our few hours there simply weren’t long enough and we didn’t manage to explore either the National Radio Centre or the National Museum of Computing and its rebuild of Colossus, both located at the same site. No need to worry however, as it simply means that we will have to try to squeeze a revisit in and, as our entrance tickets give us admission for a full year, I’m sure we’ll manage it one way or another