Author

I'm a part-time writer, full-time mother and dog-walker living in a small English village by the sea with my husband, daughter and a dog named Doc.

All posts by Dean B

The Ever Changing British Weather

“It’s hailing and the wind is howling!”  T exclaimed emphatically a few days ago while eating her breakfast.  “Why is this happening?”  She added dramatically.  From upstairs, I shouted back “because we live in England that’s why!”  Isn’t it ironic that I titled my last post as “Winter is dead?” and yet it feels its back again with a vengeance.  Serves me right for being too optimistic.

As I was helping her get ready for school that day, she announced she didn’t want to wear her summer dress.  I took a skirt out and her school jumper which she normally only wears in “colder” weather and asked if she wanted to wear knee socks.  She shook her head and requested for tights.

This little girl of mine seldom complains about the cold.  I’ve caught her running around and doing somersaults topless on her trampoline with her friends, she must have been really cold this morning to request for tights. I don’t blame her.  We’ve been having such glorious warm(ish) weather lately, this cold snap must have been a shock to her this morning.

Also woke up to a grey and cold day yesterday, I decided to write that one-off too and spend the day catching up with Grey’s Anatomy.  Yes, I’m probably the only one who still watches that show even if most of the characters annoy me, I still want to know what’s happening to Meredith Grey.

Last Tuesday, a friend picked me up in the morning and we spent some lovely time just mooching around,having a coffee and lunch in the town nearest to us.  The sun did eventually come out in the afternoon, but the wind was still bitter cold.  I looked around and everyone seemed to be wearing their winter clothes too.  And here I was thinking I’d add “Put away thick jumpers” to my list of things to do this week.  Thank goodness I haven’t done that!

This week, I’ve been cursing the mad British weather and it wasn’t just me.  My husband was the same too.  I glared at him at one point and said “Hey!  You were born here!  You ought to be used to this.  Whereas I come from a tropical country, I have the right to complain!”  He glowered back at me and said, “Complaining about the weather IS our national sport!”

Winter is Dead …

thank goodness for that.  Up country, the trees have fully regrown their leaves.  Down here in Cornwall, even though Spring happens early, the trees are still recovering from the “deadness” of Winter.  Some of them are still bald, some are slowly sprouting tiny leaves, pert against the blueness of a Spring sky.  I understand why this is my husband’s favourite season.  He says he likes it because there is hope in the air.  I like it because it is beautiful.  Suddenly the greyness is gone and there is an abundance of colour.  What’s not to like about Spring?  You must be really dull or hate life not to embrace everything about it.

Spring break has also come and gone.  We spent the first week pottering about, mostly gardening, although there is still a lot to be done, we are slowly getting there.

We also visited my in-laws in the second week and did a day trip to the bustling city of London.  It was nice to spend time with the family, but it was great to drive back home to the country again.  I think I also understand why some people don’t like leaving their place.  It can sometimes be a bit cumbersome and I’m not alone in feeling this.  My husband heaved a heavy sigh as he stepped on the gas to make that long trip back up-country.  We haven’t even left and yet we were already longing for home.

Ah home.  At the moment, home is this 400-year-old farm cottage surrounded by cows and fields.  The house gets mouldy in Winter, I have yet to repaint the walls.  There are still remnants of mould even though we’ve tried our best to wipe them away, you can still see them on the walls like scars that haven’t healed.  I’ll get down to doing all that, hopefully this week.

Hope and Spring, such a lovely combination, don’t you think?

Fun in the Sun at Crooklets Beach

We’ve been lucky to have good weather this week.  Managed to spend some time on Crooklets beach last Monday along with one of little T’s friends.  We brought their scooters with us, so while my husband and I were sipping our lovely cappuccinos at Rosie’s kitchen outside, the girls were having a lovely time riding on their scooters.

And after a quick snack of cheesy chips and fruit shakes, the girls were ready to have some fun on the beach.

And yes, we did go away with soggy bottoms, the kids that is.  The grown-ups were dry, but I don’t think we had as much fun as they did.

What have you guys been up to this Easter break?

Country Kids

Have you planned your Summer Holiday?

I’m sure by now a lot of families out there have planned if not booked their summer holiday already.   If you’re one of those lucky/organised ones, well done, you guys.  When going abroad, we like to book ours well ahead of time too.  As you know, it’s cheaper that way.  Sadly, we haven’t done any bookings as I type this all because little T and I have to renew our passports, which we hope to get sorted out next week.

As for plans, oh we have loads of those!  After all, planning is free right?  At the moment, we have a few choices up our sleeves.  It’s nice to have alternatives, in case, the first one doesn’t pan out right? Here’s ours.

PLAN A: Spain-Portugal

Go on a road trip again.  The first time we ever went on a road-trip as a family, was when we drove all the way to a remote cabin in Scotland and absolutely loved it.  The second one was a road trip to France (with a day-trip to Belgium).  We stayed in a Eurocamp and did day-trips to Disneyland and Paris, as well as  trips around the beautiful French countryside.  Ah, that was bliss.

This time though, the plan is to drive to Plymouth to catch a ferry to Santander and drive all the way down the Spanish coast to Portugal – doesn’t that sound dreamy?

We love doing road-trips.  I guess one of the reasons is that you can stop anytime, especially if you see something that catches your attention.  It’s easy to just stop and roam around and experience the local culture without having to worry about your schedule too much.  And if that doesn’t work, there’s ….

PLAN B: Train-trip to Eastern Europe

Ever since reading “The Historian” by Elizabeth Kustova, I’ve longed to travel by train to Hungary and Romania and yes, visit Count Dracula’s castle in Bran.  I would love to watch the beautiful countryside/mountains of Eastern Europe.  When I mentioned this to my husband, I was pleased  to know that he’s always wanted to do it too.  But I’m wondering though whether T is too young to appreciate a trip like this one, though I’m sure she’ll enjoy travelling by train.  And then there’s …

PLAN C: Homegrown

This is the easiest and if I’m honest, the most feasible plan.  I have family from the States who might come over this summer and of course, it’s only right that we show them around the UK.

I’ve always wanted to explore Wales, since we’ve never really had the chance apart from staying in Hay-on-Wye and doing day-trips from Bristol.  A close friend who regularly camps in Wales has been inviting us to go with her, so this might just be our chance.

And of course, there’s still so much of the UK that I haven’t explored.  What better way to do it when you have guests right?

As you can see, our plans are still up in the air and I know that time is indeed running out, hopefully we’ll be able to finalize our plans soon.

What about you?

Have you booked your summer holiday?

*This is a sponsored post.

A Whiff of Summer

Could it be true?  Could summer really be near?

The clocks moved forward last Saturday and it definitely felt like we are not that far from everyone’s most favourite season – summer.  Well obviously, coming from a tropical country, it is my favourite, although I do love the golden colours in autumn too.

I love summer here in England, especially when the weather cooperates.  I love the long summer days especially, sitting out in the garden at 9 pm and it is still light.  We like to sit around in the fire-pit waiting for the dark, the barbecue long gone and drinks have been passed around and little T ready for bed, but refusing to go.  What’s not to love?

Obviously it isn’t summer yet but Spring has definitely sprung. We found something in the small outbuilding we have, down in the garden.  It was a hammock we bought on sale last year.  I think we got in the end-of-season sale in our favourite garden centre.  I remember thinking we must be mad to purchase it, especially since it was the beginning of winter, but I’m so glad we did.

T was delighted when we called her over.  And being a kid, she insisted that we used it right away.  After searching for a piece of rope and two trees that would be strong enough to hold the hammock, we set it up.

And as soon as it was up, little T plunked herself down with a book while her dad mowed the lawn and Doc was busy chewing on a stick and I went on with my chores.  I looked back as I walked back to the house to do my chores, and right that very moment, that instant, it felt like we’ve fast forwarded to summer.  Funny how a hammock can magically transport you into time.

Sadly, as I type this and look out the window, a different scene unfolds before me.  It’s rather a dreary one actually.  T has been wearing her summer dresses to school two days in a row now, even though yesterday, it was hardly sunny.  But as I helped her get ready today, I suggested maybe it would be best if she went back to wearing her grey skirt and tights instead.  She agreed and said “It’s like winter again, isn’t it mum?”  I sighed and said yes.  Her father grumpily added “Yes, that was it.  We’ve now gone back to winter!”

I’m in need of something more magical than a hammock, one so strong it will somehow bring the sunshine back and will it to stay.  Know of any?  Do share.

Dentastix: Dental Care for Dogs

Admittedly, we haven’t done much about Doc’s dental care.  Not because we don’t care about it, I guess it’s because we assume that his teeth are alright.  As far as we are aware, he doesn’t have any problems.  How do we know? Here’s our checklist.

  • His breath doesn’t smell.  Granted it doesn’t smell like toothpaste or that you wouldn’t want to lock lips with him, but if you did, but I’m happy to share that he doesn’t have dragon’s breath.  Knock on wood.
  • His teeth appear to look healthy with no broken teeth.
  • Gums also appear good.  They don’t look swollen or inflamed.
  • And most importantly, he doesn’t have trouble chewing at all.  His most favourite thing to chew is sticks.  As soon as he’s off that, then I’ll start to worry.

And thanks to Dentastix, Doc has been getting excellent dog dental care.  What makes Dentastix perfect for dogs?

Pedigree Dentastix has a unique X-shape and when fed daily has been scientifically proven to help reduce the build-up of tartar by up to 80%.

It also contains two active ingredients (sodium tripolyphosphate and zinc zulphate), which bond with the calcium in saliva and slow down the build-up of tartar. This helps plaque stays softer and makes it easier to remove with Pedigree Dentastix.

As for us, we like it because it’s a treat and at the same it, it’s caring for Doc’s teeth.  And Doc? He likes it because it tastes yummy!  He’s been happily chewing on Dentastix for more than five days now and absolutely loves it.

What about you? Have you tried Dentastix?

Do you have tips on how to care for your dog’s teeth?  Do share.

“This post is a collaboration with Pedigree, but all thoughts are my own. For additional dental care information you can read the following Pedigree Reviews article for tips and advice.”

ANIMALTALES

In awe of my daughter

“What were you thinking of sweetie, when you were standing there with your medal?” I ask little T as I remembered seeing her looking so small and a bit lost while standing up in front of a huge crowd.

It was her first time to stand in front of more than three hundred people.   She played little Alice in her school play last year, but little T’s village school is a small one. Even with parents and grandparents the crowd was never more than sixty, so yes, this was definitely her first time.

She looked so small and young, standing in front with the other gymnasts waiting for their medals. I tried to catch her attention, but she didn’t see me. She seemed lost in thought, as if she wasn’t even daunted by everyone around her with their cameras, phones and iPads recording every minute of the event.

When they first called her name, I muttered “What?” under my breath. I was standing away from my husband, poised to take photos just like the other parents. We weren’t aware of any award or nomination. But yes, they called out her name again. I saw her coach lead her to the centre. I don’t think T knew about this either.

Admittedly, I wasn’t really happy when they announced that T was included in the exhibition. I felt she wasn’t ready, especially since she only recently joined the development class. We know that she’s the weakest gymnast in their group, being the youngest and the newest, but when we asked the coach, she seemed confident that T could do it. She also missed a few practices. Had she announced that day that she didn’t want to do it, I wouldn’t have pushed her.

But she managed the performance. At one point though, she did miss a few steps, but so did the others and the crowd seemed to really like her too. Perhaps it was because she looked so tiny?

My little girl, my little star. She continuous to astonish me with her inner strength of character. Upon first impression, people always see her as the shy one, the reticent one. She’s not the kind who would candidly talk to strangers or grown-ups and tell them what she thinks, unless prodded. But when it comes to standing in front of a crowd, even when she was in reception, she wouldn’t think twice about doing it.

My little girl, my little star. My husband teared up as he watched his daughter perform. As for me, I didn’t realise how nervous I was until I looked at the photos I took of the event. I normally take good photos, but that day, they were just all bad, unfocused, and it was the same with the videos.

This motherhood/parenthood business.  My mother didn’t warn me about how overwhelming it is sometimes.  How you feel that your heart could literally burst out of your chest, because it is so full.  How one tiny little person could just make you feel like the biggest person in the world.   And that’s certainly how we, her parents felt that day.  I am in awe of her.

Finding the Beauty in Ordinary Days

It definitely felt like spring has sprung over the weekend which lasted till Monday.  Never mind if it’s looking grey again today.  But a few days ago, our little family had a lovely time as we worked in the sunshine, trying to reclaim our garden back from the remnants of winter.

T and I started with raking the leaves which should’ve been raked ages ago, but it was always too wet and cold to do it.  But over the weekend it was bliss.  We were all in our element, including Doc and Boots who loved basking in the sun and running on tree branches.  Hopefully she didn’t find any bird’s nests!

For some time now, the husband has been talking about wanting to put wooden borders with shingles for our pots of plants to rest on.  But like I’ve mentioned, the weather hasn’t been really conducive to do anything outside, he finally had his chance!

He started this on a Saturday, by Sunday he had all the wooden boards up, but found out that the shingles he bought wasn’t enough.  We managed to buy more yesterday and it’s all up:

I think he did a grand job!  We’re excited to buy more bedding plants, since the ones in our pots need replanting and even new ones.  There’s still obviously much to do in the garden.  I need to repaint our garden furnitures and hopefully we’ll manage to put up some swings and tick off some of our plans which we made last year when we first moved into the house.  It does take time, doesn’t it?

But over the weekend, it was one of those lovely ordinary days where I savoured each and every single second, bit by bit.  There’s beauty in ordinary days like these.

Relishing the ordinary, the way the sunshine poured through the window making beautiful patterns against our curtains.  The sound of Boots’ bell coming from the trees, hopefully loud enough to warn any birds that a predator is coming.  Little T sitting on the concrete steps eating her little picnic exclaiming “This is the best lunch ever” which consisted of a jam sandwich, apple slices and her a pear flavoured drink.

The way the husband frowned as he hammered a piece of wood into the ground missing his foot just inches away.  Even the sound of Doc’s faint barking which meant he was somewhere in the 500-acre farm land that surrounds our house.

And then later on, the sound of T practicing her cello and my husband and I both smiling, so proud of her, that what our little girl is playing is beginning to sound like good music.  These are the moment I want to freeze forever.

Reality sets in again, and it’s a Wednesday, our house at the moment is surrounded in mist.  Ah well…

You know You’re a Pet Owner When …

I’ve been seeing a lot of “you know you’re a mum” posts lately whether on a blog, a photo on  Instagram or Facebook that I’ve decided to make one for pet owners/parents.

You know You’re a Pet Owner when …

…  your front-door is dirty, especially when it’s been raining outside.  Our door is filthy almost all the time.  I hope our postie doesn’t think we’re slobs.  Our regular one will know, because he’s met Doc.  But not the others, especially couriers.  For the record, we are not slobs, we just have a Doc who likes to clamber all over our front door and kitchen window when he wants to come in and no one is there to let him right away.

You know you’re a pet owner when …

You find patches of black fur on your white throw.  I know what you’re thinking, why have a white throw when you have a young kid and pets right?  And I say right back at you, why on earth not?  And yes, I’ll whinge all I want.  If you’ve been reading my little blog for some time now, you might have read somewhere that I like white furniture/furnishings and I refuse to give them up just because I have a small child and pets.  Not to mention finding fur on your clothes!

You know you’re a pet owner when…

Your car is disgustingly dirty and we’re not just talking about the food T and her friends sometimes leave behind especially when we’ve just done a road trip.  I’m talking again of muddy paws all over, especially since the beach is less than a ten-minute drive away, yes, the inside of the car is always covered in sand, mud, muck and all that.  I really ought to give up trying to clean our car.  But at least, I try right?

You know you’re a pet owner when …

The kitchen floor slate floor is always dirty, no matter how you clean it everyday.  Don’t even let me mention the carpet in the rooms or else I’ll never stop.

You know you’re a pet owner when …

You find doggie pooh bags or stale treats in your coat pockets along with your daughter’s small toys.  How long has it been there?  How long have we had Doc or T?

You know you’re a pet owner when …

You talk to your pets.  I know people do talk to their pets, but I’m talking about actual conversations.  You say something, pet answers, and yes, it doesn’t matter that you don’t really understand what they’re saying.  Actually you do, with Doc and my husband, they actually have actual conversations with their eyes and eyebrows only.  No words used.  As for Boots and I, you’ll actually hear lots of words, especially from me.  She answers either with her meows or her purring.

But I just fed you!

That was five minutes ago, feed me again now!

You know you’re a pet owner when ….

You have lots of photos of your dog and cat almost as much as your daughter’s.  And your pets and daughter gives you the same exasperated look every time they see you pick up your phone or camera.  Well except Doc.  He gets all excited especially when he sees me pick up my big camera, he knows we’re headed outside to take photos.  He loves that.

You know you’re a pet owner when …

You can’t bring yourself to move even though you’ve just decided to get up from the couch, only because your fat cat has decided that she needs your belly for a nap.  That’s it human, stop moving!  I need my beauty sleep.

You know you’re a pet owner when …

You have a love-hate relationship with them.  One moment you can’t imagine life without them, the next you’re screaming your head off and threatening to leave them in the middle of nowhere, strangle them, or swap them for a new puppy/kitten.

Life with pets eh?

Anyone looking for a cat or dog?

Email me.

Just kidding.

Am I?

What’s the one thing your pet does that makes you want to throttle them?

ANIMALTALES

A Visit to Wrest Park

It’s been a while since we’ve used our English Heritage membership, but when we visited my in-laws over the half-term break, we finally had the chance to use it.

Wrest Park is a lovely Grade II listed country home in Silsoe Bedfordshire.  The facade actually reminded me a bit of Napoleon’s ostentatious Château de Compiègne in France which we visited a couple of years ago, although of course, not as grand and garish, the gardens though is equally beautiful.

Since it was half-term break, we took little T’s cousin K with us so they could spend more time together.

The girls were not as impressed with the staircase as they were with the painting on the ceiling.

The sitting room, although they really should’ve called this the cherubim room, since you could find them in every corner.  I’m not a big fan of these chubby little angels, so I zoned out when the guide started pointing them out to the girls.  Surprisingly, T turned out to be disinterested in them too.

I found the Victorian conservatory really interesting though, too bad it wasn’t open to the public.

During World War II, Wrest Park was used as a convalescent home for injured soldiers.  I can imagine this was one of the rooms used for their patients.  Can you imagine recuperating in a room with such big windows and lovely views from outside?

The girls of course were itching to go outside.  It was a lovely day and almost felt like Spring has come and so we decided that the day was too beautiful to spend it indoors.

The grounds did not disappoint …

So much to see and do.

After walking for at least an hour, we decided it was time for some lunch at the cafe via the orangery.

The girls went wild inside the empty orangery, running around and shrieking like loonies …

I laughed when I saw these two statues on the facade of building.  They look like they were actually holding their heads as if they have a headache.  I don’t blame them, the girls shrill voices must have done that to them.

It was fun though.

Do visit Wrest Park if you’re in the area.

It’s so worth it.