Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Living off grid, a 24 hour view!

This was our day in our lives over the weekend.  I was going to write it as a blog post, and Alan blooming well beat me too it.  So here you go, I'll share it with you.  Treasure your central heating, carpets and lights that go on and off at the flick of a switch, but we'll think of you in the summer!

Alan Parks and Lorna Penfold live off grid, with only solar panels for electricity, so if the weather is a little cloudy for a few days the electricity is limited.  Here is a rundown of a fairly normal day, off grid for Alan and Lorna.

8.30am Look out of the window to see it starting to get light. Clouds again, and the electricity is off for now, who knows when it will come back on.

8.35am Dogs wake up and start mooching about. Alan gets up to let ‘the boys’ out. Geri is sound asleep. Back to bed for a quick snooze.

8.40am Hear movement. Lorna gets up to find Geri mooching about having pooed on the move all over the floor and weed as well. Geri gets thrown out. Might as well get up.

8.45am Electricity still not on, and the weather is threatening rain, but the dogs are excited as it is walk time. The two big Spanish mastiffs are first up (with five dogs we have to do two shifts). Alan has Blue and Lorna has Arthur. Keep an eye out for stray dogs or fresh horse poo, just in case we are pulled this way and that.

9.15am Return and swap dogs. This time it is Geri (our 14 year old Collie crosss from England), Carlos (a stray who found us) and Miliko (thrown over our fence as a puppy, with a dislocated hip and broken jaw from being hit by a car). Wait for Miliko to calm down, and stop running in circles.

9.45am Return from walk, and have to drag Miliko past the alpacas, who have been here since here arrived, as he will not walk past them. Electricity still not on.  Have some breakfast, porridge to warm up, as there is no central heating and no carpets on the floor. Cold.

10.30am Still cloudy, but electricity comes on for a while. Try to turn on laptop, to make sure all is ok in the world and with the family. Alan goes out to feed alpacas and let the chickens out of their house. Chickens are already out of there house having had the door blown open by the wind. Two are in the hay barn, and two are outside the fence desperately trying to find a gap to scramble back in. Alan goes out to round them up, two cars go past just as chicken makes a mug of Alan and evades capture.

11am Alan returns with clothes covered in mud, but no solar electricity to do any washing and no sun to dry anything so keeps muddy clothes on.

11.30am Electricity goes off again, as sun still has not made an appearance. Spain in the winter can be cold and horrible.

12 midday With no electric we resort to manual tasks, cleaning, digging, gardening, maybe writing using an old fashioned pen and paper.

2pm Dogs barking madly. Chickens are out again. Go out in to the rain to round them up. Two sit down waiting to be mounted by a cockerel (me I guess), but the other two run away. Corner them eventually and grab hold of them, throwing them unceremoniously over the fence. Turn to walk back to the house to find two old Spanish farmers parked in their car laughing at me. Nod acknowledgement and retreat in to the house, post haste.

6pm After an afternoon of intermittent electricity, we decide to use the generator for the evening (costs too much in petrol to run all day), and allow ourselves a bit of television. Watch the news to find the UK has ground to a halt because of a few flurries of snow, and laugh at the irony.

10.30pm Go out into the rain, to turn of generator, and using a torch negotiate way past the evenings dog poos, and turn of generator and go to bed. Dogs are settled.

1.30am Something disturbs Arthur who is on guard at the front of the house. All the other dogs hear Arthur and decide something is up. After five minutes of shouting at the dogs to ‘Shut up’ in all sorts of language, they settle down again.

1.37am Ok there must be something up, Arthur is going mental, so Alan gets up, grabs a torch, puts on three layers of clothes and goes to investigate. After looking thoroughly around the property, Alan decides it must be that the alpacas strayed too close to Arthur’s area and he was telling us. Nothing else untoward going on. Shut Arthur in kitchen which means he is ‘off duty’ and settles down. Wide awake now, Alan lays in the darkness, unable to read or to go to sleep.

3.30am Having drifted off for a while both Lorna and Alan are awoken by the sound of a dog vomiting. Both grab torches and jump out of bed in the vain hope that they might be able to get to it before it happens and throw dog out. Get there to find dog standing staring at vomit on sofa, considering re-eating it. Shout, wave arms about and throw dogs out. Geri is oblivious. Remove cushion and cover, and throw cushion cover out. Wash hands and go back to bed with the smell of dog vomit in the nose. Lay awake for a few more hours.

8.30am Hear Geri jump down from sofa, jump out of bed to find more poos, spread about the room, but manage to throw her out before she wees. Go back to bed.

8.45am Alarm goes off, here we go again. Clouds in the sky, no electric. Bring on the summer and the unbearable heat. Please.

To hear more about Lorna and Alan’s life in Andalucia, check out or download the book, Seriously Mum, What’s an Alpaca? By Alan Parks.

Sad looking Santa, in the rain!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Some differences when living in Spain, to England!

I decided to celebrate the fact that we moved to Spain in 5 years ago today, 16th January 2008 to share with you some of the many differences that we come across daily.  Please remember we live in a small, very traditional town in rural Andalucia, this is what we see! Enjoy!

Children are adored!
It is not unusual for a baby to be taken out of it's pram by a possible stranger.  Luckily I had told my son about this so he wasn't too concerned when a lady took my little granddaughter off him for a cuddle, on a visit here. 

Photograph?  Of course!
If a child is all dressed up for a fiesta and I ask if I can take a photograph it has never been refused, often the mum will even pose the child so I can best see her dress.

Hair styles?
Teenage boys here are not at all threatening.  Maybe it's the mullet hair style that is still in fashion, or maybe it's the fact that most of them cross themselves, when passing the shrine in the high street. 

To slap or not to slap?
It is not unusual to see a child get a slap here.  Not a hard slap, but I think it's instead of  "Wait til your father gets home!" 

People Stare!
Not just at us, 'The English!' They stare at each other too.  The best way to break it is smile.  Workers are the best to stare at, it seems.  An elderly man can while a way an hour or more simply watching people at work.  

More mature ladies work, whilst the men sit and watch people!
The ladies can be seen every morning cleaning the outside of their property and sweeping and MOPPING the pavement, very often in their housecoat.  Then men will be sitting with their mates in the town.

Women are always smart, no trainers!
It's a fact, they only wear trainers if they are walking for exercise.

They live for ever!
I'm not sure if it's the healthy food or the vitamin D, but the elderly seem to live for ever here.  We saw one lady having been taken on a trip to the garden centre by her family. I'm guessing and hoping they left her in the car as she fell asleep, as she looked dead to me!

No queues in the bank.
If you are waiting to be served in a bank or the local pharamcy you stand in a huddle, lean against the wall or sit in a chair.  You ask the person who seems to be hovering near who the door, who was the last person. "que es la última?"

All the shops here bar one supermarket close for a siesta.  The average working day is 9am til 1.15, close for a siesta, then re open at 4.30 until 9pm.  The town will be a ghost town during siesta time.
Plus of course everything closes on Sundays!

Free tapas... mmmm!
Most bars give some sort of free tapas with your drinks order.  A plate of crisps, or assorted nuts, at least.  At our favourite bar in town you don't need any lunch, if you are there at the right time!

Late nights!
You go out about 11pm, especially during the hot summer.  The children can be playing in the park until at least 1am.

At the Cordoba market it's not unusual to find an elderly gent sitting with a crate of (what look like) garden snails for sale! 
You can buy terapins, goldfish, little chicks and finches... sadly!
The ladies try everything on, over their clothes, even bikinis and bras.
Elderly men are often seen being dressed by their wives.  Having jumpers pulled over their heads or fastening belts for them. 

Cars v pedestrians.
If as a pedestrain you are crossing a zebra crossing, it is not the done thing to say thank you.
Similarly if you are letting a car out of a side turning, do not expect any thanks!

The trains are spotless and run on time.  You are given a designated seat and the carriage maybe empty, apart from the person you are sitting beside!

Utility Bills?
Pardon, what are they?  Well we have chosen to live like this of course, but the only bill we have to pay is council tax which is aproximately 200 euros  FOR THE YEAR!  Of course that's because we have only solar energy and water from the spring.  This does of course mean we cannot have lights or the television on, if it is cloudy, (like today) and no central heating of course!

Payment for things!
When we order hay we struggle to pay.  We have to hassle the farmer a few months down the line to arrange payment.  This will take place in a bar, but this year he didn't even bother to turn up so we had to find out where he lived!

The dogs in town often take themselves for a walk. Sadly because of this there are many dogs that appear to be stray, but you are not really sure if they have an owner or not.
All small dogs wear coats, or jumpers.

People don't castrate their animals.
Spain is a very macho country and they will not castrate.  This is the main reason so many dogs are running around the countryside.  It's very sad!

The vet!
The vet comes to our house, as we live in the country and injects all our dogs there.  Of course if it's a minor matter we will go to him.  He maybe at the surgery or out at an emergency in the campo, or at a bar having morning coffee!
When our male dogs were castrated Alan was expecting to leave them and go back but no, he had to stay and hold their legs open!
When Geri our elderly dog tore her cruciate ligament and needed an operation in the city, they put her under the aneasthetic whist I was there, and brought her out again, when I returned. So she suffered the least stress possible.  The vet asked if I wanted to stay throughout the procedure Errr no thank you!

Health and safety.
There seem to be very little if any health and safety laws.  Fairground rides have few seat belts or harnesses. Hot churros and donut stalls have hot fat swilling about.  The children just do not touch.  During processions someone walks in front in holds up the electricity cables!

Music everywhere!
Underground car parks, and even at the the local garage their is always great music playing.

Of course this list could go on and on, but for my friends back in the UK maybe it will give them a peep into our lives!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Three Kings - Los Reyes

By January 5th in the UK Christmas and the new year celebrations are well and truly over, whereas here in Spain they are still going strong and getting ready for the big one.  The arrival of the Three Kings, or Wise Men, Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar.  As I posted in my blog "Cordoba at Christmas" December 25th is a fairly subdued day, Los Reyes is the exciting time for the children! 

January 6th is the Feast of the Epiphany, when the Three Kings arrived in Bethlehem, and the children  wake up to find presents from Los Reyes (the Kings).  On the evening of the 5th the streets, of most if not all towns and villages, are lined with children, parents and grandparents too.  The parades vary from small trucks and even tractors with trailors, with the Three Kings riding on them ,to in the larger cities, fantastic parades with marching bands.  Where ever you are, you will be ducking and dodging not to get hit in the eye from the huge amount of sweets being thrown for the children.  Most people have large bags to fill, or even upturned umberellas to keep them in sweets for a few weeks if not months!

Before going to sleep, children put some milk and biscuits next to the Christmas tree for the Three Kings and some water for their camels. They also leave out their best pair of shoes to be filled with presents. If they have been good, they will find a lot of good presents but if they have been naughty they will receive coal. These days, the coal is actually made of sugar, but some years ago it was real coal.

Alan and I thoroughly enjoyed the parade in our small town of Montoro, but this year decided to check out the parade in Cordoba.  We arrived in good time and just headed to the main shopping area, which was already heaving with people.  The parade in itself was excellent, what we could see, as there so many people there.  Fireworks were set off from the big El Corte Ingles in town, and balloons were released that were hanging from nets between the buildings.  At one point even little teddy bears on parachutes were being dropped from the shop too.  

It was another fantastic night in Cordoba, and the only way to finish it in style was with churros and chocolate!   We do sometimes wonder how the Spanish can have so many fiestas but they just generally enjoy life and use every opportunity to party and spend time with their family. Oh well that's the celebrations over until February.... carnival time!  It's a tough life!

What a way to finish off the lovely evening :-)


Monday, January 14, 2013

Happy New Year!

I'm sure I probably started last years blog post about the new year the same way, if I did, I apologise.  New Years eve is a toughy for me, once again away from the family, plus it's also the anniversary of losing my dear dad.  This of course is so hard any day of the year, but I do think when you feel that the whole world is celebrating on that particular day, it's harder to put it to the back of your mind.  Plus my mum was Scottish, a Glasgow lady, so there was always hogmany, first footing and of course a party to go to, or perhaps host if it was our turn.

This year we said "That's it! No more sitting at home being a couple of saddos!"  and we went out.  We had seen online that the Plaza de la Tendillas, in Cordoba was having some sort of new year celebration, and we liked the sound of that.  Thinking there would be thousands there, we set off early.  When will I learn that if something is supposed to start at 11pm, in Spain, no one will be there before that, plus of course it's bound to start late.  Sure enough we arrived about 10pm at the Plaza, it was especially quiet, in fact most of the city seemed deserted.  Not a bar or restaurant open either!  We have since found out that most people stay together in the family home to see in the new year and then go out to parties after this, often until about 6am!

We wandered around the plazas in the area, and that was the only plaza with staging, so we sat and did a little people watching and patiently waited.  The band that was supposed to start at 11pm came onto the stage about twenty past, and started the night off with a great rendition of "We are the champions!"  Gradually the revellers started turning up, with bags of drink and their own glasses, and in some cases food too!  Blow, we had missed out!

As it got nearer to midnight we noticed people with fresh grapes and even small tins of grapes to be eaten as the clock struck.  We watched carefully as two quite elderly couples beside us got prepared, by putting their grapes into their champagne glasses ready for the big moment!  In England on the stroke of midnight we are used to hearing cheers, shouts of "happy new year" and kissing and hugging our loved ones, and anyone else who maybe close enough!  In Cordoba the tension seemed to rise and everyone stood looking at the clock.  As the clock in the plaza struck, it was completely silent, and each time the clock struck a grape was popped into their mouths until all 12 were gone.  Only after this did we hear cheers and shouts of  "Feliz Año Nuevo!” Followed by the universal celebrations of hugging and kissing!  We had heard the tradition of eating grapes, however we had n't realised EVERYONE did it!

The lovely elderly couples beside us offered us drinks.  Alcoholic of course, a truly scrumptios Spanish sherry called Pedro Ximénez.  It reminded me of Christmas, and the sort of drink my mum liked, and it warmed me through.  Sadly they did n't have anything non alcoholic, so poor Alan went thirsty, as he does n't drink alcohol!  We were then offered some of the very sugary sweets that you can buy in the shops around Christmas time, and enjoyed some Spanish fireworks.  All in all a really lovely evening and God willing I will be there again next year.  With my bottle, sweeties and of course grapes!

We only saw two drunk older men, and a young man that got on top of a statue in the plaza.  He was told to get down by the police, which he did, and just simply joined his friends again.  As for the two other drunk men they entertained us with some dancing!  Home for us about, and tucked up in bed by about 2am.  Great night!

 The night is young!
Our new years eve friend, very techno!
 The counting out of the grapes!
 Silence as the clock strikes!
 Naughty, naughty!

A little treat for you............


And a tad more grown up......


Sunday, January 13, 2013

It's CHRISTMAS in Cordoba!!

It maybe Christmas but it is very quiet in Montoro!  Here in Spain, the children may receive one present from Papa Noel, and the three Kings bring most of their gifts on the night of January 5th.

As Christmas can be a little lonely for us here, as all our family are back in the UK we decided to treat ourselves.  It was Alan's idea for us to book into a hotel for a night in Cordoba.  Of course we love our home, but the thought of having central heating and a dog hair free enviroment for just one night was impossible to resist.  Don't worry the animals were all fine, well fed and watered and the dogs had access to the apartment where they always sleep, so they were very comfortable!

We had found the hotel on last and booked a "secret hotel," that way it's cheaper and rather exciting too.  We were lucky enough to stay in the NH Amistad, which was in the grounds of the city wall, and was rather lovely

We were so lucky, the weather was beautiful.  We relaxed for about an hour then walked into the city.  Cordoba at Christmas is beautiful, with great lights and a small fairground for the children to visit

La plaza de la Tendillas was looking particularly beautiful, with its bars open for the evening crowds.

As well as treating ourselves, there was another very good reason to come into Cordoba over the festive season, to see the Belenes, the nativity scenes.  Most of them were sitauted inside small churches, occasionally hidden down back streets of the city.  When you first enter you just cannotnot believe how beautiful some of these little churches are.  You cannot begin to describe the detail in these nativity scenes, or more than often how tiny they were.

A small part of the nativity below

These gorgeous statues were life size

And how about a real life couple!

Christmas day came and went and it was n't great if I'm honest.  It was the worst weather we had had for weeks, with clouds and drizzle, so we were very cold and did n't even put the television on until the evening.  I did however get to speak to the babies on skype, which was of course the highlight of my day.  Oh and I did n't burn the dinner, that's good for me!

Our Zumba Party

It has taken me practically a year to build up my zumba class.  In a small traditional Spanish town, the ladies like to walk.  They walk around the town, in groups, after dropping their children off at school, and then again in the evening.  Walking means they are are keeping fit, whilst catching up with the latest town gossip and it's all free!  However I think I've cracked it!  I struggled most of last year, but I was determined to keep trying hard. Personally I love zumba, some people knock it, but it works for me.  I have lost a stone and a half over the year teaching it, and I love the music and the dance style.  If other zumba instructors aren't "feeling it"  maybe they need to change their music, and let's be honest it's your own choreography that you are using?  

The ladies that stuck with me through last year where in their 50's and above.  No dilemma for me, I choreographed for them.  If I did n't, I would have lost them too.  I soldiered on with 2 classes a week and I did not want to let my loyal ladies down.  At the end of August I was informed I could only have one class in the future.  In some ways I was quite happy, I personally was n't letting them down, as such.  We arrived  into September and with another great push on advertising my class increased.  One lovely bubbly lady, that we knew from the town hall, insisted she needed 2 classes a week, when I told her it was not possible she spoke quickly to the other ladies in the class, and vanished into the office, to come out 2 minutes later and ask when I would like to do my second class.  Once she was sure the other ladies were going to support me she had it all in hand.

If all my regular ladies attended I would probably have about 20, but of course that does n't happen.  We regularly have between 10 and 12 and I have emails from the ladies who canot attend which I have great fun translating with google! It still seems funny to me that we sign off with a kiss, and they write the words a kiss, un beso!

I decided to have a zumba Christmas party night and have some English nibbles.  We were going down to the coast to visit friends and had a visit to Iceland.  Iceland in Spain carries brands from Iceland to Waitrose, although we usually come out of there with lots of fattening stuff, so try not to go often!   My ladies sauntered in chatting away as per usual, then as they got up to do their first dance they put on santa hats, bless them! They took great delight in asking me all about the salmon and cucumber sandwiches and sausage rolls.  The mince pies were extremely strange to them, although one lady did confess to eating three haha!  I think possibly the favourite were snowballs, the marshmallow balls covered in chocolate and rolled in desiccated coconut...... mmmmm!  I could just eat one or even two of them RIGHT NOW!  The tinto de verano was flowing and we had a lovely fun night, two glasses for me and I could n't remember the dances! Onwards and upwards for this year!

If you want a little chuckle, please remember I was a little typsy, and forgot the end!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Little Pedro moves on :-(

Barb the cat has a litter of kittens once a year, usually around March or April.  At a year to eighteen months old, they gradually leave us.  We rarely know where they have gone, they just up and leave. On occasions they have come and gone for a few weeks, and then one day we realise we haven't seen then for a week or two.  Last year Barb had 3 kitttens, including an adorable little fella we called Pedro.  Pedro was every guests favourite animal, during the summer months, as he was more than happy to be stroked, held, thrown about by the children and occasionally even fall asleep on a lap, pretty good for a feral 'ish cat!.  I think he was the most friendly cat we have ever had.  I thought, and secretly hoped, he may be here for keeps.

One morning a few weeks ago Xavi, a cat still here from last years litter, who we now call Fat Xav, for the reason that he seems to be helping himself to the chicken food, took off with little Pedro.  A few days later Fat Xav came home, but sadly alone.  There were no signs of little Pedro!  It's a horrible thought that he may still be wandering around in the cold night air, hunting for his dinner on little rodents, or whatever else he can find, when he was used to getting fed here, and cuddling up in the barn with his mum or Fat Xav at night.  

Who knows maybe one day he'll pop back for a visit, sometimes they do, I hope so!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Alan wrote a Book... Bloody Hell!

I always knew Alan was a bit on the bright side!  It's quite nice to have someone you can check your spellings etc with, now and again as well as clear alpaca poo and do the general manly stuff around the house!  Since we moved here, as I'm sure many expats will agree, funny things happen, strange things occur and of course sad things too.  We had been saying rather tongue in cheek we should write a book between us to be able to share it with others.  Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart is just such a widely read book,  I believe they are making a film out of it next year, and would n't it be great to write the next "Driving Over Lemons!"

To be completely honest, finances pushed us into it, zumba classes for me, and having a go at writing something at least slightly entertaining for Alan.  I had my blogs to refer back to, and I did the first edit.  I am therefore claiming 5% of the credit.  The rest is all down to him indoors!  Alan started in June, and locked himself away in the casita, when we had no guests in there, and wrote and wrote.  Hand written most of that time, as that's the way he rolls!  By September he had finished the book and we sent it out to a few friends,  mainly people that we knew, but not extremely well as we wanted some constructive critism.  Not on the grammar side of things, as we had an editor friend for that, but just to see if it was a reasonably good read.  They said it was, and that gave us the encouragement we needed.

Alan had been contacting other authors of expat books, and came across a lady called Victoria Twead, the author of the "Old Fools" books, they make for hysterical reading by the way!  Victoria was kind enough to reply to Alan, and has encouraged and worked with him, and helped to publish his ebooks, and generally lead him in the right direction, which has been great!  Our great friend Jo is a copy editor, and edited it as quickly as she could for him, and another fab friend Rich designed the front cover of the book, which we just love.  The alpaca on the front is Eduardo!

Since the book has been published, it has had great reviews, plus we have also had emails from readers from all around the world, saying how much they have enjoyed it.  Which is just wonderful to hear.  I first receieved a copy of the papaerback whilst I was in England, in November.  I showed it to my friend Wendy who flicked the pages and said in an really excited voice "Wow!  Look at all those words!"  You know the funny thing is that's the way we still feel about it!  

Of course as time has gone by we have realized quite a lot of things that we have ommitted by accident, so the next one could be started soon.  With a couple of new friends in it (our effeminate friend Justin, and his wife Kylie)  plus two other great friends that we have yet to name!  So watch this space!

If you have bought it... thank you so much, we really do appreciate the fact that people may want to read about our lives, but then I guess maybe you don't take your dog to the vet to be castrated, and have to stay and hold it's legs do you?  Or do you?

Monday, January 7, 2013

The beautiful Kaci turns 3

Where has the time gone?  How can I be a grandmother?  In my mind I feel 21, ok let's say 31, give or take a few years, although I'm sure Alan will jump at the chance to remind me, I'm not!  I headed back to good ole Brighton, for my daughter Frankie's little girl's third birthday.  I was picked up at the airport by Mark my son, and his little beauty Maisie, who was having an afternoon nap.  Mark had a new (to him) car, a BMW sporty number, oh God!  As it is, the A23 is like a white knuckle ride for me.  I'm not used to traffic, well we  only get the odd car and tractor go by!  He's a sensible driver, but it's simply the vast quantity of cars, and why oh why do they have to overtake each other, there should be a law against that! 

Arrived in one piece, all but a little shakey, at my daughter and her boyfriends lovely new flat in Hove.  Had lovely cuddles with Maisie, and she managed to play with all Kaci's toys in secret.  Frankie was working, then went to pick up Kaci from nursery.  As they entered the flat I could hear "Nanny, Nanny!"  it melted my heart.  Kaci ran straight to me and gave me the biggest cuddle.... heaven!  Thank goodness for skype as the grandgirlies see me regularly, so I'm not so much of a stranger.

I could n't make many plans this trip back as I had a dental appointment, and there was a chance something absolutely horrendous was going to happen.  It did n't, it's going to happen in March.... yikes!  I'll fill you in then!  Bloody hell, I'm such a wuss with the dentist!

The first weekend was Kaci's birthday and party.  A fab time was had by all, well done Frankie.  Great to see so many family and friends there, including a first introduction of the gorgeous Toby and his mummy Kelly, who used to teach dancing with me.  I was very lucky in the fact that Mark had got most of November off work, due to shift's and holidays, so it was great to spend so much time with him and the beautiful Maisie Moo. 

The Birthday Girl
Party Time!
 My Gorgeous Girlies

I had a whole day with Maisie one day, when both Mark and her mummy, Callie were working.  She was a star and we had great fun on the beach together.  It was a beautiful sunny day and she said "Take my clothes off?"  Bless her heart!

It was an extremely exciting visit this time as I had two brand new, lovely squeaky clean babies to visit.  Two of my closest friends Wendy and Cathy, had just become nanny's for the first time, and obviously adoring their new role in life.  Baby Mia and baby Daisy were totally beautiful, and are both very lucky to have such wonderful parents, and grandparents.... sigh!  I can't wait for my March cuddles!

Mark, Frankie, myself and the girls had an afternoon at a local soft play area.  Great for us to all catch up and the girls had a great time.  Parents were allowed in to "assist" their children.  I think Mark enjoyed "assisting!" 

 Hmmm enjoying himself!

We had an invitation to Shelley's house for dinner one evening.  Shelley is Frankie's boyfriends mum.  I hope she wont mind me sharing this, but she is an extremely inspirational lady.  She sadly fell off a horse a few years ago and has been left paralysed.  Shelley is permanently in a wheelchair, however her house is always full of fun and laughter and she is a great lesson to us all.  When she invited us, I had n't realised she had also secretly invited Mark and Maisie, and she had cooked us all a delicious Christmas dinner, as of course we are not together at Christmas.  This really meant so much to me.  Thank you Shelley you truly are an inspiration!

Dinner at Grandma Shelleys

Towards the end of my stay I was lucky enough to watch Kaci in her ballet class.  At just 3 years old I was gobsmacked at how well she concentrated and she did n't look at me once!  One proud nanny!