Monday, 15 October 2012

Been A While

Regular readers (don't laugh!) will be aware that the Three Bears and I have been somewhat absent of late. Apologies. I have neglected the blog world over the 'summer' (it's been a bit wet). I must be honest, I have dillied and dallied about whether to continue this blog. Life has been busy, my thoughts have been elsewhere and time has been short. Ultimately, I enjoy reading other people's blogs - why do everyone else's antics always sound so much more exciting than my own?? However, I have decided to step back up to the plate and have another swing! (Almost sounds like I know something about sport there doesn't it?!)

Over the last couple of months changes have taken place here at Bear Central. The tiniest bear is making giant...well, steps really, mastering the art of walking! She is still much more confident with a steady prop but after weeks when I thought she may still be traversing the world sideways and around furniture forever, she finally made the leap. Or step. She now roams freely around the house...with a cheeky grin as she tries to evade capture!
Ted supervising deck construction
There was a grand family party to celebrate her 1st successful year among us. Her main present from Me and Daddy was a lovely deck in our garden, to give her somewhere safe and clean to explore outside without too much bothering from the other bears.

Bear on deck!
Monty and Ted Bear have enjoyed a busy summer....mostly behaving themselves. They have coped very well with the increasingly mobile baby in the house. She takes their stuff, she sits in their beds and she loves to try and stroke them (we have had extensive lessons on how to stroke gently rather than just whacking!). Mostly they look on all this with resigned disinterest but occasionally they seem to enjoy her company.

Creepy Crawly Birthday Cakes - hand decorated by the guests!!
Anyway, I have spent the last week catching up on all the other blogs I enjoy so much. In my next post, I will  ( I promise) do something about the Liebster award so some of you may be on the receiving end! It's nice to be back.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Holidays!

I have been missing in action for the last couple of weeks because we have been on holiday! Hopefully you will forgive me. I must say it was a much needed break away as the daily grind had become a bit too grinding in the last few weeks, I guess it becomes even more noticeable when you are counting down to something exciting.

So, we set off on the 18th and headed to Shrewsbury to stay overnight at Grandma and Granda's house before completing our journey into North Wales to Snowdonia. In total about five and a half hours drive and we took the beautiful scenic route through the mountains rather than plodding up the motorway. I won't bore you with 'what we did on our holiday' in minute detail but have just sorted through some photos so will allow you to judge for yourselves. Incidentally, there are no photos of Ted Bear as we decided to send him off for a special holiday at other Grandma's (or The Spa as he likes to think of it!) since he really does not cope well being around other dogs and we were staying in a group of cottages where there were many (17 at a quick head count!). He is now back in the fold and seems to have had a great time so no hard feelings.


So this is how you play fetch!


Does my hat look big like this?!

Good spot to cool off!



Look, mum, I found a seaweed swamp!


The view from our cottage!

Llyn Cwellyn




Bardsey Island seen through the mist from Llyn Peninsula

Well done if you made it through all the photos! Next time, I will post a couple of videos too. That's all for now, while I go and see what the all the bloggers I follow have been up to while we were away. Next time I will also do something about the Liebster Award that Fizz has kindly given me and I will thank her properly!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Drought or Flood?

Wet, wet, wet...that's my overriding impression of the drought so far! Just a few sunny days scattered between hours and hours of rain. It's certainly the first drought in my memory where wellies and waterproofs have been so necessary!

A brand new water feature in the fields!

Wish I'd worn my waders!

High tide at the local pond.
We have managed a few lovely family walks with all the bears but the majority have been conducted with shoulders hunched and wellies sloshing through squelchy fields. At some points, even the dogs have looked pleased to be back at the car, ready to head home. I guess we're all creatures of comfort at heart.

Aside from walking and getting through the day to day, we have all survived another bout of lurg. The small person in particular had a lot to put up with as she developed a full coating of spots! Not very pleasant but they only lasted a few days and the doctor assured us it was just a virus. Obviously a very clever virus since her cousin once removed (or second cousin??!) up in Yorkshire had the same thing!

Despite all this, however, the smallest member of the household has finally worked out how to crawl and how to stand up holding on to whatever is handy so now nothing in the house is safe! She's very pleased with herself though!


Monday, 30 April 2012

Splish Splash

It's been lovely weather for ducks....and dogs this week. Rain on and off all week and then  torrential downpours over the weekend has not put Monty and Ted off their exploration of the great outdoors. Ted is happy to be out whatever the weather, Monty is a little more reserved and prefers only to get wet if it's for a proper walk - he will hold on and hold on for hours without answering the call of nature if it's raining. He must have a very strong bladder!

On the understanding that we were going out for a 'proper walk', he agreed to venture outdoors at the weekend and then chose to get as wet as possible. Why walk on the dry bit when there's a nice puddle to wade in?

video

Afterwards, the call of the sofa was too great to resist....after a thorough towelling off by yours truly thankfully!


Hopefully he will enjoy our holiday in a couple of weeks time - he'll be able to paddle in the sea! He has explained his objections to actually swimming many times (it makes his fur all frizzy and he gets cold), but he does like to just get his feet wet! Can't wait:)

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Special Branch

Ted has a rather woolly coat, presumably a result of his mixed heritage (Springer Spaniel and Corgi). As a result, on our walks he is often to be seen sporting various bits of 'camo'; plants, twigs and brambles which we jokingly refer to as his 'special branch'. As it is spring and the undergrowth is becoming increasingly dense he has been decorating himself with all sorts recently. Here he is sporting an attractive tiara of 'cleavers' or 'sticky plant'. Apparently one of the other common names for it is 'sticky willie' but I won't dwell on that thought!


Hopefully, over the next week or so the problem will decrease as the time approaches for the 'Annual Spring Clip'. This year, my aim is to get him all clipped and tidy in one day so that he doesn't have to face the world with one half shaggier than the other like last year! Poor lad.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Stile Council

No, I haven't spelt it wrong and no, this post is not a tribute to eighties pop. In light of recent reports on the plans of Dartmoor National Park Authority to remove all stiles from Dartmoor in order to ease the access of 'the elderly' and 'larger people', I have been thinking about countryside access.


Most of my forays into England's (and Wales' and Scotalnd's come to think of it) green parts involve stiles. The fields we visit most often are actually used for cattle through the spring and summer months and the public footpath routes are scattered with all sorts of stiles and gates. I don't really mind them, despite being no sort of athlete myself, I manage to get up and over with only slight loss of dignity and since it's usually only cows and dogs watching I don't see the harm. My only real grumble comes when there is no way for a dog to squeeze underneath - Monty is too big to lift at around 40kg and he refuses to clamber or jump unless there is guaranteed bunny on the other side! Ted isn't a problem since he sees any boundary as merely an interesting challenge to be tackled; over, under or through, he will find a way.

Since the advent of the small person in our lives, walking has had an added challenge as I've said before. We quickly realised how limiting a push chair could be and so moved on to a baby carrier - first a front mounted BabyBjorn and now a Bushbaby backpack. These make the outdoors much more accessible, even when stiles cross our path. A lot of extra caution is needed to climb over a stile with a baby on your back and you have to be very aware of overhanging trees and brambles (in fact He recently went out round our favourite route with a pair of secateurs and cleared the way!) but it is manageable, especially with two adults, one acting as a 'spotter'.

This long grass will soon be feeding the cows
For 'the elderly' and less able bodied people I am sure stiles are a real problem and a barrier to their enjoyment of the great outdoors. On a group dog walk in the Forest of Dean a few years ago we were accompanied by a lady in a wheelchair who had been assured by the organiser that the route was all gravel paths. What the organiser had forgotten was the part of the route where we had to cut across a ditch and then a stream! However, since we were a large group with three or four strong blokes (Him included) we managed and it was in fact a lot of fun for all involved! Stiles certainly do avoid having lots of gates for thoughtless people to leave open, causing hassle and angst to farmers and danger to livestock. I guess the debate will continue.

video

I do know that I love being out in the countryside and would hate to be barred from it completely. For everyone's safety, we avoid close contact with farm animals - when they move in to 'our' fields for the summer, we move out to pastures new. The main reason being that Monty is scared stiff of cows, not too sure about sheep and terrified of horses while Ted sees all other creatures as potential food and/or a challenge to his personal dominion, regardless of size. He once got into a barking/mooing stand off with a cow through a fence! As a result, the fields above will soon be off limits to us until October when the cows go to their new homes...probably in someone's freezer! So, I guess it depends which side of the stile you are on and what role the countryside plays in your own everyday life. I quite like the countryside the way it is, stiles and all. I hope to eventually have my own bit of it and may have to deal with the general public walking across it. And one day, I will be elderly and I hope to still be enjoying those green fields and parks with the Montys and Teds of the future.


Friday, 13 April 2012

Olympigs

It's been all go on the birthday front this week; Monty on Wednesday and then me! Rather worryingly, a few days ago I was thinking about my birthday and suddenly realised I was a year older than I thought! It seems I have reached the age when you can't remember how old you are without doing sums! Lets hope it's just my baby brain and will wear off.


I was very spoiled for my birthday (note: I am carefully not mentioning age!). A lovely day out visiting one of my best friends, a nice lunch, flowers, a bottle of something nice and chocolates....Then a nice day visiting my parents.....then a lovely evening with Him and the bears, more presents and lovely food. I may have mentioned before that my birthday has recently become known as 'Day of Pudding'. This is because a couple of years ago He asked what special meal I would like, after some thought I explained that I was really not too bothered about the main course but would like a really sinful pudding (as ever!). His response was to prepare not one but three puddings and no main at all - bliss! Anyway, this year was a little more restrained since we have just spent a weekend of indulgent mealtimes with His parents but we did manage a late afternoon cream tea, a lovely salmon main course and then a slice of delicious chocolate birthday cake. Lucky me.

Talking about last weekend, I must say it was great. Bears were all well behaved and in good form. Grandparents were charmed and impressed in equal measure - watching the small person practice her almost crawling, admiring her fine motor skills, and donating small bits of their meals to her ever increasing appetite for new foods.

Pork Belly simmering with LOTS of garlic and chilli.
We took the opportunity of a captive audience to experiment with some new food too. He was given Thomasina Miers 'Mexican Food Made Simple' for Christmas and this was a chance to try out some of the excellent recipes. We were not disappointed and Mexican food has retained its place as one of our favourites. On Saturday night we went all out with the following menu...

Classic Margaritas, Nachos and Salsa

Tamarind & Chilli infused Belly of Pork
Hot Chorizo Salad with Butternut Squash and Baby Tomatos
Red and Green Rice

Layered Passion Fruit, Blackberry and Blueberry Jellies with Creme de Cassis

Some of the dishes were a little bit time consuming - the pork had to be boiled a day ahead and left to dry out before roasting and the layered jellies had to have time for each layer to set but it was so worth it. The meat was tender and full of spicy flavour, the salad was a very good accompaniment and the jellies were a great light finish. The Creme de Cassis was our own addition but worked really well with the blackberry and blueberry jelly making the dessert much more grown up. My only regret is that I forgot to take pictures of the finished meal.

Olympig about to compete in the high jump!
We also celebrated our joining of Pig Club with a very silly game of Olympigs...silly partly because it involves pigs doing Olympic events and partly  because we had opened the liquers by then! Each of our plastic pigs competed in the 'Pig Put', High Jump and Long Jump whilst trying to escape the efforts of other Olympig competitors to sabbotage their performance. Completely bonkers but fun.


See you next time....

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Happy Birthday Monty!!

On this date in 2007, I received a life altering phone call. A lovely Golden Retriever called Sophie who lived on an Army base in Cambridge had given birth to eight puppies. We were number eight on the puppy waiting list so that was good news...one would be ours. We made the trek from Gloucestershire to Cambridge three weeks later to visit our new puppy and then again four weeks after that to collect him. I have to say, he was worth the effort! I had always known I was a dog person, despite never having had a dog, but from that day forward my life changed and I became a dog mad person!


Monty, or Rufus Montgomery to give him his full name, has grown...and grown...into a wonderful boy. Five today, he is so much a part of our lives he is far more than just 'the dog'. He is kind, playful, gentle, loyal, stick-loving, and soo much more. In the house he is always near, usually asleep but ever alert to what is going on. Out and about he is joyful, exuberant and with an over developed fascination for the poo of other creatures! As far as we are concerned, he is the perfect dog. We love him even when he is covered in something smelly. So today we celebrate Monty's birthday...special treats, extra loves and a birthday candle (he even agreed to pose with his candle before he wolfed down the his birthday tea)!


An update on our weekend with Grandma and Granda will have to wait for another post but I will just add that Easter Sunday was also an important day for us. We became members of Pig Club!! A brilliant scheme that means even with no small holding of our own (yet), we can own a pig! For a couple of years now, He and I have been following the antics of  'Tales From The Rock', a small holding blog. For a very reasonable fee, we are now sponsoring a piglet - a Berkalitza (cross between a Berkshire and a Mangalitza) - in it's happy, free range existence. At the end of the year, we will visit The Rock and collect our half of the fully grown pig, all neatly turned into nice cuts and sausages! What a fab way to have ethical meat and a tiny stake in smallholding! It feels somehow like a teeny tiny step towards some of my big to-dos.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

April Showers

Spring seems to have returned to its more usual temperament this week, with rain, wind and chills. Today's dog walk was conducted with waterproofs and wellies (just for me, Monty and Ted would look silly in wellies!). The top temp was 4 degrees celcius. Much more appropriate for the season although I must say, as I pulled my jacket together and battled the wind to get the zip done up, a few extra degrees would have been lovely. On our walk, I spotted some more spring signs - cowslips on the lane and hedgerows covered in blossom, a few bluebells scattered about.


One thing I do not like about Spring is that it heralds the time of year when I can look forward to a tax return form dropping through the letterbox. I always promise to be more organised next year with my banking and paperwork all filed and orderly so all I need to do is flick open a drawer and its all at my fingertips. Well, once again, April is here and my well filed paperwork is nowhere to be seen. Not because I have lost it....just because I never filed it away in the first place. I am once again doomed to searching through piles of papers for the magic figures that will complete whichever lucky form I am wrestling with. Even the fact that I have been on maternity leave for the last nine months has not made it any simpler.  Maybe next year I will manage a hassle free financial year end...


In the meantime, the bears and I are looking forward to an action packed Easter weekend. His parents are coming to stay which is always good fun (I really do mean that!). A Mexican inspired extravaganza is planned for Saturday night, so I will hopefully report back. That is, if we survive the marinade which requires approximately 30 chillies! The rest of the weekend its all hands on at the allotment. He and I spent 4 hours at the plot last weekend but imagine how much more we can get done with two extra labourers! If they work hard, we might let them watch a DVD with a glass of something nice in the evenings....


Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Mad Dogs and...Me!

I have just returned from a quick tour of the local green and pleasant areas with the canines. The car on the way home told me it was 21 degrees! The heavy panting in the boot told me the dogs were hot and bothered but happy. As I write, they are reposing in the cooler parts of the house - the bliss of bare floors for a hot dog cannot be underestimated! Wednesday is the day that He 'works' from home so I get to take a break in the middle of the day and head out to the fields without the small person. Sometimes I even take the dogs! Anyway, when the small person is feeling accommodating, she naps while Daddy works which is what happened today so everyone was happy.

Other exciting developments this week included the arrival of my first birthday present! Very early since my birthday isn't for a couple of weeks but since I was in charge of ordering said present I didn't feel the need to wait and surprise myself! What delightful trinket have I received, you ask? Well...what girl doesn't want a wheel barrow for her birthday? Not just any wheel barrow - a beautiful folding one in rather fetching yellow and green livery. Lovely. I really am pleased since it will come in very handy for moving mountains of chicken manure, and much more, at the allotment and will not take up too much house room in the shed. In fact, on Saturday I tidied the shed, including evicting a bunch of rather menacing and totally huge spiders, just to make sure that the barrow would feel at home.


The wonderful weather really has meant that things have been happening...I have made trips to the allotment, as I said, the seeds I planted are showing signs of development into actual plants and bears have started wearing hats, which is definitely very cute!
                                                           


One other thing we discovered...Ted is a great help when attempting a small woodwork project. He acts as a kind of sawdust catcher thus making clearing up that little bit easier!


Thursday, 22 March 2012

Land of Confusion

I'm a bit of a closet Genesis fan, so this title came to mind as I was thinking about this post. The issue of land has been bothering me for a while. I would like some. I am well aware that we are lucky to have a house with a small garden and an allotment just five minutes away but I do crave more. I guess that's what happens when you discover any good thing.

Ted and (below) Monty enjoying my parents' lovely garden.
I very much enjoy gardening for aesthetic purposes - hanging baskets, nice flowers etc. I also find it surprisingly satisfying growing fruit and vegetables. I am very much at beginner level; even as we go into our fourth year on the plot, just a quick glance at other allotments bursting with veg and scarcely a weed to be seen, proves that we have a way to go. Still, I am enjoying the process of learning and it's lovely when you get to eat your successes!

In an ideal world, my wish would be to live on a larger plot of land where my veg plot and my pleasant garden could be combined and with space for dogs and babies to run, play and enjoy the summer months. I don't want a lot, a couple of acres would be more than enough and I am not looking for the kind of countryside perfection that features in lifestyle magazines. I grew up in the countryside, I know it's not perfect all the time. It gets muddy and wet and then your dogs get muddy and wet and then your sofa gets muddy and wet. Despite knowing this, I would still like my own bit of it.


It  does seem hard to come by without serious funds though. I have been perusing the property adverts in the local press, keeping an eye out for 'For Sale' signs as I drive through country lanes, and checking various websites for likely plots. No luck so far with this little project. I guess I must resign myself for now to beautifying my little back garden and taming my unruly allotment. The big 'to-do' on the list is going to take some time. But it is going to happen. There just may be a lot of smaller to-dos to sort out first. Like winning the lottery.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Sowing the Seeds

Busy, busy, busy. The last few days have been action packed! On Friday, a visit to the allotment, Saturday was spent visiting mother and grandmother (mine) for advance Mother's Day treats, Sunday lots of cleaning and a visit from the small person's Favourite Aunty. Smiles all round and plenty to show for our hard work and time well spent.


At the allotment things are just getting underway. The shed needed repairs to the guttering system so that the water butt could work more effectively and then our attention turned to weeding, digging and planting onion sets. I have to say that he did most of this work, I did a bit of weeding but was then called upon to keep the small person occupied and, as it got a bit colder, she and I headed home early leaving him to it. However, more action on this front is now planned; through freecycle, I have found a plentiful source of free chicken manure! Oh the things you can get excited about when you have an allotment! Also, a day has been planned when grandma can come and amuse the small person so that he and I can really get stuck in and rotavate....so more on that soon.


My revamped garden potting area has been put to use, rather than just looking nice. Over the last few days, as time allows, I have sown red onion (Florence), parsnip (Gladiator), and broad bean (unknown variety as the seed was a freebie from a friend). We also have some sun flowers that were a gift from Favourite Aunty and some petunias that I had forgotten I ordered last year that are now 'growing on'. It would be lovely to have a greenhouse but space does not allow so we mostly manage with covered seed trays.

Must go now as it's the small person's lunch time - this post is brought to you by virtue of the fact that she is napping but such snooziness cannot be allowed to go on or we will all pay for it later!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Operation Garden

As I said last time, spring does have a way of filling me with enthusiasm. I am definitely a person who flags a bit in the winter and rejuvenates with the return of brighter days. Also, my birthday is in spring so I can start to look forward to my Day of Pudding (yes, it does need capitalisation!) More on that another time.

So, where has all this enthusiasm got me? Well, over the weekend, I pointed myself (and him) in the direction of the garden. I have to admit, things had got a bit out of hand over the winter...something to do with having a baby, two dogs and very little time. The result was a build up of 'stuff', all awaiting it's final ceremonial trip to the dump. Bits of wood, old broken plant pots, a dog guard for the car boot that had proved ineffective to say the least and several bags of rubble that were the result of our decision to cut a new doorway into the garage. It all had to go. So the car was loaded and off I went. I won't bore you with the details, but I will ask whose idea it was that rubble and hardcore has to be carried up a flight of slippery metal steps and then hefted up over the side of a metal skip? And thanks very much to the burly blokes who stood and watched with a slight air of impatience as my slow progress held up their own unloading.


Anyway, the dumping bit is not the most exciting. What I am most pleased with is the result in the garden. After a fresh coat of some lovely bright orange (light oak, yeah right) wood preserver, my revived planting table is now once again ready for action in the space created. Watch this space for seedlings' progress. Even better, the small raised bed, decimated over the winter by the onslaught of a very naughty spaniel with his own ideas on how gardening should be done, is now restored and ready for some new plants. I had to do the same restoration this time last year but I have to say it was much quicker and easier this time, I think not being pregnant helped! The spaniel in question has been warned to keep off, he responded with a smirk.


My reward to us both for all this hard work? A very tasty toad in the hole! I'm sure that will be quite concerning to those of my readers unfamiliar with British cooking but suffice to say that the 'toads' were organic and free range and the 'hole' rose beautifully, being one of things that I can cook.



Friday, 9 March 2012

Man Flu

My name is Mummy Bear and I have been a bad blogger! No posts for over a week...the reason; we have all had man flu. The actual man got it first, undoubtedly one of the less pleasant perks of working in a school is the amount of 'lurg' that manages to make it's way home with you. This time, I thought my flu jab had done the job and fended it off but just as he started to feel better it crept up on me and then the small person too. So not much has really been happening this week.


Today, feeling a bit better but not willing to inflict our germs on Baby Club, the bears and I set out for a walk instead. The sun was out, the temperature was a very tolerable 12 degrees. Arriving at the fields we frequent, I was faced with the challenge of putting on the new baby backpack solo - you really need someone to help stabilise the whole thing while you heft it onto your shoulders so as to avoid an unpleasant baby versus pavement moment. I managed by sitting the little bear in the pack and then resting her in the boot of the car while I squatted down and reversed into the whole thing...practical but not elegant.


Out and about, we explored some new territory as well as our favourite fields. One of the things I enjoy most about walking with the dogs is the opportunity to appreciate the seasons and spring is one of the loveliest to me. The colours are beautiful, the wildlife starts to become more visible again and everything seems to relax from the tense huddle adopted to survive the bite of the winter.


The canines were enthused by the new smells (and, no doubt, the prospect of wildlife). We inspected some interesting tumble down trees, Ted checked out some new holes and Monty ambled around looking for bunnies. The small person appeared to enjoy the whole trip and babbled away whilst trying to undo my hair clip. As I snapped the picture below, she was kicking me and seemed to be wanting to go faster!



So, with the worst of the lurg over, hopefully we can get back out there and get some stuff done. Things to look forward to this weekend include a trip to the household recycling centre and possibly a visit to a local DIY store. Another great thing about spring...it revives flagging enthusiasm for clearouts, cleaning and home and garden maintenance.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

GSOH

Back to normal this week, with the other half having gone back to work after a nice week off. The small person and I have been left to our own devices once more. Our little routine ticks along, not exactly like clockwork but in a more or less predictable fashion.

The small one's development is also ticking along at an impressive rate. She is currently working hard on her ability to escape from whichever place the adults have deemed 'suitable' and 'safe'. Barely able to get onto her hands and knees and hold herself there, she is already pushing ahead and is currently to be seen experimentally lifting one leg or hand off the floor, giving the impression of a gecko on hot sand. Also developing is her sense of the ridiculous. Demonstrated for the first time yesterday when she found it deeply hilarious that her hapless mother had tripped over the bar on the baby gate!

My own sense of humour was put to the test on Sunday...and just about proved to still be there. Monty and Ted were successfully bathed; that is to say, they were successfully coerced into the bathroom and lathered up with herbal dog shampoo, rinsed and roughly dried off with a 'dog towel'. Monty decided this was enough pampering for one day and he could take care of the rest of the drying process himself, thanks very much. He did this by taking advantage of my failure to close our bedroom door. Best place to dry off for a wet retriever? Mummy and Daddy's bed of course; squirm away!

You need a sense of humour to live here. It doesn't just help, it preserves the contents of the liquor cabinet for times when it's really really necessary.


One last note; some friends of ours successfully welcomed triplets to the world this morning. Three boys. Mother and babies doing well. I feel a sense of humour will be invaluable in their household too!