Sunday, September 25, 2011


It is now two weeks after our wonderful holiday in Tuscany and thought it was about time we got it on our blog.

The trip overall was great. Lots of beautiful weather, a farmhouse and swimming pool to ourselves, parks and walks for the kids, yummy meals, great focaccia everywhere, some history, a wee bit of Uncle Paddy time and more.

Day 1: Settled into the villa and enjoyed the pool

Day 2: Drove to Siena, checked out the Campo which was featured in one of the more recent James Bond movies and Duomo & had our first ice cream.

Day 3: Drove to Castiglione dei Pepoli to visit Siobhan's great grandfather's grave then through a national parc enroute to Lucca. It was a rainy morning but the sun popped out as we arrived at the cemetery and we spent a relaxed hour or more just hanging out in the cemetery, talking, telling stories, drawing, taking photos and looking at the view. Siobhan's great grandfather, Philip Greig died in Italy on 1st October, 1944 and she told Brendan about him- he was 34, had a butcher's shop, had three girls, had volunteered to go, etc etc. Brendan was very interested and wanted to know more. All in all a great thing to do.

Then we went for a walk along a ridge top trail nearby and then to Lucca for lunch and a bike ride around the town.

Day 4: Florence with Paddy, then Paddy and Siobhan went to the Uffizi and the Museo Galileo.

Day 5: Cinqua Terre. Drove to a train station to get the coast train only to be told that it was a general strike and there weren't any trains. Further enquiries told us that there "may be trains there but may not be any between villages or back". Well we went anyway but had to come staright back on a direct train. The beach was overcrowded but we had fun in the water and lunch on the beach.

Day 6: The abbey at San Galgano. And Italy's version of the sword in the stone. Siobhan told the story of the knight who set his sword into the rock and vowed never to be bad again- she embellished it more and more with each telling. But we still don't know the real story!

That night we had dinner at the lovely restaurant run by the owner of the farm and property we were staying on. Delicious wine to take home.

Day 7: San Gimignano Probably our favourite place. And always great to be there early in the morning to wander around in peace before the busloads of tourists arrive!

And we think this was the night when we had the most amazing sunset. Best we've seen for a long, long time. Alas, didn't have a camera but it wouldn't have done it justice anyway.

Day 8: Left the villa, drove back to Pisa and had a quick walk around the campo dei miracoli and the leaning tower before heading to the airport.

Friday, September 2, 2011

garden goings on

Here's a quick garden update before we head off on our trip to Italy. I think I've already mentioned that we lost all our tomatoes to late blight and Steve especially was very disappointed. But there have been some great successes too.
The first pumpkin we picked with 4 year old Grace's hand in for scale. Also a butternut squash there. I've since learned that I should leave the butternut squashes on a but longer, bit this one still tasted great.

The pumpkin patch is a tangle of vines and leaves and nettles. We have to dress up for battle before venturing into it, but still always manage to get a few nettle stings. There are some huge pumpkins in there and I'm still coming across round courgettes that have grown a bit to big for anything other than soup, like this one below.

I think the two yellow courgette plants have been my ultimate favourite this year. They have been very productive, are easy to look after and they taste yummy.

The potatoes and onions were a little on the small side so we'll work on that next year.

New bike, new skill!

Brendan's new bike that we found at the giant brocante (car boot or yard sale) in our village. He loves that it is his favourite colour and he couldn't wait to try it. After me holding on for about two or three minutes, probably less, he was off and pedaling by himself. I guess it's because he's had a balance bike but I really wasn't expecting it to be so easy! I was so proud I actually cried :) Very soft, I know. I think it may be because riding my bike around the street near our first house in Saudi is one of my earliest memories, probably helped by the fact that it was one of the first things my dad recorded on his brand new 1981 video camera. That thing was a HUGE black machine, each of it's three parts was about the size of a microwave. Well, almost.

So we went out on the bike to practice every day this week. One day we went to Steve's work and they rode around on a bit of old taxiway. He still needed a bit of help getting started here.

Check out his face- he loves it!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

First day of maternelle

Tadhg's first day going to school. He loved it!! He was so excited in the morning and just about skipped all the way there. It still didn't feel "right" but we're doing what works best just now. I'm picking them both up at noon and today was such a beautiful day it really got the year started perfectly. And of course I had 2 and a half hours to myself! :) I met a lovely doula who is going to work with me, more on that another time.

Hey, here's a link back to the blog post about Brendan's first day last year, for comparison.

Brendan also enjoyed the first day back. He's particularly excited about the four goldfish in his new classroom and LOVED that "their little house blows bubbles and is... guess what mummy, it's a pineapple!!!" - he cracked up telling me about that, and then had to call Steve at work to tell him.

Such a joker!

fun new space

A little bit of furniture moving brightened my day yesterday. Even though I haven't been a student for many years now I still think of September as the beginning of a new year, and get a kick out of the chance for a fresh start at whatever it is we're up to. Usually this might just involve a quick tidy up and a list writing session, but this year it felt more like the feverish "nesting" type activity before having a baby. Mind you, I don't need a big excuse to move furniture, I would do it every week if I had a little more time.
So here's the new play space. I wanted to put all the kid stuff together in one area of the room, all in preparation for the new school term and our afternoons (and some days no doubt) being spent together at home.

We've been trying something new for the past week. When the boys aren't looking I dig out four or five different activities and put them on one of the windowsills. I make sure the selection includes a variety... games to play together or alone, creative activities of all sorts, open ended toys that they can do with as they like, dressing up props, stories, dolls, pictures to make up stories, musical instruments or a cd, random miscellaneous items, and once I put a dvd up there hoping they would choose it so I could do something (can't remember what) but they DIDN'T choose it! Wow, that has to be a first.
It seems kind of "schoolish" and not what I'd normally go for but we all like the ritual of gathering on the rug, talking about how it's windowsill time and going over to choose something.

I also managed to be a bit ruthless and add a few more things to the charity shop box. Even some of my mum's and granny's bits and pieces that I was hanging on to for no particular reason. It felt quite liberating. Hopefully a lot more will follow and a few more boxes will be filled. Although these shelves are destined to be cluttered forever, at least it looks a bit better. And more colourful.

We also had some fun on the patio the other day. I joined Pinterest recently, a virtual pin board that I may or may not find addictive helpful, but it inspired me to move the sofa outside on a whim. Why not? So I curled up on it with a bright wool blanket and a magazine and the boys were content to play in the garden and leave me in peace for about an hour!

We then had a lovely but simple pasta supper outside. Here's a picture of Tadhg eating the parmesan faster than Brendan can grate it.

So a good week and a great start to the new year. So that's done. Now I have to pack for Italy before we leave in about 3o odd hours for a week's holiday. Beach, art, walking, driving, eating, Roman stuff, swimming pool and hopefully some Paddy time.