Monday, 2 May 2016

Countryside Lincs 2016

Last month we took Forrest to the second Countryside Lincs event at Lincolnshire Showground (you can see my post on last year's event here)

If you're a long time reader you'll know that I am inordinately proud of this county, its farming heritage and its wonderful produce, so it's no surprise that these type of events are just my sort of thing. Forrest is following in my footsteps, he loves animals, tractors and basically anything to do with farming. 'Tractor' was one of his first words and he knows more about farm machinery than most adults I know (thank you Tractor Ted!) So an event like this - aimed at teaching children about farming and agriculture in their home county - was guaranteed to be a hit, especially now he's a bit older and understands more of what's going on.

Farmer Forrest!

The event is interactive with tons of activities for children, all based around food, farming and the countryside. Local producers, crafters, animals and farmers all come together to teach children about our county's heritage in a fun way. There are six indoor and outdoor zones

Explore It
The Farmyard
Falconry Displays
Bake It
The Tractor Zone
Make It

Each has plenty to look at and get involved in, such as petting the animals in the Farmyard Zone, having a go at making cheese or sausages in the Bake It zone and bug house building and candle rolling in the Make It zone.

Forrest's favourites were the Falconry Displays (he is a big fan of owls) and, obviously, the Tractor Zone. This kid is never happier than when there is a tractor in view and - joy of joys - there were even tractor and trailer rides available for budding little farmers! There was also a teeny model farm, complete with little vehicles, barns and animals, which he was entranced by

My favourites were the animals

I'm not going to lie, the local produce is always a big draw for me and it seems that Forrest is much the same. He tried lots of sausage samples from Uncle Henry's (all academic as we already know we love them!) and some delicious goats cheese from Goatwood Dairy. We left with a full rucksack of local goodies as usual!

A surprise hit was The Sheep Show - I wasn't expecting to be that impressed by a talk about sheep but the four sheep that were brought onstage were so chilled out and happy to just stand there and be admired, it was really sweet. And there was a live shearing demonstration by a really charismatic chap who managed to be entertaining for the children as well as throwing in some (virtually undetectable) more adult material for the parents - it was a riot!

The event was really well attended and everyone seemed to be having a great time. There was so much to see and do and it was extremely well organised, as is every event at the Lincolnshire Showground - the organisers clearly know their stuff and manage to think of everything you might need or want without making you feel that you're being over-managed or herded in a certain direction, if that makes sense? Basically they provide everything you could think of and just let you get on with enjoying the day

I always find it a bit heart warming to see families spending some time and having fun together. Must be my age.

If you fancy a fun day out in Lincolnshire with plenty of educational activities for children I highly recommend Countryside Lincs. You can find more information on the Lincolnshire Showground website here - worth a look just for the lovely video of all the children getting stuck into the different activities!

Sunday, 7 February 2016

A Quick Catch Up

Well, where to start??

So much has happened since I last posted. I’ve held back from posting if I’m honest, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, everything was so raw to begin with that I could barely think straight, let alone make enough sense of what was going on in my head to write it down. Secondly, my life is so different now that I worried I’d have nothing interesting to say. Not that I was any great philosopher before you understand, but for the last few months I’ve just been functioning, not really living or doing anything of note. And thirdly, this blog has become known to some real-lifers that I don’t really want to share my personal thoughts and feelings with, if you know what I mean. Writing down your inner turmoil and sending it out into the ether is one thing but when you know certain people are reading you start to think ‘would I discuss this with that person face to face?’ and when the answer is no it becomes hard to write honestly without censoring yourself. So I thought I’d give it some time for the dust to settle before I started trying to blog anything personal again.

So what have I been up to since Matt and I separated? Well initially, Forrest and I moved into my parents house while I gave notice to my tenant that I was going to need my house back. Luckily I’d kept the house I bought before I met Matt and had been letting it, so at least I had somewhere to go. I felt terribly cruel, making someone homeless but I had no choice - I had to put Forrest and myself first. Luckily my tenant was a very understanding lady, she started looking for a new home straight away and I got my house back at the end of September. It had been rented out for the last six and a half years and was looking distinctly unloved - quite horrible in fact - so the first thing to do was give it a good clean and repaint it from top to bottom. I called in my wonderful family and they didn’t let me down. I got my keys on the Thursday morning and by the Monday night it looked like a new house, with only the kitchen and bathroom left to do. I had new carpets fitted on the Tuesday morning and started to move in on the Tuesday afternoon. 

The first few weeks were a bit of a blur. I was exhausted from all the cleaning, painting, planning, ordering, packing and moving. My days were spent making lists of things I didn’t have and running backwards and forwards into town to buy a kettle, microwave, toaster etc and stock up my cupboards. Evenings were spent - once BT managed to get my address right and install my broadband - ordering a new washing machine and freezer, searching online for a kitchen table and chairs so that I could show Forrest how families eat together. I’ve borrowed things and had things given and everyone has been so kind. You certainly learn who loves you at times like this, that’s for sure. 

Forrest seemed to settle in to his new home straight away. I brought him here to play a few times when it was empty, showed him his bedroom, let him explore the garden. He seemed to like it immediately and slept well here from the very first night, which surprised me as his sleep hadn’t been so great at my parents’ house. We’ve been through a few sticky patches since then but you know, he’s a two year old. It’s all to be expected. He spends a lot of time with his daddy, far more than he ever did when we all lived together, and he seems to have adapted well to time spent in two different homes. It broke my heart at first - I’d tried so hard to prevent this from being his life but it had to be this way. I wasted a lot of tears on the whole sorry situation but eventually I started to realise that what people were telling me was true. He really is fine. He loves us to spend time as a family but he’s equally happy with either one of us. He is the centre of two people’s universes, what could be better?

As for the relationship between Matt and I, well let’s just say it’s a work in progress. It’s been a rocky old path and we’re not at the end yet. There have been periods of blissful harmony, when we’ve had dinners together, days out as a family, called each other every night to discuss our current box set obsession. And there have been times when I’ve been so, so unbearably angry with him that I’ve felt like I’ve actually gone insane. That man knows how to push ALL of my buttons and he isn’t afraid to do it. The only thing we have to disagree about now is Forrest. We both want to spend as much time as possible with him and we both feel shortchanged by any suggested arrangement for access. I don’t know what the answer is - we haven’t found it yet. Forrest is so lucky to have a dad that wants to be a big part of his life and I don’t want to deny him that. But neither do I want to feel that I’m merely here to facilitate that relationship. Before the split I'd barely been apart from Forrest since the day he was born so I’m finding the enforced time apart very hard. REALLY hard. I wish I knew what to do and how to do it. I wish it wasn’t so hard. 

We'll always be a family, we still feel like a team but there's this unbearable sadness that goes with it because we failed, we fucked it up and none of our lives will ever be the same again.

small child, giant dinner

Despite all the heartache and the stress, Christmas was actually really lovely. Forrest and I spent Christmas Eve alone together, I cooked a huge Christmas dinner just for us two which we hardly touched (lesson learned, I won't be doing that again) and I introduced Forrest to one of my favourite childhood Christmas films - The Snowman. He absolutely loved it, we watched it just before bedtime, in our pyjamas and snuggled under a blanket on the sofa with cups of warm milk. He was on the edge of his seat all the way through and talked non stop about what was happening on screen and tears ran down my face for how happy and sad I was all at the same time. We spent Christmas Day with my sister and her family and it was the loveliest, most laid-back Christmas Day I've had in years. I so appreciated and needed it. 

More than anything I was looking forward to signing off on the year. Kissing 2015 goodbye, perhaps showing it my middle finger as it left. It was a bad, bad year. The end of my relationship was by far the worst thing but there have been other things. My health, particularly, has not been good and I'm really hoping that can be changed soon. I need to stop hiding from my problems and start facing them head on, for they cannot be solved any other way. 

2015 was a year of disappointments, of let downs and mistakes and mishandlings of situations. I don't know what the future holds, I don't even know what I want it to hold. I can't imagine where I'll be this time next year. Life is so different now to how it was this time last year, for so many reasons. I'm 34 and I'm a single parent. This was never in my plan. 

Someone said something to me in the early days after the split, when I was struggling to see any light at the end of the tunnel and felt like I was hanging on to my sanity by a teeny tiny thread 

Oh but my darling, you’re doing fine! This is how it’s done - with doubt and discomfort and reaching out - it feels futile but you’re doing beautifully. Keep up the good work, stay strong, stay positive and you’ll have a bright and fulfilling future ahead of you

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Lincolnshire Food & Gift Fair 2015

It's usually around the last few days of November that I surrender to the season and allow myself to start getting excited about Christmas

Perfect timing then, for the Lincolnshire Food & Gift Fair at the Lincolnshire Showground. A gathering of local chefs and producers, all vying to show off their festive treats. For my sister in law and me, a chance to pick up a few gift ideas and eat and drink until we almost passed out

We arrived on Sunday morning, a little later than planned at about 11am and the Showground was already heaving with excited shoppers and foodies. Having skipped breakfast to leave plenty of room for sampling the delicious local fare, we kept our eyes peeled for food as we made our way down the first aisle of stalls 

I have to be honest, at any of these county events I am always most excited about the food. Lincolnshire produce is so varied but invariably delicious! And judging by the crowd around the Uncle Henry's stall I'm not alone! Honestly, it was six deep, I couldn't even get a photo! Luckily my sister in law managed to elbow her way to the front at one end and with me at the other we managed to pass each other many morsels of sausages before eventually plumping for a pack of the caramelised onion. Just SO DAMN GOOD!

Sadly, due to my chronic ill timing, we managed to miss all the cooking demonstrations but I will definitely make sure I catch one next year. We had a chat with The Lincolnshire Chef as we saw him popping a delicious looking pie into the oven and pinched some recipe cards off him to try at home

Despite being completely overwhelmed by the choice of food on offer, we managed to settle on delicious spicy Moroccan lamb served with a zingy salad, pitta bread, minty yoghurt and chilli sauce. Probably the most expensive lunch available on site but oh so worth the queue! I managed to get the sneakiest of sneaky pics ...

We followed it up with pears poached in mulled wine and topped with gingerbread crumble, served with a generous helping of vanilla custard

By the time we'd devoured this feast we were almost too rotund to make it out of the doors but we managed to leave and make our way home, full and sleepy! We'd planned to stop at Waitrose on the way home for shopping but we were both so full that the thought of any more food just made us groan!

If you like to mix your festive shopping with a glut of excellent local grub then I highly recommend you plan a visit to the Lincolnshire Food & Gift Fair next year. The quality of stalls is superb, there are demonstrations, food tasting - did I mention the food?? Parking is free and very well managed and the facilities are excellent. All in all it is a fun day out and perfect for getting you in the mood for Christmas

Thank you to the Marketing team at the Lincolnshire Showground for the complimentary tickets. No payment was received for this feature and all opinions are my own

Friday, 9 October 2015

The Break Up Post

I've been a little absent from this blog lately but with good reason. Sadly, Matt and I parted ways in August.

I'm not going to go into the whys and wherefores here on the internet but I can't let it pass without mention because this blog is quite a personal one and it's going to be a bit different from now on. For one thing, I've moved house and I didn't want to have to field any awkward questions like 'where's your lovely kitchen gone??'

It's an incredibly emotional time and I feel like I'm grieving to be honest - grieving for the life that I'd planned out for my family and for all the things that might have been. I have no doubt that leaving was the right thing to do but knowing that doesn't make it any easier just now, unfortunately.

I've been hiding from the world for a bit. The rest of my life looks so uncertain and too overwhelming to contemplate. And I don't mind admitting that I get frightened sometimes. This isn't the end of a chapter so much as the beginning of a whole new book.

And while I have worries - so many worries - about our future, I know that if I just focus on being the best mother I can be to Forrest then I won't let him down.

And that's all I care about really.

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