Happiness is…..

Happiness is….

Seeing my sister for the first time this year, and falling asleep on her couch while she plays games with the children & Chris.

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Happiness is….

Arriving in Swanage to stay with my in laws, and having a view like this:

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Happiness is….

Waking up early & going for a run along the beach:

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Happiness is….

Watching the children have fun on the beach:

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Happiness is…

Walking to the top of a cliff with the family, with your son striding off confidently, while your daughter overcomes her fear of falling, to reach a view like this:

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Happiness is…

Running sub30 at Parkrun for the very first time, when you didn’t expect to yet!

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Happiness is:

Your husband saying “I knew you’d do it.” And the wonderful friends I have in the Shabbas, and the wider twitter running family sending wonderful congratulations messages that make you tear up.

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Happiness is….

Spending the afternoon on the beach, relaxing in the sunshine with Chris, watching the children do what children do, and having a 99!

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Happiness is…

Knowing no matter what, I’m surrounded by people that care.

Happiness is…

Me!

Sunny Sunday with The Shabbas

Yesterday was another big milestone for me.

I ran in my first 10k race at Fradley near Lichfield.

I’ve been battling with a cold for a few days, and this meant I was awake at 4am stuffed up and feeling rubbish. But some vitamin C, some paracetamol & crumpets soon got me back on a par. Judging by some of the early morning, nervy twitter chats I was having with other people going, I wasn’t alone!

It was a gloriously sunny day, which gave me a few conundrums to start with as I’ve never run in weather like that! As I started running in October, I’ve only ever run in cooler conditions – what to wear??? Then realised the beauty of layers, is to remove them when you don’t need them, so just didn’t wear them in the first place!

I set off ridiculously early as usual – I’d been warned how bad the traffic could be. The race started at 10.30. I arrived at 8.50. That takes punctuality to new levels!

I soon bumped into fellow Shabbas Byron & Marissa, followed by Matt and Phil and Greg, which left us wondering where Chris was – it’s his local race! He soon found us though. We were also joined by Gary on his bike in support.

We had a team photo taken, as per Shabba tradition. I think you’ll all agree we look happy & excited!

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After a giggle and some warm up runs, we made our way down to the start. The boys picking their start places strategically, me & Marissa keeping each other company (it was her first 10k too). And then we were off.

Too fast. My first mile was way too fast for my current ability. The atmosphere was electric & I was being pulled along with the crowd. I managed to settle down on the second mile and my pace evened out a bit. I started to look around, and heard a shout of ‘SHABBA!’ – and there was Baz & Annmarie come down to support us again.

Fradley really is a pretty place, we ran past fields, woods & ponds. The race is also two laps. So I ran past them twice!

Gary joined me a couple of times on his bike, and it was good to have someone there, chatting & encouraging me. He took some great pictures of the day.

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The effect of running too fast in the first mile hit me on the last mile, and I found it really tough. Luckily, Gary was there and distracted, encouraged, took the Mickey etc… Till the home straight.

And that’s where the best bit happens.

As a new runner, as a runner who’s still overweight, and as the newest Shabba, I am the slowest of the bunch. But there’s a wonderful thing that happens when you’re the last Shabba home.

As you reach the finish line, all you can see is the red shirts. And all you can hear is ‘Go on Sarah!’ ‘SHABBA!’

And it’s electrifying. There’s no other word for it. Every single one of them waits for the last Shabba to cross the line. And there is nothing on earth that feels as good as being part of that moment.

I finished my first 10k in 1:06:20. Which I’m really happy with, and after a rest, I’ve got some work to do before my next one.

I’ll leave you with one last picture – of a few of relaxing afterwards.

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Going bonkers at Conkers

It’s the time of the year that I’m off work for two weeks to look after the children during thr school holidays. As hubby can’t get the same two weeks,  I decided our two weeks would be full of  day trips, bikes, scooters & picnics.

Our first trip was to Conkers , an outdoor adventure park in the National Forest near Ashby de la Zouche (that’s so much fun to say! ).

I packed a picnic,  put petrol in the car and we were off.

It was great!

Acres of space, fields,  woods & lakes for us to explore.

The children spotted a face painter,  daughter had a face paint flower ‘tattoo’ on her arm, and the boy decided to be Batman.

After this we discovered the Barefoot Walk. This was brilliant. Lots of different textures and materials for the children to explore. Each section reflected a different period of the history of the area. And of course – mud!

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Barefoot Walk

We also discovered the assault course, the train,  the amphitheatre,  the den making area, the adventure playground,  the sculpture trail (which included a tribute to Dunblane), and the log pit.

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The children loved all of it, and we walked over five miles!  The barefoot walk was the highlight, and we went back at the end of the day and they went round five or six times. Thank goodness for the foot bath & dryers!

There was so much we didn’t get to I’m sure we’ll be going back!

Christmas Cooking

What a Christmas we’ve had!

Due to my lack of time off this Christmas, we decided to celebrate at home this year. In the last few years we’ve visited parents in Liverpool, Bristol & Swanage.

It’s been fantastic! And mainly characterised by cooking!

Apart from turkey and the usual trimmings, my family has always had homemade chicken liver pâté as a starter on Christmas Day, so this was made well in advance – I made three pots – one was consumed on Christmas Day, one on Boxing Day & the last one has come out of the freezer today for tonight’s buffet.

I made a Christmas cake – using a WeightWatchers recipe, but since I fed it with brandy every week I don’t think it counts! It’s been delicious though!

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I also made some mince pie pinwheels from a Weight Watchers recipe book – the kids have loved those too!

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I was also inspired by a healthy eating blog I follow (the author also writes for the WeightWatchers magazine) called Slice Of Slim to try some meringue snowmen for our Boxing Day party – they were delicious & went down a storm – especially with the kids!

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In the lead up to Christmas I caught the Great British Bake Off Christmas Masterclass with Mary Berry & Paul Hollywood. Apart from being tickled by Mary either putting brandy in everything or serving everything with brandy butter I was intrigued by a couple of Paul’s recipes. His deep filled mince pies were incredible but didn’t last long enough for a picture!

But the ‘wow’ moment were his Turkey, Stuffing & Cranberry Chelsea Buns – they were easy, filling, delicious and a hit with the whole family!

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I think this final picture sums up how much my husband enjoyed my cooking this Christmas!

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MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

London Calling!

In the euphoria following the majesty, wonder and sheer genius of the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony, my other half began wondering. This is always dangerous – last year our plan to have a cheap and cheerful UK holiday by the sea became a trip to Disneyland Paris!

I was summoned to the PC.

“What do you think of this?”

The screen showed train times and ticket prices for our family of four to do a day trip to London – just for the fun of it.

My response…..

“Book it!”

So this Saturday, August 4th 2012, we found ourselves woken up at 5.30am by the 4-year-old boy asking if it was time to go, there was a six on his clock and he was “very ‘Cited!”

We got him to settle down, until at 6am, the alarm went off, playing the BBC Olympic theme music First Steps by Elbow. (If you haven’t heard it, click here to view on YouTube )

By 7.15, we’d had breakfast and were on our way to catch the train from The Hawthorns in West Bromwich to London Marylebone.

On the journey, we caught a fantastic view of the Birmingham Bullring as we went through Birmingham Moor St Station:

Birmingham Moor St Station

I spent the train ride giggling at my husband – he began naming all the train stations, whether the train stopped or not – so I was teasing him about being a trainspotter, when he checked into foursquare to be awarded the ‘Trainspotter Badge’.

My four year old then announced that when in London he’d like to visit the London Eyeball.

While we were on the train, the heavens opened, and the children were a bit disappointed about the rainfall, but were soon distracted by the age-old game of racing raindrops down the window!

We arrived in London at about 9.45am, and changed onto the tube for the first part of our adventure – to Stratford to see the Olympic Park. We didn’t have event tickets, we were just excited to see it and take a few pictures.

This part of the trip was slightly delayed, after the boy announced he was ‘desperate’ for the toilet – so we had brief yet frantic scurry around Oxford CIrcus looking for a loo!

We found a coffee shop, and sorted him out, and also a couple of lattes for the adults!

We were delighted to see this part of London was decorated for the Olympics with the streets bedecked with the flags from all around the world – it looked amazing.

We arrived at Stratford around the same time as people arriving for the events. It was busy, yet organised, and the atmosphere was wonderful – relaxed, happy and enjoyable.

The Games Makers were fabulous as well. There were some with loud hailers giving information, but shouting out greetings to visitors from other countries like Lithuania and we definitely heard a ‘Viva Espagna!’. Other Games Makers were directing the flow of pedestrians with big purple foam hands – offering the kids high fives all along the route. When we explained we didn’t have tickets, just wanted to take a couple of pictures, they were really helpful and accommodating too. We managed to get pictures of the Orbit, Aquatic Centre and a glimpse of the main stadium.

Olympic Park, StratfordOlympic Park, StratfordFull of Olympic fever and excitement, we jumped on the DLR to Royal Victoria. We’d decided to have a ride on the Emirates AirLine Cable Car across the Thames to the Greenwich/O2 Arena (it will always be the Millenium Dome to me!). This was my daughter’s favourite bit of the day (at least it is today – it changes with the weather!). I loved it too. The views are brilliant and it’s a really pleasant way to travel.

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We had lunch at one of the restaurants at the Greenwich/O2 Arena, and afterwards went outside to take some more pictures. There were loads of policeman around – obviously on duty, but relaxed and enjoying the atmosphere – we cheekily asked if one of them could take a family picture for us – and he did a cracking job!

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We then wandered back to the DLR via Canary Wharf, and got our first look at the Shard – wow it’s beautiful! And Boris’ Bikes! Daughter was fascinated by the idea of these – “Anyone can use them? Wow! that’s a brilliant idea!”

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We then caught the DLR to Tower Gateway. We managed to get a seat right at the front and ‘drove’ the DLR train. and the kids began to get really interested at this point, as this was London as they’ve seen it on TV. Starting with the Gerkhin (or the Rocket as the boy says, or the Penguin as the daughter says – and I see what they mean!).

DLR to Tower GatewayThe Gerkhin (DLR to Tower Gateway)

We walked around the outside of the Tower of London – and straightaway, Daughter asked “Can we go in?”.
She was really disappointed when we said we didn’t have time today – but then I promised her we could write a London wish list of everything we want to do next time we come – and she bounced around saying “we’re coming back!”

Tower of London

We walked across Tower Bridge – the kids loved this – Son calling it ‘London Bridge’ and singing ‘London Bridge is falling down, my fat lady’.

After a brief shower, where we got our rain coats on just as it stopped, we hopped back on a tube to Waterloo. The kids were asking to see Big Ben and the London Eye Ball.

When we walked round the corner and saw Big Ben, Son bounced on his dad’s shoulders screaming ‘Big Ben! Big Ben!!!!’

As we’d not been able to get Olympic tickets, we decided to treat the kids to a ride on the London Eye Ball – it’s not cheap, but it was worth every penny. Daughter loved the interactive screen – she could see a landmark, then the screen gave her facts about what she could see, and she delighted in running backwards and forwards sharing them with me. Son adored the screens to – watch a movie about how the wheel had been made and erected.

We then walked across the Golden Jubilee Bridge down Northumberland Avenue (The Trainspotter would like to point out that this street is £160 on the Monopoly Board!) to Trafalgar Square.

From here, we’d planned to walk up the Mall to Buckingham Palace, but they were getting set up for the Marathon finish line, so we could only get so far, so we walked back to Trafalgar Square to have a break and have a snack and a drink.

Trafalgar SquareTrafalgar Square

After that we made our way back to London Marylebone. We had our tea and purchased a notebook. We caught the train, and sat making our wish list for the next trip – she added her own note to the bottom of the list!

We had an amazing trip and arrived home happy and tired at 8.45pm – in time to see all the Gold Medals at the Olympic Stadium.
And just to illustrate what a packed and incredible day we had – here’s our day in number!

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