Thursday, November 10, 2011

Albelli's Calendar

I have had great fun making Albelli books, especially last Christmas as presents for Grandparents.

This week Albelli have launched a new range of calendars to create.  I can't wait to start giving them a try (that'll be the Grandparents sorted again)

Try their  to see the wide range of products they have on offer.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Plot 32

Five years ago we moved into our current home.  Quite soon after moving in, I planted a little vegetable patch.   That year we enjoyed home grown spring onions, a few leeks, salad leaves, tomatoes and my favourite, cavarlo nero cabbage.  It was clear that this small patch was not going to be big enough to satisfy my new interest in growing veg, but MrsMck was not keen on expanding the vegetable patch into other areas of the garden.

After a little research I found some allotments just over a mile from where we lived, I contacted the council and put my name on the waiting list straight away. I was told it usually takes a year or two for a plot to come up.

5 years later.  

MrsMck calls me at work, someone from the council had left a phone message and wondered if I was still in having an allotment plot. Break time came, the kids ran out to the playground and I grabbed my mobile phone straight away.

I was given a choice of four possible plots, and went to the allotments immediately after work to have a look at them.  One was completely overgrown with brambles and nettles, there were hardly any fence boundaries and no shed or greenhouse.  No thanks.  The other two had been a joint plot, and which would be split into two.  Again they were quite overgrown, mainly with cooch grass, and also had several mature apple trees (more than I could envisage needing). Also they had no shed.  The final plot had been worked previously this year, there were still some cabbages, beetroot and parsnips. There was general weed cover, but nothing to drastic. It had a ramshackle shed made from odd bits of wood and an old internal door.  At the far end there were two homemade greenhouses that had been taken over by mother nature.  But it showed great promise.  Chatting to one of the 'old boys', I found out that a bloke in his 80s called Les had given it up because his doctor had said "It's the allotment or your leg Les, one of them has to go" The plot had also been worked by Les' father previously.

It was Plot 32, the 5 year wait was over, I was getting my own allotment

This was just over a week ago, I have since received and returned the tenancy agreement and annual payment.  I was eager to get stuck in, do some digging and have a big bonfire of all the rubbish that had accumulated on the plot.  However, my back had other ideas.  I have been laid low (literally, at one point on the floor in tears). During a few days of DIY in the half term break, I apparently pulled some muscles or ligaments and my back went into spasms.  It was agony and I  hardly moved for three days.

This means my new enthusiasm, that was going to spur me on to the task of digging over the whole plot, will have to be curbed for a week or two.  Whatever I do, I will keep a record of it on this blog.

Thanks to Les and his Dad for keeping the plot in good shape and I hope I can do you proud and get it back into shape soon.

NB: I have referred to the allotment as mine, it will obviously be a family plot.  MrsMck and I will try to involve MiniMck and NanoMck as much as possible- but I have no doubts, I will be the one doing all the work, so, for this post at least, I'll call it mine.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Boys and their toys

Growing up in the 70s meant that I was a generation or two before merchandising started to get a foothold into our everyday lives.  It is now rare if I venture near any shop without MiniMck being able to spot a Buzz, Woody or Lightning Mqueen.  Yes, we have let him watch films with the offending characters in them, but I never pestered my parents for a real life Baloo after watching the Jungle book or a talking Bernard after a trip to see The Rescuers Down under.

Obviously, as with children of all generations, I always had my heart set on some toy or other.   Ones I never got were a Play Doh hairdressing set, a Steve Austin Bionic Man action figure (I did name my first cat Oscar after Oscar Goldman as a consolation), a replica of James Bond's White Lotus Esprit and a Soda Stream.  Not that I was at all deprived, over the years I had a Scalextric set, an Eagle Eye Action Man, a Pogo stick, and my Dad lovingly restored a Purple Chopper and sprayed it Metalic Gold.  I did have the coolest Chopper in town! 

The one toy I did covet, and never managed to have, was a Loop the Loop and Jump track for my toy cars.  So how chuffed was I to get an email from Jacey at Mattel, asking if MiniMck and I would like to review their new Wall Track System.  Answer, well chuffed.

The offer also comes at a time when MiniMck has recently discovered Hot Wheels cars.  While on our 2500 mile holiday drive round Europe, we would give MiniMck little toy treats to get him, and us, through a long days drive.  These would hold his attention for the last few hours or so to get us to the next hotel/campsite.  However there was one gift that has remained permanently by his side.  It is a Hot Wheels lorry, with a car inside. It is red and was instantly named Mack, as in the character from Cars.  There probably hasn't been a night since when 'Mack' has had to be tucked in with him.

This has led to a few more Hot Wheels purchases since we got home, but at just over a £1 a car, they are brilliant value.  They also have so many models that it is quite easy to pass them off as characters from the film cars without paying the extortionate merchandising markup.  We now have dubious versions of, Doc, Mater, Lightening, Red and Ramone.

I decided to put up the Wall Tracks while MiniMck had his afternoon nap.  It would be a nice surprise for him when he woke up and meant I could check if the stated 20 mins construction time is realistic.  It wouldn't be a fair comparison if MiniMck was hindering helping.  I managed to get it on the wall in 18 mins and that includes allowing time for me to stop and take the occasional photo.

Setting it up is relatively easy.  You attach a template to the wall, this provides a guide where to stick attachment points which are clearly labelled, a couple of bits of track need to be put together, then the tracks  click into the attachment points.  Job done.

When MiniMck came to the top off the stairs and saw the new construction, his mouth actually stayed open in a natural expression of surprise.  He played with the tracks for ages. It has been two weeks now since I put them up and the enthusiasm has waned a little, as it does with most new toys.  Because he is a little below the stated 3+ age, he wasn't always keen to line up the cars methodically and press a button to let them automatically follow each other down the track (I found this bit really fun).  He soon developed his own way of playing with the tracks.

At the moment he is entering the world of imaginative play, so cars would go the wrong way up the tracks, meet each other, crash into each other and sometimes just hang around for a chat and  state that they are "having nice day".  Any illusions of Mini and me sharing ownership of the tracks have been quickly dispelled,  I have been left in no doubt with a terse..."get off, my toy Daddy".

The only caveat is that if your child ever turns into Destruco Boy, as MiniMck is sometimes known to, then the adhesive that holds the tracks on is extremely strong.  So much so that if they are not removed in the instructed way (which leaves no mark or damage), but yanked from the wall, then you may loose a little paintwork or plaster.  But, hey, our kids have been sent to challenge us, haven't they?

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Great Outdoors

So far a round trip of about 1600 miles, about 800miles left to get home, but we are coming to the end of our France camping adventure.

Time to write is limited and any spare is being used for reading. Ahh, reading, that lost leisure that we took for granted BP (Before Parenting). Mrs Mck and I have both finished one book each in five days- that hasn't happened for over two years.

So with short time in mind, a quick photo journal of our time so far will have to suffice instead of a more comprehensive post.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kitchen Memories

This weeks gallery prompt is Vintage. Each week there are wonderful photos and posts related to a theme. So go over to the Tara's gallery at Sticky Fingers, have a browse, make a comment and be inspired to join in as well.

We have a few various vintage items around our house, but I realised there were some that held special memories over and above the rest.

She gave me the most dreadful haircut I ever had and made me religiously say my prayers before bedtime. She limped from having one leg noticeably shorter than the other, made the most delicious vegetable soup and baked incredible meringues, that were the perfect combination of melt-in-the-mouth chewiness. She was the only person who ever made me coddled eggs.

My Nan inspired my love of food and cooking. My earliest memory of being in her kitchen is leaning over a big saucepan of stock and skimming off the froth from the top of the bubbling liquid. In her chest freezer was a supply of frozen portions of stock, so she could whip up a veg soup in 15 mins. Sweat a few bits of celery and carrot in butter and then simmer them in stock. Instant shiny soup.

She taught me that a well made stock is the key to a good soup. Never does a carcass get thrown away in our house with out it first being simmered for hours with some roughly chopped veg and pepper corns. I have tried many variations of soup, but my favourite is still a simple vegetable soup using whatever is in season. I love it when the smell of stock spreads through the house on a Sunday afternoon. So comforting.

I was one of only two boys in my year group that opted for Home Economics, instead of woodwork. That's thanks to my Nan. I'm just glad that I didn't follow the advise of the Home Ec teacher, Sister Mary, who seemed to add bran to everything she cooked. Probably something to do with flushing out sin.

Nan also had other classics, that us Grandchildren still reminisce about. Plain Scones topped with butter and homemade jam, Irish Stew (she was born in Derry), and an endless supply of cheese straws, have I mentioned the meringues to die for, also a Dougal from Magic Roundabout chocolate cake, that She made for my 4th birthday.

At her wake, my Dad and Aunt asked me and MrsMck if there was anything we would like to take from her house. We were setting up a new home, they thought we might need a few things. We went round to her house the next day. So quiet, no smells coming from the kitchen. It wasn't furniture, a TV or washing machine that I wanted. What I realised I would treasure most would be the everyday things she used in the kitchen.

So I chose the classic Salter balance scales that she probably would have used on a daily basis. The Tala measurer, a wonderful invention that can measure anything from groats to sago. Egg coddlers that were kept high on the side board and most likely only used when a precocious Grandson came to stay. A vintage cake tin that has a classic 50s design on it. And finally the stool that I used to sit and kneel on as a boy, whenever I helped make or eat the delights that were created in her kitchen. I could have taken so many other things and was gutted when I couldn't find the water powered potato peeler that gave me hours of childhood fun.

These vintage items we still use in our kitchen today, not as much as she did, but I feel I am honouring her memory by using them still. Thanks again Nan, for inspiring me and for making the best shiny soup I ever tasted.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Monday, March 14, 2011

On the Wagon: Day Six

Each year I give up alcohol for Lent. I'm not a practising Christian or Catholic, although I did go to Catholic schools and my Dad's family hail from the Catholic side of Derry. There are various reasons for doing it, but at the core it is about giving my liver a break, loosing weight and proving to myself that I can do it. For 2011 I have also added snacks, eg crisps, nuts etc to the giving up list.

This year it seems especially important, I am the heaviest weight I have ever been. I am 13st 13lb and 5lb away from being officially obese. For my height my 'normal' weight should be anything between 10st 7lb and 11st 7lb. This seems particularly galling, I have always been reasonably fit, did not drive till I was Thirty so rode a bike or walked everywhere, played football for local teams and 2 and a half years ago was a few lbs under 12st and was running 10k races and half marathons. What went wrong?

Well, at the start wine and cheese most nights, then wine and crisps and nuts and cheese, and then occasionally a tuna and cheese toastie was added to the mix. I developed a habit of drinking considerably more than the NHS recommended limit, each night, while adding various snacks on top of that as well. There are three things that I think contributed to this: One, my lack of self denial, Two, eating at 5:30pm each night since MiniMck arrived (we used to eat at 7:30-8pm, so didn't have time to feel peckish again before going to bed) and Three, giving up smoking.

I have it in my head that if I don't do something this year my weight gain and bad habits will continue.

Today is day six and it is the first day that I feel refreshed and better for being tee-total. This was an easily measurable effect, at 9:30 this morning my class teaching assistant asked me if I'd had a coffee yet. I hadn't, and compared to other days didn't feel like I needed one either. I can already see that I have lost some puffiness around my eyes, although that could be because I am going to bed earlier. I have never been one for early bedtimes, and even though alcohol is clinically a depressive, it always keeps me up and out of bed for longer than I may naturally need.

Today was also the first social occasion I have had since Lent started, it was a football night, Norwich were playing at home and as a season ticket holder my Brother-in-law and I usually go for a pint or two before the match. Luckily this year he has also decided to join me on the wagon for the duration of Lent, so instead we enjoyed a refreshing cup of tea instead at my house before heading to the game.

I am aiming to keep up a regular update on my tee-total Lent, my ups and downs, my challenges and changes and of course my weight loss.

Day six was a good day.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


This weeks gallery prompt is One word. Each week there are wonderful photos and posts related to a theme. So go over to the gallery at Sticky Fingers, have a browse, make a comment and be inspired to join in as well.


I nearly chose the word muse, simply because I have never been inspired to take so many pictures as I have with MiniMck. In the end I chose the word Love, the pure essence of parenthood (it also means I can just about choose any photos of MiniMck that I like, although Mrs Mck has recently berated me for always choosing more than one photo for the Gallery. She thinks it is cheating).

At the moment of his birth there was a surge of relief, ecstatic pure joy and a tidal wave of love, all wrapped up in a blubbery speechless mess. The blubbering stopped, but the love keeps on building.

Love was there at the dead of night, pacing the boards, rocking back and forth with soothing words and song.

My eyes blink through a loving haze when a small hand holds mine in the morning and I'm woken with the whispering, "Daddy, wake now"

When he utters words I haven't heard him say before, I look at his Mummy, we smile and beam with love and pride.

His requests for a "Cuddle now" before leaving for work, fill my heart with love till I return home.

Love was encased in a shell of fear when he fell, gashed his head and with his blood staining my shirt, my mind filled with the worst of scenarios.

Feet creep on silent tiptoes with love, when every night before retiring to my own bed, I sneak in to see him sleeping, cover him up, kiss his forehead and tell him I love him.

Now I understand what someone said to me about the capacity to love your own child holding no bounds. He said the love is infinite and grows, and keeps on growing, with each new child you have.

Here is to parents and our infinite capacity to love.

I love this shot by MrsMck. We had finished decorating MiniMcks bedroom, removed his cot, added some new furniture and a 'Big Boy Bed'. MrsMck waited in his room for the first time he entered it- the joy and surprise she captured is wonderful.

I love this photo, because it captures the enjoyment of both Mum and Son, and I'm sure I was smiling behind the camera as well. Who doesn't when they see their child enjoying life so much?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

#project365 66/365 The Return of Snot Boy


Saturday, March 5, 2011

#project365 65/365 Noisy street Jazz is so exciting


#project365 64/365 Daddy can I play with the big boys


Monday, February 28, 2011

#project365 59/365 Back to Work

Sunday, February 27, 2011

#project365 56/365 sowing sweet peas

Saturday, February 26, 2011

#project365 55/365 Pizza night- 1) The concentrating chef, 2) The chatty chefs, 3) The Hungry little cheftl

Friday, February 25, 2011

#Project365 55/365 Part 2. Finishing off with some tractor racing

#Project365 55/365 Part 1. A day at the farm.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

#project365 53/365 My first Big Boy Bed

Saturday, February 19, 2011

#project365 50/365 Part 2. 12:17pm A Happy Monkey smoothie and a new pair of gloves is all a boy needs to be happy on a grey, grey day.

#project365 50/365 3:08pm Grey, grey and more grey

Thursday, February 17, 2011

#Project365 48/365 Curry Night

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

#Project365 46/365 Absolutely Chit-faced

Monday, February 14, 2011

#project365 45/365 It's worth coming home half-an-hour early

Sunday, February 13, 2011

#Project365 44/365 I dig digging

Saturday, February 12, 2011

#Project366 43/365 MiniMck lets us have a lie in!

Friday, February 11, 2011

#Project365 41/365 Bedheads (or Button Moon Vs Jilly Cooper)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

#Project365 39/365 (Yet another) Big Norfolk Sky at Dusk