Friday, December 31, 2010

Nent Hall and the Lake District

After our time with the Ingrams we took a three hour drive to stay outside the Lake District in
a tiny village called Nent Hall. The drive was
absolutely breathtaking. The roads were very narrow and steep with a 20% grade at times. We saw snow, rain, rainbows, sun, bunnies, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, icicles, and quaint little villages.

We stopped at a High Force Falls and did a short hike.

We also got to see the Beatrix Potter exhibit. The kids were amazed at all the life size story characters. It was an amazing day. I think we all hope to come back some day.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Our Christmas Trek

Our English Christmas
On Christmas Eve day we set out on our journey for a traditional English Christmas. It started with a ferry ride from Belfast to Stranraer, Scotland. The ferry ride took 2 hours through calm, cold, and clear waters.
The kids and I were very excited to be on our first "big" boat adventure. We were amazed at the size and the many activities to do. The ferry had a kids' fun center with slides, movies, computer games, arcade games, etc. The two hours flew by quickly. We then had a six hour drive to a little town in Twyford, England where we were to meet the Ingram family for the first time. Well, the kids and I were to meet them for the first time. When Cam's family were in England doing the same exchange program in the '80s they meet the Ingrams and a friendship was born. We arrived late on Christmas Eve to a "magical" home filled with all things little children love: rooms to explore, outdoors to venture, animals to love, snow to throw, food a plenty, and a welcome full of love and acceptance.
We stayed with the Ingram family for four short days. The kids got to do the animal chores, feeding the chickens, scooping up poop, driving to the muck pile in the back of the pick up truck, giving water and feed to the horse, and following Alison wherever she went. They played hide-n-seek, made new friends with the family, and opened presents. It was such a blessing. All the while I got a chance to rest from a dreadful cold which left me with little to no voice. We all have memories that will last a life time.
It truely was a magical English Christmas.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Freezing Temperatures

Today it got up to 26 degrees as the high. It has been 25 years since Northern Ireland has seen these low temperatures. It has extended our Christmas vacation because the kids had Friday, Monday, and Tuesday off as snow days. I doubt they will go to school on Wednesday which was their last day before Christmas break. Unfortunately, Cam had to work today. The kids and I spent the day Christmas baking and trying to stay warm. We kept a fire going in the front room most of the day. They tried to play outside in the snow but only lasted a couple minutes. Too cold!! Last night one of the villages here made a new low record with -18 degrees celsius. It is a great learning curve on our part to figure out the best way to heat the house. Thankfully, we had a plumber come out a couple days ago and balance the radiators and give us helpful advice.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Still More Snow

This was taken this morning at 7 AM. We received 4 inches over night and it has continued to snow adding 2 more inches so far throughout the day. Cam drove 45 minutes in the snow only to find out that school was canceled after he had pulled into the parking lot! So, it was another hour drive home. The kids were excited to have a snow day.

We are still battling the sick bugs! Avery was up most of the night coughing and Gabe said that his body did just the funniest thing last night. When I asked what that was at 6 AM this morning, he said that oh mom it was so funny it threw up. Ummm....So, it's been a challenging last couple of weeks battling sleepless nights, lots of clean-up, and tricky weather. We are still hoping to leave for England next Friday. Only God knows...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Nativity Play

The kids were a part of the Christmas Nativity play this past Sunday. Ian played the part of the angel Gabriel. Gabe was a shepherd and Avery was an angel. They each had a couple of lines and did well. Elise was so excited to see her siblings on stage that she shouted each of their names every time she saw them! Many commented afterwards how much Elise must have "enjoyed" the play. :-)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Narnia Here We Come!

On Saturday we went to Downpatrick where they turned the St. Patrick's Center into the world of Narnia. The kids were met by Mrs. Claus where she told them the short story of how Narnia came to be. The kids were to find Aslan who would take them to Santa to change Narnia from being cold and always winter and never Christmas into a world of Christmas.
Mrs. Claus took them first through the wardrobe to find Mr. Tumnus. Mr. Tumnus asked the children to sing songs to call to Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy so the children could help them find Santa.

Mr. Tumnas took them to Mrs. Beaver's dam where they wrote letters to Santa.
Mrs. Beaver took the children to see the ice queen in her ice palace. The ice queen gave each of the children real turkish delight. My kids had always wondered what it tasted like. They thought it very sticky and sweet.
Aslan was frozen from the ice queen's magic and thus the kids had to blow on Aslan to wake him up and then Aslan led them to Santa.

The kids loved talking with Santa and got their pictures taken and they each got a small present to take home. We also had cookies and juice. What more could you ask for. It was a great experience and well done.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Floral Art Demonstration

This weekend the ladies at the church where we have been attending put on a Christmas event. A man by the name of Alan Beatty came to demonstrate a Christmas theme through flowers. His theme Candle, Crib, and Carol centered on the true meaning of Christmas. The stage started as an empty slate and ended with a beautiful array of assorted arrangements. It was a magical evening watching simple, elegant flowers and plants come alive as they were put together in artistic ways that brought the meaning of Christmas to the forefront. This first arrangement has a base of a wicker crib and then arrayed on top was the star of Bethlehem and Joseph and Mary looking upon the crib.

Alan is assembling the first of the arrangements. While he arranges he often stops to tell the significance to a flower or plant. At times he would tell a story or let the music of carols play as he worked.

At the end of the show the pieces where auctioned off to the highest bidder and the money went to the Halls Redevelopment fund for the church.

This piece was one of my favorites. At the top of the stand is a holly ball. It is a circular oasis covered in smooth holly leaves with red stick pens inserted around the holly leaves to make it look like the berries. It was so simple and yet elegantly done.
The Three Magi

The two flower stands on the sides symbolized the "glitz" in Christmas and how sometimes we can lose our focus off of the true meaning of the celebration. The centerpiece was done to Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer playing in the background.

Thanks to Simon for taking these beautiful pictures for me to use.
The evening ended with a light "supper" which in Northern Ireland means tea, coffee, tea sandwiches, and goodies.

A great way to start our Christmas season.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


It's been in the low 30s during the day and 20s during the night for the last week. We still have snow and ice. Most of it is just ice which makes walking to school downright treacherous. It's been one of those weeks where I wish I could have skipped it altogether. Gabe has been keeping a tally of how many times he has fallen on the ice on the way to school. He is on number 7! I think I would do better with a pair of ice skates then "wellies". On Tuesday, we were half way to school when Avery got sick right on the bright white snow! So, I sent the boys on ahead and turned around to take Avery back home. She stayed in bed all day. The next day it was Ian's turn but he got sick at school. Thankfully, the principal gave us a ride home because I had no idea how I was going to carry a sick boy across the ice home. Gabe informed Mrs. McKenna on our way home that he was keeping a tally of how many times he fell down on the way to school and then as we got out of her car his feet slipped right out from underneath him. Mrs. McKenna said, "Well, Gabe another one for your track record!" So far Elise has only has come down with a bad cold and Gabe is well. Let's hope it stays that way.

Keeping our house warm has been a bit of a challenge. I have never been so cold. We have oil heat with radiators which we have set to come on periodically throughout the day. We keep the doors shut to all the rooms to retain some of the heat. We also have two fire places which we have been lighting during the evenings. I have never worn so many layers. The kids all have their long johns on constantly. The positive side to it is that I don't have to refrigerate drinks or butter and most things left out on the kitchen counter stay cool. It's also very nice to have a cozy fire with the smell of peat burning.