Oh what a year 2016 was. I had such big plans for us all, and then we received the letter containing the news that Danny's next heart surgery in Birmingham was booked for his 13th birthday in April. This overwhelmed me and all our plans spiralled out of control. I really hope that by mentioning these things I don't sound like I'm moaning, I know others have had a far worse time and our outcome was good. We were really lucky and the surgery went well and we got to once more take our amazing boy home from Birmingham, his heart will never be fixed but it is patched up once more for him to continue enjoying his life. Family really helped us through this time having kids to stay, doing the school runs and also coming to stay with us in Birmingham. We are so grateful to have this support.
Once home we tried to get back in the "normal routine" but it was never the same as before as time moves on. Danny hasn't found the extra energy or time to go back to his clubs (perhaps partly due to hitting his teens as well as recovering heart wise?).
We found a new rhythm and then Rebecca was rushed to hospital (this time in Swansea) needing an emergency operation. It was strange seeing "the heart sibling" turn into a patient, everything was familiar and yet also new to her. She didn't complain once as she'd seen Danny go through it all before. Again, Rebecca recovered and we once more returned home.
Looking back at our posts in 2016, I'm happy to say that we still managed to fit in lots of fun and adventure. We've had short breaks at Drayton Manor, Dorset, Llety Cynin, Bluestone, Clydey Cottages and Cardiff, London and Camden. We've also had lots of amazing days out in Pembrokeshire from Barafundle Bay to Broad Haven. We even went on a coastal cruise which I need to blog about.
Unfortunately, there were quite a few broken bones in 2016, starting with Uncle Keith, then Caitlyn broke her arm and poor (Great) Granny joined in and broke her hip (why does it always come in threes?). They were all very brave and have recovered well. Even Great Granny is already on her feet and getting about- she is an amazing woman!
We've been to lots of gigs and theatre shows and even a premiere in London.
The best thing this year has definitely been family. We have not had to ask for any help this year as before it was needed, it was offered. Family have taken time off work and changed all their plans to help look after our kids during these hospital stays. Our kids feel as at home at Nanny's, Granny and Grampy's, Jo's, Ceri and Lexy's and Great Granny and Grampy's as they do in their own family home, and that's thanks to these big, kind, generous hearts inviting them in- thank you to you wonderful people!
So, here's what we got up to this year in blog posts:
Food: Vegan Bacon, Cabbage and Cannellini Bean Soup Recipe
I have been vegetarian for 25 years. I have always felt uncomfortable about the dairy industry but thought it would be impossible to give up all those products. I decided to do Veganuary for one month and fully expected to live on vegetables, nuts and beans for a month. I was pleasantly surprised to find so many alternatives making vegan life a lot easier, so I was converted for life!
This was the first vegan recipe I shared, although you will find more in our food section and lots more vegan recipes and advice about where to eat out when vegan in 2017.
Travel: Llys Y Fran Country Park
We enjoyed a day out in Llys Y Fran Country Park. For more ideas of places to visit in Pembrokeshire click the Pembrokeshire tab.
Craft: A No Sew Heart Lavender Sachet
We made a heart lavender sachet ready for Valentine's day. For more makes see our Craft section.
Days Out: A Winter's Walk in Withybush Woods
We blogged about our day out at Withybush Woods, Pembrokeshire. We also visited Broad Haven Beach.
Photography: Siblings at Scolton Manor
We enjoyed a fun day at Scolton Manor and took our February siblings photographs. I made the conscious decision later on that year to leave the linky and put my time where it was needed but I still aim to take photos of the siblings together, they are just interwoven into our travel, adventure and life posts.
Food: Fairtrade Vegan Chocolate and Banana Cake recipe
I made this delicious vegan chocolate and banana cake. I want to make it again now! I also want to make a vegan chocolate layered gateaux- watch this space!
Travel: Drayton Manor, Tamworth
We had a really fun weekend away and visited Drayton Manor (our first visit there).
Life: Some News
The letter I'd been dreading for years arrived and we were given news about Danny's surgery that overwhelmed me. This changed the entire rhythm of the remaining year.
Photography: Siblings at Haverfordwest Castle
These siblings photos in March were especially poignant as we were preparing for the following month when we knew the kids would be apart for a while. We love castles and plan to visit more in 2017.
Craft: A Paper Castle
Talking of castles, we also made a craft paper castle.
Days Out: Those Perfect Spring Evenings
We enjoyed a perfect family evening at Broad Haven beach. Oh I long for light nights and the warm sea once more.
Life: An Early Danny's Birthday Celebration
As Danny's heart surgery was planned for his 13th birthday, we celebrated early with a family meal at Martha's Vineyard. It was a lovely night with a wonderful family.
Heart: Little Hearts Matter Conference, Birmingham
Before the operation date was decided we had already planned to be in Birmingham that weekend for the Little Hearts Matter conference. It was a difficult time as our two youngest stayed home but I'm so grateful for Mum and Jo looking after them.
Heart: Danny's Stent Enlargement
In the end, Danny's stent enlargement operation took place the day after his 13th birthday. This was such a tough time of the year. He was so brave and I am so grateful that all went well. We are so lucky. We were also thankful that Ceri (and Lexy) came to stay in Birmingham too which was a great help- thank you! Rebecca was a star and a great support to us all too.
Life: The Recovery and Coming Home from Hospital
The best part of April 2016, was my boy, Danny recovering and being discharged from hospital. We got to take him home and the rest of our family got to see Danny return home as a thirteen year old. Looking back at these photos, he has changed and grown up so much since then. He has been through such a lot I really hope 2017 is a fun, easy year for him.
Food: Vegan Foraged Three Corner Wild Garlic Leek Pasta Recipe
It was spring so we found ourselves foraging on our walks and making delicious food, such as this wild garlic pasta, with our foraged finds.
Days Out: Beautiful Barafundle Bay
We enjoyed a much needed carefree family fun day at Barafundle Beach. It was lovely to see Danny have fun but there was a lot of walking so Izzy took care of him making sure he had rest on the way. I love seeing how caring Danny's sisters are with him.
Adventure: After School Adventure's at Conduit Bay
Determined to enjoy more time with the kids, I began to think of outdoor tea ideas so we could make the most of our adventures. Here we had hot dogs on the beach.
Adventure: Camping in the Garden
June saw us continue our outdoor after school adventures. One of our favourite things to do was camp in the garden. I can't wait to do more camping in 2017.
Days Out: Castle Pill Woods, Pembrokeshire
A beautiful day, walking Toby, through the bluebells in Castle Pill Woods.
Travel: Camden Lock, Camden
This was such an amazing weekend, just Dave and I, and friends, exploring Camden during one of our favourite festivals, Camden Rocks.
Live Music: Camden Rocks Festival
More about the bands and lineup.
Blogging: Brit Mums Live
I then went back to Camden a few weeks later for Brit Mums Live, my first time being invited to represent a brand.
Adventure: Nature Bingo at Withybush Woods
We returned to Withybush Woods and enjoyed a game of Nature Bingo. Sadly the swans were harmed a few months later but this makes me grateful that we took the photos and appreciated them at the time.
In July, poor Rebecca was in hospital having an emergency operation. I never though 2016 would see us having to watch two of the kids be put under a general anaesthetic. Again, thankfully all was OK (I never finished this post for some reason!).
Live Theatre: The Hunting of the Snark at the Sherman Theatre
We reviewed lots of films, gig and shows in 2016, one of these was The Hunting of the Snark at the Sherman Theatre.
Life: Finding Our Balance Again
After a difficult year, I talked about finding our balance again.
Travel: A Weekend Stay at Bluestone Wales
We had a much needed family weekend at Bluestone Wales.
Film: Ice Age Collision Course Review
We reviewed Ice Age Collision Course, We also tried the Pizza Express Ice Age Menu and attended the Finding Dory Premiere with Ellen DeGeneres.
Art: Quentin Blake: Inside Stories
We really enjoyed this exhibition of Quentin Blake: Inside Stories.
Style and Adventure: A Woodland Walk
We enjoyed a lovely woodland walk and Isabelle modelled the new Jojo Maman Bebe range.
Style: Back to School
The girls modelled the new Joules back to school range- these coats are amazing!
Danny went on a break with Little Hearts Matter and we had a caravan break in Dorset. I still have to write that travel post but it was a great week of amazing beaches and fossil hunting!
Live Theatre: Scooby Doo Live at the Palladium
We had a great time reviewing Scooby Doo Live at the Palladium. We had lots of emails after from families who went to see the show, based on our review and really enjoyed it. These mean such a lot to us please continue to write in and tell us if you enjoy something we suggest.
Travel: Marloes Sands, Pembrokeshire
A wonderful time at Marloes Sands.
Life: The Back to School Hues
My thoughts as the kids returned back to school.
Art: Yarn Bombing
A look at the Memorial Gardens, Milford Haven, after being yarn bombed by Haverfordwest Yarn Bombers to mark the Roald Dahl birthday celebrations.
Adventure: The Roald Dahl Treasure Hunt and other Birthday Activities
A look at some of our favourite activities to celebrate Roald Dahl's birthday- we actually went on to jointly win this treasure hunt!
Travel: Visiting the Royal Mint Experience, Llantrisant
I've always wanted to visit the Royal Mint so we were so pleased to be invited to the Royal Mint Experience- a great day out!
Life: Caitlyn Turns 8
Caitlyn's 8th birthday post (I still need to write up Rebecca's 10th birthday and Izzy's 5th!).
Travel: Longleat Safari Park
Our family time at Longleat Safari Park.
Days Out: A Good Day at Goodwick
A lovely day at Goodwick, Pembrokeshire.
Life: September School runs: Enjoying Autumn
Sharing the everyday school runs as one day these will be a distant memory.
Live Theatre: The Woman in Black
Our review of the renowned play, The Woman in Black at the Torch Theatre.
Festivals: The Absolutely Fabulous Vegan Festival
A write up of this amazing Vegan Fayre, which I'm looking forward to revisiting in 2017.
Life: How to Survive a Broken Arm
So, the third Evans-Critten to need hospital treatment was Caitlyn with her broken arm. Here's how "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books helped! Isabelle is wrapped in cotton wool! ;-)
Life/Food: Pumpkin Picking and Pumpkin Pie
We went Pumpkin Picking and made vegan Pumpkin Pie. We must go to Brooksgrove Farm to pick strawberries in time this year.
Life/Food: A Family Halloween Party
A look at our family Halloween and simple Halloween biscuits.
In October, Rebecca turned 10! I need to write this post and also Ceri's 30th!
Food: Vegan Bonfire Night Cookies
A recipe to make vegan Bonfire Night Firework Cookies.
Craft: How to Make Firework Crayon Resist Paintings
We made firework crayon resist paintings for Bonfire Night.
Life: Bonfire Night 2016
A look at how we celebrate Bonfire Night in the UK. I received quite a few emails about this post from people around the World asking for more information about why we celebrate Bonfire Night in the UK so I think it's interesting blogging these UK customs for others to learn about.
Travel: A Weekend Stay at Llety Cynin
A look at our Roald Dahl inspired Afternoon tea and weekend stay at Llety Cynin to celebrate mum's 65th birthday- it was amazing and we're hoping to book for the Harry Potter tea in 2016 too!
We also stayed in Clydey Cottages in November and will put up our post soon. It was the most relaxing break we've had all year.
Life: The Lantern Parade
The beginning of advent and the Lantern Parade.
Food: Butternut Squash and Leek Nut Roast
I was challenged to make a meal using every part of the vegetable, from root to leaf. You can see how I got on in this post.
Live Theatre: The Emperor's New Clothes, The Sherman Cymru
Isabelle and I reviewed the wonderful Emperor's New Clothes at the Sherman Theatre, we also went to see The Borrowers.
Live Theatre: Sleeping Beauty at the Torch Theatre
Caitlyn and I reviewed this year's pantomime, Sleeping Beauty, at the Torch Theatre.
Live Theatre: Mary Poppins at Wales Millennium Centre
Rebecca and I reviewed our favourite musical of the year, Mary Poppins at Wales Millennium Centre.
Life: Snapshots of Our Christmas Tree
We shared some snapshots of our Christmas Tree.
Life: Izzy's Birthday
Izzy turned 5! We had a lovely time at Gwili Railway but the post is still in draft (oh the posts that I could have wrote in 2016 if there was more time).
Life: Christmas 2016
We celebrated Christmas. After the year we've had it was such a relief that everyone was in good health and home for Christmas. I'm feeling so grateful for this and hope this continues in the New Year.
That is just a small selection of posts about our lives in 2016. I hope you enjoyed them and I'm looking forward to blogging more about our lives in 2017 with added recipes, eating out, theatre and live gig reviews, travel, crafts (both for kids and adults), more adventure, days out and useful information for when you visit Pembrokeshire.
Thank you for reading and supporting our blog in 2016, your tweets, comments, messages and emails mean a lot to us all. I hope you have everything you wish for in 2017 but most importantly good health, happiness and well being!