Free Range Christmas

All has been very quiet on the CaveMammy front for the last few weeks!  We’ve been keeping the home fires burning at the cave and getting out in the Irish winter for our Free Range Tuesdays but there’s been precious little time for writing up our adventures.  So just a little post to say hello before we say goodbye to 2012.

This week we had a special Christmas day out for Free Range Tuesday in Powerscourt House and Gardens in Enniskerry, about a half an hour’s drive south of Dublin.  There was a discounted family ticket going on a deals page a month or so ago and the website had the promise of some Christmas trimmings during the month of December so we nabbed it.  CaveDaddy is on hiatus from the hunt this month (otherwise known as Annual Leave) so he was able to come with us for the trip.

We knew this was going to be a relatively civilised day out so we didn’t go for full rain gear (mistake! ALWAYS go for full rain gear).  The boys just wore their wellies, the adults had hiking boots and CaveBaby and me were resplendent in our new (to us) Suse’s Kindercoat which is a lovely warm waterproof baby wearing jacket that allows babs to pop up through the back in back carry.  It also has an insert at the front that allows you to zip it up over a front carry passenger but still have a part of the coat closed across your chest and throat to keep you warm.  And there are mini hoods on the inserts for baby! So cute.

Peadar on back

It was very foggy in Dublin when we were leaving but by the time we got to Wicklow it had brightened up nicely and had turned into a nice crisp December day.  The stable area beside Powerscourt was set up well with a lovely wintery feel – the Christmas trees for sale were arranged like a little forest and there was a big fire pit in the middle with a heap of burning logs that the boys loved (see photo, complete with CaveDaddy doing jazz hands).

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There were “Christmas animals” in the stables.  Christmas animals, apparently, are deer, goats, guinea pigs and, em, rabbits. Eyebrow raise.  God bless CaveBoy, he does a good wow and gave each animal an oooh look at that mammy.  CaveCousin is street-smarter and was not so impressed.  So after more warming at the fire, we wandered over to the main house which was decorated really nicely with lights and trees and the like and we were only thrilled to meet the Powerscourt Santa walking through the hallway with an elf and a basket of reindeer food.  There was a Free Range detour when CaveMammy realised that Tara’s Palace, the beautiful dollshouse that used to live in Malahide Castle, had moved home to Powerscourt.  I persuaded the boys to come up and look at it with me, but sure of course a toy that you can’t play with is of no use to a four year old so they hit the attached playroom while I walked around the HUGE dollshouse, grinning like a loon at little versions of everything.  OK, I know dollshouses are not related to the caveman life in any way but I can’t resist posting a pic of the kitchen.  Just LOOK at it!

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And then CaveDaddy dragged me back out to the open air and lifesize objects.  The gardens are laid out at the back of the house and there is a spectacular view of the Sugarloaf mountain as you walk out.  The first section, the Italian Garden, is an immaculate sequence of terraced, manicured lawns, balustrades and stepped walkways, that stretches down to the lake.  The lads were having fun running up and down the steps but I was a bit concerned that they’d get bored here quickly if there was nothing but nicely cut grass.  But as it turned out, there was loads more to do.  Down by the lake, they spotted some steps and found the boat house hidden underneath (boathouse, batcave, take your pick).  Bit of heart pounding for the two adults as they went around and around the narrow ledge, scarily close to the very murky, reedy looking lake and the signs saying caution, deep water.  Deep breaths.  Count to ten.  Consider the “hidden risk”, the risk of the child NOT doing this thing that scares the life out of you, the risk that they don’t get the experience, the thrill, the sense of adventure.

OK and that’s enough thrill!  Adventure over, now get back up on that path where I know you’re not going to risk life and limb for at least another five minutes.

Powerscourt give out a nice little hand drawn map of the gardens at the ticket desk so I kneeled down with the boys then and got them to do some map reading and figure out which way to go for the Japanese Garden.

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And it was great there for playing!  Steps, raised paths, mossy nooks, streams and bridges – loads of chasing and hiding and upping and downing.  Poor CaveBaby, he was getting impatient in the sling as he’s at that awkward stage where he can’t walk around and explore but wants to be down in the action nonetheless.  So there was much jigging and singing to keep him happy.

Japanese Garden

The next exciting looking thing on the map was Tower Valley and the Pepperpot Tower.  The boys navigated us again and we got a very impressive glimpse of the tower through the trees on the way there.  We wondered if we would be able to go inside (CaveMammy managing expectations in case if was some kind of blocked up unsafe structure).  We discussed the possibilities as we circled up the path that approached it,

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got excited when we found an open doorway through the ramparts,

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and were thoroughly thrilled when we made out way to the roof!

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Great fun, the boys were happily exhausted running up and down the stairs and CaveBaby was placated somewhat by the views from the roof.  CaveBoy had to be roared at once or twice to get down off those fecking railings at the top before he either killed himself or gave me a premature death through heart failure but calm was restored very quickly after each outburst.

After that it was time to mosey back to the big house.  There was splashing in puddles on the way back (from whence the new rule, always wear full rain gear) and then we came over all modern and went into the Avoca cafe there for a coffee and cake in the tea room.  It has a beautiful view of the Sugarloaf.  CaveCousin was disappointed by the pain au chocolat with sugar dusting that just didn’t live up to his expecations but CaveBaby was happy to hoover it up for him , along with CaveBoy’s plateful of scone crumbs.  Bellies full, we made one last visit to the fire and the Christmas rabbits and then it was time to head for home in the greying light of an Irish winter’s afternoon.

Merry Christmas to all, from our cave to yours! xx CaveMammy

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