Friday, 31 January 2014

A Little Garden Update on a Rainy Afternoon

All of the girls' toys, games and art & craft supplies have been packed away and dust-sheeted up as the extension has been broken through to join onto the existing house now (this equates to a whole lot of dust and rubble!). We have been setting up camp in the imaginatively named 'TV room', which is a small room downstairs where we have our TV that is unaffected by the building work (apart from the fact that it has been crammed full with displaced stuff from the rest of the house).

My lifeline has been the TV. We have been watching far too many DVDs than is healthy, trying to keep the girls out of the way from the building work going on in the house - I've watched Cinderella, Anastasia, Tangled and Swan Lake (just terrible) enough to last me a lifetime. Poppet has rather enjoyed this lifestyle and I think I will have to wean her off DVD's slowly!

We get out most days for some fresh air and to stretch our legs as the girls have dancing classes and toddler groups on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and on our days off we go to the library, the shops or the park. I don't drive so we walk everywhere (well me and Poppet do, Little goes in her pushchair). 

Today we hadn't been outside at all; we had to stay in in the morning to help Uncle Mike while he got the heating in the extension up and running (house is now all toasty thank you Uncle Mike). In the afternoon, Little was napping and Poppet was requesting yet another DVD. Our garden has been out of bounds for a while because of the building work but I decided to take Poppet out to explore all the changes. It was windy and raining but Poppet has been given a lovely new cosy waterproof all-in-one from Grandma, just perfect for our wet and wild weather!

We managed to make our way to the back garden after navigating around the scaffolding; Poppet was most disturbed by the 'broken' steps and general mess - "we better go inside mum". But we persevered!

We hadn't seen the back of the house since the brickwork and roof went up on the extension - it looked so big! 

Pea seedlings have survived the winter

We checked on our little winter veg plot - and were very excited to see a row of little pea seedlings just poking up through the soil. Our garlic has all grown too, I'm  really looking forward to our garlic harvest in the summer and seeing if it tastes any better than shop bought.

Our garlic is getting big!

Poppet checked her 3 purple broccoli plants, (except she called them pink broccolis until I reminded her they were going to be purple) - she declared them to be 'not ready yet', and was also disappointed to find no strawberries on her plants. After our short but fresh trip outdoors we felt a lot better.

Poppet: 3 yrs
Little 16mos (as ever, napping - I promise to do a Little post shortly!)

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Crayon Resist Thank You Cards

January is a busy month for thank you cards here, with Christmas and then very shortly thereafter Poppet's birthday. In the past we have made cards out of doodles the girls have made, hand prints, foot prints, even bum prints! This year I decided to make some crayon resist art with Poppet and turn it into cards. It was really simple and she loved making them (It was also good for helping her recognise the number 3!).

I made lots of cards from cream card and with a white crayon drew number 3s, letters, and a few hearts to mix things up a bit. They have shown up a bit on the above picture because of the flash on the camera but you couldn't actually see the crayon at all so as far as Poppet was aware these were blank cards.

I gave her the pile of cards, a little palette of watercolour paints and a bowl of water (the bowl of water had to be changed often because it kept getting 'dirty').

Poppet painted the first card, and as before her very eyes a number 3 appeared, she was very excited and proud of herself! As each card revealed something she would call me through to look at it "look mum I did another three!' or "I did an S for dandad!" (Dandad is called Stephen so she is not entirely wrong!). Eventually when she saw the image come through the paint she would try very hard to colour it in with the paintbrush- sometimes her vigorous painting efforts would win over the repelling effects of the crayon!

She sat at the desk painting every card, and there were quite a few as we have big families! Sometimes I have to cajole her to continue when making cards but not this time. Crayon resist added a little bit of magic to her painting and was a bit hit!

Poppet: 3yrs
Little: 16 mos

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Cinderella Spotting at Storybook Glen

Castle spotting!

As Poppet is so in love with all things of a Royal nature at the present moment ( castles, Princesses, crowns, etc.. ) we thought the ideal day trip out for her birthday would be to visit Storybook Glen in Aberdeenshire. It is a large 28 acre park filled with characters and buildings from nursery rhymes and fairytales. Most importantly for us, it has a few castles and Princesses, including Poppet's favourite, Cinderella!

Approaching Sleeping Beauty's Castle

This is a place I used to visit as a child and have fond memories of, so I was apprehensive before going as I thought this might be another one of those times where my rosy childhood memories clash with a less-rosy reality when revisited as an adult (I'm looking at you Flamingo Land). I need not have worried. Storybook Glen was still great for an outdoor adventure.

On a very cold January morning, the park was deserted so we had the place to ourselves. Poppet tried to throw money into the wishing well but it was frozen solid so her coin just bounced over the surface!

Poppet meeting her idol

The highlight for Poppet was when she caught sight of Cinderella and her carriage, although she approached cautiously, asking 'Where's the mother?" as she was worried Cinderella's evil stepmother might jump out on her. Once reassured the stepmother wasn't there she couldn't wait to climb onboard the pumpkin carriage. She similarly did not want to go near the 'Old woman who lived in a shoe' because 'she smacks bums' & started crying when we walked past the 'Wicked Witch of the West'. She's a delicate soul!

Although Poppet may look serious and nonplussed at the experience, I can assure you this was the greatest moment in her life thus far

We had brought hot chocolate in a flask along with scooshy cream and mini marshmallows and she was delighted to be sitting in the carriage with her favourite hot drink while poor Dada, Nana and Little shivered outside waiting for her to finish ( I had forgotton to bring more than one cup!).

Afterwards, she happily posed for a picture with Cinderella.

We managed to squeeze in a few more fairytales before a cold and hungry Little decided it was time to go home. Sleeping Beauty's castle looked very lovely....


And Poppet was most concerned for her welfare...


Poppet: 3 yrs!
Little: 15 mos

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Thursday, 23 January 2014

BritMums Book Club: My Animals and Other Family by Clare Balding

There are not many things I miss about my pre-baby life but if I had to pick something, it would be the time to get lost in a book. I used to read lots but the last few years a lot less so, and I miss it. I'm going to try and make reading a part of my routine again though and a book a week seems a fairly realistic goal ( if Finchy can manage it surely so can I?!)

Having no real special interest in horses, or Clare Balding, or sport in general really, Clare Balding's autobiography is not a book that I would normally choose for myself. However from the high accolades on the cover it did look promising. Last week I wasn't well so had a sofa day and took the opportunity to pick it up and have a read. Well I was hooked from the very start and ending up reading it cover to cover in a day while the girls had a Disney movie watching marathon. I loved it. I never quite got 'horsey' people before, but this book has certainly opened up my eyes to see horses in a new light. I learnt a lot too, about jockeys, and the Grand National, about why we measure horses in hands, about furlongs, about the upper classes, about the Queen (she takes her tea black) - it was a peek into a world I know very little about and had me captivated the whole way through. 

Clare's honest description of her seemingly privileged and idyllic childhood had me in tears at points and her relationship with each of her animals was heartfelt . She is a brilliant natural storyteller and there are some very funny anecdotes in the book as well as some good life lessons.

I'll definitely be paying more attention to Clare when I spot her on the telly now, she came across very warm and funny in her book and I would recommend it to anyone. 

Disclaimer: I was sent my copy of the book for free, all opinions are my own

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Castle Cake Fit For A Princess

It was Poppet's THIRD birthday recently (where has the time gone?!) and she requested a castle cake for the occasion. Thankfully, there was a castle cake in my mum's old Children's Birthday Cake Book from the Australian Women's Weekly that I used as a basis for this cake, with a few changes.

To make this cake you will need:
  • A square and loaf chocolate cake
  • Butter icing
  • 4 ice cream cones
  • Sweets to decorate
  • Pink wafer biscuits
  • Cocktail sticks

I used a chocolate fudge cake recipe from Lindy's Cakes and it was (without sounding too immodest) the best homemade chocolate cake I have ever tasted. Very moist and almost brownie-like but not too heavy and perfect for carving up. It surpassed even the Ultimate Chocolate Cake from BBC Good Food that I have used in the past.

I doubled the quantities given in the recipe so I was making an 8 egg cake mixture, which would not fit into any of my mixing bowls so I had to improvise with a toy tub. I divided it (not equally) between a high-sided 20cm square tin and a standard 2lb loaf tin and baked it at fan 140 for nearly 2 hours. This made a really high square cake which was perfect for our castle.

Once cooled, and with help from my dad as shapes and estimations are not my strong suit, we carved up 4 rectangular 'turrets' from the loaf cake. There was plenty left over for us to taste test which is always a good thing. We used some of the scraps to create a pathway and drawbridge to the castle. We shaved a bit of the domed top off of the square cake and then flipped it over to give a flat surface to fix the turrets onto and sellotaped tinfoil to a big wooden cutting board to use as a cake board.

I made a big batch (or what I thought was a big batch) of butter icing by beating together a whole block of unsalted butter with double the weight of icing sugar and a few drops of food colouring. This still wasn't enough as we ran out before we could ice the turrets but they still looked good left bare. We used the icing to 'glue' everything together and then coat the entire cake (minus the cones). I forgot the rule of chilling the cakes in the fridge before doing this so it crumbed quite a lot during icing, but it looked fine once covered in sweeties!

The fun part was the sweetie decorations! I bought smarties, jellytots, liquorice allsorts, fruit pastilles, mini-marshmallows and pink wafer biscuits. Two pink wafer biscuits became doors to the castle with jelly tot handles. Mini-marshmallows lined the pathway. Smarties and jellytots lined all the edges and the pastilles and allsorts became windows. I used a couple of cocktail sticks to make a drawbridge and the rest to make some flags for the tops of the turrets.

I added Poppet's little Cinderella figure to the cake board and raided the toy box for anything else to add - I found a goose and a plant so we ended up with a goose happily roaming around the castle's gardens too.

The cake was brought out after Poppet's requested birthday tea of sausages, crisps, milkshake and pizza. She had also asked for hot chocolate (which we had earlier in the day inside Cinderella's carriage!) and jelly (which I forgot to make). I think she liked her castle cake!

Poppet: 3yrs!
Little: 15 mos

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Aunty Anna's Toilet Tube Nativity Scene

Going to squeeze this final Christmassy post in as Aunty Anna & Poppet's amazing Nativity scene couldn't go unmentioned!

I was glad to finally have a use for our large collection of empty toilet tubes! Aunty Anna cleverly rounded and then stapled the tops of the tubes to create the nativity characters. A cream circle was then stuck on for a face to which Poppet added details such as hair and facial features, using her Usborne touchy-feely Nativity book for guidance.

Drawing on Mary's hair

The craft box was then raided to clothe all the main figures, with outfits made from paper, felt, fabric, elastic bands, ribbons, paper doillies, lollipop sticks, goggly eyes and glitter. They did this over two days and Poppet had a lot of fun making them.

Very intensely showing off a shepherd, clothed with felt, ribbon and an elastic band.

Inside the stable

Aunty Anna brought with her a cardboard box that she had turned into a stable for her classroom. Little promptly crawled inside it and surprisingly fitted! One of our walnut babies from the Christmas tree became baby Jesus. We added animals from our toy animal collection (queue much debate as to whether there should be pigs in there or not). I strung a little set of battery operated fairy lights inside the stable, and we put a star Christmas tree decoration on the top. Aunty Anna made a little manger from a toilet roll tube.

The Magi, with lollipop stick arms

Poppet clutching Mary, a Magi & Joseph

Playing with the Nativity scene

Poppet loved playing with it; she would get Mary to ride the donkey, sing lullabies and carols to baby Jesus (or sometimes the walnut baby was named after her new baby cousin), and fly the angel around. When she asked us what noise a donkey makes, we said 'heeee-hawww!', and when she asked us what noise Mary makes, we said 'I'm having a baby!' So her nativity play was punctuated with 'heee-hawww' & 'I'm having a baby!'. It was very cute! 

Poppet's favourite, the Angel, with paper doily wings.

We have packed it all away to bring out next Christmas, and hopefully many Christmases to come! Thank you Aunty Anna!

Poppet: 3 yrs
Little : 1 yr 3mos