Sunday, 31 March 2013

Why I hate public transport

This is why.

Because it would take me 95 minutes to take my children to a farm that is located less than 15 miles away.

That is the quickest option!

And it does not account for the fact that one of us who would have to make the 28 minute walk, after the train and two bus rides, is a little-legged four year old.

So we are probably looking at way over 100 minutes, realistically.

As opposed to 24 minutes in the car I do not own and cannot drive.

Or £30 by taxi.  Each way.

How are these public conveniences?

It is anything but convenient to spend in excess of three hours (or a LOT of money) to take your two small children (and their related paraphernalia) a few miles down the road to stroke a chick.

This is why I hate public transport.

Down by the sea

Down by the sea, what will we see?

Quite a lot, as it happens.

Chocolate Easter nests

This morning, we made took inspiration from Jennie at Edspire and made these yummy chocolate Easter nests.

We started with the Mars bars - the children had three each to cut into small chunks.

Sonny struggled at first, but did well with some help from his aunty.

Jasmine also asked for some assistance as she found the bars quite tough to cut into.

The children tipped their Mars bar chunks into a central bowl and then Sonny added two tablespoons of golden syrup whilst Jasmine weighed the butter (50g).

The butter was then added to the bowl.
Next, I melted the chocolate mixture over a pan of simmering water whilst Jasmine weighed the cornflakes (200g).

The children divided the cornflakes fairly evenly between two mixing bowls and, once smooth, we added the chocolate mixture and combined the two.

We found that the mixture was too dry and sticky at this stage, so we added one large Cadbury Easter egg, which was melted with a tablespoon of vegetable oil.
This allowed the children to stir the mixture far more easily and they then spooned it into cake cases before finally decorating with mini (and micro!) eggs.

We had lots of fun with this recipe and Jasmine and Sonny were happy to be able to do so much of it by themselves.  The only part that they weren't involved in was the melting of the chocolate, but they were busy weighing and measuring during this stage, so did not feel left out.

A lovely activity to start Easter Sunday with!


The Easter bunny has been.

The children have been very fortunate.

We have asked for them not to have too much chocolate and people have obliged.
Jasmine has her first Barbie doll, a read-alone book and a fabulous craft kit.  She also had a crib for her doll, which she received when it arrived in the post.  She was given the choice of waiting until Easter but chose to have it early.  I hope she remembers that when she sees that she has less than Sonny!

Sonny has lots of Thomas things!  He will be so excited by his new wooden engines, more than anything.  I cannot wait to see his face.

Tomorrow, we will be hunting small eggs in the lounge, making simple Easter nest cakes and getting messy with compost in our giant play tray whilst planting a number of seeds.  I shall be cooking a roast for the three of us plus my two visiting sisters, then we will all be going for a nice long walk.

But, for now, it is bedtime.
The clocks have sprung forward!

Wallace and Gromit's Musical Marvels

Jasmine and I took a couple of friends to see Wallace and Gromit's Musical Marvels at the Brighton Dome this evening.  The tickets were free - I snapped them up from the most recent See Film First promotion - and I must admit, I hadn't heard anything about the show.

Jasmine is a big fan of Wallace and Gromit though and was so very excited to be seeing them.

I had assumed, wrongly, that the show was an actual musical.

We were expecting puppets and dance routines and live action.

(I should have done my research!)

Upon entering the room at the Dome and being confronted with an orchestra and a screen, I hoped that Jasmine would not be disappointed, but had a horrible feeling that she may well be.

"When will Wallace and Gromit be coming on stage?" she kept asking, excitedly.

My fears were, however, completely unfounded.

Jasmine was mesmerised by the music of the Aurora orchestra; enthralled.  Scared by the volume of the drum beats, but otherwise captivated.

The video clips of Wallace and Gromit only added to her appreciation of the show.

She truly loved it.

She laughed and she clapped and she pretended to conduct her own imaginary orchestra.

I think we all developed a little bit of a crush on the effortlessly charming Nicholas Collon!

Following a brief interval, we were treated to A Matter of Loaf and Death which, as Jasmine is a fan and owns the DVD, I have seen before.  However, I have not seen it on a large screen, backed by a magnificent orchestra!

It was a lovely experience and made for an interesting evening's entertainment.  The perfect introduction to orchestral music for young ears - Jasmine thoroughly enjoyed the show.

As we were leaving, she declared that she would like to grow up to be a conductor and then commented that she hoped said conductor "and his gang" would be tidying up all the mess left behind by other members of the audience.  A part of me likes to think that this is exactly what happened once the room was empty...

Friday, 29 March 2013

Indoor active play

Preschool children need at least three hours of physical activity every day.

We know this - we can see the benefits.  They need to release energy and they need time to learn and perfect gross motor skills such as jumping; these are just two of the benefits.

They usually sleep better!

However, when it is as cold/snowy/wet as it has been these past few weeks, it isn't always easy to get them out and about for that long every day.

Additionally, soft play centres, bowling, and other indoor activites can be fun but are often busy and can be very expensive when you factor in drink, and more than one child

My children are quite happy to don puddle/snow suits and wellies and jump in puddles or build snowmen or just run around outside.

But not for three hours.

The temperature has a big impact on their ability to stay outdoors for long periods. 

After 30 minutes or so, they are usually ready for a pit stop.

Then what?

It is at times like this that I really miss my garden!

It is so much easier to usher them outside when you have your own space.  They can come and go as they please whilst you look on from the warmth of the house.

Alas, we do not have a garden at present.

Nor do we have a particularly large living space.  Not big enough for the children to use their bikes and scooters effectively, though they have tried!

However, we have found some fun ways of incorporating active play into our indoor play sessions.

One of Jasmine and Sonny's favourites is bouncing.

I simply bring out an old camping mattress and they jump around on it.

It burns off a lot of energy!

They often use it for practising forward rolls, as well.

Jasmine has always liked to perform gymnastic shows for us!

Another fun thing to do is dancing.

Whether it be to kiddy action songs or the local radio station, dancing is something we can all do together.  Simple, free, active fun.

Jasmine and Sonny also like to play hide and seek together.  With limited inside space, this game doesn't usually last for long, however.

Indoor skittles is a good use of the hall space.  Plastic sets can be bought cheaply, or you could make your own using kitchen roll inner tubes and knock them down with balled socks.

Other things we enjoy include rolling, throwing, catching and balancing using small soft balls and beanbags, washing the floors (amazing how much fun the kids think this is!), constructing small circuits or assault courses, popping bubbles, crawling through homemade cardboard box tunnels and skipping.

How do you encourage active play indoors when the weather is horrid?  Have we missed anything?

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Lavender bubbly water

Sonny's joie de vivre has been dampened slightly today.  He is struggling with a stuffy nose and chesty cough, poor mite, and not been up to playing properly all day. 

With him in mind, 45 minutes before bath time, I got out the play tray and filled it with warm water and lavender shampoo, then invited the children to wash Sonny's trains.

At first fully clothed, they were tentative...

But the clothes didn't last for long! 

And then the fun really began!

The bridge became a "car wash for trains", the perimeter of the tray became an excellent track. 

There were races and bumps and lots of talk between the engines about coupling and falling into the muddy marshes and crashing into the bushes. 

There was singing!  Lots of singing. 

"Ring a ring a posies!" sang Sonny.

Jasmine taught him how to sing Hey Diddle Diddle and Baa Baa Black Sheep.

She also organised some engines into size order before counting them, with Sonny's help.

We had lots of lovely, calm, lavender-scented water play before bath and bedtime. 

Jasmine and Sonny went to sleep as soon as they got to bed!

I don't think I will be too far behind them tonight.

Dear Daddy

Dear Daddy

We miss you when you are not here.

We do not understand that it is not for long, we only understand that you are not here today.

There are games we save for you and cuddles that are just for you.

There are things we make for you; there is so much that we would love to share with you today.

At bedtime, we miss you most.  We do not like to settle without kisses from you and the stories that you tell so well.  It is not the same to hear them from Mummy.  She tries, but cannot do all the voices.

We miss your strong arms, Daddy.  We miss the bundles and snuggles and how you will do anything for us, even when you probably shouldn't.  Mummy knows how much it hurts you, but still you do the things that make us chuckle and beam.

We are sorry for the times our behaviour tests you, Daddy.

We promise that we will try harder to listen!

We miss you, Daddy.

Mummy misses you too.

She is very sad without you.

She misses your hugs and how you are always there with the right words at the right time.

She is very cold at night.

We are all so thankful for everything you do for us, Daddy.

We love you, round the world a million times.

See you soon, Daddy!

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Fabulous five-minute white chocolate rocky road fudge stars

Yes, the title of this blog-post is a mouthful, and so is the content.

As part of Center Parcs' quest to find a new family blogger, they have challenged hopeful participants to get creative in the kitchen and come up with a sweet treat with a twist.

I couldn't resist the opportunity to have a play with some of my favourite fudge!

For a couple of years now, I have been making this Fabulous five-minute fudge. 

It really is so very simple to make and it tastes wonderful - rich and gooey and chocolatey.

I have made it for Christmas gifts and for party favours and for the children.

It always gets me huge compliments, which is never a bad thing for five minutes' work!

This time, however, I made it with a few twists.

I substituted milk chocolate for white and replaced the chopped walnuts with mini marshmallows, rice crispies, milk chocolate drops (Jasmine's idea) and crushed pecans. 

Finally, instead of the traditional presentation, I used cookie cutters to transform the fudge into little stars.

To make my fabulous five-minute white chocolate rocky road fudge stars (I really should think of a better name!), you will need the following:-

2 cups white chocolate
2/3 cup condensed milk
1 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 cup mini marshmallows
1/2 cup milk chocolate drops
1/3 cup crushed pecans
1/4 cup milk chocolate drops

Simply add the chocolate, condensed milk and water to a microwave-proof bowl and heat on full power for one minute. 

Stir, then add the remaining ingredients. 

Finally, pour the mixture into a lined baking tray and chill for 30 minutes before cutting out the star shapes.

It really is that easy!

The mixture made 10 stars - we then rolled out the remainder and cut it into chunks.  Jasmine commented how much the fudge looked like "ones we see in the shops"; this is due to the milk chocolate chips slightly colouring the white.  However, it very much still tastes of white chocolate.

We had fun making these; we hope that you do too.

Vegetable muffins and Tulleys Farm

This morning, I made carrot and courgette muffins, in a vain attempt to encourage Sonny to eat more some vegetables. Of course, I didn't tell him what was in them. I hoped that if I presented them to him as cakes, he would accept them as just that and happily devour the lot.

Unfortunately, Sonny is not silly. He may not know vegetables, but he does know cake.

He was keen to try them, but his enthusiasm did not last for long.

For anyone interested, the recipe for the muffins is as follows:-
1/2 courgette, grated
1 small carrot, grated
1 small box of raisins
1 egg
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1tsp baking powder
75g flour
15g soft brown sugar

Add all of the wet ingredients (including the fruit and veg) into a bowl and stir.

Gradually fold in the dry ingredients.

Spoon into muffin cases and bake at 220 degrees in a preheated oven for 12-15 minutes.

A simple, healthy and yummy snack, if you are not my ridiculously fussy two year old son!
Muffin debacle aside, we had a lovely afternoon on the farm, courtesy of Ice rewards (more on that later) - even on the way up on the train, which proved a great portable track for Sonny's engines! 


Despite the very cold weather, Jasmine and Sonny both had lots of fun at Tulleys Farm and are very much looking forward to going back in the summer!