Sunday, 28 April 2013

Gloop Glorious Gloop!

Today the children made gloop, together.
Jasmine emptied the cornflour into a bowl (Sonny said "Ugh!" as the powder clouded up around them).
Sonny stirred...

...and Jasmine poured the water.

Once mixed to their chosen consistency, the children used some tools on the gloop.

We were, all three of us, intrigued and amazed by this material.  The way it is solid and liquid, wet yet dry, constantly changing and altering; firm and then gooey.  We poured it, we crumbled it, we lifted it from the Tuff spot is great chunks only to watch it melt away before our eyes then solidify in our hands once more.
Finally, we added some red paint to the gloop, which turned it pink.  Jasmine hadn't expected this, she had asked for and anticipated red gloop.  However, she quickly understood that the red had become pink due to being mixed with the white of the gloop.
We had fun with our gloop today and will definitely be returning to this activity.  Such an interesting material as well as cheap and versatile.

Coffee and walnut cupcakes

With June approaching rapidly, and Daddy's birthday with it, Jasmine and I got our baking heads on this evening and made a batch of his favourite cupcakes.

A trial run, if you like.

I used my usual, easy-peasy, cupcake recipe, with a couple of added extras:

100g butter
100g caster sugar
100g self raising flour
1 large egg
1 tsp coffee granules (we used Nescafé Azera, but any will do)
40g walnut pieces

Everything bar the walnuts were added to a mixing bowl and whisked together by Jasmine.  Once combined, we stirred in the walnut pieces then spooned the mixture into cake cases before baking at 180 degrees for 15-18 minutes.

Once cooked and cooled, we made our icing.

For this, we used the following:

100g icing sugar
4 tsp coffee powder
4 tbsp boiling water
6 walnut halves (to decorate)

Unfortunately, Jasmine added way too much water, so we ended up having to make up a huge batch of icing by increasing the sugar content until the mixture less resembled a pot of black coffee!

And here it is; our coffee and walnut cupcake with coffee icing:

Fingers crossed Daddy enjoys them as much as Jasmine!

Onion noodle soup (15p per portion)

With the Live Below the Line challenge looming, I have spent today preparing and planning.

And drinking tea, which will not be allowed as of midnight.

I am a little apprehensive, to say the least.

However, I am having fun thinking like a super saver.

A £5 weekly budget will not buy you a lot.

What it will buy you, though, is a lovely onion soup.

To make this soup, I used the following:

6 brown onions at 30p (from a pack of 10 bought for 50p)
1 can of new potatoes in water at 19p
1 pack of noodles with chicken flavour seasoning sachet at 11p
3/4 litre of tap water

I dry fried the onions, once peeled and chopped, on a low heat until they were soft and golden. 

I then added the potatoes (including the water they came in), the seasoning sachet from the packet of noodles and the water and upped the heat to medium, leaving the mixture to simmer for 15 minutes before blitzing thoroughly.  Finally, I added the noodles and simmered for a further 10 minutes.

Honestly, I am amazed that for 60p, I have made four portions of a soup that smells yummy and looks really filling.  Obviously, the proof of the pudding, or soup in this case, will be in the eating.  But for the price, I really cannot complain!

To sponsor me on my Live Below the Line journey please click here.  Every penny donated goes to Save the Children and makes a big difference.  Thank you.

Friday, 26 April 2013

A week's shopping for a fiver

Or £4.67 to be precise.

Top notch vegetarian cuisine!

I was pleasantly surprised by what I managed to buy with such a restricted budget.

Yes, I will miss cheese and garlic and herbs and all the pretty, flavoursome things I'm accustomed to.

I will miss my tea.

But this is only my life for five days.

For 1.4 billion people worldwide, poverty, malnutrition and even starvation are daily struggles.

Please donate what you can at

Thank you

A plea from me to thee

Next week, I am taking part in the Live Below the Line challenge.

To explain a little more about the cause and the challenge, here are some excerpts from the official website.

The causeLive Below the Line is an innovative awareness and fundraising campaign that's making a huge difference in the fight against extreme poverty.
Quite simply, we’re building a movement of passionate people willing and able to make a meaningful difference to those who need it most.
Live Below the Line is challenging individuals and communities to see how much change you can make out of £1. By living off just £1 per day for food for 5 days, you will be bringing to life the direct experiences of the 1.4 billion people currently living in extreme poverty and helping to make real change.
Think about that figure - 1.4 BILLION - that's over 20 times the population of the UK - living every day in extreme poverty.
The challengeFrom the 29th April – 3rd May you can spend no more than £1 a day on food and drink.
This means you have a total of £5 with which to buy all ingredients for your meals.
The full cost of all the items you consume must be included in your budget. This means budgeting for whole packets of food items such as rice, pasta, noodles and eggs etc.
For items such as salt, pepper, herbs and spices, simply work out the cost of each item per gram and budget your shopping proportionally. Separate your items before the challenge so there’s no need to be digging around in your cupboards.
You can share the cost of ingredients amongst a team, as long as no participant spends more than £1 a day or their total £5 budget. Working as a team will allow you to pool together funds and do more with your cooking.
You can’t grab a cheeky snack from the cupboard unless you include the cost of buying the item new in your budget.
You can use food sourced from your garden as long as you can account for the price of production!
No combination of meals on any given day can exceed the £1 spending limit. Remember this is a challenge to eat creatively and be enjoyed – don’t at any point deprive yourself of three meals a day.
You cannot accept ‘donated’ food from family or friends, but monetary donations towards your fundraising goals are acceptable, and encouraged!
You are allowed to drink tap water – remember you should try and drink at least 6-8 glasses of water each day.
Remember that cigarettes don’t come cheap either! Can you Live Below The Line and still manage to smoke?
So, there you have it - that's what I'm doing and why.

Sounds simple, huh?

But I am not doing this for the good of my health (although I probably should be).

I am doing it to raise awareness and, vitally, funds.

This is where you come in.

Yes, YOU.

Every one of my 425 Facebook friends.

Every one of my 256 Twitter followers.

If you all donated just one pound, I would smash my £150 target.

You would, collectively, raise £681 for those who really, really need it.

When I say every little helps, I actually do mean it.

Spare change welcome.

Together, we can make big things happen.


If not for me then for the 1.4 billion people currently surviving on less than £1 per day.

Thank you.

I wrote it on the train last night; it helped to pass the time.

Sunlight poured over him, creating a furnace, a halo.  It fell through the spaces between the hairs on his head, his face, his arms.  He shone with it, wrapped in its beauty.  He was a stronger man than I was usually drawn to.  Muscular.  Darker, too, up to his eyes.  Those eyes, as blue as an ocean.
We were young, still, though we didn't know it at the time.  Life is strange that way.  Fools you into believing you know it all when you know nothing.  Allows you to behave as though you've seen everything when really you're quite sheltered.
Anyway, we were young and carefree.  Careless, in hindsight.  We failed to protect our love.  Thought it would last forever regardless.  Perhaps it does.  Perhaps love is as omnipresent as stars.  Maybe still, it is further like stars and fails to shine when the sun is brightest?
We should have nurtured our bond.  For it came to pass all too quickly.  And it is now that I miss it.  I do not bounce so easily nowadays, nor open my heart so readily. 
I form bonds for life or, more frequently, not at all.
Once bitten.
Though it has been more than once.
Five times shy.
Maybe this is why my thoughts are drawn to the perfection of this past.  Of memories.  Hazy times that play out a little differently each time I remember them.
For I am simply too wary, too fearful, to look into the eyes of the present and its hopeful man.
Deep inside my thoughts, engulfed, I remember the smallest things.  The way his hair bristled in the breeze.  The way his watch face glinted in light, dazzled me for brief moments.  That I could feel his heart beating beneath his skin.  That he smelled of soap, it always lingered on him.
Lifted from these thoughts, by a stranger asking to sit beside me on the silent train, I sigh.
So much can be lost in an instant.
One moment, one decision not made in clarity, and life thereafter is altered.
As though the Earth's centre may have shifted slightly.  Enough to throw you off balance.  Enough that nothing will ever feel the same again.
At home, we dance the merry dance of lovers.  Yet it is just that - a dance.  A performance, an act.  My heart, for one, does not partake.  He seems not to notice.  Daniel.  The hopeful one.  
My present man.
In the kitchen, he has cooked, we eat, we smile.  He is funny.  We talk of work; idly reference its people and places.
We are calm, in tune; it is easy.
I smile, yet inside I do not feel it.
This happiness.
This love.
It is not the same.
For me, it is different.
I cannot open myself to love him fully.
I see it in his eyes.  Daniel.  The love.  I see it.  The glint and sparkle of a man who will die for you.  A man who gives his heart to make you smile.
The difference is I have seen it before.
Twice since I have been fooled, then burned, but the first love I saw was real.
And to this I compare my Daniel.  The hair, the arms, the face.  Those eyes.  He does not compare, how could he?
No man could compare to a memory.
Rose-tinted, perhaps.
But one whose strength refuses to die.
A memory that wakes me in the dead of night, reminds me of a better love.  Of one richer.
Poor Daniel.
You can never compare, my Daniel, to a dream.
That you try makes it easy to stay.
To live this lie.
To dance this dance.
I love you, yes.  But not as I loved him.  And not as you love me.
The passion I see in your eyes, my Daniel, is not harnessed in my soul.
How I wish words came so easy in life as to paper.

How do I feed myself for £1 a day?

For some reason, perhaps caught in a moment of weakness or insanity, I recently agreed to "Live below the line".

For those who do not know, this involves living on just £1 per day, for five days.

At first thought, it appeared to be a surmountable challenge.

But now the dates are fast approaching and the challenge seems more real.

And I have encountered a rather large stumbling block.

Well, two.

No one has sponsored me thus far. 

If things stay as they are, I assume this makes me exempt?

I would feel a tad foolish doing this for charity having made them no money.

My second stumbling block is that I cannot think of a single meal that can be made for £1.

Yet I have to, somehow, make three per day for that price.

My mind has gone blank.

More than that; it has upped and left.

Likely to be found running downhill at full speed screaming "HELP".

My only thoughts at present are that I could have porridge for breakfast and rice for dinner.

I would not exceed my total shopping budget of five pounds, in this case.

Though I fear I would not make it through one day on this, let alone five.

Essentially, this is my (not very succinct) cry for help.

Any ideas/recipes/advice/support welcome.

How on Earth do I feed myself for £1 a day?

We painted our Tuff spot!

Today, we painted our Tuff spot, with a little help from our trusty train friends.

We chose five colours and five trains; each train was assigned a colour.

And off we went!

I had envisaged a kaleidoscopic effect...

...which showed promise for a bit.

But then hands got involved!

Soon, both children were in the Tuff spot, covered in paint.

The clean up was a major operation!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The Gallery - Expressions


I had a few ideas for this one.

To my horror, the first photograph that popped into my mind as soon as I discovered the theme for this week has disappeared.

I cannot find it anywhere.

Not on the PC, the laptop, external hard drive...not even Facebook.

I'm perplexed and a little gutted but, like most things that go missing, I'm sure it'll turn up somewhere, at some point.

When I've forgotten I want it.

Wu wei.

Anyway, I thought harder and remembered this little gem:


Jasmine, way back in March 2010, having tried to feed Kat.  Oops!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Ginger and chocolate chip cupcakes

I had intended to make sweet potato brownies today.

I could find sweet potato nowhere.

I decided upon pecan and ginger brownies instead.

Alas, I could find no pecans either.

So, because I still wanted to make something, I baked some ginger and chocolate chip cupcakes.

I used my faithful, easy peasy cupcake recipe:

100g self-raising flour
100g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
1 large egg

I mixed the ingredients well, then added 1tsp vanilla extract, 1 heaped tbsp ground ginger and half a bag of Dr. Oetker milk chocolate chips before further mixing.

20 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 190 degrees, and I had these:

They taste (and smell!) delicious, are so simple to make and take hardly any time at all.

A winning combination!

Coughs, splutters, sneezes and the beach

The children were up between half 12 and seven last night.

I hadn't made it to bed by half 12!

Today, we napped between 7 and 9 then spent a quiet morning together.

They have horrid colds, they are coughing and sneezing all over the place.

Last night, they were hot and full of aches.

They felt better as today progressed.

I took them out for some restorative sunshine, starting with the lawn outside where they scooted and picked daisies.

Then we headed for the beach, where the children were delighted to find the tide out and the old pier's structure exposed.
They were fascinated by this.

They played with wet sand and dug for treasure.  Jasmine ran ahead of Sonny, drawing an X in the sand for him to find.

The beach is quickly becoming our favourite place to be.  The children love it and its wealth of play activities.  I enjoy watching them have such fun.  They burn energy, practise climbing skills by conquering pebble domes, explore sensory sand and water play, search for sea creatures, shells and treasure and invent magical imaginative scenarios.

As soon as it is truly summer, we shall be venturing into the actual sea!  Adding picnics to the day and making use of the BBQ facilities on the beach green down the road.

To say we are looking forward to this would be an understatement!

Monday, 22 April 2013

Sonny at two years and seven months

Dear Sonny

What have we been up to this month, my son?

We went to London!  You impressed me by showing no fear on the Eye. 

You had such a good day.

You are getting such a big boy!

It has really struck me this month.

You are constantly becoming more and more mature.

You speech is excellent, you are so good at articulating your feelings and thoughts.

You are brilliant with your numbers and colours and even starting to show an interest in writing!

You climb very well.

And you draw me beautiful pictures.

Today, I received one that you told me was of you with a nose bleed (apparently).


You finally had your two year check this month, at which you excelled.

We had no doubt, did we?

You got new shoes, last week.  Size 7 dinosaur shoes.

So grown up.

My baby is evolving before my very eyes.

What is it you say before we leave the house?

Every time.

"I will walk nicely!"

You do not want the pushchair anymore.

You want to walk.


For the first time in four and a half years, I am having to realise that we will not need a pushchair forever.

One day, in the not too distant future, it will be consigned to the shed.

This makes my heart a little heavy.

Though I am proud too.

Oh so proud.

You still adore your trains, they are the first and last things you ask for every day.

Today, we completed a Thomas puzzle, together.

I say we.

It was mostly you.

Nine puzzles you did this morning.

You are so very good at them!

You have a new-found love of Mr Men and Little Miss books.

Something to replace Room on the Broom in your heart.

You have relished all the messy play we have been doing this month.

And, perhaps most brilliantly, you have decided it is time to start using your potty.

Off came the nappy, last week.

Off it stayed.

Accidents have been few.

I am so very proud.

I had been waiting for the day, and there it was.

Out of the blue.

You just decided you were ready and that was that.

No turning back.

Thomas pants on at home.

It won't be long before they are all you wear.

No more nappies!

And no more pushchairs.

It has been a momentous month.

My baby is growing up.

Magic Moments

The children thanking Nanny for all the work she put into hanging (and making) their new curtains. 

My Magic Moment for this week.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Where do the years go?

One day, not so long ago, a baby was born.

They named her Amy and I went to the hospital to meet her.

I watched Eastenders on a television, somewhere.

I don't remember much else.

21 years have since passed, and there is now another sister of mine.

She will be 20 in November.

Eight cousins arrived, also.

And my own two children.

I have cuddled them all as tiny newborns and thought, each time, that they would be small forever.

But it is never true.

I now find myself wondering, where do the years go?

I remember hearing it so many times that children grow so fast.

I was - I am - prepared.

I make the most of every day and yet the years still seem to fly by.

I remember walking with Jasmine as a newborn, being told by a stranger that she wouldn't stay little for long.

That could have been yesterday.

It is though there is no space between that day and now.

Yet Jasmine, my baby girl, will be at school come September.

Daddy said today that "It's hard to imagine her out of nappies and not needing a pushchair.  Uniform is mind blowing!"


Uniform is mind blowing.

She is our baby.

Our rose-lipped, almond-eyed, sweet-smelling newborn.

But when September comes, she will be clothed in tiny uniform and polished shoes and taken from our arms into the big wide school world.

Weeks later, I shall be 26.

Where do the years go?