Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Daddy's Birthday Card

I love this card specially made by C for Hubby's birthday today.  Little C listed the things that Daddy likes - campervans, Landrover defenders, our hill, beer and cheese - for me to find pictures of, and he stuck them on to the card.  He then stuck on pictures of him, Sis and the Waggy-tailed-one so that Daddy would know who it was from.  Then he stuck on some sparkles and added some colouring and drawing.  How gorgeous!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

A rush of mud to the head...

Woooshhhh!  Doesn't it feel wonderful when you've been really busy and really stressed, and then you complete a couple of things which have been hanging over you so you can relax a bit.  Then you feel all cosy but push yourself out into the wild blowy and rainy night for a run in the dark... and it's sooooo muddy, and you get wet and blown and mud soaked and you feel amazing... and then you come home and get in a hot shower for a really long soak.   

What an amazing evening to be out in the dark.  I seem to run faster when it's like this.  I just love it.  It seems all the better because I didn't really feel like going out.  After a while I just stopped looking out for the muddy puddles and started to enjoy the cold splash as I ran into them.  I think even the Waggy-tailed-one was shaking her head in despair.

I managed to complete a piece of work on Youth Involvement for the work group I'm on for Scottish Scouts before our meeting on Wednesday.  Then today our Scout Regional Training Team ran a support day for Trainers and Training Advisers, which went pretty well.  So I'm feeling pretty positive about the things which have been hanging over me lately.  Little Sis had to come with me to the course today.  She's been teething lately and feeding a lot.  I considered leaving her with Hubby for the day, but as the week went on she seemed to want more and more feeds, so I decided it wouldn't be fair on any of them.  She was good as gold.  

Priorities now are to get ready for Christmas... I'm sure that this time last year I had already made the Christmas Pudding and the Christmas Cake, had done most of my Christmas shopping and had all the Christmas Cards written and ready to post.  You've guessed it.  I've done none of that yet.

After that I can focus on a whole load more Scouting priorities, and making a birthday present for Little Sis.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Cooking and Baking with Little People

Oh dear, where have I been again this week?  I've just had yet another of those chasing my tail without actually getting anything done, children-sticking-to-me-like-velcro type of weeks.

As I love involving my children in cooking with me, I thought I'd share how we do it, for those a little nervous of plunging in with the aprons and wooden spoons.

Setting up
I open out the table in the kitchen and put the high-chairs and a chair for me around it so that we can sit down.
I also have a small step-ladder in the main part of the kitchen so that C can stand up at the kitchen counters and help wash the dishes etc.
I aim to get as much equipment and as many ingredients as possible out before C comes to join in, that way I can concentrate on him and Sis without having to dart into the pantry to find something - or worse still get halfway through a recipe and find I don't have something vital.

What to do with the smallest one.

Mine is just coming up to 9 months, and if yours is anything like mine at this age, she doesn't want to be left out of anything!

I put her in her high-chair, and leave within reach only what I don't mind her eating or throwing on the floor.  She gets to play, investigate etc. and can also see what we are up to.  On this cooking occasion we were making chicken stew, rock buns and soda bread.  She got to eat a bit of chicken and raw carrot, investigate the leek trimmings and some ice from the freezer, explore a sieve, some measuring spoons and a jug, and join in licking the spoon from the rock buns.  She also got a bit of packaging.

Before we start
We wash or wipe our hands and put our aprons on.  Then we look at the recipe, check through the ingredients and equipment list (I call it out and he checks to see if we have it on the table).  I usually put a little plate or bowl out next to him into which we add a few bits of interesting ingredients for him to taste - that way we aim to stop him tasting the mixture or stealing all the chocolate drops or whatever before it goes in the oven.

Two options
You choose from these two options depending on the age, experience and temperament of your child, and also on the recipe.  The two options are:
- The "I Can Cook" method (named for the CBeebies programme on which it is based.  In this one you split your ingredients in half and double up on equipment.  You make half with your equipment and your child copies you and makes the other half with his equipment.  The advantages are that it's entirely their own work and they really get stuck in with all the processes.  They get the pride in their finished article.  The disadvantages are that if they do a major step wrong it's ruined, and while they may learn from it, they would inevitably be disappointed.  Not all recipes work this way, it's tricky to divide an egg in half for example, or you might not have two small loaf tins (for which the cooking time would probably also be different than a large loaf tin).
- The second option is probably more common, particularly with younger or more excitable or easily distracted children.  It's the partnership approach.  This is where you work together.  You give your child as much involvement as possible, but step in where needed to "help".

Top Tips

  • Only ever bake or cook with your children if you have plenty of time and you are feeling chilled out and relaxed.  A frazzled temper will only ever escalate when cooking is involved.
  • Don't worry about mess.  In the grand scheme of things how important is it?  They will learn so so much from cooking, and it's always inevitable to do some clearing up after a messy activity - they should learn to help you clear up - part of the learning experience.
  • Be aware of safety at all times.  Don't stop your child from handling knives or glass bowls or stirring hot food - but introduce these aspects at an appropriate stage for your child and ensure that you teach them safety first, and are always there to supervise.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

This week we have been mostly enjoying... being outdoors

Enjoying the season of Autumn.
Walks outside with the Waggy-tailed-one.
I found a stick
 This weekend's "We're going to the on-an-adventure" which was to the Linn of Tummel, where the rivers Tummel and Garry meet just outside Pitlochry.  Plenty of woodland walking, waterfalls and autumn.
The river Tummel under Coronation Bridge

Exploring the woods

"tables and chairs"

The Linn of Tummel - River Garry on the right and Tummel on the left, merging to the Tummel.
C is throwing his "wery wery big pine cone" into the water.

Not many pics of this one, as she was in the sling on my back, and mostly asleep through the walk.

Waterfall near the Linn.  I have rafted down this one - great adrenaline rush!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Adventures - the Zoo

Both Hubby and I are busy people.  We both volunteer for the Scouts, I run our toddler group, and he is on-call for work every few weekends.  So when we both have a weekend at home, we have taken to "going on an adventure" on one of the days (usually Saturday) and then spending Sunday getting on with things around the house and at our desks.

Going to the Scottish Museum of Transport was one such adventure.  We're going on another tomorrow (I'll keep you in suspension on that one for now), and last weekend we went to...

...Edinburgh Zoo.

I'll admit right at the beginning that I'm not a big fan of zoos.  The animals just don't seem to have enough space.  I prefer the safari park, though there are negatives there too, and neither compares to supporting these animals in the wild where they belong.  But... the safari park has closed for the winter, and the zoo does do a lot of work for conservation, even if the animals are in captivity, and it was a chance for C and Sis to get a look at some really awesome animals.

At the beginning C was more excited about the Hilltop Safari (Landrover and trailer) that took us to the top of the hill, and kept wanting to find it again, but it didn't take long for him to start getting more excited about the animals.  

We saw lions having a fight, chimps swinging, zebra, flamingos, tigers, rheas and lots more besides.

Including a "Penguin Parade"!
Plus there was a cafe and a play-park!

What more could a young family ask for on a family adventure?

Thursday, 10 November 2011

How to Be Free - Banish anxiety; be carefree

I’ve mentioned Tom Hodgkinson on here before.  He’s the editor of The Idler, and has written books “How to Be Idle”, “How to be Free” and “The Idle Parent”.  I love the principles expressed in “How to beFree” (though not all the ideas in the book), and while I don’t agree with the term Idle I think The Idle Parent is a must-read and describes well how I was brought up and how I wish to bring up my own children.

I’m writing a series of blog posts exploring these two books, and the ideas contained in them further, in the hope that this will help me to explore further the principles behind my own way of living and parenting.

How to Be Free

Chapter 1 - Banish Anxiety; Be carefree – RIDE A BIKE

This chapter is all about living in a world full of scare stories and constant bad news.  This causes constant overwhelming anxiety which leads us towards the comfort of bad TV and spending on credit – the advertising we are surrounded by shows us that “things” will make everything better.  At the same time, in order to “be safe” democracy, privacy and freedom are taking hit after hit as our personal and civil liberties are eroded away – more stop and search, more CCTV, more information held about us. 

Instead Tom Hodgkinson suggests that we should surround ourselves with good quality – good books, good friends, good beer – take pleasure in life and avoid things and situations which make us anxious.  If being surrounded by drones on the London Underground makes you anxious then walk or cycle instead.  Do lots of different things, spend time outside.  Be carefree.  This isn’t the same as not caring, it’s about being happy.

How does this concept match up with the Ink Spots and Grass Stains life?

I like the idea of getting rid of things that make us anxious, but I think that it’s easier said than done.  If you are worrying about the health of a loved one, you can hardly just get rid of them, can you?  Having recently suffered from Post-Natal Depression (still taking the tablets) I am aware that some anxiety is chemical – and not to do with bad news around us.  I do think though, that having a support network around you can ease the effects considerably.

As for good quality – I love good quality wine and beer, good quality food and books, and good friends.  Sometimes you go for a small bar of really good quality fairly traded organic dark chocolate with orange zest instead of that slab of Dairy Milk for the same price – and it really is better.  Yes, I agree.  A small amount of good quality rather than heaps of rubbish is definitely the way forward.  Writing that immediately made me think of Christmas.  The number of people who opt for the buy it cheap, pile it high principle when buying Christmas presents for their children.  I would hope that I can always manage to get a few really well thought out presents that will actually be appreciated.

Monday, 7 November 2011

A half hour hutch...

This was an impromptu project, and I'm sure that if you take longer and plan better, then you can do a better job - but here's what we did.

It all started with some drawing.  C wanted me to draw some rabbits, so I did.  Then, knowing the contents of my recycling box I had a sudden bright idea.

To make a rabbit hutch.

We opened out a cereal box, cut out some windows on one side and coloured it brown:
Then we put the cereal box back together but inside out (with the brown showing on the outside).
We drew a background for the rabbit hutch, we went for green grass with pink flowers.

Then we found a rabbit to live in the hutch, provided him with some paper-towel bedding (I thought of using wood shavings, as I have some stashed in the pantry, but I had just vacuumed!), and a little bowl with some conkers to eat, and hey presto - a rabbit hutch!

Little C has been playing with this on and off ever since.  He likes to offer Soft Bunny a conker to eat, make him lie down, and bring him out for a run.  The hutch won't last long, but we've exercised our creativity for well over half an hour, had some fun, and all for the price of a bit of waste cardboard.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Best pics from October

Bear in  mind that since our trip to Applecross in September I haven't had my normal, nice, compact, amazing little camera.  I dropped it in the sand and now it won't work, and the cost of repair turned out to be only £10 less than the cost of a brand new updated one of the same model.  No-brainer.  I'm using Hubby's 'spare' camera.  It's much more expensive than mine, so I don't have it lying around the house the same way I had my own, and it's bigger, so doesn't easily slot into a bag / pocket of pushchair etc, so I just don't have the array of photos to choose from that I usually manage.  Anyway, here are my best photos from October:
concentrating very hard on painting - I'm amazed he doesn't have his tongue out

modelling the new towel

Daddy, Little Sis and the Waggy-tailed-one.
We're currently in the process of teaching Little Sis about not pulling dog fur.

Enjoying a good walk up our hill in the autumn air - no rain for a change!

He fell in love with this hat as soon as I pulled it out of a bag of hand-me-down clothes for Little Sis

I don't like pink, but I do like this shade on Little Sis.
She's posing for the camera.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Things to do outdoors in winter:

  • ·       Wrap up warm, go for walks and come home to a hot chocolate
  • ·       Light a fire in the garden
  • ·       Make ice decorations
  • ·       Look for animal prints in the snow
  • ·       Look for waterfall ice
  • ·       Make a snowman
  • ·       Make snow sculptures
  • ·       Make an igloo
  • ·       Take photos of things that look beautiful in the frost
  • ·       Play out in the garden
  • ·       Go sledging
  • ·       Walks in the rain - splash in puddles
  • ·       Make dens
  • ·       Go to the play-park
  • ·       Go to the beach – stone skimming and beach combing
  • ·       Take photos of the neighbourhood
  • ·       Make nature mobiles to hang from the trees
  • ·       Make bird feeders
  • ·       Roast marshmallows or chestnuts in the chiminea
  • ·       Leaf art – collage, printing or rubbing
  • ·       Bird watching
  • ·       Weather watching

For all these activities remember to wrap up warm and take a flask of hot chocolate, and maybe some spare clothes.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The Pantry

I'm going to let you into a little secret...
Yes, this is the sad truth.  Little Miss tries-to-keep-everything-clean-and-organised has a dirty little secret, and it goes by the name of Pantry (I almost typed panty then, now that would have been a secret, and not very little!).  I really do try to keep this cupboard organised, but it has too much stuff in it.  From the wine and   dog food at the bottom, the kitchen bin (so the dog can't get to it to trawl through for goodies), the first aid box and shoe polish, veg, pastas, rices, dried fruit, baking, snacks, condiments, toilet rolls, oils, dried fruits, flours and sugars, tins and packets and cereals.  I could start my own supermarket in here!

So for the next few weeks, when I'm planning my menu for the week I'm going to pull 10 random things out of the cupboard and the challenge is to incorporate them into the meals I'm going to cook.  Which means that those tins of sardines might get a look in...  That tin of pate from the Christmas hamper... Some japanese food to make use of the Mirin... some salads for the hazelnut oil...  a ginger cake to make use of that black treacle... It's time to start using some of this stuff up.

Then of course its soon time to make the Christmas cake and pudding, and this time I know that I definitely don't need to buy yet another packet of dates or figs!