Back to Basics

As my husband and I are both teachers, the school holidays are always a special time for us, and we well and truly caught the travel bug a couple of years back. We love going places  and like to have a trip booked. This half term was the first school holiday in a long while that we decided to stay at home. At first it felt like we were wasting an opportunity, but as the children seemed to get more and more tired as term went on, we realised that actually it was a sensible decision.

I have no problem whatsoever with lazy days, in fact, I get a real buzz out of knowing that I have a day ahead where I can eat breakfast at 10am in my pyjamas if I want to, but 9 days straight with no plans?

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I saw this photo on my Facebook feed the other day. It could be either of my children, I’m not going lie – they love their screens, but I think in all our business, I’d forgotten some of the basics which the children still enjoy doing. They seem so grown up compared to the little bundles I gave birth to, but they’re still children, and there’s so many things that children still love:

A trip into town…

We’ve lived just outside Bath for over 4 years now, yet we’ve never visited the Roman Baths – famous history on our doorstep! Although we ended up having a nice lunch too and it therefore wasn’t a particularly cheap day, it was something we’d never done – no need to drive for hours!

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Cooking…

The routines we live by during the week really limit the luxury of taking our time to prepare meals. Working together to create something yummy was so much fun, especially as I am now aware that they can work almost completely on their own now.

Swimming…

My husband takes the children swimming most Sundays, but this week, I got out with them and enjoyed it too – having lost a bit of weight which you can read about here, I felt a lot more confident venturing out in my swimsuit, so hopefully I might get invited along again soon!

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This was taken last year in Turkey  – the only photo I have of the four of us swimming together!

Playing independently…

My husband and I were both talking the other day about how much time we spend doing things together, going away, even watching a family film or playing a game together – something that I’m sure many families try to do more of, but actually there were times this week when the children were quite happy to play together and it was lovely to see! Those toys that they got for Christmas came out of the boxes, the Lego got built, and despite how unimpressed they were at going this morning, they got all the cuddly toys out and played schools nearly every day! That imaginative, make believe play is something I want to bottle up and keep forever!

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All ready for register and assembly!

So if people ask me what I did over the school holiday, my answer will most likely be “not a lot,” but actually we did do quite a lot, it’s just we didn’t go away and with how refreshed I feel from having a rest, I’m ok with that!

 

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Simple Yet Errr.. Ineffective!

This post is a plea! I love to bake, both with the children and without. We had a cake making session at the weekend which was our first for a while, and I have to confess I’d forgotten how much fun it is, just hanging out with my (getting bigger very quickly) babies. They’re so independent now with cooking – it takes about 10 times as long and produces about 500 times as much mess, but when I say ‘we’ baked, it really was a case of ‘they’ baked – my role was merely to ensure that the tasks were  fairly distributed! Digressing slightly, is it just my children who crack eggs by kind of crushing them in their hands?! I’ve tried to show them what I see as a more effective way but somehow their method never changes and bizarrely, egg shell in the mix is a very rare occurrence – I’m not sure how!

Anyway, we had a lovely morning baking and even clearing away, and decorated the cake in the afternoon – sprinkles are compulsory you know!

I also always make the children’s and hubby’s birthday cakes, trying to accomplish whatever they are obsessed with at the time in sugar paste (actually that translates as ‘head over to Pinterest and see how people far more able than I am did it!’), but with varying degrees of success. I could honestly see some of my creations ending up on that ‘how it looked on Pinterest’ website! My daughter’s BFF’s mum is a professional cake decorator and so I think my days of being able to make her cakes are numbered. I’m constantly waiting for “Mummy, just get Emma to make it!” nowadays!

The fact is, I always like to try, and sometimes my baking exploits don’t look quite right, but usually they taste ok – that is with one exception. Supposedly one of the simplest sweet treats to make, I have never, in all of my 36 years managed to produce edible flapjacks!

Flapjacks are a top treat for my 2 but whenever we try to make them they’re always an epic fail! Occasionally they’re so hard that we risk breaking our teeth on them, but more often than not they just fall apart more resembling granola! Just tried fiddling with the quantities of the different ingredients, cooking time, oven temperature, you name it I’ve tried it, but to no avail. So what am I doing wrong?! Any tips or idiot proof recipes appreciated – you’ll be making two constantly hungry children incredibly happy!

Inside Out

It’s been a funny one this week! Just 2 weeks ago we put all the summer clothes away and hit the shops to buy some winter clothes after realising that both of the children have clearly had a growth spurt since last year – my son has gone up 2 whole shoe sizes since last year and is now heavier and taller than his sister who is nearly 2 years older (she is very unimpressed)! That said, my daughter has also shot up and her jeans more resemble cropped jeans.

Typically, and believe me I’m not complaining, the sun decides that maybe it isn’t done for the year, and the summer clothes have come out once more! During the week we’re so busy with routines that there’s very little opportunity for going out somewhere to enjoy the weather, but there’s also this impending pressure with each day that it might actually be the last nice one, so this week has seen us trying to take advantage by doing as many of our inside activities outside!

A walk without our warm coats on…

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Coffee and cake outside at the farm shop…

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Mummy gets to play at the park…

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A picnic tea in the garden in our t-shirts…

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Ok, the cake had to cook in the oven, but there’s no harm in a bit of al fresco bowl licking is there?!

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Hopefully the weather will continue this weekend as we have a new National Trust place to explore, although that said, I think t-shirts in October is pretty good going, so I have tomato soup and thermos flasks at the ready so we can have a fab time whatever!

I’m linking up to #CountryKids again over at Coombe Mill. Can’t wait to see what you’ve all been up to!

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Once Bitten…

Picture the scene. The stay at home mum is happily making cakes at the kitchen table with help from her giggling children as they each take turns at mixing. Happy smiles come from all as Daddy has managed to get home from work a little earlier than normal today and he is greeted with this display of domestic bliss.

Okay, that’s the dream, here’s the reality. The making cakes bit was true. The hands were washed and dried, sleeves rolled up, aprons tied, in the style of Katy from I Can Cook! I popped next door to double check the quantities needed. Next thing I hear is a piercing scream, and my son comes running in for a cuddle. “Evie BIT me!” and sure enough, we have this:

It’s not a little nip, there’s blood, and bruising and evidence of suckage! I was totally stunned. When my daughter saw my face, she burst into tears and pretty much took herself to the sorry step. Cue two screaming children, neglected cake making ingredients strewn all over the table, and a gbh assault on a 2 year old. Yes that’s when my husband walked in from work, an hour earlier than usual – welcome to my world!

I know every mum in the world thinks their offspring are the most wonderful children to ever grace the human race. I’m no different, but I also like to think that I’m quite grounded. I was quite happy to admit that my son looked like a tortoise when he was younger, and have no problem saying that my daughter is a fussy eater, just as they have no problem pointing out my flabby tummy in the swimming pool, but when it came to their behaviour and relationship with each other I’ve always been quite smug. They love each other, and have never shown unkindness towards each other. Whenever they’re together they enjoy each other’s company. At birthday parties they would rather be with each other than with their school friends, you get the idea.

So, how do you react when your child does something so completely out of character? She was sorry, so very sorry. I know she was. Any anger I had soon dissolved when I saw how sorry she was. I soon had tears too, because my son is one of those children who gets an injury, cries about it until it’s kissed better, then gets up and gets on as if it never happened. So when he’d recovered, he suddenly became aware that his sister was crying. He’d completely forgotten that she’d bitten him and went straight over to her to give her a cuddle, concerned as to what could be making his big sister so sad. He just wanted to make her happy again. They spent the next 10 minutes cuddling each other with so much love it brought tears to my eyes.

The thing is, now she’s done this, I worry that she might do it again. Is my perfectly behaved daughter now no longer so? I know I’m probably reading too much into it, but can something like that just be a one off? Has the fact that there’s someone in her class at school who has bitten other people (though not her) got anything to do with it? At the moment I feel quite confident that she learnt from this one instance that it’s something you should never never do, but I now have a doubt that I didn’t have before. What if?

The Gallery: The Kitchen

I’ve written many times how my enjoyment of cooking is a relatively new thing. Before I had children, I didn’t have the time or inclination to bother, especially as I lived less than 5 minutes walk from Marks and Spencer! My children adore baking (well probably it’s the stirring and general mess making that they like), especially the taste test afterwards, so it’s only fitting that my photos for the Gallery this week show that activity. I’d love to go out to the kitchen now and take lots of pictures, especially as I totally love my new cutrtains and matching blind that I’ve got in my new house, but it might dispel any myths that I am in fact a domestic goddess if you saw it in its current state! So here’s when I’m at my happiest in the kitchen (apart from when the kids are in bed and I’m sat at the table with a glass of wine and heat magazine!):

And if you look closely, you can get a small glimpse of my new curtains which I love!

Pop over to Tara’s blog at Sticky Fingers and check out other people’s entries!

 

Happy Birthday!

With my children’s birthdays only 3 weeks apart (yes I know, I didn’t plan that too well!) and the fact hat my husband is away on a stag do the weekend of our 3 year old’s birthday (he’s back for her actual birthday, he wouldn’t miss that) and the fact that my ‘baby’ friends’ children all have their birthdays in May, we decided that this year they could have a joint birthday party.

Said birthday party happened at the weekend, and it was great fun. A lot of people said I was brave to have a big party, but I didn’t really think anything of it. I’m used to supervising 30+ teenagers on a daily basis, 25 under 4s will be fine too, right…?

The theme was Disney, and it was held at our local gym, in the studios. We spent the week preparing, getting all the Disney themed party bits and bobs, and we also decided that rather than party bags full of the usual trinkets, we’d have a lucky dip with more substantial prizes for each child, Disney of course, which seemed to be a hit!

However, bouncy castle, costumes, food and drink aside, surely the big thing with any birthday party, is what appears when you all sing. Although I haven’t yet had to feel that pressure that some mums talk about, about how you feel in competition with other mums or looked down upon if you buy a birthday cake in the supermarket, I’ve always felt a bit of a personal challenge, and wanted to make my children’s birthday cakes. My mum always made mine, and I remember feeling excited when I saw each and every one. They weren’t particularly posh or artistic, but they were my birthday cakes and nobody else was ever going to have one the same.

I’m not particularly creative either, so it’s probably no great loss to childrenkind that none of them will ever have to receive a birthday cake quite like the ones I make, but I was still determined! I have to say that due to the fact this was a joint party, and I was therefore going to need 2 birthday cakes, I was quite relieved when my daughter spied a Hello Kitty cake in Sainsbury’s and decided that was the cake she needed for her party, but then things changed after she saw Tangled at the cinema, she decided Disney was an essential theme so she could dress up as Rapunzel, before turning to me and saying ‘And I’d like a cake that looks just like me in my Rapunzel dress please Mummy!’

Who am I to argue?! My son, who dressed up as Woody, had a birthday cake with a Cars logo on the top, which I could just about manage, so I set to work on the Rapunzel cake…

I have to confess that even though this isn’t a particularly complex cake to make if you bake lots, for me it was a challenge, and there are definite up close flaws, but thanks to some expert cyber guidance from the lovely @Shhh_Pregnant who runs Gourmet Kitchenware I managed to produce something which my daughter gleamed at because it look vaguely like her alter ego Rapunzel!

I also made some Disney themed cupcakes for the party bags, just in case my artisic efforts weren’t fit for human consumption, though I have chomped on a *few* slices since the party and I’m still here!

I just hope to goodness that she doesn’t ask for a castle for Rapunzel to live in next year!

Baking with Boys…

I decided that while my daughter was out on her first ever cinema trip yesterday, with her Daddy, I’d do some baking with my boy. This is something I did loads with my daughter when she was his age, but haven’t been able to do as much with Harry, because of course, big sisters always need to be the ones in control. This is what happened last time I tried, when my daughter was supposedly ‘watching her favourite programme in the whole wide world – Cinderella!

He was keen enough for me to be confident he’d really enjoy some baking, so I thought with the 3 year old out at the cinema, it was the perfect time to give it a go…

Unfortunately due to a ‘flour shower’ I wasn’t able to take any pics of the first half of operations, but suffice to say, mixing is something he enjoyed, although he does need to work on keeping it in the bowl! However, we got there eventually, and then moved on to stage 2 – the rolling!

Then he chose the most masculine of the cutters, the hearts and stars, before getting distracted. Everyone knows that essential to every baking experience comes…

emptying a pack of wipes of course! 15 minutes later, and we have a very proud boy, not being able to wait to pose for the photo before that all important taste test!

We then had a few tears as he didn’t realise when I put the entire plate down on his high chair tray that this was for photographic purposes only, and not his portion of food for immediate consumption!

So this was my first experience of cooking with boys. It definitely lacked that finesse we have when my daughter bakes, and her perfectionist streak was less evident too, replaced instead with a sense of gusto, mixed with an air of ‘bull in a china shop.’ I said mix, boy did he mix! I said roll, the dough and the table became as one. I said we had to wait until they were cooked, he acted as if I’d said he would never be allowed to eat again! So in summary, it was energetic and enthusiastic, but he didn’t really care what it looked like, as long as he got to eat it. Now I see where that saying comes from – the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach!