Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Penultimate day of holidays

Today has been the penultimate day of the summer holiday.
We went to Wildwood again. This time without clipboards or any agenda. Just passing the time. But the kids are brainwashed and immediately, as we pulled into the car park, Honor announced that we had parked diagonally and as we walked to the entrance she was busy identifying right angles, obtuse angles and acute angles. NO KIDDING! There was absolutely no prompting from me. And Henry was attempting to read all the signs on the way round too.

Probably, one of the most interesting exhibits there are the adders. However it is usually quite hard to see them in their enclosure as they are well camouflaged and prefer to hide themselves under the logs. Today it was lovely and warm and we were lucky enough to see all five of them. Little Hope loves looking at the snakes and making the hissing noises. Poor Henry had a bit of an accident though. He tends to race around alot and not watch where he is going so he soon ended up flat on his face and covered in dirt. He completely freaks out when he sees blood and unfortunately he sustained a bit of a cut on his knee. I didn't have any plasters with me, just some baby wipes (I got him to keep the offending wound covered with one of those for a bit) and some tea tree oil.

After Wildwood, we stopped for a walk along the seafront at Whitstable. I was hoping to get some seafood there like we had at Blakeney Quay, Norfolk , on our holiday. In Norfolk there was no shortage of little seafood stands selling reasonably priced portions of shellfish. I still often think of the delicious crab sandwich I had when we got off the boat from the seal trip. It just cost about £2. At Whitstable, there are loads of eateries but I couldn't find any modestly priced snack food. I ended up buying a small tub of crab meat with the intention of making my own sandwich at home, but that set me back £4.65 and a small bottle of dandelion and burdock put the price up to over £6. Whitstable is a lovely place but a bit of a rip off, in my humble opinion.
The weather was lovely (and free!) for sitting on the beach while the kids paddled and joined in with some other children who were crabbing.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Stop waste, save money.

Tonight Hubby is going to cook some veggie enchiladas using this big courgette from our garden. He usually cooks for me on a Saturday night.
A few days ago we watched a programme on TV called something like 'The Great British Waste Menu'. A couple of chefs were challenged to cook up a banquet using food that is thrown away for celebs, politicians etc to highlight the fact that so much perfectly good food in this country is simply thrown away for a variety of reasons. Take my courgette, for example. If this, like so many other courgettes, was grown by a supplier for the supermarkets it would be thrown away for being the wrong shape and size. We watched suppliers showing us the boxes full of tomatoes, fruit, even eggs that were just a bit too small all being thrown away. The chefs took some of this food away with them, for free, to use in their menus. Perfectly good, delicious produce dumped for not meeting specific retail criteria.
Anyway. Here. at 'Little House', we are guilty of wasting too much food also. I am trying to make more of what we have and save money in the long run. I suppose a chest freezer would help. I mentioned the other day that I bought a red cabbage to go with our roast pork. It was reduced in the supermarket to 40p, but it looked as though it had a lot of life still left in it. After washing and slicing it, I divided it into 3 portions and put 2 of them in the freezer in bags. So they are all prepared and ready to use. Last night, on Gardeners World, Alys Fowler showed us that you can actually freeze courgettes. I think she grated them first, but better check the info on the BBC website for details. If I am going to do all this, then I think I'll need a bigger freezer.
Another way that I try to be organised in my shopping and save money is to do one big monthly on-line shop. By spending over £100, I get free delivery. But then I need to think about food that will last and not end up getting thrown away. Again, I was buying a lot of frozen food, but I just don't have enough space in the freezer. So now I am buying more tinned food. Especially things like fish and pulses. The kids have always like tinned sardines. I like them too. Fresh ones are very nice but with the tinned variety you can eat the bones. For their tea tonight, the kids had a small tin of sardines in sunflower oil, fried with some borlotti beans (also tinned) and some stale granary baguette. If I was going to have this, I would add some tomato and garlic. Yum. Nice, fast, convenient food that is quite good for you!

For dessert, they had tinned peaches and squirty cream (just a little bit for fun!). I often put chopped nuts on top but didn't have any today.
If anyone out there has some good recipes/ideas using tinned food they would like to share, I'd be delighted to see them in the comments.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Making soap.

Today I got to make the soap I had been waiting to do for some time now.
I bought all the ingredients from a website called 'soap basics' for my daughters' 'Little House on the Prairie' party back in May. The stuff didn't arrive in time. So I waited for her friends to come over so we could try it out together. What I have here, on the table, are:
soap base (translucent and opaque)
3 colours
4 fragrances (inc vanilla and lemongrass)
dried flowers (rosebuds, lavender, orange and lemon verbena)

After melting the base in the microwave and dividing it into the bowls for the children, they added the colours, perfume and petals of their choice and stirred the mixture.
You have to be fairly quick with this process because the mixture soon starts to set.

Then the mixture was poured into moulds.
The soaps did not take very long to set and our visitors were able to take theirs home.
We really enjoyed doing this and will definitely make more for presents.
I think this could easily be done more cheaply by saving old bits of soap and melting down to add whatever ingredients one can get. I wanted to get colours and perfume that are designed for skin contact but I think some essential oils could be used (please check instructions) and flowers like lavender could be found in the garden.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Bye-Bye Big Brother

and Davina McCall.
I have just put the Big Brother final on tv tonight. I remember when it all first started. I watched the first few runs but then it lost its appeal for me. (Davina hasn't though, she's fun. So were the celebrity versions.) This series has had a lot of build up 'cos it is the last one - EVER! I saw the contestants going in ages ago. So I'm just a bit curious to see how it ends - even though I don't know who anyone is.

Down to Margate.

The school holidays are drawing to a close. At about this time I feel desperate to cram in as much with the kids as I possibly can. For some, the school hols are too long. I can understand this. Childcare issues, expense, trying to keep them entertained. For my family, the holidays are a chance to get to know each other again. To live life at a different pace for a while. We get up later, get dressed later. I intended to invite some of the kids school friends over, but somehow, so far, we haven't. Honor has spent the last five weeks mostly playing with her younger brother and sister. I'm sure their relationship with each other has benefited. Yes, there have been plenty of squabbles, but 2 days ago we were driving along in the car. Honor was chatting to me and casually referred to Henry as her best friend.

Today, I didn't really plan what we were going to do. I just bundled them in the car with a bag full of food and drink and headed down to Margate. Henry and Honor had a little bit of pocket money saved and so I thought we'd start at Primark. They enjoyed doing their own shopping there. HM bought herself a t-shirt and Henry was going to buy a packet of pants. Well, he had picked up a packet aged 9-10 yrs (he is 5!) so I showed him how to select the right size. But there were none in his size so he left without anything. (Thank goodness- he really doesn't need any more pants!)

After shopping, we spent an hour on the beach. Little Hope loved the sand and the seagulls. Then we got back in the car and drove further up the seafront. On passing a lovely play area with a Viking longboat (we had been there before) the kids wanted to stop and play there for a while. After that, they wanted to do more shopping (!) so I headed for a nearby shopping centre. On the way, the kids saw a sign for Manston and asked to go to the museum there. "Of course!" said I. So we had another look around there before doing more shopping.

We were all a bit tired by the time we got to the shopping centre. We had a bit of fun in The Body Shop, trying on make-up and perfume. And we bought some Dr Who books in Waterstones. But it was definitely time to go home. Luckily, for me, Hubby had already started on the dinner, roast pork. I made some apple sauce and some red cabbage in cream with some chinese 5 spice. Nobody liked that except me. It had a lovely anniseed taste. Oh well.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Small Successes.


1.) I want to dedicate the first success to my mother-in-law who made my son, Henry's lion outfit for a party (see previous post). Thank you! It's brilliant. I shall put it away for a school 'book week'.

2.) I thought up some games on the spot for our friends' Wizard of Oz party this afternoon. I especially liked the 'Oz has got talent' activity.

3.) I redecorated my dresser using paint and wallpaper and am very pleased with the results.

Wizard of Oz party.

Today I took the children to their friends' Wizard of Oz party. We had to rustle up costumes at fairly short notice. Witches outfits were already available in our dressing up box but Henry wanted to go as the cowardly lion. So his Nana very kindly burned the midnight oil last night to make him this wonderful costume from a brown hooded top.
The ears have cardboard in to make them stand up,

and the fur came from a wig she had!

At the party, the props came from a drama set for a Wizard of Oz theatre production, donated by a friend.

There were a few 'Dorothy' outfits. They were ready made ones. I think Rosie's (in picture) was bought on Ebay. One boy came dressed in a brilliant tin-man costume, though it didn't take him long to pull it to pieces - what a shame. And there were a good mix of good witches, bad witches, munchkins, scarecrows and lions. I didn't find any flying monkey outfits but I found a bat costume in Mothercare which was only £3.99 for my little baby boo!
When I got there, I was asked to help think up some games for the guests to play. We came up with a kind of musical statues game except when the music stopped, the children had to pose as a sleeping lion, a rusted up tin man or a scarecrow. My daughter, Honor, was a bit shy to start with as she did not know many of the children there. So we divided the kids into 4 teams to do an 'Oz has got talent' activity. The groups had to work together to perform a short scene and song for the rest of us to watch. This was a great ice-breaker. The little shows were very good and by the time they had finished, the kids knew each other better. After the food, I had to come up with another game. As my kids love it when I hide snakes in the garden for them to find (this activity originated on St Patrick's Day) I got the birthday girl to collect up as many toy dogs as she could find in the house. She had a lot of them! Then while the guests waited in the living room, I hid the dogs around the garden. The children then played 'hunt the Toto'!!! They seemed to really enjoy that one and wanted to play it several times.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

More posh paint.

I have been experimenting a bit more with different brands of paint. As our living room is getting a lot lighter, I found my eye kept getting drawn towards the dark wood of the dresser. For a while I have been suggesting to Hubby that the dresser might look better painted, but neither of us felt confident about it.
After a spur-of-the-moment trip to Laura Ashley, I was sucked in by their 25% off sale on paint and wallpaper and decided to go for it.

A few hours later (thereabouts) and here is what it looks like now. I painted the wood with 'pale twine' eggshell paint and lined the alcoves with chalk pink 'blythe' wallpaper. (We have the same in green in our bedroom.)


I'm having lots of 'technical hitches' at the mo. It seems my 'puter got a virus and I lost everything on it. Fortunately, Hubby is a computer genius and was able to reinstall the programs. But I can't get back all the files I have lost.
Hope is doing very well with self-feeding. She insists, now, on doing it all herself with her little fork and spoon. So we let her get on with it and hose her down afterwards.
And I have been busy getting the children their uniform and Clarkes shoes. That has cost a small fortune (so I'm in need of a spare arm and a leg!) I'm glad that is all sorted out though.
Tomorrow we are off to a birthday party. We have to dress as characters from the Wizard of Oz...

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Honor's surprise.

I was out in the garden this afternoon weeding the veg patch and pouring the next batch of very pooey stinging nettle tonic on the tomatoes. Meanwhile Honor was indoors raiding the kitchen cupboards. She presented me with this plate. It is a food collage. She picked the blackberries from our garden and Henry picked the nasturtium. Very sweet!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The sun always shines in a photo.

Last night I was off to the WI again. This time for a digital photography masterclass. The speaker had loads of fabulous pictures that he had taken there on display for us to look at and part of his demo was to show us what can be achieved through applications like photoshop. For me the most interesting aspect of the talk was probably the more personal/historical side to it. Hearing about how his father started out in photography in the early 1900's with one of those wooden fold out cameras (a bit like our caravan, really) and sharing his skill and knowledge with his son. But the pictures, too, were of particular interest to me. Lots of interesting, atmospheric landscapes. Some from just around the corner. Some from corners of the globe I'd be lucky to view in real life.
This may seem a bizarre connection but I have been an A-Ha fan for many years. Of course for the music. Not at all for the pretty Norweigan musicians(!) When I was 15 years old, Dad bought me the 'Scoundrel Days' album. I still often listen to this album but back then, when I should have been revising for my O'Levels, I would sit in my bedroom, with the music playing, sketching the amazing scenery from the album cover. (Oh, and Morten Harket's profile!). Their more recent 'Foot of the Mountain' video is also breathtaking to watch with some cool effects and so I have posted it to this blog. Not that I need an excuse.
Finally, Hubby and I have tickets to see A-Ha on their final tour in November. Brilliant!

a-ha - Foot Of The Mountain

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Five go camping in Norfolk.

Lots of photos for this post. So many more I could have used but who likes looking at other people's holiday photos?
As I said before, we recently returned from a short camping break in Norfolk. I picked Norfolk because it is not too far from Kent, a couple of hours drive. We took our small fold-up caravan with awning (the girls and I slept in this) and a pop-up-tent which Hubby and Henry slept in.
The park was Pentney Park, near Kings Lynn and cost us just £98 for 5 days. There was a free outdoor pool and also an indoor one with jacuzzi, gym and sauna for a few quid extra. There was a fair bit of noise at night from the busy main road and the nearby RAF base.

Here is Honor reading a book to her little sister, Hope. I put up the curtain behind them to separate off Hope's cot from our sleeping area.

Hope was fantastic on this holiday. Full of enthusiasm and yet sat quietly and patiently in her pushchair whenever things needed to be done ie, putting the camp together etc. (Unlike her mother who did a fair bit of whinging and whining about the cold, damp and filth that is the essential fun of camping!)

I did, though I say so myself, put together a very good itinerary of excursions. I recently joined The National Trust which gives us free entry to many historical places and nature reserves aroung the UK.
Here we are about to embark on a boat trip to Blakeney nature reserve to see seals in their natural habitat. The weather was pretty cold and wet as is obvious in the pictures. I tried to be prepared with jumpers and waterproofs, however, the last month or so had been so hot and dry I had forgotten how miserable our summer weather could be. As Hubby didn't own anything so cool as a kagool, we had to spend £30 on one in the local village shops and I felt I had to get myself an extra fleece too!

But look at poor Henry. Smiling bravely through it.

And it was worth it to see those seals... and the look on the childrens' faces.

This visit is on a much sunnier, warmer day to Oxburgh Hall, another National Trust site.

There were lovely trails for us to follow...

swans with their cygnets in the moat....

and an old Tudor stately home which belongs to the Bedingfield family and contains tapestries made by Mary, Queen of Scots.

This is Honor coming out of 'the priests' hole'. The original family were Catholics and therefore had to hide their priests during that time of persecution.
Another day out was to a very nice town called Holt which had lots of nice shops selling nice things! After dragging the family around the shops we headed off to the Country Park.
More on that later...

About vegetables.

We have just returned from a little camping holiday in Norfolk. I shall post about that later. This post is just to comment on a couple of other blogs I have been looking at. Having just been down to the veg patch to pick some curly kale to go with the corned beef pie that Mum left us for dinner, I wanted to look up what I could be sowing now for later on. My tiny plot (see sidebar for link) gives advice on planting potatoes to be ready for Christmas. I like the idea of growing now what we'll have with our Christmas dinner so I think I'll give that a try. I've also just been looking at Salt and Chocolate. Mary Beth and her children have set up a lovely little veg stall outside their home to sell off the glut of produce from their garden. We barely seem to grow enough to feed ourselves so we won't be doing that but I'd love it if others from our neighbourhood did this. My nextdoor neighbour had a plant stall for a while and I enjoyed going to get little bargains there. I have also seen eggs and honey for sale at a couple of houses too. I was talking to one lady who lives nearby and she says that even though she freezes a lot of it, she gets a lot of extra produce and in the past some people have had little stalls like this but, unfortunately, money got stolen and the weights and measures police have also interfered. That is such a shame. I'd love to go pottering around the village to buy things from the neighbours. Much more pleasurable (and tasty, I'll bet) than fighting my way around Tesco's. My next-door-neighbour did have the smart idea, though, of leaving envelopes to put our money straight through the door.