Friday, 31 July 2015

Oh poor neglected kitchen gadgets, your time will come

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned how my home is in dire need of decluttering due to my pre-children incessant shopping habits and a desire to live the kind of life where I have time to juice, bake, make soup and other fancy stuff that would justify having many kitchen gadgets.

My lovely mother in law always asks what we want for Christmas and birthdays and as I have so much already I often think of something at that last minute which is how I came to own a juicer that was in it's box for about 5 years before I opened it. Then I used it once and forgot all about it.

In January I was making green smoothies every day and used a blender, but the poor old juicer remained neglected. Until this week that is. I returned from a visit to my parents laden down with boxes of peaches, strawberries that were slightly softer than usual and I already had some oranges that a neighbour had left us when she went on holiday. I decided to dig out the juicer.

The result was a lovely fruit drink that wasn't too sweet, but tasted lovely. I almost made a rash promise to do this as a regular thing, but let's face it I'm not going to say that as it's unlikely to happen again for a while.

Anyway, at least I know how fab it is to use and when she asks I can - truthfully - tell Mother in law how great the juicer is :)

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Bring your own uniform day at the fire station

My boys love fire engines. They have so many toy ones and I have to pass the fire station whenever I am driving through Croydon so they can check how many engines are in that day. When I drop Big Boy off at summer sports camp we pass the fire station about 4 times and Baby Boy gets terribly excited. Mostly because last week we made a special trip to see the station with a lot of friends from Big Boy's school.

It was such a lovely sunny afternoon when we made our visit and we went straight outside to see the engines in action. The officers on duty were kind enough to let the children play with the hoses and sit in the driver's seat.

The Mums were invited to take part and Lucille was keen to get involved - as you can see. I ended up in the full fire kit - less said about that the better really ! 

Big Boy has been to the fire station a few times and he likes to go in his own fire officer outfit. I think he looks very professional. 

He insisted on holding an axe from the back of the engine - a tense moment for all the adults, but he was fine and very careful with it. 

Then we went inside and watched a re-enactment of what happens when a fire is reported. There is a lot of noise then the fire officers slide down the fire poles. 

This was Big Boy's favourite bit - he loves to pretend he's on a fire pole. Being allowed to go on a real one was the most fun. 

Then both boys raced off to see who would get to help open the big doors. 

Big Boy is taller so he won this time. 

Thanks to the lovely staff of Croydon Fire Station who made us so welcome when we visited. We all had a great afternoon. 

This post is being shared as part of the #countrykids linky hosted by the lovely Fiona of Coombe Mill - our favourite family holiday destination. 

 Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 

Saturday, 25 July 2015

He can't say Mum, but he can call the cat - pah !

I was dreading the week just gone as it was the only week of the school holidays that I didn't have Big Boy booked into play schemes. He did a swimming crash course every day, but that was only half an hour a day and I had whole days to fill and two boys to keep occupied. I sent an email to the other mums from Big Boy's class and made plans to do things to keep us all from going bonkers with our kids at home. The response was heartening as they all seemed to be in the same boat as me and jumped at the chance to get out and do stuff with us.

In the end we did something every day and I spent more time with the mums than I have since he started at school and it was great. We spent drizzly mornings in the park, a spectacular sunny afternoon at the fire station (more of which in my country kids post later this week) and I had conversations with adults every day. It was brilliant ! As a result I learned some stuff I didn't know before which I thought I'd share.

Samuel's mum told me on Monday that she spends one hour every evening gardening. I thought this was such a genius idea I immediately decided to do the same, so this week I've spent up to an hour in the garden most evenings which means I've already spent more time in one week than in all of the previous months this year. It also means I can do manageable chunks without getting the chronic backache that is inevitable from the 'binge gardening' I usually practice. It has been nothing short of a revelation !

You probably already know I love Waitrose and this week gave me a concrete example of why. I took Big Boy to Asda with me - it was close to where we were at the time, it wasn't my first choice - and as I parked in a parent and child space the women in the car next to me threw a McDonalds bag at the back of my car. I looked at the bag with the remains of a milkshake and various containers in it and looked at them and for a moment considered throwing it back, but decided it wasn't worth the fight that would ensue if I did. The next day I needed to cleanse myself of the experience and while pushing Baby boy in the trolley at Waitrose a man politely pointed out to me that Big Boy had dropped the plastic lid from his disposable coffee cup on the floor. Now I have to explain he wasn't actually drinking a coffee, but he flutters his eyelashes at the ladies on the counter and they always let him have a cup to play with. I smiled and said thank you to the nice man who proceeded to apologise for his presumptuousness in trying to tell a parent how to parent. I told him it wasn't a problem and we went about our shopping trip with Baby Boy pointing at everything in the store and Big Boy going loopy in the aisles. I love that in Waitrose someone would be kind enough to worry about my boy dropping something on the floor and putting it in his mouth that they would tell me.

It was while we were driving to Asda that I heard one of my favourite of Big Boy's latest malapropisms. He is usually a pretty eloquent conversationalist, but he does say some funny words. There's the usual lellow for yellow of course, but when he asked, "why are we going to Asbo ?" I had to laugh. Others that I've spotted include, Teenage Newton Ninja Turtles and when he finished watching Cinderella he told me that it was the garden mother who sorted out her dress for the ball. In fairness to both boys I should also point out that Baby Boy is now saying a few intelligible sounds. His clearest word to date is Neo (of course, they always learn the cat's name first !) and he is also saying something like Hello and Bye Bye, both of which make him sound like a Minion. It's hilarious, but also really cute.

So I'm not saying it's rocket science, but what I've learned this week has given me a laugh and my garden looks a little bit nicer as a result. I call that a win.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Park Life

With the summer holidays come long weeks that we have to fill with activities to stop the boys from getting on each other's nerves - and mine. I have found that while Big Boy does like to go to structured activities it's not always possible and it can run to a lot of expense to keep sending him to play schemes. This week was one that was filled with dread for me as I had no firm plans for him so I put out an APB to all the mums I know for ideas. We now have some plans and he will see friends from school which will both excite him and tire him out - double bubble. 

One of the simplest things to do that works for both my boys is to take them to the park. As Baby Boy doesn't have his own friends yet he usually has to occupy himself while Big Boy plays with his mates, but a park has enough to keep them both busy. We are so fortunate to have a lot of open spaces near where we live and I take the boys to a lot of different places to play. One of our favourites is Kelsey Park in Beckenham. Big Boy and I used to go quite frequently last summer and both boys love it so we will do the same this year. Today we met a few of Big Boy's school pals there and they had a great time. 

Big Boy has really grown in confidence in the last year and he had never wanted to go on this big slide or climbing wall before. Now he's so fearless he went straight to them.

Baby Boy loves the lake with all the birds on it. There are Canada geese, ducks and swans. He likes to chase the pigeons and shouts out 'uack 'uack at all the birds. Today one of the other mums had brought some nuts to feed the birds and the boys really enjoyed throwing food for them. We see a lot of dogs here as well and that makes Baby Boy very happy and he shouts, woo' woo' at them.  

No trip to the park on a sunny day is complete without a stop for ice cream. 

Or climbing a tree

Or pointing at a squirrel.

There will be a lot more days out over the next few weeks - let's hope they are as fun filled as this one.

This post is being shared as part of the fab #countrykids linky hosted by the lovely Fiona of Coombe Mill - our favourite family holiday destination.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Is there such a thing as genetic memory ?

Do you remember that bit in Sliding Doors when John Hannah's character refers to the 'Foetals' - the fact that everyone knows the music of the Beatles even if they weren't born when the band was around. Like a genetic memory. I am becoming convinced there is such a thing as Big Boy has a sudden obsession with lightsabers despite never having seen any of the Star Wars movies. He will,  of course - I'm not a heathen - but he is far too young yet. So how is it that he has any idea what they are unless it's been passed down through some cultural shared memory ?

It seems a lot from the past is making a comeback and it's like time has gone backwards sometimes. I fully expect my son to revisit some of the experiences of my childhood. It's almost as if having the internet and mobile phones wasn't enough to keep this generation fully occupied with youtube clips of dancing cats and addictive mobile gaming. I've handpicked a few of the cultural icons from my youth that have made a reappearance.

Dangermouse has been reimagined with Alexander Armstrong as DM and Kevin Eldon as Penfold. This reminds me of two awesome things - when asked what animal Penfold was my sister used to insist that he was a potato (mind you she also wanted to be a strawberry when she grew up). The other is that my friend whose surname is Penfold has not had to endure ridicule about this for many a year and now it's all going to come flooding back - he is equipped for this, but I suspect that his wife will find all of this a bit new.

Rubik's Cube I was never able to do this, however hard I tried. In recent years they've come back and Hubbie picked up two at a promotional event so we keep handing them to the boys to test which one is a genius - we've yet to find the answer.

Sonic Boom yep that old fave Sonic the Hedgehog is back and has his own show on kids' tv. Since I let Big Boy use my Nintendo DS he's also been playing Mario games and refers to Mario and 'Weejee' which makes me snigger every time. I'm waiting to see if he starts to play Donkey Kong and Frogger next.

The Clangers so the BBC have thrown a lot of money at this remake of the classic show and my boys seem to love it. The wholesomeness and simplicity of it is quite sweet and soothing. For me it just reminds me of the time my car was broken into and the toy clanger my friend Phil had given me was stolen along with a lot of other things that I kept in my car including rollerblades, CDs and my favourite denim jacket.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles At a Build-a-Bear party we went to most of the boys chose Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles despite never having even seen the show. Of course they have moved on since we were kids and where they used to be called Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michaelangelo they are now Leo, Raf, Donny and Mikey - good grief ! It also appears that whereas they had to be called Hero Turtles when I was a kid as Ninjas were considered far too violent for children it's apparently fine now for the delicate flowers that call me Mummy. When two of the turtles did a live appearance at a local shopping centre I took Big Boy and he was over the moon to meet them despite that fact neither of us knew which ones they were. It was when we found some episodes online for him to watch that we decided they really were not age appropriate for him just yet.

Some characters are just ageless, like Sooty and Basil Brush who are still performing live in what must surely be their golden years. To be fair they are probably the only ones from my childhood who are not eyed with suspicion. I expect that they will still be going when my boys are far too cool for kids' shows.

For now I am enjoying freaking out my boys when I tell them that the things they are really into were mine and Daddy's favourites when we were little too.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

With a "Quack Quack" here and a "Baa Baa" there...

Waiting to feed the impatient birds
We love Coombe Mill as a family and taking Baby Boy there for the first time last week was a delight. He loves animals so we were pretty sure he'd love staying on a family farm where the feed run is a daily activity and there is also plenty of outdoor play space for our boisterous boys to wear themselves out in. This was our 3rd visit and we've stayed in a different type of accommodation each time. This visit we stayed in Honeysuckle, a three bedroom stone cottage with a lovely small garden out back and right next to the miniature railway, pirate ship and trampoline. I even managed to have a few bounces on the trampoline which made Big Boy very happy and we sneaked off for a go whenever we had a chance.

"Chickens !"
Of course the whole point of going to stay in Cornwall is that we love to spend time outdoors and the boys really did take to the whole farm routine. Me and Hubbie take it in turns to do the feed run with the boys so one of us gets a morning off to relax or go to the gym. As soon as we arrived we picked out some gear for the boys to wear. As return visitors we know that the reception room has plenty of waterproofs in all sizes that we can use during our stay. We also took advantage of the range of puzzles, story books and dressing up costumes which kept everyone busy.

My little tractor driver
The boys really enjoyed helping Farmer Nick and Farmer Amber to feed all the animals. As an old hand Big Boy also knew that he could volunteer to drive the tractor so he was first in line most days. It's a great incentive to behave if he thinks he won't get a turn to drive. Baby Boy was not keen to drive at all - hopefully on our next visit he might pluck up the courage to help with the tractor. Both boys really love to feed the animals and this visit Big Boy fed Sprout the baby goat with a bottle of milk. It's a responsible job and he was also very good at sharing the duty with other children.

Feeding Sprout

Baby boy has learned a lot of new animal sounds and keeps making loud 'quack' noises when he sees bath ducks which is amusing if a little ear splitting in the morning when I'm barely awake yet. There are a lot of birds including chickens, ducks and geese and some peacocks and a peahen - who was sitting on eggs while we were there - hopefully they will hatch before long. Last year they were stolen by an invader, possibly a badger.

"Quack quack"

One of other activities that really captured Big Boy's imagination was searching for and collecting eggs. He was so upset the first day he brought one back when it rolled onto the floor just outside the door and broke. He even asked Hubbie to replace it with one from the fridge so I wouldn't find out what had happened. To make up for it he found a duck egg the next day and was very proud of his special find.

Sunny feed run 

Of course being on holiday isn't just about working and we did take the boys to the beach on a lovely sunny afternoon. It was Baby Boy's first time walking on sand and in the beginning he found it a bit strange. He wasn't too keen on the wet sand and absolutely didn't want to go in the water, but he did like the feeling of sand and throwing it around. Until they both got carried away and it became a bit of a mission to get it out of his eyes that is - oops ! 

Beach boys

I hope that they boys have lovely memories of our family holidays in Cornwall - I know I do. 

This post is being shared with the #countrykids linky hosted by the lovely Fiona of Coombe Mill

 Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall  

Saturday, 11 July 2015

The highlights of my holiday now I'm a Mum.

We're back from our holiday and had a lovely time. Being away with two boys under 5 has been a lot of fun and lot of work and I'll share some of the adventures we had in a later post, but for now here are a few highlights of what being on holiday means for me these days:

Taking a walk in the evening and bumping into an alpaca:

Drinking wine in the evening - outdoors :)

Visiting the Eden Project - which the kids have absolutely no interest in, but I love.

And finally coming home to snuggles with this guy:

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

I don't do doughnuts - and other revelations

I've never considered myself to be a maverick in any way whatsoever. I'm terribly conventional really. So it came as a bit of a surprise to realise that I have some quirks that do set me apart from a lot of 'normals.' For example:

  • I cannot bear sand. I won't have it in my garden at home so the kids can't have a sandpit and when we go to the beach I spend all my time shaking sand off the beach towels and my feet. It's  not so bad when it's dry, but once my feet are wet I spend all the time trying to get the sand not to stick to me and - frankly - it's a miserable process. 
  • Tea is my thing - I don't drink coffee. I used to, but I haven't for over ten years and now it's a distant memory. I did drink decaff for a while, but that seemed so entirely pointless I have given up on it altogether. People are often puzzled by this. 
  • Although I have a daredevil streak in me I will never, ever do a bungee jump. It's as far from my idea of a good time as it's possible to get and I would throw myself out of a plane before I would do this. Bear in mind I am also not a big fan of flying so that's a big deal. 
  • Nutella doesn't do anything for me. It has taken me most of my life to realise I just don't like that praline-y taste and that extends to all the pralines in any selection box of chocolates too. Now you know which ones to help yourself to if you share a box with me - or which ones to buy if you don't want me to eat any.
  • When I was a kid I was terrified of car washes - those automated ones that you drive through - and when I was reminded of this by my mother as an adult it revived the fear. I now cannot drive through one of them without distraction or a sedative - I am being serious ! 
  • I'm a big fan of fish, but I can't stand salmon. Smoked salmon is fine, but the other kind is just eugh ! This makes me sound really picky when I have to tell anyone my food preferences, but honestly I'm not. 
  • I swim about 5-6 times a week, but I'm very frightened of large expanses of water. When the pool is empty it takes a few minutes before I stop being afraid that something (I don't know what) is going to happen to me in the water. I love swimming, so this one is a bit of an issue. 
  • On a similar note, this becomes even more complicated by the fact that I get horribly seasick, but I will scuba dive. While I'm on the water I feel sick as anything, but when I'm in the water I am fine. Weird eh ? 
  • Despite years of devoted service to cakes of all kinds I just don't like traditional doughnuts. Yes I can appreciate the smell of freshly made doughnuts, but the sugar coated variety are far from my idea of a treat. I was so scared of my mother as a child that I never told her that I didn't like them and when I confessed as an adult she was quite surprised. 
I'm sure there are plenty of other oddities about me, but these ones appear to be the ones that cause the most consternation to others. Oh well, it's part of my charm I guess :)

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Review: Creaturepedia

Our home is packed to the rafters with books. In fact when we moved house it was mostly to house all the books. The boys are also big fans of books and so we were delighted when we received a copy of Creaturepedia to review for Mumsnet. 

Creaturepedia front cover

It's a beautiful book for a start. I know you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover, but seriously this is such a good looking one you'd be hard pushed not to be tempted to flick through the pages at first sight. Look at the contents page. It is so lovely and descriptive for children who aren't reading yet (Baby Boy) and those who are learning (Big Boy).

illustrated contents page

The page marker is a bright colour so you don't lose your page easily and it's a large hardback book so it's pretty sturdy - an essential in our house as books get a lot of use and can come acropper if Baby Boy is being too enthusiastic. Talking of which, he's a big fan of animals, particularly cats and dogs, so the family animals section was of great interest to him.

family animals page with cat and dog illustration

I like the layout of the pages with great illustrations and large type for young readers. The sections have inventive names like 'The pretty-in-pinks' which appeals to my inner eighties kid.

Pretty-in-pinks page with pig illustration

Then there are double page spreads like these beauties which show some lovely images and tell the story of where animals originate from in picture form.

illustrated map of voyaging animals

Peacock and toucans - the show off birds

Creaturepedia is an inventive and beautifully illustrated reference book that appealed to my boys as they love animals, picture books and learning new things. It would make a really fab present for someone - although I'd be far too tempted to keep it :)

Disclosure: We were sent a copy of Creaturepedia in order to write an honest review.