Thursday, 22 July 2010

Singin' in the rain

Just when I thought the rain might put a dampener on our plans for the day, my two children grabbed their umbrellas and headed out to the garden excitedly.

Daisy announced it was time for The Umbrella Show and I was to be the audience. This was a great excuse to just stand and watch them singing and dancing around in the warm summer rain. Daisy sang I've got a jolly brolly - something she must have got from nursery, and Bud started them off on Any umbrellas to mend today - one of our favourite half-remembered songs of yesteryear.

The Umbrella Show reminded me of the famous Singin' in the Rain routine and later, thanks to YouTube, I was able to show them Gene Kelly in a similar frame of mind. And they loved it. They also laughed heartily at the Morecambe and Wise comedy version; I'd forgotten what a classic that is.

But for me it was The Umbrella Show which put the biggest smile on my face today. Just Buddy and Daisy dancin' and singin' in the rain...

Friday, 16 July 2010

Greetings from Camden

Since becoming a mum, the offer of a post-work pint in town is something of a rarity to say the least. So in a slightly over-excited fashion, I accepted such an invitation last Friday. My trepidation grew when I realised a) my children would have to accompany me - I had no alternative childcare, and b) it was at Lock 17 in not-so-child-orientated Camden.

Upon arrival, I noted with relief a few alternative/cool/young parents out and about with their under 7s. I even spotted a pushchair on the terrace bar of Lock 17 itself. I felt my confidence rise as we entered without any problem from the bouncers; apparently the No Children Allowed policy kicks in at 8pm. So far so good.

However, my success was short-lived. Bud and Daisy managed just 5 minutes at the table; hellos and admiring comments about their brought-along toys were not enough to integrate us fully into the assembled throng. Understandably, the grown-ups soon drifted back to their contemporaries. Daisy spilled her apple juice within 2 seconds of it reaching the table and it was then, with an exasperated realisation that the post-work-pint-plus-children dream was never going to happen, we went to explore the lock.

And at last we found our place in Camden. We were really in the wrong place - yes, but luckily just at the right time. And it was great.

Camden Lock on a sunny summer's evening

We watched a narrow boat's crew navigate their way through one of the locks. Bud and Daisy were really impressed with the whole process.

We explored the raised walkways and bridges near the lock itself. There, without the usual hustle and bustle of the market, we discovered a quiet Camden; walking past the empty frames of the market stalls, over the spacious cobbled courtyards and passing just a few people eating noodles, sitting outside bars or simply taking the evening air like us.

And as our evening drew to a close, the promise of an ice cream led us to a typical Camden eatery; inSpiral lounge.

I love this photograph of Buddy and Daisy eating their sugar-free, cashew nut, additive-free, vegan treat. They are definitely thinking, 'It is ice cream but not as we know it.' All a bit strange but hey, when in Rome...

So, thank you Camden for throwing us a curve-ball.

We caught it, ran with it and had a lovely time.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Pancake Daisy

Pancake Day in July: this is what comes of allowing a 3 year old to flick through a recipe book just before teatime. We'd talked Daisy out of the milkshakes (p42)and the lollies (p44) but couldn't dissuade her from p8; pancakes it had to be.

She was very keen to help with the cooking. She confidently tapped the eggs hard on the table top and got most of their gooey content into the bowl. And she loved helping me with the electric mixer, still calling the whisks whiskers - which I am loathe to correct.

Our recipe made 10 pancakes. Daisy was initially impressed by my flipping capabilities but when her interest waned (around pancake no. 6) I turned them over with the spatula - less dramatic but more successful.

Pancakes for tea were allowed with the proviso that they should at least be savoury. So once cooled, ham and cream cheese were smothered on top and they were rolled into enchilada-style wraps and served alongside favourite veg.

There were a few left for pudding, so we filled them with slices of banana, grapes and strawberries and added a dusting of cocoa and sugar. These were trickier to eat - it was a cutlery-free meal - but were polished off just the same.

So crazy times in our kitchen then; non-seasonal cooking you might say. But seeing as we had all the ingredients for pancakes in our store cupboard I think we actually followed the traditional custom better than we've managed on many a February Shrove Tuesday. Good one, Daisy.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

5, 4, 3, 2, 1...Blast off!

During the Fantastic Fifties Week at the Geffrye Museum I helped about 100 children make these fabulous rocket lamps. I can't take any credit for the concept, design or sourcing of materials for these; I just showed up and helped out with the stapling. I love the way they look all together, ready to blast off...

Back at base (home), an earth-bound dolls' house game quickly evolved into an outer-space adventure. Members of the doll family had rocket packs (pieces of Lego) attached to their backs (with Sellotape) and were whizzed around the garden visiting various galaxies (the Swingball, bike shed and barbecue) but landed safely back on the dolls' house roof in time for bed.

The dolls' house baby needed its own rocket so we stuck an empty toilet roll tube to a paper nose cone and cut a door in its side. An old baking powder tub lid was attached to make the floor and it was ready for take-off. I produced some shiny materials for finishing features - tissue and foil mainly - and Buddy did the rest.

Buddy and Daisy love being astronauts so they were delighted to get the opportunity to make these super space helmets at a Geffrye Museum craft session.

And finally, for a brilliant Buzz Lightyear look, we made spacesuit booster engines. Egg boxes make very natty rocket packs - just attach to children's backs with string or ribbon - but we used some wine packaging left over from a Christmas delivery. Gold Lametta was stuck on to make the booster engine flames - et voila; two happy 'astro-nuts' zoomed round our living room for 30 minutes (Buzz Lightyear dress-up optional).

We had lift-off!

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Up, up and away

I have a love/hate relationship with balloons. I wince in anticipation of the inevitable BANG! and I have the loudest response when the moment arrives - I always let out a yip-type scream more shocking than the pop itself. Then I still can't relax, never failing to remember my Nana, warning of the dangers of small children inhaling and choking on the deflated variety. So yes, balloons make me nervous.

However, I do see their merits. Balloons are simply super play things - all kinds of creative encounters revolve around them. My two children love to play keepy-uppy and slow-motion throw and catch, where their skills are of course so much better than with a ball. And balloons take on all manner of guises; rockets, pets, stuffed under clothing to make babies in tummies, I've seen them all.

Today at a party there were about a hundred balloons filled with helium, ribbons dangling at enticing heights. A game evolved amongst the 5 year old revellers where they sold their captured balloons to one another for £10 each; very enterprising. I'm not so twitchy with helium balloons - they are far more likely to disappear into the blue than to pop, and tears I can handle. But since I've seen the film Up I can't see one without getting all sentimental, each humble balloon a poignant reminder of that sad yet life-affirming movie.

My favourite creative response to the balloon was one I saw just yesterday, when my family played at being balloons themselves. No actual balloons were used, so I had no need to be on edge - it was perfect. Rob (daddy), Buddy and Daisy (my two children) took it in turns to 'inflate' each other using our football pump. They started small and limp-looking, becoming larger and taller as the other pretended to fill them with air. The giggliest part came when daddy was the balloon; when he couldn't expand any more there was a moment of stillness then... all the air came out of him with either a pop or a big raspberry as he zoomed around deflating rapidly landing on the floor to great applause. Buddy and Daisy just loved this game - they must have played it a hundred times.

So for me the best balloons are definitely imaginary. And while I have to endure the real things more often than I'd like, I have at least learned the best way to get rid of them once the thrill has gone. I stick some Sellotape onto the balloon and pierce that bit with a pin. No pop - just instant, silent deflation. I'll leave the bangs, screams and raspberries to the rest of the family.

Friday, 2 July 2010

This week in pictures

This week my children have been thoroughly enjoying the glorious weather; our adventures have taken place almost entirely outside.

There's been some serious chilling out under our home-made sun canopy.

It was a great place for relaxed sandwich eating too.

We printed our hands and feet with watercolours...

...and used the colourful pictures as wrapping paper.

We made pin-wheels and fans from old magazines and scrap paper.

But when we really needed to cool down we just added water; washing our scooters and trikes...

...having under-the-sea mini-adventures...

...and making the ultimate chute-and-splash for our toy cars. Ker-sploosh!

And that was our week of fun in the sun.