Monday, 21 June 2010

Blazing June

Summer's here at last! For me, June means Wimbledon (yay), cherries and strawberries (yum), and playing outside until bedtime. It also brings village and school summer fairs aplenty; an abundance of bunting, bouncy castles and barbecues.

But I haven't had much time to write about these June adventures. A casualty of my husband currently being off in far away lands maybe? Too busy being out and about maybe? Being in sole charge of my two children is full-on and tiring, and fitting work in amongst it all is a juggling game requiring precision timing. We are certainly having fun though. Here with a few highlights of our June thus far.

I spy with my little eye

Buddy spotted the most beautiful beetle on our mini-basil plant. It was like tiny Quality Street sweet. It tolerated intense examination under the magnifying glass for two days and then was gone. Ladybird, Ladybird, fly away home....

Make and bake

We made gingerbread men, well people actually. Daisy was adamant she was going to make a skirt for her gingerbread princess.

They always take great delight in announcing which limb is to be munched first. And with recent knowledge of Alice Through the Looking Glass they call out 'Off with their head!' in shrill ordering tones.


The recipe is from a lovely book called Just 4 Kids - with a really simple method and a short list of ingredients including an inspired addition of golden syrup for added chewiness. My two had never tried this before so I let them lick the spoon. It was a little too sweet for Bud's savoury palate but - guess what - Daisy loved it.

Dress-up a go-go

With the lovely weather, I've shifted a lot of their toys to our little outside space.

The dress-up drawer has been relocated to the decking and Daisy has embraced its appearance by stripping off immediately she returns from nursery to transform herself into various outrageous combinations of princess, cat, alien, silver swan and butterfly. I am strictly not allowed to laugh at these though; it has been tough.

Recycling truck

Just before daddy left for his trip to the Far East, he bought a new pair of shoes. Daisy took one look at the shoebox and announced it was to be a lorry. We had great fun raiding the recycling box to make the cab, wheels and windscreen. I got one idea past the Board; a simple fan - made from thin card folded like a concertina - joining the cab to the trailer; articulation in action. Buddy was very keen to fill the shoebox with toys. The toilet roll wheels could barely hold the weight of its load.

Please note the driver; Trucker Barbie. Now that's a marketing opportunity if ever I saw one.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Happy endings

I'd like to tie up a couple of odds and ends from previous posts, if I may.

About a month ago, you may recall my dilemma regarding how to find a home for the hundred or so fruit and vegetable seedlings pictured below.

This story has a very happy ending. Just at the right moment, a brand new raised flowerbed was constructed at my children's school. My offer to fill it with all these vulnerable and homeless seedlings was accepted and their junior gardening club members did the rest. There is a now weekly rota whereby each class take it in turns to tend the vegetable patch.

As you can see in the photographs, the plants have settled in well and are thriving and flourishing in their new home. It's wonderful to see their progress every time I drop the children at nursery and school.

Another unfinished story from a few months ago centred around my 5 year old; he was having a bit of a sad time during his school playtimes. Eventually, we managed to get to the bottom of the problem whilst making our lovely WALL-E figure out of a tissue box as pictured below (see Where's WALL-E March 2010 ). Things have improved a bit since then.

But the story continues because WALL-E remains such a firm favourite with both my children. Fans of the film will be pleased to hear that at long last we've made EVE. This was possible because we finally finished the shower-wash container long since earmarked for her. She was incredibly simple to make, and due to her previous life, smells freshly fragrant too. And so WALL-E and EVE are together at last, living Le vie en rose*

I do love a happy ending.

*from the soundtrack of the Disney/Pixar film WALL-E.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

New balls please

Football doesn't feature in our immediate family. At all. I for one, am more excited about June 21; that's when the Wimbledon starts. On hearing this news yesterday, I felt inspired to dig out all our balls - numerous glittery super-bounce balls and tennis balls - and we had a bit of a free-for-all throwing and bouncing session in our little garden.

However, with England's first match in the World Cup today, we could not escape the presence of its importance; there were so many St George's flags out and about. Spotting every single one, Buddy and Daisy chanted 'ENG-ER-LAND!' at full volume. So, I agreed to watch the match with them tonight.

Knowing that a) they'd never watched a football match before, b) a game lasts at least 90 minutes and c) a lot of the play would go over their heads, I had to think on my feet as to how this was going to be a fun stay-up-late event for a 3 year old, a 5 year old and a mummy who would really rather be explaining the rules and excitements of tennis. However, I can report that we had an absolutely brilliant match.

We kicked off by celebrating the very early goal (thank you Gerrard) by making celebratory flags.

I folded a sheet of A4 white paper into little rectangles, drew the St George's cross across all its sections in swift ruled strokes of red felt tip and then Buddy cut them out. I got him to leave two adjoining flags uncut so we could fold along their join, and glue them together with a pipe cleaner as flag pole in the crease. They made super miniature ENG-ER-LAND flags. So far, so good.

Daisy wanted to wear hers on her head. So I rummaged around for an Alice-band and wound round two pipe-cleaner flags. She then hopped around as 'The England Rabbit.' Goal!

Buddy wanted to decorate a car with the flags, so as pictured below, we adorned a toy Mini. A brilliant goal!

Daisy suddenly announced she wanted to play football. I scored by producing a selection of balloons to use as footballs. The rest of the first half just flew by as my children just amazed me with their fancy footwork, headers and knowledge of the game; they showed me slow-motion replays and got injured numerous times - a rub and a pat on the back was required to get them back on their feet again.

With half-time approaching, I raided the fridge for an orange (a clementine actually) and cut it up into quarters, telling my two tired little soccer stars that we were going to suck out the juice from the oranges just like the real football players would be doing during half-time. This was incentive enough - my two never eat oranges or clementines usually, by the way. Buddy and Daisy really enjoyed this taste sensation and were ready for the second half.

With more foot-balloon keepy-uppy fun, the football on the TV faded into the background. But excitement returned when Daisy spotted someone in the crowd with their face painted. I found our face paints and obligingly created some England flags on cheeks and noses. Another superb goal!

By the end of the match Daisy was playing Shoe Shop, and Bud had become engrossed in his new magazine. Even with the late near-misses, their interest had dwindled. But they did want to keep their flags and balloon-footballs for the next match.

England may have only produced a draw tonight, but we definitely had a win. And for a non-football person like me, that's a pretty good result.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Buttercups and daisies

After a stunning cliff walk from Nash Point lighthouse and a stroll through the rose gardens of Atlantic College, we arrived tired and hungry in the lovely little village of St Donats. With an hour to kill while Robert set out alone to fetch the car, my two exhausted mini-hikers and I decided to stay put. And staying put was really not so bad, you know. We'd settled at the village green - a perfect example - complete with trees offering dappled shade, a lovely wooden bench on which to eat our sandwiches and the springiest, greenest grass on which we whiled away the hour. First there was snoozing, listening to the distant hum of a lawn mover and not much else, then very gently we started to play. It was so wonderful to have that pocket of time to just see what would unfold. Childhood memories of times spent lazily lolling on grassy banks gradually came back to me, and Buddy and Daisy were happy to let me introduce them to the classic games as I recalled them.

Of course, there were daisy chains to be made, and we had several rounds of Do you like butter? - flashing buttercups at each other. This resulted in tickles, giggles and plenty yellow pollen left under our chins

Then I entertained them with my grass-blowing talents; Mr Punch's 'That's the way to do it!' line did break the peace somewhat. It was restored however when we searched quietly for a four-leaf clover until daddy returned.

We became wonderfully immersed in the timeless nature of the grassy meadow. For me, it was sheer nostalgia; it took me a while realise that Buddy and Daisy hadn't known any of those traditional little games. I feel lucky to have been able to pass them on.

And, no we didn't find our four-leaf clover on this occasion. But we did discover that everyone in our family likes butter, that's for sure.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Four have plenty of fun

We're just back from a glorious family holiday in Wales. Sun-kissed, sea-aired and sandy-toed. With only one drizzly morning when we made the Very Chocolately Cupcakes pictured below, we were out and about in the sunshine all day, every day.

We made use of our lovely holiday cottage in the mornings; leisurely breakfasting, drinking whole mugs of coffee - not the usual hasty sip before rushing out the door - and making picnic lunches.

And then, much much later in the day when we fed and bathed our two happy, enervated and very grubby children.

With a super selection of books to chose from, bedtime stories were in great supply but they entertained a drowsy audience - Buddy and Daisy's eyelids drooped as soon as they flopped into their super-soft beds.

Evenings were spent with a glass or two of wine, a sumptuous supper and the opportunity to dip into the grown-up books on offer; I particularly enjoyed Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, the I-Spy book of Wild Flowers and with a squeal of excitement as when spotting a dear old friend, Enid Blyton's Five have plenty of fun. I found the Famous Five book on the last evening of our holiday, and its first couple of chapters had me hooked.

It's got it all; holidaying near a beach, 'She leapt out of bed and went to the window. Immediately she saw the wide sweep of the bay, sparkling in the morning sun, as blue as cornflowers. The sea-sparkle was reflected into the bedroom, making it very bright indeed.'; ice creams and picnics aplenty, 'The Five were on the beach again in two minutes, and Julian undid the basket. It was full of neatly packed sandwiches, and packets of biscuits and chocolate. A bag contained ripe plums, and there were two bottles of lemonade.' And with so much exciting adventure and mystery unfolding before me, I found it incredibly difficult to leave it behind, unfinished.

This evening we unpacked our suitcases, and in a rather Famous Five moment of mystery the book was found lurking in our luggage. How on earth did it get in there? Brilliantly, I can now find out what happens to Berta. Will she be kidnapped? How will the Five keep her safe? How many Thrilling and Very Suspicious things will they encounter before teatime?

The book will be returned by post on Monday morning of course, but until then I have a wonderful way to eke out my holiday vibe a little longer. What luck!