Monday, 30 January 2012

A tour of inspection

While we were in Brighton at the weekend, we spent most time on the beach; enjoying the fresh and salty air, and making the most of the cold and sunny weather.

We were also reading the book Finn Family Moomintroll the night before and, rather neatly, had just finished the chapter in which the Moomins find themselves on a beach, and Moominpappa has an idea:

After coffee we'll make a tour of inspection along the beach and see what the sea has washed up.

It was remembering this most exciting occupation of the Moomin family that inspired our walk along the seafront on Saturday morning. You can see my children, mid-inspection, in the picture above. They are trying to find strange and interesting washed-up items to show everyone - just like in the story.

Where the character Sniff found a boot without a heel and a raffia mat, my son found a pristinely white fish bone...

... and my daughter discovered a twinkly baby starfish.

Where Moominpappa found some driftwood and Moomintroll a broken buoy, we found a stone broken heart...

... and an extremely long piece of rope. This led to a lengthy game involving much mountain climbing.

Oh how they admired each other's finds there on the beach! The Moomin family had suddenly become rich. 

Although we enjoyed showing each other our finds they didn't make us feel exactly rich, so we left them on the beach for others to discover. And continuing our tour of inspection we went in search of a bit of bling. After all, in the story, the Snork Maiden finds a beautifully painted figure head, the Snork a whole seam of gold, and Moomintroll spots a glass snowstorm. Surely Brighton could offer up something sparkly for us to inspect?

If you know Brighton then you'll know that finding bling is really quite easy. You need only to continue walking along the seafront - until you reach its gaudy and noisy, shiny and flashy pier.

Here we discovered the dazzlingly painted horses and twinkly glass lights of the carousel...

... and the chance to be transformed into a glamorous bride adorned with diamonds, and a smart groom in a shiny vintage car. 

And this glitzy moment, caught on camera, is definitely the kind of treasure that makes me feel very rich indeed.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Our Burns Night supper

A traditional Burns Night supper is usually held to commemorate the eighteenth century poet Robert Burns' birthday. It might include drinking Scotch whisky, eating haggis and 'neeps and tatties', reading poems by Burns, Scotland's most famous poet, and singing Auld Lang Syne. We celebrated our Scottish heritage tonight with a kid-friendly version. We made a few changes - I hope not too irreverent - and I must say, we had a fine time of it. 

Instead of whisky we each drank a 'wee dram' of apple juice, and we substituted a meaty haggis with a veggie version (pictured below). This is made from a mixture of oatmeal, spices, beans, lentils and vegetables stuffed into a heatproof casing, and not a sheep's stomach - as is traditional.

After baking it for an hour in a shallow dish of water, I arranged it so it looked like a kind of rare Scottish beast as pictured below. Now I know it's this kind of thing that propagates the well-known misconception that a haggis is actually a wild animal, but I just couldn't resist. And just in case no one liked the haggis I cooked a few sausages on the side. No one liked the haggis.

Instead of 'neeps  and tatties' (turnips and potatoes) we mashed potato and carrots with plenty of butter. I'm pleased to say these were much more popular than the grizzly veggie monster.

During dinner, instead of Burns' poetry, we enjoyed a fabulous Scottish story about a boy and his bagpipes called You can't play Here by Angus Corby. And at the end of our meal, in place of the traditional Burns' song Auld Lang Synewe listened to the music of Scottish band - The Proclaimers. My six-year-old son wrapped the McKenzie tartan table runner around his waist like a kilt, and both children danced their little hearts out to the track I'm gonna be (500 miles).

I knew I wouldn't be able to cope with any rendition of Burns' Ae Fond Kiss tonight - it's just too sad - so we finished our Scottish evening by listening to The Proclaimers' waltz Sunshine on Leith. This, however, turned out to be just as moving as the song I'd been avoiding; I ended up in tears at the 'beauty and kindness' of my dear children as they sang and danced along with this wonderful and poignant song. 

So here to mark Burns Night, and all things Scottish, are not the words of Robert Burns but those of The Proclaimers; I like to think he would have approved.

Sunshine on Leith
My heart was broken, my heart was broken 
Sorrow, sorrow, sorrow, sorrow 
My heart was broken, my heart was broken 

You saw it, you claimed it 
You touched it, you saved it 

My tears are drying, my tears are drying 
Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you 
My tears are drying, my tears are drying 
[ Lyrics from: ] 
Your beauty and kindness 
Made tears clear my blindness 
While I'm worth my room on this earth 
I will be with you 
While the chief, puts sunshine on Leith 
I'll thank him for his work 
And your birth and my birth. 

My heart was broken, my heart was broken 
Sorrow Sorrow Sorrow Sorrow 
My heart was broken, my heart was broken 

While I'm worth my room on this earth 
I will be with you 
While the chief, puts sunshine on Leith 
I'll thank him for his work 
And your birth and my birth. 
                                                          [lyrics from]

Monday, 16 January 2012

On a cold and frosty morning

This is the way we spot the frost... the frost the frost.

This is the way we spot the frost...

...on a cold and frosty morning.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

The Ice Cave cafe

You might remember our lovely book nook made by Daisy which, back in July, I wrote about here. The space behind our sofa has been transformed into many things since then, but a few days ago it became a spectacularly sparkly and surprisingly cosy ice cave - as pictured above. Recently my children have been inspired by the BBC's Frozen Planet TV series so I wasn't surprised when they were very keen to make an icy place of their own. We checked out a few more ice caves on the internet for further inspiration, then embarked on its construction

We all went on a search and retrieve mission for pale sheets, blankets and throws. Then, with clothes pegs and a conveniently positioned and sturdy floor lamp, we made what turned out to be a rather special space. By covering the floor with a duvet and a couple of case-free pillows we made it snowy white, and very comfortable.

The children then, pretty much independently, decorated their cave with icicles and drip-pools. They used stuff we had to hand; kitchen foil, pale tissue paper and bubble-wrap. They ripped, scrunched, cut and stuck (with sticky tack and tape) their icicles and pools to the ceiling, floor and walls of the cave. 

Then they asked to make some ice columns - an authentic feature of some naturally formed ice caves. Using pale, empty gift-wrap tubes, they covered them with bubble-wrap, tissue paper and foil, and added a little silver glitter.

Once finished, the fun of using the ice cave began; they had a Polar adventure with their ‘Arctic’ cuddly toys, and several action figures took up residence in it for a while. They used it as a cosy chill-out space to read some favourite winter books, and later it became the Ice Cave Cafe when they asked if they could have their tea in there.

As you can see, we turned off all the lights - except the lamp in the cave - and my goodness, it was magical in there. Perhaps with the exception of the Ice Hotel in Sweden, I can't think of anywhere more unusual or more twinkly in which to dine. 

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Fun salutations to the sun

One of my New Year's resolutions was to restart my commitment to regular yoga practice. This might sound simple enough but of course once you factor in two puppy-like children swirling round your legs and lying under you during your downward-facing dog just because they can - then you see the challenge. I attempt an hour of poses with the children buzzing round me - impossible. It always ends up with a Making It Fun For Them session instead; I whip up little yoga stories or songs (great), or occasionally resort to using our kids yoga DVD (not so great). The focus of my own practice disappears into the sunset. I know the best solution is for me to go to a class - but my weeks are just too erratic for that.

My compromise for January is to complete just ten sun salutations a day. Somebody once told me that a sun salutation cycle uses nearly every joint or muscle or something - so it's definitely worth a try.

So here we are, one week in  - and I have managed it. Even with the children around. Here's how:

On day one - 1 January, I made up some words to go with my simple sun salutation cycle. Of course Buddy and Daisy 'joined in'; they really loved the fun of the words with the movements, and because I was only doing ten we were all done before too much went wrong.

Here are our pose-linking words; still fun to use, even if the children aren't around.

1 - 2 Coo-eee sun
2 - 3 Sunshine everywhere
3 - 4 Coo-eee Daisy (or whoever is in view)
4 - 5 As strong as a bridge
5 - 6 Down in the lift we go [make a 'going down' noise]
6 - 7 Here's the little dog - ahhhhh [make a high yap]
7 - 8 Here's the big dog - uh-oh; hold on to her lead [make a gruff bark]
8 - 9 Grasshopper [make a 'jumping' noise]
9 -10 Bottoms up [make a 'going up' noise]
10 - 11 Coo-eee sun
11 - 12 We are done

I know it's a tiny amount of yoga - but so far it seems to be working; giving me a concentrated dose that the children can also enjoy, and which leaves me feeling stretched, energised and at least motivated to do more once the school term kicks in. 

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Let's start the new year right

One minute to midnight
One minute to go
One minute to say goodbye
Before we say hello

Let's start the new year right
Twelve o'clock tonight
When they dim the light 
Let's begin

Kissing the old year out
Kissing the new year in

Let's watch the old year die
With a fond goodbye
And our hopes as high as a kite

How can our love go wrong
If we start the new year right?
                                                                                             [Irving Berlin, Holiday Inn 1942]

I love this song by Irving Berlin - it's the perfect blend of new year hopefulness and melancholy. And I love this picture by Daisy - it's us celebrating the arrival of 2012. With a cat. I suspect Hello Kitty.

Today would have been my mum's birthday. She passed away three years ago, and so I begin the new year thinking of her. Writing Adventures at Home has seen me through a couple of years of tough evenings. This is when I've missed my mum the most because it's when I've had time to myself. It's still comforting to talk about my family here because my mum always loved to know about the brilliant things her grandchildren said, made, did and played. So, even three years on, I guess I'm still just keeping her posted really.

With the children back at school today I have been trying to 'start the new year right' by de-Christmassing the house, and embarking on yet another toy audit - integrating all those new Santa-brought items into our home. I have been quite brave; boxing up and putting out of sight some of the pre-school books and toys that suddenly seem so out of place - including some lovely things bought for the children by my mum. 

I realise, with a tinge of sadness, how my children have changed from toddlers to sophisticated school kids since Grandma died but I am delighted to see they are beginning 2012 with absolute expertise in play. They are still so creative and spontaneous, so amazingly imaginative and energetic; they really do take my breath away sometimes. They still want to make, do, sing, dance, pretend and create and, quite newly, to draw, write and read - and do so with infectious enthusiasm. Long may it continue.

So here's to a brand new year of Adventures at Home. We certainly haven't run out of them yet and so, as I said in my very first post, this blog will be a record of them all. I do hope you will continue to follow our adventures.

I dedicate this first post of the new year to my wonderful mum - Grandma. Thinking of her today and every day.