Tuesday 28 September 2010

My adventurous day

Today I:

  • Drove to my parents' house
  • Walked to the station
  • Took a train to Manchester

  • Had a ride on the Metrolink

  • Went to London by Megabus
  • Wandered over to the train station
  • Caught a train to Hastings
  • Grabbed a cab to my friends' house

And now I need to sleep it all off ;-)

The next day I did most of it in reverse too... review of Megabus to follow...

Sunday 26 September 2010

The Gallery: Food Glorious Food

Its Week 29 of the Gallery and Tara has challenged on the theme of food this time. Should't be too much of a problem as I seem to take lots of photos of food ...

My son enjoying soup in a cafe
My daughter's idea of breakfast in bed for mummy

My daughter enjoying spaghetti
Chocolate fondue - yummy

There told you that wouldn't be hard ;-) Hope the other entries this week also whet your appetite!

Saturday 25 September 2010

Do si do your partner

Yes I have just been to a Hoedown with my family! I don't think I'd done any of that style dancing since my wedding 8 years ago but I've always loved it since I was a kid.It was a chance to introduce my own children to the fun that country dancing can be. To complete the fun we took along my dad who has also always enjoyed a reel or two as no previous skill is needed.

The event included people from age 2 to 80+ and most people got up and had a go. It doesn't matter if you have 2 left feet, or don't know your left from your right. As the caller was heard to say "no your other right" as children got themselves all mixed up.

My two gave it a go and did seem to enjoy themselves:

In one dance I started off in the lady role and somehow ended up as a gentleman as in Lucky Seven dance we all got very confused and it went hilariously wrong. But that's the great thing about country dancing you don't have to be a perfect dancer although a sense of humour is essential..

So dig out your dancing shoes and come on down to the next hoedown or ceilidh that comes to down and take your kids, parents and grandparents with you!

Friday 24 September 2010

Harvest Festival

I love this time of year with all the traditions of Harvest Festival and giving thanks for the food we have and sharing it with others.

My daughter's school had their service in the adjacent church today. There was something extra special about being in a church from 1865 with a school that was founded in 1755! Presumably the children from the original school would have celebrated harvest time in the original church.

one of the church windows
The whole school took part from the tiny Reception children up to relatively big year 6's. This led to a range of reaction from the congregation of parents, grandparent and siblings of applause to "how cute". Plenty of cakes both homemade and shop bought were donated as an offering from the families. After the service these were sold to the visitors along with coffee in aid of charity.

On the way home I glimpsed a fabulous rainbow in my rear view mirror which encompassed the whole village. Luckily I found somewhere close by to stop and take some photographs.

A symbol of hope and the change of season with sun and rain together.

Thursday 23 September 2010

Dear Inconsiderate Driver *rant alert*

Herewith are some open letters to some of the inconsiderate drivers I've come across this week:

Dear badly parked driver,

In future could you please try and stick to your own parking bay in a narrow underground car park? It is actually nice to be able to park in an allocated bay without having to:

  • a) fold my wing mirrors in 
  • b) perform a contortionist trick to get back in

I do hope you enjoyed having to climb in from the passenger side of your car to get back in?

Dear inconsiderate parker,

Did you not notice that you had pulled up on double yellow lines? Did you not see that there was an alley way with vehicle access that you were blocking the exit of?

Please next time wear your glasses if you need them and look before you park your vehicle.

Dear Mr HGV driver,

I know you have a tight delivery schedule but wouldn't it better for everyone if you avoided the narrow roads at school drop off and pick up times? It must be hard enough to drive down the village streets without all the extra cars doing the school run.

Yours with little hope that anything will change,

Mrs W

Monday 20 September 2010

The Gallery: A Smile


It's week 28 of the Gallery and in honour of the Mona Lisa Million Project Tara has challenged us to post a picture representing "A Smile". I'm slightly cheating by posting three smiles in one photo:

This shows three generations of my family on my wedding day. My grandmother on my left was 90 the day before the wedding, I was a mere 32 and my mother on my right was in her 50s. Eight years on we are still smiling especially when we are together.

Sunday 19 September 2010

A weekend stroll: Low Sizergh Barn

Life Unexpected

This Saturday my mum suggested that we take the kids for a nature walk at Low Sizergh Barn just outside Kendal. They are a working organic farm with a free trail through the farm and neighbouring woodland. So suitably attired with wellies and waterproofs we headed off on the trail.....

One of the first things we came across that got the children excited was a special warning sign:

The farm trail initial was on farm track down passed a field full of chickens and other fields that were empty. The path was fairly narrow with plenty of nettles so it was a good job we all had long trousers and sleeves. There were plenty of different kinds of plants and flowers alongside the path too. Presumably in spring and summer there would be plenty of butterflies and other insects to spot.

After crossing a stream on a wooden bridge we went across a large grassy meadow [Gunpowder Works Meadow] following the Farm Trail arrows. It's only tonight I discovered that we could have downloaded a map of the trail from the web site! We then entered Low Park Wood which has plenty of trees and other vegetation to spot and identify:

The trail meanders through the woods and there is plenty to keep children amused especially if they enjoy paddling in the streams! Finally the trail exits the woods and goes back over a field towards the farm:

The reward on returning to the farm is a nice cosy tea room with plenty of choice for a breakfast, light lunch or Cumbrian afternoon tea. If you arrive in time for the 1:15 PM milking then this can be viewed from the tea room! There is also a very tempting gift shop and a farm shop selling lots of delicious local produce.

A super day out for families with primary age children or younger. 

Saturday 18 September 2010

How not to cook like My Daddy Cooks

My daughter and I were inspired to bake this morning after watching Nick and Archie make their Easy Apple and Raspberry Tray Bake and decided we could make one too... 

So off my daughter went to raid kitchen for the ingredients:

About 400g firm cooking apples or other “sharp” variety daughter doesn't like cookers so used eaters
A punnet of raspberries (we had a handful left in the fridge, hence why we added them to this recipe! You can use as many or as few as you want) none left so omitted
Juice of one lemon had to use lemon juice from bottle
225g plain butter
225g self-raising flour
225g caster sugar only had fine brown sugar
3 large eggs
2-3 heaped tbsp ground almonds I hate almonds so omitted
1 tbsp demerara sugar

As you can see we were going off the recipe already... but daughter attempted to weigh everything out:

So back to the recipe... 

Pre-heat your oven to 180C/350F no problem with that bit!

and grease an 8 inch rectangular baking tin with butter, then line it with baking paper. oh haven't got one of those, hope the square one will do...

Peel the apples and cut them into 5mm slices (no core). Squeeze the lemon juice over the slices and leave them in a bowl until you are ready to use them. after I had sliced them I realised that I had forgotten to peel them - hope that doesn't cause a problem

Meanwhile son is not helping much by knocking scales as daughter is weighing ingredients... table getting rapidly covered in flour and sugar...

Using an electric whisk (or, for complete ease, a food mixer), blend together the sugar and butter until it becomes light and fluffy. the plastic whisk attachments in mixer object to the blending process by bending and coming out of their sockets. Swap them for the dough blade but this doesn't appear to result in light and fluffy cake mix.. Let's go old fashioned and transfer to bowl and wooden spoon:

All the other ingredients were dutifully whisked in.

Pour the mix into the prepared baking tin then add the apples (drained from the lemon juice) and the raspberries. Hmm my mix doesn't pour so I'll spoon it in instead... hmm my cake tin is maybe a little bit too big as mix only just covers the base... I'm sure on the video the apples were in the cake mix and not just on top... oh well...

Sprinkle the demerara sugar on top what is that dark brown stuff coming out with the sugar? who has put coffee granules in the sugar??? oh well I'm sure it won't change the taste...

We baked it in the oven as per directions and this was the result:

Nothing like it did when done by Nick and Archie!! As the proof of the pudding is in the eating and not what it looks like we all agreed it does actually taste yummy, even if my kids won't eat the apples...

Apologies to Nick and to learn how to do this properly please go to My Daddy Cooks and watch and learn. Think I won't be taking up a cookery blog any time soon..

Friday 17 September 2010

Getting Boys Reading - Competition!

I don't know about anyone else but I have found Gareth Malone's Extraordinary School for Boys for fascinating and scary. Why are boys on the whole so far behind girls at reading? Is it society as a whole that is letting them down or is it down to individual families to get their sons reading?

As a mother of a boy and an Usborne children's book seller I really feel I need to do my bit to encourage boys to read. My daughter is a real bookworm having followed my example of curling up in bed with a book at bedtime. I read bedtime stories to both my children at night and love to read with them at any time. My son is slightly less happy to sit with a book than his sister but loves going to the library. 

The programme showed that dads reading themselves or reading to their sons gives boys a boost and encourages them to do it themselves. I am going to have to rely on my dad to provide this example. Luckily he is also a book lover and hopefully this will rub off on my son.

So to do my little bit for boys literacy I am going to give away a boy friendly book to one lucky commenter on this post! Simply post your idea for getting boys reading and state what age boy you would like a book for... At the end of the next episode of Extraordinary School for Boys I will choose a winner at random.

The winner will get a book up to a maximum value of £5.99 from the stunning range of Usborne books. To check these out go to my Usborne website. Good luck and let's get our boys reading!


And the winner is comment number 17

the lovely Kailnexness who wins an Usborne book for her toddler!

Thursday 16 September 2010

Reasons to be cheerful

Our home

Is lovely! A perfect sized home for the three of us in a nice quiet street. We have really friendly neighbours and the kids can play outside safely. Its a lovely walk into town from the house.


My daughter has settled in really well at her new school. She has made new friends and seems really happy. Her reading is becoming very confident. She is enjoying the class Our Body topic and loves telling me all about it.

My son seems to be loving his new nursery and has a new best friend, although they have already argued over a girl! He won't be in for full sessions until the end of the month but its looking promising so far.

I have been meeting lots of the other parents and they have been very welcoming. We have all had fun after school in the village playground with other families.


It is fantastic being so close to my parents and other family members. Being able to have them pop over is lovely. My children are really enjoying having their grandparents very involved in their lives.


We have all been enjoying our new church and have been made very welcome and the children are very happy in their Sunday School. I have been able to join a mum's spiritual coffee morning mid week which is fabulous. Afterwards the children were able to socialise and O seemed to make some more friends.


The end is in sight as the Nisi has been declared. Just the financial aspects to be resolved before its all over and I can fully start over afresh.

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Children's Birthday Parties - post party musings

I accompanied my daughter to a very traditional birthday party in a village hall today. There were 15 girls aged 6 (the birthday girl will be 7 tomorrow) plus an older sister. About 3 other mums stayed to help plus the father of the hostess.

The mum had organised some of the good old party games and was using a simple portable CD player. We kicked off with musical chairs:

This started fine until my daughter burst into tears when she was last one standing. She wasn't the only one either. Are we not teaching our children to lose? Or are 6 year old girls just over emotional? All the party games resulted in lots of losers and only 1 winner and then it was time for the party tea. 

It was a pretty healthy spread with sandwiches, cocktail sausages and some crisps as well as grapes & satsuma segments. The drinks on offer were pure fruit juice so no dodgy E numbers or excess sugar to fuel pre-pubescent girlie angst.

To let tea go down it was time for the obligatory pass the parcel. On this occasion it was set with a sweetie for each child followed by one main prize, so an adult had to subtly indicate to the CD operator when to pause. For a bit of variety there were also forfeits on alternate goes. This made the game a lot more fun. My daughter was lucky enough to win the last prize. Afterwards one of the girls was so sad at not winning it that my daughter tried to give it to her! She took my suggestion of splitting the set of 3 so that the other girl had one and she still had 2.

As we got to the end girls started querying whether there were party bags. Since when did these become expected as a right?

This was the first time I'd been to an all girl party and I'm not a 100% sure I fully enjoyed it! At this age girls start being quite moody and catty towards each other and a party gave them plenty of little chances to do this!

With my daughter's own birthday coming up its given me food for thought... This age group need to let off steam so even with a small number of kids that rules out my small rented home! I've found a local hall I can hire for £12 which solves the space problem. Think I need to make sure its not an all female affair so I may mix in her little brother with some of his new friends as an early party for him.

Yes there will be some party games but maybe more of a team affair than individual winners and losers. Who remembers the spoon on a string game or passing balloons between legs or even the orange under the chin race? Any more ideas?

If all else fails and the weather is nice I can always just chuck them out into the playground!

Monday 13 September 2010

Back to School from Clothing at Tesco

The lovely Pippa at A Mother's Ramblings nominated me for a free Back to School pack from Tesco. When I collected the parcel from my neighbour's house I was quite impressed by the size of it:

My daughter was more impressed with the contents:

Everything a girl could need :- skirt, trousers, cardigan, 2 polo shirts, 2 long sleeve blouses, pencils, pens and notepads. It even included a £30 voucher for me to spend online at Tesco clothing (will definitely be saving that for me!).

My daughter was so chuffed that the next day she had to wear some of her new clothes to school:

She looked scarily grown up and well beyond her not quite 7!

So a big thanks again to Pippa and Tesco for my daughter's lovely back to school gift box.

Sunday 12 September 2010

Re-establishing Routines

Well having survived week 1 of my daughter at new school I am now trying to work out how to make week 2 easier with new routines to go with it! It doesn't help that my son doesn't get fully up to his maximum days at nursery for another couple of weeks...

I have been trying to follow the Fly Lady system for a couple of years but never quite got it fully up and running as life kept getting in the way. She is a major advocate of routines to keep your family life running smoothly. It is true that when you keep the same things happening at the same time every day/week things are less frantic so I just need to knuckle down and get my routines bedded in...


Kids dressed before coming downstairs (No TV until dressed)
Check the calendar
Daughter to her school
Housework tasks
Any shopping


School pick up
Take orders for packed lunches
Check calendar (believe me I miss all sorts normally!)

Before bed

My daughter makes sure her school uniform ready
I make any packed lunches
Check the calendar
Put school bags & shoes near front door
Where possible start preparing dinner for next night

What sort of routines do you have?

Saturday 11 September 2010

Saturday Review: Morrisons New Season Cider with raspberry

I was perusing the cider aisle in my local Morrisons tonight when this cider caught my eye, the special offer of 2 for £3 may have had something to do with it, and it looked a bit different. I duly purchased my two bottles and brought them home and placed them in the fridge.

To quote the blurb on the label:

This is the latest in a range of 2009 vintage ciders developed from an exclusive partnership between Morrisons and H. Weston & Sons Ltd.

The first I sampled over ice as I hadn't had long enough to chill it. It was a lovely looking cider with the raspberry juice turning it pink. The aroma was more raspberry than apple and it tasted a lovely combination of the two fruits. I am a dry cider drinker and this was nicely on the drier end of the scale.

I think I may well be stocking up on this for my birthday celebrations next month! At 2 units of alcohol a bottle (4% by volume) it isn't as potent as many of Weston's ciders but it was very refreshing.

If anyone else wants me to review their ciders please let me know!

Friday 10 September 2010

The Gallery: A celebration

After 7 weeks I finally have time to join back in with Tara's Gallery this week. The theme is a celebration and it just so happens that we gave my dad a surprise 66th birthday party at the end of last month. Here is the evidence as my entry:

baking for Gramps

the full spread

Thursday 9 September 2010

Westmorland County Show

I had my first experience of this today alongside my 3 year old son and partly accompanied by my aunt. Took me back to being a small child going to the Wigton show in Dumfries and Galloway with my grandparents.

The show is a really traditional agricultural show with the emphasis firmly on the animals winning their categories and the majority of the commercial stalls there for the farming and rural community. There was very limited non agricultural entertainment which meant less calls on my purse from the small person.

He took great pleasure in seeing and touching the animals, as well as commenting loudly when they peed or pooed in the arena. The traditional Westmorland wrestling kept him fascinated for quite a while. Many of the contestants were in traditional costume:

Unfortunately small person got bored before the men had their bouts in the arena...

This was a good chance to see just how many interesting breeds of sheep, cows, chickens and pigs there are in this country.

Another highlight was a trip on the Lancaster Canal Trust's narrow boat on the limited canal that is left navigable of the Lancaster Canal:

All in all a fab day out (helped by lovely weather) and I'm just sorry that with my son starting school next year we won't be going in 2011...