Ay Caramba

Youngest child has a new topic to research for school.

Mexico and the Aztecs.

Unfortunately, the opportunities for field trips to bring this particular topic alive are somewhat limited here in the depths of the Midlands.

And after spending several hours with her doing ‘research’ on Google, -which seemed to involve looking at countless pictures of guinea pigs wearing sombreros (yes, really), something a bit more hands-on and rewarding was needed.

If only to stop me prising my own eyeballs out…

So what is Mexico famous for?

Chocolate

And what better educational thing to attempt on a blustery January Sunday afternoon that Mexican hot chocolate?

Pour 500ml of milk into a pan and add 100g of grated plain chocolate, 2 tsp of vanilla essence and 1 tsp of honey.

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Heat the chocolatey, milky mixture – but do not boil.

Mix 1 tbsp of corn flour with 4tbsp cold water.

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When the chocolate has melted into the milk add the cornflour mixture to the pan and stir vigorously

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Once the chocolate has started to thicken, pour into mugs, sprinkle cinnamon on top and serve.

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And if you happen to have a Flake handy to dunk in the thick, hot, chocolatey gloop, well then, even better 🙂

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Yummy and educational.

Well the Aztecs did believe that chocolate was a gift from the god of knowledge, and who are we to argue?

🙂

There’s No Place Like Home

One of the things I wanted to do this summer was explore Leamington a bit more.

I’ve lived here for 17 years and there are still bits of town I don’t know very well at all.

So a couple of days ago, before the rain came ( again), we packed a mini picnic and trekked to Foundry Wood a community managed green space behind the old Ford Foundry.

The rest of the old Foundry site is now a Morrisons Supermarket, (sigh).

Because obviously with Tesco, Sainsbury, M & S, Asda, Lidl, Waitrose and Aldi all within 5 minutes driving distance, what the area really needed was a supermarket.

But never mind!

It’s great that at least some of this old foundry site has been put to good use. 🙂

It was a beautiful day and as we walked to the foundry we passed the canal

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And, ignoring the roar of the traffic on the A road we were walking by, we saw a lovely patch of wildflowers

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Then we got to the woods

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And they were open!

Which was great as I realised half way through our walk that I’d forgotten to check if they were actually open that day.

It’s a great space

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Is it a Clootie Tree? is it Art? What is it?

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Mental note to return in September for blackberrying.

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Wood and textile craft. We’re going to try this at home when the kids get back from their week at their grandparents.

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The rotting piano.

Every wood should have one. 🙂

And then possibly the thing the kids found most fascinating from the whole trip

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The Compost Toilet.

It could have been worse.

That’s all I’ll say.

And to finish the day, a trip to a play park we haven’t discovered before

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And all this on our doorstep.

Well, just about.

Fab.

Butter and spice

A drizzly afternoon.

A houseful of children.

Tired children, after two days of kayaking.

The perfect excuse for some baking.

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Butter ‘n’ spice biscuits

Take 400g of plain flour and sift it together with a teaspoon of baking powder, half a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of ginger and a teaspoon of cinnamon.

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In a separate bowl cream together 200g of caster sugar and 175g of butter

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Add 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the sugar/butter mixture and mix in well.

Now add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and combine well

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Divide the dough up into the same number of pieces as you have children to occupy, cover with whatever covering method you favour -bowl, cling film, tea towel – and place in the fridge for about 30 mins.

I did this bit before the kayaking so I could be smugly organised for once in my life (really must try that more often)(the organised bit, rather than the making cookie dough at silly o’clock in the morning bit).

Then, whenever noise levels/fractiousness/boredom levels get too high, produce the cookie dough out of the fridge (The loud “taaaa daaaaa” is optional), hand out rolling pins and cookie cutters and let the small creatures roll and cut to their hearts content.

Place the splodges carefully cut out and arranged shapes on a lined baking tray

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And bake in an oven at 180C for 8-10 minutes till pale golden in colour.

Let cool.

Then let the small creatures loose with icing and assorted doodahs to decorate the biccies to their hearts content.

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The biscuits themselves are rather moreish. Buttery with just a hint of warmth from the spices.

If you can taste them through all the creativity piled on top.

20 Days of Summer

Well, it’s traditional.

The schools break up for summer.

And so does the weather

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Six weeks stretch out ahead of us.

Full of possibilities.

Last year I tried to be uber mom. In a fit of misplaced enthusiasm I got the kids to each write ten things they wanted to do over the summer on to small slips of paper and put them in a jar. We could then take it in turns to pick things from their wish lists and do them all over the summer.

Super right?

Ha!

They moaned, they groaned.

Oldest child had one thing on his list, which was “play with x”

Youngest child included a trip to Paris on hers.

Which wasn’t such a mad idea given we were going to France on holiday…

only, we were down near the Spanish border.

So this year there is still a list of fun things to do

But I’m writing it.

Sod family cooperatives, I’m changing it into a dictatorship.

Anyway, as we all know, mums are always right and have the best ideas don’t they. 🙂

Don’t they?

Twenty Fab Things We Will Try To Do This Summer

eat
Winkles.
I’ve tried oysters. We forced encouraged the kids to eat snails in France last year. I feel the whole foodstuff as bogey experience will not be complete without the addition of winkles to the canon.

Homemade sushi
Which will no doubt end up the size of giant sausage rolls, but I feel it must be done.

Grasmere Gingerbread.
We’ll be in the area for a week this summer, so it would be positively rude not to.
Every single day.

Caribbean

A new Caribbean restaurant has opened in Leamington. I’ve never eaten Caribbean food. Is this kismet?

Homemade Cherry Pie.
I will, yet again, face my arch-nemesis, pastry.
I will remember the televisual experience that was Twin Peaks

visit
Beatrix Potter’s house in the Lake District.
I find the stories virtually unreadable, but the illustrations? Aaah.

Walsingham
during the candlelit procession to Our Lady of Walsingham. As someone who is slowly moving into agnosticism and possibly paganism, I will be out of my comfort zone here. A spiritual tourist?But I am in awe of people who have such faith, and I am always open to different routes to enlightenment.

The Tate Modern. Apparently, according to his Art teacher, oldest child needs to learn more about different schools of Art and different Artists. I did think that was one of the things they were supposed to teach them about in Art lessons at school – but what do I know? Anyway, we did visit the Tate Modern a few years ago, and did the obligatory “oh my god what is that?” . And, “ha! I could do better than that!”, so I think it could be time for a revisit. We will be cultured and appreciative this time. We will, honest.

The Leamington Gurdwara
is open for Heritage Open Weekend. I’ve been meaning to visit every year since it opened and failed miserably. This is the year I will do it.

English Heritage’s History Live festival of history.
A grand festival of reenactors and other historically minded people. And it’s today. And it’s raining.
Glastonbury for geeks intellectuals 🙂

Do

Rock pooling.
It’s summer. It has to be done.

A headstand
That doesn’t involve me slamming into the wall and then slowly collapsing sideways like a felled tree trunk.

Lace making.
I bought the kit in a car boot sale over 15 years ago. This year I will actually have a go!

A picnic in the park.
In the rain if we have to.
And we might have to…

Leamington safari
There are so many bits of our town we haven’t explored.
Shamefully.
Foundry wood.
The canal.
All the mini parks.
We will know our town by the end of the summer.

read
Something old

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Mum’s favourite, and something I haven’t re-read for many years.

Something new

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Should be published in the next week or two. Very eagerly anticipated!

Something Borrowed
Well, it’s on the kindle, so not really borrowed, but this was on the recommendation of Tracey (hi Tracey!) so, sort of borrowed…:-)

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Something Blue
No not that kind of blue.

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A book about a silent retreat in the Himalayas.

Probably quite short then? 🙂

And finally, just so it makes the list up to 20, and I’m a bit OCD that way…

Something that’s been mouldering on my bookshelves unread for a while and I’d really like to stop it looking at me reproachfully every time I choose a different title to read.

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It’s good to have a plan 🙂

Zzzzzzzz

Had a fabulous night with friends last night (Hi Julie and Phil, Hi Tracey and Dean). Lovely food and conversation. Listening to music (vinyl!).

Not so sure about the live rendition of “Gordon is a moron”.

🙂

It’s the first time in many a year I have voluntarily still been awake at 3am.

Whether I am still awake by 3pm is a different matter.

You may find me snoring gently under the craft table.

Speaking of which

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Bit of a quiet day at the fair yesterday but we are hoping for bigger and better things today.

If people aren’t put off by the snoring 🙂

Ticking

The clock that is.

It’s the Craft Fayre at Hatton Country World this weekend.

I have now officially run out of time.

What a relief 🙂

After yoga today I think I am incapable of lifting even a needle.
I was placed in a bind (no way I could have got myself into it) and the only way it was going to end was by my poinging out of it like a jack out of the box.

And so it came to pass.

Lucky I didn’t take someone’s eye out in the process.

Anyway, if you are near Hatton Country World this weekend, the Craft Fayre is on Saturday and Sunday so pop by and say hello.

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Spring Crafts

The recent, unexpected, inexplicable, sunny weather has served to focus my mind.

Focus my mind on the craft show we are due to have a stall at, at Hatton Country World.

The craft show that is taking place in three weeks time.

THREE WEEKS!

How did that happen?

And where did the time go?

It went on

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Needle cases

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And Easter decorations

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And scented drawer doo-dahs

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But still so much to do.

And so little time.

Aaaaargh.

Turmoil

Back when I was a student, when I actually had time for such things, I used to read a cutting edge, satirical magazine. Unfortunately I forget (a sign of advancing dotage) which magazine it was. Punch? Private Eye?

Viz?

🙂

Anyway, whatever magazine it was, it used to feature a cartoon. Each issue would have a single image and the caption was always the same.

Inner Turmoil.

Well my friends, forget the inner turmoil, we are currently living in complete and utter outer turmoil.

Nay, chaos.

Pandemonium even.

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But look, did you see it? On the corner of the table in the last picture?

A little slice of normality?

A teeny, tiny corner of civilisation, holding the fort against the onslaught of mayhem and misrule?

Honey scones.

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From Lorraine Pascal’s Lighter Baking book.

Apparently they’re really good for you then.

Practically medicinal.

In more ways than one 🙂

Alpaca ma bags

Sorry!

In amongst all the hectic to-ing and fro-ing that is the run up to Christmas, a little slice of me-time.

A chance to spend a morning learning a new craft and “interacting” with Alpacas.

Who could resist?

So this morning saw me and Tracey (hi Tracey!) heading out to Toft Alpaca for a workshop that would teach us how to crochet a snowflake decoration.

With hindsight a workshop that would “teach us how to crochet” might have been a better bet given that neither of us had picked up a crochet hook before today.

The workshop space is fantastic

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Our crochet skills less so

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Can you tell what it is yet?

But it was so nice to get away from it all for a few hours

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(Hello again Tracey!)

have a laugh, and meet some really nice ladies (who were all demon crocheters and were very generous in sharing their expertise and putting right some of the messes I made with the crochet).

Even the alpacas were quite cute in a slightly scary don’t get too close sort of way

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Did you know there are only 2 varieties of alpaca in the world? This is one of them.

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And this is the other.

And as for my snowflake?

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I can’t help thinking I was following an alternative pattern for crocheted seaweed.

Handmade Holiday (pt 3)

I was beginning to think it wasn’t going to happen.
A packed schedule, grandparents visiting, work commitments, the need to sleep occasionally. At what point exactly were the decorations going to go up?

But we have finally, finally, brought them out of the loft, dusted them down, and put them up.

I find the look is becoming more pared down with each passing year.

In the main living areas that is.

We won’t talk about the kids take on dressing a tree.

So for downstairs lots of greenery and candles

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We’ve gone for a real tree this year and it is a real beauty. A bit bigger than originally envisaged – I fear the angel may have a bit of a crick in her neck after a few weeks with her nose pressed against the ceiling- but a beauty none the less.

And isn’t it lovely bringing all the old decorations out and discovering them all over again?

For many years we paid an annual visit to Catherine Shinn in Cheltenham for traditional German handmade glass decorations.

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Small children and glass being what they are we haven’t been for a while.
Looking at the website today I was tempted – but then I saw the torsos which made me think of BoxingHelena, and so I decided to stick with the homemade aesthetic 🙂

Although the garden is looking very sorry for itself at the moment, there’s still lots of evergreen foliage to help make the house feel,Christmassy

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Holly, Rosemary, Ivy and conifer tie together beautifully to make a door decoration

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And then just in case it was all getting a bit too low key and tasteful

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Candy cane colour door wreath!

Another easy one to do with the kids.

First take a base -this could be wire, wicker or polystyrene like this one I’ve had hanging around the craft cupboard for ages.

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Next take some wool- this can be a nice tasteful hue or fairly bright and gaudy like this red- and wrap it around your base.

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Just like you were making a giant pompom….

Once the base is covered, secure the end of the wool.

Now get some felt-again colour choice is up to you and I certainly would not want to impose the bright red and green on to anyone else’s house- and cut out lots (and lots) of star shapes. However many you think you’ll need, double it. And then add a few more. You’ll need them.

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Get some glue. You could use good old upv glue. Or like me, you could decide to use a hot glue gun for the first time.

You know,that old music hall song When Father Papered the Parlour? That was our dining room this afternoon.
Hot glue hung on the dresser
It hung from the doors
At one point it was in danger of hanging youngest child from the ceiling
It floated on the air like spun sugar
Or possibly ectoplasm
Or the gunk from the egg scene in Aliens

But eventually we rescued youngest child and the stars were glued (mainly) to the base and we had a colourful-if not exactly tasteful- wreath for her bedroom door

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The wreath will come down in January but I’m not sure her glue gun PTSD will disappear so quickly.