Saturday, 21 December 2013

The Remarkable Passage Tomb known as Newgrange and our Gingerbread House (unnamed this year)

I am posting this on the winter solstice, the 21st of December, which is marked on my Canadian calendar as "First Day of Winter". Now, Canadians, I know you know a thing or two about winter but considering the inches of snow and the temperatures that have fallen well below freezing in the past few weeks, I respectfully suggest that winter starts well before the 21st of December. Also, after the 21st of December, the days start getting longer again - it's midwinter, ok?

gingerbread house, Christmas, craft, Christmas baking
Note the light passes
right through the windows above
the door just like Newgrange...
sort of
The reason I am posting this on the 21st of December is the remarkable feat of engineering I unintentionally pulled off in my building of this year's gingerbread house from scratch ( for previous year's efforts, from kits, see here). This feat of engineering clearly reflects that of the ancient builders of Newgrange, where on this winter solstice day, as the sun rises at the passage tomb , it shines through a window above the entrance to the tomb and down a narrow passage right into the central chamber. As I built this year's house, my deep Celtic roots took over and, when I took the "before" photo, I saw that I had aligned the front and back windows. I am sure that if I lined it up this morning, on my kitchen table, the sun would have shone through our front door peephole, through the windows and onto the kitchen wall where a rainbow would have been projected. However, it was Saturday today so I didn't get up to check.

Bubbly, spicy, beautifully
fragrant gingerbread mix.
Due to the fact that the gingerbread in the kits I used before was barely worth eating, I decided to bake my own gingerbread this year. I have some experience of this though I had never attempted a building project before. I used this recipe after a spot of googling. What I really liked about this recipe was that I got to mix up sugar and molasses and spices in a boiling, bubbling, fragrant pot. It also meant that the dough was warm when I was kneading it and rolling it out*. The recipe says it makes 3 fair sized gingerbread houses at some point - that is rubbish, I didn't even have enough to cut out roof pieces to allow for big overhanging eaves for mine. However, I suppose "fair sized" is subjective.

seasonal baking, Christmas baking, craft, kid's craft, decorating
Z1's side

seasonal baking, Christmas baking, craft, kid's craft, decorating
Z1's side
Well, readers, I was rather delighted with the outcome. I was a nervous builder having read and seen pictures of gingerbread houses disastrously and tragically collapsing due to the icing glue being insufficiently gluey or too slow to dry. I warned Z2 to stay away while I was attempting construction but it was a simple, painless and successful process. We passed happy moments decorating with a system whereby I squirted on the glue (royal icing - this one, as it didn't require cream of tartar which I don't have ) and the Zeds stuck on the sweeties. I foolishly bought Tic-Tacs which don't look so well but, in my defence, I thought they would be orange, not white. I rather like the marshmallow tower that Z2 built.

Sofa cushion fort
After a while, Z2 tired of his task and went to relax in his fort. Z1
Back of the house
by Z1
stuck with it and decorated the back most magnificently as well as being responsible for the beautiful and welcoming front. The completed house is now in the process of having bits broken off for Z1's lunch box and Z2's breakfast and for me whenever I get the urge. It does taste very good and has the added bonus of making the kitchen smell nice...or at least the area around the kitchen table. A true triumph, really.

* A drawback is that it seems to dry out quite quickly so it's really for immediate use.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Opting out

Festive coffee filter garland
Lazy weekends are somewhat harder to actually have at all relax and enjoy when you have delightful, enthusiastic and energetic young children. I had grand plans, one Saturday evening, to bring the Zeds swimming AND ice skating while Husband was off playing badminton. On Sunday morning, my weather app said -8C and Z1's earnest, wholesome and easy suggestion of a scoot to the nearby graveyard (it's lovely, honestly, it is- trees and peace) followed by Christmas crafts seemed like a lot of effort.
Snowflake 1
Magnificent snowflake number 2
Attempt one at crafts on this day was snowflakes from coffee filters which we made with some success last year despite being out in a café. I had even practiced two this year and was pleased with the first one until I made the magnificent second one. However, Z1 got frustrated very easily and my attempt to follow a template without actually marking it out on the coffee filter was less than impressive. Even Z1, who is usually quite kind and enthusiastic about my efforts was not inspired.

We stopped for lunch and, afterwards, I suggested painting the coffee filters. I rarely get out the paints but I figured I could just supervise while drinking tea so it seemed like a good plan. It was. They sloshed paint about on the filters, I have a wipe clean tablecloth and they didn't fight. The stroke of genius, on my part, was deciding to string them up as a garland as it meant I didn't have to leave them on the table to dry or risk the wrath of the Zeds by putting them into the recycling (at least, not yet).

 We did not go out scooting to the graveyard. 

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

A Sad Story About Advent Calendars and Rejected Toilet Roll Inners

Last year, you may recall that I got Conquering Christmas off to an eggcellent start with this Advent calendar. Around two weeks ago, I began to plan for this year's creation. I started saving toilet roll inners and calculating how to lay out 24 sections of toilet roll inners as a triangle shape to resemble a Christmas tree. This infographic shows the intricate plans that I made.
Christmas, Advent calendar, Advent calendar craft, craft, children's craft, kids craft, Christmas craft

However, Z1 and Z2 saw Advent calendars in a shop and now they want them. I tried to remind Z1 how much fun we had making last year's but to no avail.

Lindt, Chocolate, Christmas,
Giant Lindt ball with
mouse for scale
I am seriously contemplating making this one for me - 'twould be perfect for rationing out my Lindt balls from the giant Lindt ball that Husband kindly gave me for no reason at all and I could use up those toilet roll inners I've been saving.

Monday, 11 November 2013

From Recycling Bin to Train: A Sunday Story

A very happy looking train
An indicator that you may have let your daughter watch too much television on a lazy Sunday is that she starts squirming and looking for something else to do. At some point, you may realise that telling her to sit still and watch the movie is probably not the best parenting. Crafts are an appealing indoor alternative that, one can hope, will not involve having to move too far from the very comfortable sofa.

In fact, the initial material-gathering steps didn't require me to move at all. Z1, under my instruction, salvaged the egg carton (writing this post stirred up my carton vs. box internal debate once more and I had to read here to see what I'd settled on last year) from the recycling bin. I did assure her that the bin wasn't too yukky. She also got the scissors and Husband was intercepted on his way down the stairs with some items for the recycling bin, to see if he had any useful materials.

At this point, I moved from the sofa and, under direction from Z1:

  1. got more cardboard (cereal box...cereal not quite finished so rolled up the bag and shoved it into the other open cereal box)
  2. brought her a toonie and a quarter, so she could choose which size would be more suitable for train wheels (oh yes, she had decided to make a train by this point, forgot that important detail)
  3. found the tape, which we keep on top of the microwave (of course we do, where else would one keep the tape?).

craft, egg carton, egg box, train, kindergarten
Side view
Her planning started well as she counted the dents on the top of the egg carton to see how many people she would need to fill them. However, once she started cutting out their bodies (rectangles of cereal box cardboard), she forgot how many she needed and just kept cutting until she tired of that task. I was drawing around the toonie and cutting out the circles which were to be wheels and people's heads.

She then instructed me to cut out the arms she had drawn. I pointed out that, as she had just drawn lines to be arms, I couldn't really cut them out. I was being a little belligerent at this point, truth be known. However, Z1 had a well of patience for me and my lack of initiative and cooperation. She calmly explained and demonstrated how to turn the lines into rectangles which could then be cut out to use as arms. Meanwhile, she was going through yards* of sticky tape to ensure the box would stay closed. I tried to just let her be but did remind her that wasting materials was not good craft practice.

T-shirts and trousers were then drawn and decorated by her, cut out by me and the assembling began. The once nude rectangles of cereal box had heads stuck on and t-shirts and trousers applied. She didn't bother with the arms I'd painstakingly drawn and cut. Pah. The chimney at the front was from Husband's old aftershave bottle and, if you look closely at the side view, you'll notice that one of the wheels had been destined to be a head to begin with.

Z2 asked where the driver was. Z1 told him the guy at the front was the driver. Everyone in the household is suitable pleased and impressed with Z1's train from recyclable materials. I trust you, dear readers, are too.

*I originally wrote "metres" here as I am a metric person but yards sounds better. Just thought you'd like to know.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Would pumpkin seeds be big for spiders?

Z1's plan

Mine, Z2's in the middle
& Z1's at the back
The first thing I must say is that Z2 was not impressed with the idea of hammering cookie cutters into his pumpkin. I really thought he would be as one of his first and favourite sentences for a long time was "I'll fix it with a hammer". However, now he is very big and three whole years old and he definitely wanted to use a sharp thing. Thankfully, the Dollarama pumpkin carving tools (oh yes, I have specific pumpkin carving tools, this is serious business) are not so sharp that I was concerned for his digits so he was allowed to wield one.
 Secondly, I should explain the title of this post. This was a question asked by Z1 during the course of our pumpkin carving. I was a little baffled by it so I asked her to clarify. It turns out she was imagining that the stringy bits of pumpkin guts that we gleefully hauled out with spoons and fingers were spider webs. As a result of this thought, she was wondering whether a spider the size of a pumpkin seed would be considered big. I decided it would be medium.
 Thirdly, it is worthy of note, I feel, that the eyebrows on Z2's pumpkin were entirely his own doing - he poked the holes and wiggled that carving tool around sufficiently to make them. He had help with all other features. Z1 also mostly took the role of artistic director on her pumpkin. The bluntness of the Dollarama carving tools not only makes them relatively safe for big three year olds, but also makes it fairly hard work to carve a pumpkin with them. Perhaps next year I shall upgrade my tools.

Z1's pumpkin
The last thing which I feel I must mention to make this post complete is that I went to the trouble of removing pulp and string from the seeds in order to roast/toast/bake them as snack. Z1 had tried some last year when one of her teachers did this and it does feel awfully wasteful, even for the spookily good price I bought these pumpkins for, to throw away such bounty.  Initial feedback was good, Z1 asked for more and said they tasted like popcorn. However, the next day Z2 specifically requested, out of the blue, that he not have pumpkin seeds for dinner and Z1 did not eat any of the seeds which I packed, with some degree of satisfaction, for her lunch. I quite like them but I feel that some of them may be destined for the rubbish bin after all.


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Preparations are afoot

While I may not have got further than the one bat costume that I reported on earlier in the month, I have managed to keep Z2 on track mentally to be a bat this Hallowe'en.

We have bought pumpkins - three: one each for Z1, Z2, and me. They were only 88 cents each which was spookily good value, I am sure you will agree. Husband is away this weekend so will miss out on the carving though I think he'd very much enjoy it if he got down to it.

Hallowe'en extravagance
I set Z1 the entirely unnecessary task of washing the pumpkins while Z2 napped on Sunday. We have set them on our steps as decorations, not yet in their full, carved Hallowe'en glory. We also have one black tinsel cat, one black tinsel spider, one strand of black tinsel with purple spiders, one hanging bat decoration and one hanging ghost decoration on our front porch. We are positively understated compared to most of the houses in our area who have decorated for Hallowe'en, with the house in the picture being the outright winner in terms of extravagance and exuberance for the celebration.

I have been pinning away a few templates of ideas for carving these pumpkins. These, I must admit, are mostly for me. I am much more excited by pumpkin carving than I thought I would be, something I discovered when I carved my first pumpkin in my first autumn over here in Canada.

I plan for Z2 to use his wooden hammer to bash cookie cutters into the pumpkin to carve his. I understand that this may be one of the points where my pumpkin carving extravaganza may not go to plan.

The sweeties to be given out to trick-or-treaters have been purchased and placed strictly off limits to all members of the household.

Pumpkin carving is scheduled for this Sunday. I will, of course, report back.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Black tops, bat wings and toilet trips

Having been to Dollarama to buy "bat teeth" and "bat ears" (actually cat ears and vampire teeth but I reckon with the wings, they will pass as bat ears and vampire bat teeth. I was prepared to make the bat ears also but these will do nicely and we got a bonus cat tail too) and having picked up a remnant of mostly black suit material for $2.99, all that was missing for the making of the bat costumes were the plain black tops. The outing to get these was postponed until Sunday after a lengthy Saturday afternoon nap on the part of Z2.
Map does not include detour to shop with lots of sparkly things where NOTHING SHOULD BE TOUCHED as I was a bit dizzy by then and can't remember where it was

Going to the shopping centre (or mall, if you will) requires, of course, plenty of preparation - the pre-car journey toilet trip, the setting down of the rules (no, we will not be buying any toys in the Rainforest Café but we can look at the fish and the pretend animals; we are going to buy plain black tops and look at tea for me, there will be no other purchases though we may get some kind of snack food if you are good), the route planning within the centre to ensure maximum efficiency... Actually, no, I did not route plan but that was mainly 'cause I didn't know where my fancy tea shop was. Also, even if I had route planned, it would have been quickly scuppered by Z2's announcement that he needed to go to the toilet and the fact that the first set of toilets we went to had a ridiculous queue so we had to go in search of some others. However, happily, we did find plain, black, long-sleeved tops in H&M as hoped. Hurrah. (However, the teas I wanted were not available which was
rather a devastating blow. Or, you know, slightly disappointing.)

bat costume, bat, Halloween, Hallowe'en, dressing up, homemade
What me? I forgot to dress up,      Mwa ha ha ha, I am
just wearing boring old black                 a bat!                 

Now, once the tops were purchased, Z1 was keen to make the costumes right-now-this-very-second. While I couldn't quite satisfy that request what with us being in the shopping centre and all,  I did get started once we got home and I even let her try it on when I had only done one wing. While doing the first wing was quite exciting and doing the second wing was rather satisfying, I now have to motivate myself to do two more wings for Z2's top and continue to foster their commitment to being bats this Hallowe'en. The advance planning bodes well for the former but will be a little trickier for the latter.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

As summer melts into autumn

Back to school and slowly waning warm weather has been keeping us outside and busy in various ways. I make no apologies for soaking up every last drop of warmth and sunshine as the evenings and mornings grow darker.

baking, cake, apple cake, zucchini cake, fall baking
That is not to say that craft and creations have come to a halt. There was a delicious apple cake which Z1 directed, funeral portraits for our dearly departed fish, a pirate hat for Husband from Z1 and we are currently planning for bat costumes* for Hallowe'en. 

I don't mind shop-bought costumes but I do maintain that there's a certain charm in homemade costumes that just doesn't happen with bought ones. Watch this space.

*links to other bat-mentioning posts, not brilliant bat costumes, you will have to wait for them.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Le Conquering of Les Crafts en France

nature, water, trees, leaves, summer
 In the middle of August, me and the Zeds left work and school as usual one day and were driven by Husband to the airport. We took a 'plane to Paris, took a train to a town near our top-secret holiday hideaway and were collected by my venerable father and magnificent mother to be transported to the peaceful and green place in the picture. With multiple adults to watch the various children, warm sunshine, countryside and not much else, the pace of crafts here was considerably more relaxed than the 21 days of Christmas Conquering Crafts that started this blog.  In fact, though I was prepared to do more, we only really made a fairy house.

sticks, stones, fairy house, outdoor crafts
This was a scheme that I was rather more excited about than Z1 was. I thought we could do a stick collecting expedition as phase one with construction belonging to phase two but the phases merged. Z2 was good at stick-collecting but had to be persuaded to relinquish them as building materials as he likes to use them to fight bad guys.  The paint on the stones was from an outdoor painting project (painting sticks, in fact, using the stones as a palette for the paints) that Z1 did under my dad's supervision but they doubled up as good walls for the house.Interestingly, Z1 confirmed that she saw some items of fairy furniture, including a sofa made out of teeth, one morning when she checked the house. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a photo of this but it is, surely, a sign that the fairy house was most successful even if it didn't quite look like these .

Other relevant information:
  • I did make the paper houses from this post with one of the other resident children
  • I also made this delicious and delightful dinosaur cake but that was all my own work with limited baking resources.
birthday cake, chocolate cake, dinosaur cake

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Conquering Canadian Camping - Illustrated by Z1

Please take a moment to delight in the details of Z1's drawing of camping - the zip for the door to the tent, the torch hanging from the roof, the blue, bubbly air mattresses, the toasting of the marshmallows!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Conquering Canadian Camping

river, bridge, shadows, people, nature
Me and Zeds
I consider myself something of a veteran camper. Not a hardcore, out-in-the-woods-with-nothing-but-my-tent, camper but a civilized-campsite-with-toilets-and-showers camper.

Throughout my childhood and up to my teens, I went camping in France on family holidays. I have innumerable happy memories of these trips - hot sticky car memories, Vivaldi's Four Seasons while feeling slightly carsick, early morning zip sounds, discovering unexpected playgrounds, smelling other people's dinners in the evenings, earning a franc for finding a forgotten tent peg, the joy of parents coming into the water to splash, speaking Irish to confuse small Dutch children who spoke good English, walking up to the campsite shop in pyjamas to buy bread in the mornings, terrifying and exciting thunderstorms in a rattly tent...  With all this and the addition of living in Canada where camping and campfires seem almost obligatory, it is no wonder I was keen to bring the Zeds camping.

Preparation really started last year when I bookmarked a tent so that I'd be emailed if it was about to become a bargain. I read the reviews and ignored the bad ones. I am quite good at that. As it was our first family camping trip and, as I only realised after booking the site and buying the tent, Husband's first camping trip ever, we picked somewhere close to home. We did a test run of the tent in the garden and the Zeds slept in their sleeping bags for the week before we were due to go.  I was more proud of getting the tent back into its carry case after putting it up than I was of putting it up all on my own (with a little help from Z1).

I packed up the car , thinking of my dad all the time as I tried to do it as efficiently as possible - squeezing squishy things into tight spots and making maximum use of the space. I had lists stuck up in the kitchen and ticked them off as I got things done. I was the queen of camping organisation. Z2 had just graduated from nappies meaning less bulk to pack but also leaving me wondering a little anxiously how far away the toilets would be from our tent.

camping, children, camp chairs, campfire
The Zeds on site

Our site? Oh, our site was glorious - large, shaded, secluded, backing onto the little river, not too far from the toilet but not so close we could smell it. Glorious and wonderful. Never mind the noisy, radio-playing neighbours across the river. Husband hadn't really expected neighbours, let alone noisy ones.

We put up the tent with careful attention to which way the door should face and started pumping up the mattresses. I was very impressed with the luxury of the air mattresses - a far cry from the canvas and rubber lilos that I was used to. I was, in fact, rather excited to try out our grand queen size air mattress but that fell through when I unfolded it to find that the stopper was not attached. I valiantly attempted to keep the air in by leaving the pump attached and sealing with bubble gum but, in the end, the Zeds top-and-tailed on one single mattress and me and Husband shared the other. Thankfully, we are somewhat of a miniature family and it was reasonably comfortable.

For the Zeds, a lot of the focus of the camping trip was on marshmallows and s'mores. I had bought a fancy extendable toasting fork, Husband set the fire and the Zeds were assured that after the hot dogs and burgers, they could toast marshmallows. Our fire was very smoky indeed. In fact, I think it contributed to my worst-headache-in-the-world-ever ™ (with apologies to those who suffer truly debilitating migraines - that phrase kept echoing in my head all night as I tried to sleep). However, we had deliciously smoky burgers and delectably charred hot dogs. Turns out the Zeds don't really like (smoky) toasted marshmallows.

nature, sunlight, sun, leaves, trees
Not the weather when we woke
after our first night but later on
We woke up in the morning, ready for Nutella on bread for breakfast only to find that we had committed the rookie mistake of leaving our cooler bag in the open. There were no bears to worry about but a pesky raccoon stole all our bread, marshmallows and chocolate biscuits. This was not a great start to a rainy camping morning but, luckily for us, it turned out that some campers in another part of the site were putting on a free-for-all pancake breakfast so all was well.

Despite smoke, headache and no double mattress, despite rain and stolen food, despite noisy camping neighbours and more trips to the toilet with Z2 than were really necessary (not 'cause he has just toilet-trained, though, turns out there was a bridge on the way to the toilets and he kept saying he needed to go so that we could play Poohsticks on the way back), I loved it. I have already been researching other sites which are radio-free and further away. I had memories triggered from unexpected sources  (notably the blast of warmth and smell of toothpaste intermingled with toilets in the wash block) at every turn and I welcomed them all.

You may also be interested to know:
On our return, when packing up the queen mattress to be returned for a refund due to the lack of a stopper, I found the stopper. Perhaps I was not the queen of camping organisation after all.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

In which I am the over-zealous parent at a party

In general, I quite enjoy going to the Zeds' friends' birthday parties. The reasons for this are multiple: 1. I usually get cake 2. I like watching children run around and be over-excited 3. I enjoy reminiscing about the parties I had and the ones I went to as a child. 4. Chatting with other parents is mostly pleasant.

Z2's had all the action on the back
tie dye, crafts, wearable art
       Pensive           Action shot
                              of the back
At a birthday party over the weekend (one of two - two birthday parties in one weekend is a bit much, even for me, I will admit), I fear I was the annoying parent. My first wrongdoing was texting the night before to say that Z2 and husband would come along "if that's ok" in addition to myself and Z1. The gracious hostess said that was fine and asked, apologetically, if I could bring a white t-shirt for Z2 to dye as the ones she had were accounted for. I assured her I would and not to worry as we'd bring a hankie or something otherwise. I also said I was excited about the idea of tie dye at which point she, quite possibly joking, said I could bring something along to dye myself. Here is my second wrongdoing - I did bring a vest top to dye myself. As I type, I feel slightly ashamed but I was very excited - I haven't done tie dye in years and this was to be spray dyes which I had never even heard of.

And me and mine
The wise mother-of-the-birthday-girl had organised the whole party in the back garden - 5 year olds and dye at a party in one's house could have been a little disastrous for the walls and carpet, I would imagine.  Z1 decided against the "tie" part of tie dye and just went freestyle with the spray on the shirt. She loves it and wore it a birthday party in the park the next day as well as to school on the following Monday. I think she carries it off with style and aplomb. I was very good and did not interfere in her creative process. Even better, despite being, perhaps  almost certainly, over-involved in the tie-dying activity (I had to remind myself a couple of times to wait my turn after the official birthday guests were finished), I did allow Z1 to ruin add her artistic influence to my top. Z2's contribution to his was chiefly in choosing the colours. So, who do you think wears it best?

You may also be interested to know:
  • Other highlights of this party included this jelly goo stuff which entertained the small people for ages as they declared themselves to be lizard princes/princesses/queens and smeared it all over their skin, there was also a paddling pool AND ice cream with sprinkles and sauces in addition to the standard and necessary cake. Magnificent party overall (Thanks, Jennifer, if you happen to be reading!).
  • There may be more tie dye posts to come - I have been inspired.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Impossible Coconut Pie

I didn't even need to think up a catchy title for this post as the name of the recipe is pretty catchy in itself, doncha think? I believe the pie is called "impossible" as it forms its own crust when baked and you don't have to make pastry. I found it in the ever-flowing fount of inspiration and was curious to try it but felt I should find a reason to make it.

I bought the coconut on Tuesday and was still looking for a reason to make it. The problem with baking in my house is that, while I usually have enthusiastic helpers in a Zed or two, they aren't usually very enthusiastic eaters of the results. I don't understand why as we've only had one baking result that was really and truly not worth eating. We do have willing neighbours, though.

happy smiley children baking
Yes, I am cruel , I banished
these happy small people.
In fact, one neighbour, an old lady (84 on the 5th of July, I believe), gave me a perfect reason to make the coconut pie. We had a rather sad conversation with her on Wednesday about how her bingo was finished and she is at home alone all day and all evening and, though the neighbours are friendly, they are busy with their own lives. We pass her most mornings on the way to the bus stop and wave and remark on the weather but now we're making a bit of a bigger effort to stop for a chat...or, indeed, to drop off some coconut pie. So there was reason number 1 to make the pie - we could use it as a pretext to drop into B at the weekend. As it happened, I had also booked tickets for Z1 and me to go and see the Wizard of Oz this weekend but was keeping it a secret to avoid conflicts with Z2 (who, I felt, would be just as happy at the cinema with Husband) and to avoid over-excitement from Z1. From this a plan emerged - Saturday morning would be spent making the pie, once it was baked and Z2 was napping, Z1 and I would take the pie around to B and then I would casually mention to Z1 that we were going to the theatre. Marvellous!

After our usually summer Saturday morning routine of me getting the Zeds breakfast and then attempting a peaceful breakfast myself in the sun on the front porch (after growing up in Ireland, I cannot tell you how much I LOVE this proper summer that we get in

tea, relaxing, summer, porch, mom
Breakfast on the porch
Toronto, despite floods and storms, it is WARM.), we set to work. As is usual when I bake with the Zeds, I got a bit more irritable than I should about them dipping fingers in the bowl and tasting and so on. In fact, I banished them after we finished mixing. It was for their own good. Also, the entertaining bit was over, really.

over-toasted, coconut pie, spotty tablecloth, pie dish
Slightly over-toasted
coconut pie
I baked it and then put it under the grill
(for slightly too long) to get the coconut toasty looking. I tasted it and approved. I sliced a bit for B and put it in a container. Z2 was put down for his nap by the Husband and Z1 and I set forth. B was out but I came prepared and we left it on her front porch with a  note. We went off to see the Wizard and B was waiting for us on Monday morning with the container. She didn't actually mention if the pie was good and the Zeds haven't tried it (though Z2 did express some interest in it this morning) so I can't give an unbiased report. Husband has said he will try it. I liked it, it's better warm. I tried it with raspberry coulis that I made for cheesecake and that was quite nice.

You may also be interested to know:
 - the recipe (halved from Pinterest) can be downloaded from the downloads page here
- Z1 loved the Wizard of Oz and I rather enjoyed it too. The merchandisers really missed a trick not selling ruby red slippers in the foyer, though.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Even Sadder Sunflower Story

It is with deep sadness that I write today. Yesterday, I went to check on our brave beacon of a sunflower that had been growing tall despite the odds, only to find it had been cut down in its prime, leaves chewed to pieces and stalk cut brutally. I blame the caterpillars. Next year, we shall be guarding our sunflowers with more care and attention. This year, we shall have to make do with white hydrangeas as big as Z1's head.

(For the full saga of the sunflowers, check out here, here, here and here) 

Monday, 17 June 2013

Sad Sunflower Story

Oh people, I am sorry to have to come here and tell you that I think our sunflower shade circle is not to be this year.

caterpillar, drawing

slugI could blame the caterpillars or slugs who seem to have made a meal of a few of the seedlings that did manage to push through
but I really feel that I must take the blame on this one.

Firstly, I didn't really prepare the ground for planting. I didn't shave the area cut the grass to define the circle so that trampling feet would avoid it and to ensure that enough light would shine on the ground to warm it and nurture the seedlings.

Secondly, I dug with a spoon. A spoon, I tell you! I should have used the proper tools which would have been more effective at digging sunflower seed-appropriate planting holes.

Finally, despite Z1's excellent planning and helpful diagrams, I did not carefully space the seeds and make sure they were evenly distributed around the circle. I did things hurriedly and haphazardly and my punishment shall be no shady, sunflower circle for me or the Zeds this year. Alas and alack.

Having said that, there is one seedling doing quite well, reaching up tall against the odds so I think we shall have a solitary sunflower. This strong sunflower will shine as a beacon to remind us that next year, if we prepare and plan AND execute the plan correctly, we could be the proud and happy cultivators of a shady, sunflower circle fort.

Monday, 3 June 2013

When Sunflowers Are Too Slow

There are at least four sunflower seedlings bravely pushing up through our increasingly meadow-like back garden lawn. I fear for their safety when we next decide to cut the grass as interest in them and their not-as-rapid-as-the-grass growth has waned and they could be mown down without a second thought.

craft, spring, summer, flower, preschooler craft, kindergarden craft
Just peeping out
I do go and check on them quite regularly and pat down the grass around the plucky little seedlings to allow the sun to get through the dense grass forest that surrounds them. There has been rain and sunshine too so they are getting what they require. One has been partially eaten by a slug, though.
In light of this, and to halt the endless flow of Netflix-streamed children's programming into the house yesterday afternoon, Z1 and I embarked on a flower craft. I'd had this one in mind for quite a while - before the blossoms even came on the trees, in fact.

craft, spring, summer, kindergarden craft, preschooler craft
Fully grown
The ingenious bit is that the straw is inserted in a hole in the bottom of the cup and can be pushed up to let the flower 'grow'. I also like our use of brown paint (actually, we got very resourceful here and mixed red and green to make brown) and tissue paper for the earth.   Z1 enjoyed it but lost interest fairly quickly as there were other things going on in the house.  I had many further grand plans - decorating the outside of the cup, multiple flowers in the same pot, more glitter glue on the flowers... (I know some people have a a bit of a horror of glitter glue but it's definitely still one of my favourite things to use for craft. Ordinary glitter is a bit troublesome in its ability to get everywhere and never be fully gone leading to a high likelihood of heading into work with inappropriate glitter on one's cheek or eyebrow*, however, I find that this is not such a problem with glitter contained within the goo of glue or paint.)  I guess simple and rustic is good too.
We actually made two flowers and Z1 wandered around holding the other one for a couple of hours a bit like a wand.
*On this note, how sad it is that glitter should ever be inappropriate