Thirty years ago things were very different for me: I was a cute little six year old with blond hair and blue eyes, an annoying younger brother and a mum who made birthday cakes in the shape of fire-engines. Life simply does not get better than that.
And then, after a night away from home, we awoke to the news that we had a younger brother, and were taken to Leicester Royal Infirmary to meet the little bundle of joy.
The six year old me was not at all happy. Firstly, because she had very specifically asked for an older brother. Secondly, her parents had the temerity to name it Daniel (their favoured name for boys that couldn’t be used last time round due to a surplus of Daniels being born at the time.) The Mothership held onto the name for six long years whilst they tried and tried for another baby. And then, 24 hours after “Daniel’s” arrival, she bowed to the whims of her precocious six-year-old daughter and gave up the name Daniel in favour of Adam. As requested by the little girl unhappy about the arrival of the ‘wrong’ brother.
Yes, I’d have called them indulgent too. But I didn’t because I didn’t know what the word meant. But I enjoyed my new plaything very much.
Brother Adam then (1985)
Fast forward thirty years and Brother Adam is mere days away from a significant birthday- it shouldn’t take much for you to deduce which one. He is much taller than he was that day in May 1983. Although he has about the same amount of hair. And he does appear to be fulfilling the role of ‘plaything’ very well these days for his nieces- my children.
They are little with blond hair and blue eyes. They have an annoying dog and a mum that makes birthday cakes in the shape of butterflies and Barbies. They have a very indulgent father. Life simply does not get better than that.
I, on the other hand, haven’t aged as well: I am less blonde, I have green eyes, and my mum refuses to make me cakes any more. Apparently I am “too old”. I get to be bossed around by two precocious little girls and never seem to have a moment to myself. I think The Mothership would call that “Karma”. But she can’t say it out loud because as fast as I am turning into my mother, she is turning into hers!
Brother Adam now (2012)
But whilst The Girls are at school and Brother Adam is at work, whilst The Mothership has the temerity to be in America visiting her other grandchildren leaving me alone and babysitter-less, I shall munch on my bowl of My Special K undisturbed. I shall enjoy the new recipe wholegrain flakes- three to be exact: wheat, rice and barley. I shall feel smug in the knowledge that the British-made cereal is a source of fibre and contains 8 vitamins and iron.
me and my Special K. Maybe I need a flakeover.
And I shall try and imagine what it must feel like to be as timeless, as ageless, as Special K.
This is an entry for the BritMums/Special K “How I’ve changed Linky challenge”. I was sent a packet of the new Special K for the purposes of writing this post.
If you came to Bromley- and why wouldn’t you?- to visit me, you’d be in good company. Obviously the people that have come to visit me so far have been friends and bloggers and I have generally entertained them at home, but if you wanted to get a sense of the area, of why I love living in Bromley, then let me tell you where I would take you.
We’d drop the Girls at school- you could stand bemused at the edge of a circle of Mother’s banging on about all kinds of things that may or may not mean anything to you. You would get a sense of the chaos of parking outside school during the rush hour, the rush we are all in to get the children in, do whatever things we need to do before rushing back to pick up our little darlings. You would experience the madness that is driving around before 8am, the speed, the frustration of idiot drivers, people cutting you up.
And then we would park up and get out of the car, walk past a row of lavender and in a purple door and all of that insanity- the fast pace, the rushed conversation, the mad driving- would vanish, forgotten. The most pressing concern would be cake- the pretty sprinkle-covered cake pops, or the big fat Red Velvet cake? The croissants or the pastry? The fat wedges of plum and almond or a pretty cupcake laden with a pyramid of swirled icing.
We would sit in chairs waiting for our drinks, soft music piping round the room, smoothing ruffled feathers. If it were dry we may be sitting in the garden under the shade of the pergola, watching other children play on the climbing frame, cries of joy punctuating our conversation. We’d wallow in good service, friendly faces and pay no attention to the clock. We’d dig into our cakes silently, not thinking once about the calories but about the soothing effect it will have on our souls. We will sip foamy coffee from vast cups as we watch the world go by. We may even forget that the other person is there, sitting opposite us, whilst the hot fluid lubricates throats and softens voices.
And then we would walk out, braced with caffeine and sugar, to join the rush once more.
That my friend, is the Lavender House. My local cafe and haven.
Submitted to The American Resident’s where you live link.
A few weeks ago I ordered a book about cleaning teeth after reading about it in a Sunday Supplement. I don’t imagine I’m the only parent who has trouble getting my children to brush their teeth, so the concept of the book really appealed. Open Wide, What’s Inside is written by a dentist who came up with the idea for a story about ‘sugarbugs’ as a way of encouraging children to keep their mouths clean. And it has enthralled my children. I imagine that this is a lot to do with the explanation about sugarbugs pooing on your teeth and creating holes which hurt. The illustrations genuinely do not appeal to me but I definitely recommend the book.
The Girls and I did a lot of talking about teeth and cleaning them. I ordered some disclosure tablets so that they could see the sugarbug poo on their teeth, and we did a simple craft to illustrate how teeth cleaning protects your teeth from these nasty little critters. I just cut large teeth shapes from white card and The Girls ‘coloured’ them with candle- white wax crayon would work too. Then we painted over them with watercolour paint, which stuck to the paper but not to the waxed areas. It’s a great demonstration of the need for tooth brushing.
I also put a call out to Science Sparks for any science experiments relating to teeth erosion and she pointed me in the direction of soaking an egg in vinegar, an experiment that I cannot recommend enough. All you do is put an egg in a cup- I used a glass so that we could observe the changes easily- and cover it with white vinegar.
At the same time, we put other eggs in other glasses and covered them with other liquids. The Girls made the excellent point that if the eggs are like teeth- the shell acts in the same way that tooth enamel does, to protect what’s inside- then we should soak them in things we drink regularly and see if there is a difference. Right there my little home scientists were born *pauses for proud Mamma moment*.
So, we soaked one in water, one in milk, one in Coke and one in orange juice. And 24 hours later we took them out to examine them. The shell on the water egg hadn’t changed, obviously. The Girls are certain that the milk egg was whiter. The Coke Egg was darker, so there was real evidence of what happens to your teeth if you drink fizzy drinks and don’t clean your teeth. The Orange Juice egg was scarier still: there was a layer of scum on the surface of the juice and the egg was definitely losing it’s protective layer. We were all utterly horrified. The White vinegar egg was the most changed of all- although it still had a shell, the egg had become softer and larger.
In fact the White Vinegar egg was ‘boinging like a ball Mamma.’ So, heart in mouth, we decided to test out theory. Sure enough the egg bounced. Repeatedly. Given this exciting development, we elected to put the egg into a fresh glass of white vinegar overnight to see if there was a further change. And in the morning, a mere 36 hours after we submerged it, the egg had lost the last vestiges of it’s shell.
It was a properly gripping experiment for us all. I had never known that you could dissolve an egg shell in vinegar. But the most alarming result for me was that- although at a far slower pace- the Orange Juice egg was headed in the same direction. We did try brushing all of our eggs with toothpaste and had mixed results- some areas of eggs came clean and some did not. Regardless I think that our home experiment proved to the girls that they needed to brush their teeth to prevent this kind of damage. And they were clearly excited, fascinated and delighted by it because I had to mark up all the eggs so that they could both take them into school for show and tell.
There are so many bananas in our fruit bowl that have been going over before The Girls can be persuaded to eat them, so I put a call out on twitter for a banana cake recipe and Camilla from Fab Food 4 All sent me to her delicious Banana Cake recipe.
Obviously I made a couple of changes to what is her mum’s banana cake recipe: the note that Golden Caster sugar made the cake more ‘fudgey’ made me think of how much DH loves fudge. So I dug out some fudge chunks sent very kindly by Dr Oetker a while ago, and added some white chocolate chunks for good measure.
Oh, and I used Light Brown Sugar too, so the end result was quite caramelised and rich and it did not need icing of any kind. It vanished almost entirely whilst still warm so I made it again yesterday for friends who are visiting from New Zealand, this time with much less sugar, and when putting the mix in the loaf tin, I added 1/3, then sprinkled a few fudge and chocolate pieces, repeating in layers until it was all used up. This helped the end distribution of gubbins massively and made for an utterly delicious tea-time treat.
Banana, White Chocolate and Fudge cake, adapted from Camilla’s recipe:
- 3 eggs
- 150g light brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 150g Plain flour
- 1 tsp Baking powder
- 115g Butter, melted and cooled
- 2 over-ripe bananas, mashed
- 1/4 cup white chocolate chunks
- 1/4 cup fudge chunks
Melt butter and leave to cool.
Line a loaf tin, and heat oven to 160C.
Whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until pale and fluffy.
Run whisk, then slowly drizzle melted butter onto the blades until fully incorporated in egg mix.
Fold in banana, then sifted baking powder and flour.
Pour 1/3 mix into base of lined tin and scatter with 1/3rd of chocolate and fudge chunks. Repeat with rest of mix.
Bake in oven for 45 minutes, or until cooked and golden.
Allow to cool before slicing.
LBG’s Show and Tell this week was ‘Travel by Sea’. This was a challenge briefly until we took a better look at this month’s Discovery Table, all of which was made from recycled materials, in honour of Earth Day. On the table was a rocking yacht we made from a paper plate earlier this year.
To make it you need a paper plate, some old magazines, a brad and felt pens.
First, you need to cut the wave shape from your paper plate, and put to one side. This just needs to be covered in ripped up pieces of magazines in a collage style.
The remainder of the plate can be used to make the actual yacht. I cut out the standard boat shape, making sure that the base of the boat- which goes behind the waves- is long enough that you will be able to fix the two together with the brad. I then cut out the mast and a rough sail shape.
I used felt pen for detail on the hull of the yacht whilst we did more collage work on the sail using more magazine pieces.
Then we glued the sail to the mast and the mast to the yacht.
Once the glue is dried, fix the boat behind the waves. Then rock to your heart’s content.
I recently had the good fortune to attend a Chinese Cooking Masterclass given by Hannah Hayes from China Feast to celebrate the launch of Amoy Premium Soy Sauce. It was a busy class which covered everything from the best way to cook your Egg Fried Rice- you have to squish the egg in a plastic bag then add the rice and squish that too- to making your own Chili Oil.
I also had an interesting lesson in the making of Soy Sauce- likened to Champagne making because of the selectiveness in the process. Amoy Special Selection Soy Sauce uses the earliest and purest extracts of soy beans- the secret ingredient which provides the distinctly rich flavour. The premium soy sauce is then naturally brewed using only the best quality whole Soya beans, all of which are fully traceable from field to bottle.
Getting home late after the event, I was delighted to be able to whip up a quick meal using some of the skills- and ingredients- from my lesson at the Central Street Cookery School. Recalling some chicken taquitos I made after finding the recipe on Modern Parents Messy Kids, I shredded some leftover cooked chicken I had at home and finely sliced some lettuce, red pepper and mange-tout, the tossed it all in lime juice and a sprinkling of Amoy Soy. I didn’t use much: it has a distinctive flavour.
Then I wrapped spoonfuls of the mixture in Flour Tortillas, rolled them up and baked in a hot oven for about 15 minutes until baked. Whilst this was happening, there was time for me to whip up Hannah’s Peanut Dipping Sauce:
4 tbl chili oil
2 tbl sugar
2 tbl vinegar
2 tbl Amoy Special Selection Soy Sauce
1 tbl rice wine
2 tbl sesame sauce
2 tbl heaped ground peanut
1 tbl ground dry chili
1 tbl chopped spring onion
1 tbl mince fresh ginger
Serve the dipping sauce with the taquitos and enjoy the blend of flavours and cultures!
*disclosure: I was invited to this event, and given a goodie bag to take home, for the purposes of writing this post.
If you look through my pages you will come across my manifesto for a University of Life – my plan to educate my Girls to be worldly-wise and chock-full of life-skills when they leave my full-time care. I put a call out to fellow bloggers- all as shocked as me that there are teenagers leaving home for the first time with no idea how to change a bed- to offer posts with suggestions for how to educate the latest generation. First up is Mary from Keynko.
When I packed Splosh off to university, I was never worried that he wouldn’t be able to feed himself, years of training and helping out in the kitchen would stand him in good stead! Not quite sure, given his record with the washing machine, whether he ever have clean clothes again, but seeing as he was in sunny Aberdeen, 500 miles north of us, at least I wouldn’t have to do it for him!
The children have always helped with cooking, since they were old enough to stand on a chair in the kitchen, they were there, mixing, measuring and always licking the spoon clean! I wanted to know that they would be able to manage o their own, and not just exist on pot noodles and beans on toast. But it’s not just preparing the food, it’s paying for it as well, so we worked hard to teach them the financial aspects of it all as well!
Money has always been tight in the house and we are great fans of meal planning, as it not only saves money, but avoids waste as well. So in the run up to leaving home we encouraged Splosh to take an active role in the planning process and would send him into the supermarket with a budget and ask him to shop for us all. He was encouraged to always look in the reduced cabinet, things that you might not need today can usually be frozen!
As he going away present from family and friend, I asked everyone to contribute to a recipe book for him. They each gave me a favourite meal and a personal message from them for him. We bound it all together in a book which would not only ensure that he had a balanced diet, but would be reminded of them as well.
And it worked! In his first year he whilst sharing a flat with 4 other lads, he was the one responsible for Sunday roasts and he was able to teach the others (who hadn’t had the same supermarket training) all about the famous yellow sticker, reduced dinner!
And now…..well his girlfriend tells me dinners are epic……he regularly leaves her meals in the freezer if he’s going to be away……and when he comes home, I don’t get a look in preparing dinner!
As for the laundry… well his clothes seem clean, so I guess he finally worked it out!
Mary writes at www.keynko.com, along with the rest of her collective. She blogs for Oxfam fashion blog and loves the opportunity to hunt through charity shops looking for unwanted treasures. As well as taking on board all her cooking lessons, Splosh has also followed in his mum’s footsteps with his own blog.
If you have a post to offer, relating to teaching life-skills, or think something should be on the University of Life syllabus, email email@example.com with the subject University of Life. I’d love to hear from you.