Monday, 21 November 2011

Homemade Play Dough

The Podlings have all loved play dough and Emma is no exception. It is a great way to wile away a wet or cold morning (like this morning) and whilst commercial play dough certainly has its place, I have always preferred homemade dough for toddlers. The recipe I have always used produces a softer, more malleable dough that is easier for little hands to manipulate.

Recipe for homemade play dough:

2 cups plain flour
1 cup salt
4 tablespoons cream of tartar
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 cups water
Food colouring of your choice (in my experience you need a reasonable amount to get a good colour)

  1. Put everything into a saucepan and give it a good stir.
  2. Turn on the gas and keep stirring until the mixture thickens and looks like...well, till it looks like play dough! The stirring gets hard work towards the end, but it's worth it.
  3. Turn out the dough and leave on a plate until it is cool enough to handle (I knead it to cool it quicker).
  4. Give it to your children to play with when it is cold and if you wrap it up well in cling film when they are finished it keeps very well.

A walk in the woods

On Saturday we took a late afternoon walk in Biddulph Grange Country Park, which is only about a 20 minute drive from where we live. We all enjoyed  enjoyed the autumn colours and kicking up the thick piles of leaves as we walked through the woods. We took a thermos for tea, juice for the Podlings and some biscuits and enjoyed a mini-picnic by the small lake at dusk. It was getting quite dark by the time we started back for the car and the fog that descended lent a strange other-worldly quality to the woods that was quite beautiful.

Oh, it's times like this that I wish I had a manual-focus camera (not that I would know how to use it I suppose!)


My Girls...

...they look so alike!

Walks with Emma

Just a few pictures I took on one of my walks with Emma last week. It was a perfectly beautiful autumn day and we enjoyed a lovely wander around the fields behind the house. I can't help but think of poor Tom and Lily on lovely days like this and wish they were with us enjoying the fresh air and beautiful countryside instead of being cooped up in a classroom.

Long shadows - the year must be getting old.

Emma trys to bring home a 'stick' that is several times bigger than she is!

 How wonderful to see the world with a child's eyes! Even the grasses are fascinating and worthy of a closer look. It is delightful to see the wonder that children have over simple things.

 'Yes, Mummy, I can see the gate is open, but I would still rather go over the stile.'

'This stick is smaller than the last one...maybe I could carry this one home?'

Saturday, 12 November 2011

The National Memorial Arboretum

We took the Podlings to the National Memorial Arboretum today in keeping with the Armistice Day commemorations. It was actually Tom's suggestion and we thought it a very good one. He recently went on a class trip to the arboretum in connection with their project on the Second World War and he really enjoyed his visit. He came up to us after breakfast this morning and said "I'd really like to show you all round the arboretum tomorrow". We thought it might be rather busy tomorrow, what with it being Remembrance Sunday, so we went this afternoon instead.

We met up with Mark's parents and his aunt and uncle who are staying with them at the moment. We haven't seen Auntie Mary and Uncle Keith since January so it was lovely to see them again. The Podlings really enjoyed their visit and we tried to explain what it was all about without being too maudlin. We knew the arboretum was big, but we rather underestimated quite how big and I think we would like to go again so we could see more. It closes at dusk and we didn't get there until three, so we could have done with more time. I would particularly like to take my parents next time they visit as my dad served in the army and I really think he would get something out of a trip there.

 This Victorian postbox is part of the memorial to members of the General Post Office. It is surrounded by painted stones, some containing the names of those who have died in service. Tom hunted around until he found the stone that he painted on his school visit here as he wanted to show it to us.

 Another of the over 200 memorials at the arboretum.

 The Armed Forces Memorial contains the names of every British service man and woman who has died in active service or through terrorist action since the Second World War. There are a staggering number of names listed.

 Inside the Armed Forces Memorial, in front of one of the two large bronze sculptures in the centre.

Tom next to the bronze wreath in the centre of the Armed Forces Memorial. The second of the large bronze sculptures can be seen in the background.

 At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, a shaft of sunlight shines through the gap in this stone 'door' and illuminates the bronze wreath at the centre of the memorial.


"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them."

Friday, 11 November 2011

We will remember them

Tom's class have been learning about the second world war this term, so for their class assembly they held a short Remembrance Day service. They did a wonderful job and given that they are all six or seven year olds, I felt they handled it with great maturity. It was quite a moving little service and they ought to be very proud of themselves. They obviously worked very hard. I had a really good view of the stage for a change, so I actually managed to get a couple of pictures of Tom on the stage. He did really well. Love my little man!

After the assembly we were invited back to the classroom where Tom gave me a little card he had made and excitedly showed his baby sister off to his friends and showed me round the classroom. I would have loved to have stayed a little longer, but Emma was making herself a little too much at home, so we said our goodbyes and Tom walked us to the door, staying to wave at us through the glass before heading back to his class. He was so thrilled to have had Emma in his classroom! 


Thank Heaven for little girls!

All dressed up ready for her brother's school assembly. Doesn't she look adorable!

Remembrance Day Poppy Craft

Yesterday morning I did a little poppy craft with Emma in honour of Remembrance Day. She is too young to get the significance of the day, but she is observant enough to notice that there are a lot of poppies around at the moment. Plus, I knew we would be attending Tom's school Remembrance Day assembly today, so I thought that if Emma knew what a poppy looked like I could keep her good by drawing her attention to all the poppies that were sure to be there!

It was a very simple craft that simply involved Emma painting a paper plate and a cardboard leaf (which I just drew freehand and hoped for the best!) and a circle in the right colours. I then glued it all together for her and voila! Tom and Lily like the idea so much they want to make their own now, so there's something for us to do this weekend. I'm fairly certain Emma won't mind making another one!

 Emma loves painting. Her much-too-big painting apron doesn't seem to hinder her and since it is so large it does actually manage to keep everything but her face and hands clean!


Thursday, 10 November 2011

Guy Fawkes Night

 Lily was so excited about bonfire night. She drew this picture (of us at the fireworks display last year) while she was having her breakfast!

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I know of no reason why gunpowder treason,
Should ever be forgot.

Bonfire night is one of my favourite family nights of the year. It can be a long day for the Podlings as they wait for the evening's entertainment to role round, but since their Nanna and Grandad came around mid-afternoon on Saturday they had plenty to keep them occupied. We had a lovely warming tea before heading out to the local bonfire and fireworks display. I'm something of a stickler for family traditions, so I serve the same food every year  (the same food I enjoyed as a child on bonfire night). We have hot dogs (with proper sausages rather than frankfurters naturally), chicken and tomato soups with ginger and syrup cakes to follow. I always put a lit candle on the table to remind us of all the flames we will be seeing later!

After wrapping up warmly we drove the ten minutes down the road to a nearby park. Tom was upset by the noise of the fireworks, so elected to remain in the car with Grandad while the rest of us went to see the display. Lily loves the fireworks, but is still a little frightened by their noise so I think she wasn't entirely upset when the display came to an end. Emma didn't so much as bat an eyelid at the noise and really enjoyed the fireworks, exclaiming loudly with each new burst.

Afterwards, we headed home to enjoy toffee apples and sparklers. Emma was hilarious with her toffee apple. She adores lollipops (she calls them e-pops) and clearly thought her toffee apple was the biggest lollipop she had ever seen. "E-pop mmmmm!!" apparently! Even when she was too tired to lick it any more she clasped it tightly in her fist and wouldn't give it up! Emma is too young to be trusted around sparklers and was very tired, so I put her to bed while Tom and Lily enjoyed them in the garden with everyone else. Tom and Lily finally went to bed after ten o'clock, tired but happy little Podlings. As always, it was a lovely evening of family fun.

 Despite the fog and the smoke from the bonfire, I did manage to snap a quick picture after the fireworks display. Tom and Grandad were in the car at this point, though they did join us in the park shortly afterwards.

 Pardon my hat-hair! I included this photo to show my mum that I still wear the Aran jumper she knitted for me about twenty years ago. I call it my bonfire night jumper because it is such a thick, warm jumper that bonfire night is about the only time it is cold enough to wear it! I love this jumper!
        On a side note, my mum also knitted the cardigan that Emma is wearing. She made it for Tom when he was a toddler and I liked it so much she has made him a larger version every time he grows of one. We now have it in three sizes, so all three Podlings can wear my favourite cardgian at the same time now!

 We actually wore Emma out! This is such a rare occurrence I had to take a photo. Doesn't she look her to bits!

 A very tired Emma with her Grandad. The toy on her lap was a gift from her Nanna and Grandad from their last trip to Scotland. Would you believe it is called a Podling! It actually has 'Podling' embroidered across the front. Emma loves her Podling and takes it to bed with her every night and carries it with her in the pram. Apparently there are a range of Podlings, so now we want to get one for Tom and Lily too. Podlings for the Podlings...fantastic!

Obviously Tom was there enjoying the evening with us, but somehow this turned out to be the best photo I have of him. I include it to prove he was there!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011


Lily the mermaid and Ladybird Emma 

As a Christian I have to admit that I have never known where to stand when it comes to Halloween. There's the whole 'evil' thing obviously, coupled with the fact that I hate anything scary or unpleasant anyway. However, there is no denying that Halloween is 'out there' and since I now have children I can no longer just ignore the Halloween displays in all the shops and wait quietly for November to roll around.

Tom and Lily go to a secular school (which thankfully doesn't do anything to mark Halloween), so all of their friends are excited about Halloween and trick or treating. I don't want my children to feel that they are missing out on something great as I feel that the surest way of driving a child towards something is to tell them they can't have it. We now mark Halloween as an evening of dressing up, family games and activities and a special tea and we keep the nasties out of it. I hope that by keeping Halloween a fun, family and above all wholesome evening, I can stop them wanting to go out dressed like the undead and begging door to door!

I shall now get off my soapbox and tell you that we had a really fun Halloween. I hung dressing up costumes all over the lounge, so when the Podlings got home from school they could put on what they wanted. We decorated apples, played some games, had a special tea and ate lots of sugar. Lily loves to give out the sweets to the trick or treaters, which I feel is a good lesson in giving to others and Emma loved shouting 'Bye!!' at the top of her voice and slamming the door after they had left. I don't allow the children to go trick or treating, but I do allow them to go outside the front door and trick or treat me. They do this several times and do quite well out of it!

I had a hard job getting them all to calm down and go to sleep when it came to bedtime, which I feel shows that they had a great time. I don't know how long I can get away with our current approach to Halloween, but for now the Podlings really love it.

Pirate Tom...arr! 

Halloween costumes, pumpkin baskets and clues to some of our evening activities greeted the Podlings when we got back from school.

 The Podlings needed new toothbrushes anyway, but it amused me to put them in their pumpkin baskets in anticipation of the large amount of sugar they would be consuming! The plate contained some pumpkin shaped ginger biscuits I found in Sainsbury's.

 Emma's new ladybird costume was one of the many costumes I hung around the lounge.

 Lily decorating her apple.

 Tom decorating his apple. Emma made one too, but I didn't get a picture of her as I was too busy making sure she didn't get melted chocolate all over the carpet!

 The cutest ladybird in town!

 I had serious trouble lighting our Jack o' Lantern. Of course you need a candle inside it and Emma is under the impression that you blow candles out since that's what you do at birthday parties. Every time I lit the lantern, she immediately blew it out. Finally, I tried lighting it really quickly and slamming the lid back on, at which point she bent over and blew the candle out through the mouth! We did get there eventually!

 Our little tea. It was very simple, but if I get the cake stands and pretty plates out the Podlings think we are having a party no matter what I serve!

 Emma wanted to change into her giraffe costume after a while. My goodness, she makes a cute (if rather short) giraffe!

 Lily strikes a pose. She loved her new mermaid costume a great deal.