Tuesday, 31 January 2012

I love London town

If any of you have been wondering where we all disappeared to the answer is, in the first instance, a variety of doctors' waiting rooms, and in the second instance, London. The week prior to our departure was a bit thick (sorry, I am reading P.G. Wodehouse and I've come over all Bertie Wooster). There were ear infections, high temperatures, conjunctivitis, hacking bronchial coughs and extreme grumpiness. Owen and I suffered his first trip to the kinésithérapeute to get rid of all his phlegm. I did my best to smile and chat to the personable young physio as he physically assaulted my son. Anyway, having O crushed six ways to Sunday and filling both mini-beasts full of antibiotics (*shudder* I hate antiobiotics) did the trick. We all caught the plane to London.

And London was super. Alex, Andrew, Toby and Jemima received us like royalty. Without all the tedious curtseying.

We went to the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the National Gallery, and the parks. Though it was public transport that was the big hit, planes, tubes, boats on the Thames and above all the red buses. We also went to the Princess Diana Memorial Playground (twice) in Kensington Gardens, which is amazing. From simple things, like a small rocky mound (which I thought looked a bit rubbish but marvelled, and then got bored watching O totter up and down for half an hour) to a large pirate ship complete with rigging that you can climb up.

There was also, tucked away at the back, a lovely peaceful garden area with large musical instruments. Peaceful that is, until we arrived. I took this little video of Toby and Matilda leaping about on the musical squares. 100% kid happiness, I love it.

Aaah, Toby and Matilda (and Owen desperately trying to keep up). Matilda and Toby have been promised to each other from an early age and so far our match-making seems most prescient. I loved the way they constantly mirrored each other. Yesterday Matilda informed me that Toby was her "really best friend in the world ever." Here is a selection of my favourite photos of the joyous little pair.

And because I wouldn't want to forget their younger siblings, here are a few photos of Owen and Jemima (a mere eight weeks old) who make up for what they lack in chatter by being exceeding cute.

But for all the jumping on musical squares, hopping on and off buses and hanging out in cafés there was a fair amount of this going on:

It was a brilliant week and I feel like I have a huge store of RTBCs which will keep me going for some time to come. Not least of which is the wonderful friend I have in Alex and, having spent a week in each others' company, the reminder of how much I love my little family.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Child Storage

Those clever people at Ikea really do think of everything. Now if they could just fit a padlock...

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Birthdays! ... broken

Yesterday we were at the Stephs' celebrating Elise's 7th birthday and Pascal's 37th. It's always fun but fraught. Fun for them. Fraught for us. But how lucky are this petite bande to be able to get up to communal mischief together so often? Very.

When we arrived we were already trailing coughs, colds, and ear infections (Matilda). Today everyone is a bit broken. I feel like my brain is doing some kind of diabolic waltz to the death which requires me to sit with tea and chocolate until all fiendish eighteenth-century Viennese dance crazes quit my fevered head. Our most grateful thanks to Mr. Walt Disney, and his friends Dumbo, Pongo and Perdita, without whom our Sunday would have been hell on toast.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

(Mini) Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise: Gâteau Choco Coco à la Bex

This is how the mini GBBE works: I ask Matilda what kind of baking she wants to do, big cake, small cakes, biscuits, loaf, and then I ask her what she wants to put in it. I used to guide her choices but now I don't have to. Then I look for a recipe in my books or online that doesn't involve anything scary with egg whites. Today Matilda wanted to make a big cake with coconut and chocolate. I found one here on Chocolate and Zucchini. A lovely food blog recommended to me by our GBBG Katie. Now the reason I'm a bad baker is because when I can see that my cocoa is all lumpy and won't mix in I blithely reassure myself that it will all magically come together in the oven. Only it doesn't. It didn't. The cake contained bitter little bursts of cocoa. Luckily Matilda and I had decided to improve the recipe by adding some icing. White chocolate coconut icing. Oh my yum. This was an invention (not on a par with the washing machine but slightly better than the Soda Stream) which simply involved adding toasted coconut to my favourite white chocolate icing recipe. So there was a generous layer of crunchy sweetness to offset the results of my bad baker syndrome. Apologies if the photos are becoming a bit repetitive, there are only so many ways I can snap the mini-beasts eating cake.

In other news, today I instigated a group painting session. The first time Owen has picked up a paintbrush. There were mixed results. He seemed to enjoy it. That's good. We don't have to rule out the Slade just yet. But he spent most of his time trying to drink the paint water, trying to suck the paintbrush, or simply picking the paint up with his fingers and eating it. We started with eight recognisable colours. We finished with eight shades of sludge.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

My mini bookworm me (the other one)

I don't seem to have much going on in the old noggin at the moment. And when a post does pop up between the ears it feels like a repeat of a post I've already written. But to be fair to my second born, I shall write this one down. I apologise, but this blog is as much for me and my family as it is for you.

Owen loves books. Like Matilda, he was a late starter. Flicking through baby picture books didn't fire his imagination but now he can appreciate a short story, with expressive illustrations, and can recognise images and make noises, he loves being read to. And he loves just sitting and flicking through the pages. His current favourite is Pip and Posy The Scary Monster by Axel Scheffler, who illustrated The Gruffalo. That and Tractors with Flaps. Tractors. With Flaps. It doesn't get much better than that in O's literary world. At the moment all he wants to do is read. He's constantly settling himself into the sofa with a book and then instructing me to sit down and read with him. He does this with great economy: Maman, ça!

I don't expect or particularly want my children to share all my passions but reading and books are more than a passion: they are a way of life. So hooray for my two little bookworms.

Here is a video of Owen being read to. It's nice to capture my little O enjoying quieter pursuits. I love the way he nods his approval of the story. And the little hooray! at the end.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise: Chocolate Brownies

Having made and given away all our muffins this morning we were feeling a little baked goodies bereft. So, armed with a brand spanking new brownie tin from our GBBG I decided I would try some brownies. As you know, brownies and I have a troubled past. But I was feeling brave. I opted for the recipe from Linda Collister's Easy Baking because I already had all the ingredients in the house. And because it is supposedly Easy. The process was indeed easy. And the results are most edible. If a bit whoah there! on the chocolate hit. I might use melted chocolate next time rather than Van Houten 100% cocoa. This didn't seem to bother the mini-beasts though. Maybe they'll be proper chocoholics, not closet Cadburyphiles like their Tamer.

But my brownies are still not quite right, as always they were too cakey round the edges, and primeval slime in the middle.

I therefore hereby make it my quest to find and execute to perfection the ultimate brownie recipe.

And to think I sometimes worry that my life lacks meaning...

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

(Mini) Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise: White Chocolate and Dried Strawberry Muffins

Yes, back by popular request. Thank you to Ben and Dan, and especially to our GBBG (Greedy Bird Baking Guru) Katie, who not only added her voice to the request but very kindly gave the GBBE a whole host of fantastic new baking paraphernalia.

So, back with a twist on an old favourite. White chocolate and [fruit of choice to salve conscience that am feeding my kids healthily] muffins. Today we added these amazing little dried strawberries we get from the market. We eat them like sweets chez nous.

The muffins were a try out for a possible late New Year's, and even later Christmas present for our lovely friendly generous market stallholders. Several other attempts at baking goodies for the market folk leading up to Christmas went horribly wrong (how fortuitous that the GBBE was on sabbatical) but this time we have it cracked. So come Sunday morning Matilda and I shall be baking and handing out these little yummies. Better late than never.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Moments, Thoughts and Anecdotes

In no particular order...

1. Expectations: a thought
Sometimes anticipating something will be bad, which I suppose should more rightly be termed apprehending, can be good. Expectations play should a huge part in how we experience life. This year Christmas was good.

2. Stargazing: a moment
Lying on the Stephs' gigantic second floor terrace on a gigantic beanbag, with Steph, at 3am on New Year's Day, all snuggly under a blanket, looking at the stars. We admitted to each other that we still don't feel like grown ups. Will I ever feel like a grown up? Do you feel like a grown up? Is it even desirable to feel like a grown up?

3. Knickergate: an anecdote
Last week I took the mini-beasts to the park. Owen was a bit snotty and the snot only became more free flowing out in the brisk winter air. I neglected to bring either tissues or babywipes. Evidence, if evidence is needed, that I am not a proper mum. Proper mums always have tissues on them. Even half decent mums will remember to bring appropriate nose wiping apparatus when already in full possession of the knowledge of leaky nostrils. I ended up, surreptitiously, blowing my son's nose on a pair of my daughter's (clean, I hasten to add) knickers.

4. When I'm 64: a thought
Great Nana Iris was with us this Christmas. I loved seeing her reading to the mini-beasts. But I hated seeing her struggling to balance her iron will to be independent with her desperate need for help and reassurance. In the shower on Christmas morning I composed a little manifesto for myself when I'm old.

Always maintain as much independence, self-sufficiency and dignity as possible but have the good grace to accept and request help with honesty, humility and gratitude. And remember, life is essentially undignified.

5. Clown feet: an anecdote
Few things provided me with more fun and amusement over Christmas than Owen's festive shoe fetish. Every night during dinner while we were at my parents' house he took the opportunity to try on the huge variety of shoes on offer by the door (we were 14 adults). He tirelessly sashayed up and down the length of the dinner table delighting his captive audience.

No shoe too large.

6. Being a kid: a thought
Dancing round in a circle until you all accidentally on purpose fall over. Simple. Silly. Hilarious. Being a kid is brilliant.