Friday, July 15, 2016

The Tomatoes are Ripe for the Picking

Isaac came home one day carrying a white plastic cup bearing tomato seeds they have planted at nursery. Today, after weeks of careful nurturing and patiently waiting, he reaped the first fruits of his labour.

Our flat in Spain does not have a garden but this would not hinder a curious child from experiencing the joys of gardening. With the help of his green-thumbed dad, the seed was transported into a plastic pot and then subsequently moved into a grow bag where they grew to be taller than the little boy.

He plodded the soil, sprinkled the water and sniffed the sweet scent of tomato leaves as we waited for the bulging globes to turn into their deep fiery red.
In this day and age when most things are handed in a plate (statistics point out that 40% of children who leave primary school have no idea where even the most basic fruits and vegetables come from), at least Isaac would be able to tell you how a tomato grows. And hopefully this experience will teach him environmental awareness that in turn would encourage him to pursue the career of a climate change scientist that his mother aspires him to become!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Fun Even Without the Sun

My work colleagues were pleased with the weather forecast this Sunday - a stay indoors type of day with the clouds hiding our view of Gibraltar and rain knocking on our balcony window. Things, long been put off to enjoy the outdoors, can finally be faced head on.

While we busied ourselves with things on our list, the little boy, used to his daily lifestyle of paddling in the beach, meeting with friends or sliding down the pole in the neighbourhood playground, was getting bored and demanding for Peppa Pig in the television. This was not an option. I have banned television in our house on Sundays because being a good and responsible parent who spent the whole week at work, I should not rely on Nanny McTelly to look after my child, I need to spend quality time with him. (I hope you realise that I am being sarcastic here).

Rainy days were not a problem in Britain. We had plenty of toys and indoor centres to take him but we have left most of our possessions back home and have heavily relied on the Spanish outdoor life to provide us with entertainment. But look at the internet and you will find plenty of ideas on how to be a fun parent. We (Isaac and me) decided to bake cookies while Daddy bailed out and went out for a jog in between bursts of rain.

You don't need a lot to make Jamie Oliver's chocolate chip cookies. We had very basic kitchen implements and had to improvise but baking cookies is just about mixing fat (we used vegetable oil) and (lesser) sugar, adding egg and sifting flour then stirring in chocolate bars roughly cut in pieces. But we had loads of fun and a messy kitchen. We rightfully adhered to the ban in television and managed to tire out the little boy he went to bed in time! Hurray to being a working and wonderful mummy! (I am being sarcastic!)
And yes, the cookies turned out soft, chewy and delicious as Jamie promised it to be! But I can't wait for the sun to come out again and just let Isaac loose at the beach. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Wentworth Garden Centre: A Birthday Day Out

Isaac's birthday weekend culminated with a trip to Wentworth Garden Centre in Rotherham, a hidden gem of a place with just enough excitement for little children to have an enjoyable day out, especially one who would probably take more pleasure in the discovery of new things rather than the blowing of a  candle.

The garden centre, beautifully set in the historic village of Wentworth has a family farm with a collection of animals that Isaac and his cousin Alex could identify from their nursery rhymes and more. We bought some feeds that they can give to the animals with their hands and they were allowed to sit down on the barn to pat the guinea pigs. A big hit though was the couple of tractors that they pretended to drive (static of course!) and the adventure playgrounds for children of all ages.

The food was of good quality too and we enjoyed a cup of coffee followed by lunch sat under the sun outside the Walled Garden Restaurant. It was definitely a lovely day with plenty of photos to show for it!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Mint Chocolate Brownies

It's official. Our home has started the traditional English pursuit of making cakes for good causes and it all starts with the classic chocolate and mint brownies. Every year, Osborne House Community Nursery, a non-profit day care provider where Isaac goes three times a week holds fund-raising events to fund new equipment for the establishment. This year, it was the slides, our little boy's favourite outdoor pursuit. He went down five times, I reckon he would have done more if he wasn't stopped but the main purpose of putting them to nursery at such young age is to learn to share. I'm sure he didn't mind taking turns. Like he didn't mind helping me out with the brownies last Sunday so that Daddy can peddle it off work for his sponsorship money.

This recipe is pretty straight-forward and can be enjoyed within 2 hours.

200g Dark Chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces
200g butter, softened
3 large eggs
150g soft brown sugar (the original recipe called for 250g but I've always used less than required) 100g plain flour (we used gluten-free although this doesn't really make any difference in terms of calorie intake)
1 level tsp baking powder
4 tbsp chopped mint leaves (straight from our herb garden or about 1/2x28g pack, stems removed)

1. Preheat the oven to 160C/140C Fan/Gas 3. Line a square tin with baking paper.
2. Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl, then set it over a pan of simmering water - make sure the base of the bowl doesn't touch the water. Leave until almost melted, then remove from the heat. 3. Get the little boy to stir until completely melted. 4. In another bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until foamy. 5. Stir in the chocolate mixture until just evenly blended. 6. Sift the flour and baking powder together. 7. Stir into the chocolate mixture with the mint. 8. Pour into the tin and bake for 50-6-mins, then cool on a wire rack. 9. Cut into pieces and savour the smell of the mint leaves. Take a bite but just one.
The brownies will be in danger of not making it out of the house, but it was made for charity so we disciplined ourselves and packed them off in tins for Daddy to take to work for the nursery sponsorship. But we had so much fun I'm sure it won't be long before another baking session at home will take place!

If you manage to make it do let us know how it went for you. We grabbed it from the May edition of Asda magazine. Highly recommended for recipes!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Catch Me if You Can

Our little boy, now nearly two, has become a confident sprinter. And this is a skill he practices as he navigates his way towards the man-made lake well-situated in the middle of Hillsborough Park. It is a path he knows by the back of his hand, straight through the tree-lined course, past the children's playground, a slight turn to the left and then a slope towards the water hole.

"Hello, pato (duck)!"

This is how he would greet to the feathery inhabitants of the pond - ducks, geese and pigeons - as he sits by the bank, egging them to come a little bit closer. We are, as most of the other children in the community, regular visitors to this urban nature recess and the birds are well-used to our presence. Sometimes we just stop by to say hello; occasionally we would remember to bring some crumbs of stale bread for them to feast on. It's a symbiotic relationship, what we foster: each brings the other delight although admittedly, we always get the most out of the visit.

When my mother came over for a short visit, she noticed the ducks by the lake and was surprised to find them there. Back where we came from, she said, they would never last a day in the wild. But these creatures are made by God too and therefore share as legitimate a claim over our natural world. So when we teach our children the story of creation and the beauty of God's work, it would also be great to foster in them an understanding that as living beings, we are all equal. And that as the highest order in the food chain, our greatest responsibility is to protect the ecological balance of nature, that many more generations after us may enjoy it.

For Isaac, these migratory creatures are his friends. He plays chase after them, feeds them bread and squeals delight as they fly away. And they know he is their friend too, that's why they don't run away.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Seaside by the Moor

Summer has arrived and because Sheffield's nearest beach is three hours away, the Moor in Sheffield has been transformed into a typical English seaside resort complete with a massive sandpit, colourful huts, loud music and carnival rides. But Isaac preferred to sit on the colourful beach chairs watching other children squeal in delight just because he doesn't want sand on his shoes!

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Vintage Kitchen

In British homes, retro has become the new black. Well, it has been for awhile. There isn't anything more romantic than a dose of colourful nostalgia from the past. So when I saw Asda's red and blue cherry vintage-inspired kitchen range, I knew we would have to have one! But when I showed it to John, the wise man that he is knew straight away that it fell on the bracket of 'Children's Toys I Wish I Had' purchases and told me so. But when I said I won't mind getting it for my birthday he didn't protest.

So this pretty little thing arrived the day after my 31st birthday, on a flatpack begging to be quickly assembled. It took us an hour to build, which wasn't that bad and we avoided the usual flatpack frustrations by doing it after a good afternoon nap when our minds were ready to take in information. It was made of wood, so far more superior and environmentally friendly than Ikea's MDFs. It includes wooden pots and pans and utensils (we paid £5 more). Plus the gingham curtain were rather cute.

It proved to be a hit in the house, the little lad has his own kitchen to work on while we're getting dinner ready. No more need for the occassional Nanny McTelly!
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