Saturday, 27 July 2013

Show and tell

So what's the first thing you think of doing when the temperature hits 28 degrees C (this is Wales, remember, so that's off-the-scale sizzling)? Well, if you're me,  you dust off the knitting needles and get back to work on that pure wool aran cardigan you were knitting. I love seamless knits - good to be able to try things on as you go and (hopefully) find that they fit. It gives me a bit more motivation to carry on than looking at a pile of panels that need seaming together.

alpengluhen - yellow cabled cardigan

This Summer hasn't just been about knitting though. I've also been on almost permanent slug-watch. I managed to grow amazing crops (considering my scant gardening experience) back when we lived in Slough, but back in Wales I seem to be constantly waging war against the slugs which decimate my budding plot each evening. Something to do with all the rain, perhaps? I will not use slug pellets, nor salt, as a neighbour suggested, but instead, each morning and evening I pick up each slug I find and, one by one, take them to the other end of the garden. Whereupon, it seems to me, they immediately start making their way back; I'm sure I'm seeing the same unrepentant slug faces night after night. The one thing that is working, however, is the copper tape. Slugs really  don't seem to like it, and anything protected by a rudimentary defence made from a tube of milk carton encircled with some copper tape remains uneaten. A small victory.

runner bean slug defences

In other news, there has been baking. The breadmaker (Panasonic SD-ZB250BXC, if you're interested) I got for my birthday from my family is in constant use - so much fun chucking different ingredients in and watching the machine work its magic. This week we have had rye and stout bread, red pesto and pinenut bread, and several white and wholemeal loaves in between.


There have also been various school events to bake for, so my latest effort was this ridiculously calorific chocolate traybake (at 433 calories per portion it's a cardiac arrest in the making - thank goodness they specify 'light' condensed milk!). I've really learned my lesson from my first school cake sale, where my offerings actually ended up being given away at the end. Lesson learned: children will not buy cakes with fruit in them, even if they are Bill's delicious apricot slice.

Extremely chocolatey traybake

There's been a generous helping of culture as well as chocolate cake. I took the children to our local museum to catch the Petal Power exhibition on tour from The Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (MoDA), Middlesex University. Really worth catching this if you can, beautiful examples of fabric design  and insights into how the women employed by the Silver Studio worked.

Another must-see for us was As You Like It in the beautiful surroundings of Chepstow Castle a few weeks ago. Both the elders (9 and 7) have studied Shakespeare at school this term, and though I worried about the complexities of the plot being lost on them, they were rapt throughout. Amazingly slick production by Illyria with lots of laughs, I would really recommend this - all over the place this Summer!

As you like it_Chepstow Castle

And finally, school's out for Summer! Whilst a parent from one of my children's classes had organised a collection for gift vouchers which I contributed to, the other child needed a teacher gift. Cue messing about with fabric and coming up with this:

teacher gift

Definitely having something along these lines as a custom order in the shop soon!

And the good news is that now that school's out, the home help (teacher husband) is officially back on shared childcare duties, which means a lovely long Summer ahead with a whole lot more messing about with fabric for me.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Happy Campers!

Thanks to a gentle nudge from Isabella Golightly in my blog comments, I've just realised it's been a whole month since I last blogged. Busy-ness all round here with children and work and what have you. It's also sports day/concert/Summer fete season, and the weeks seem to be flying by apace. So back to the camping thing I was rambling on about in my last post.


We camped. We pitched the tent, it didn't fall down on us in the night, we didn't lose any of the children, the sun shone all weekend, and, a small personal triumph, I managed to keep two pints of milk cool in my coolbag-within-a-coolbag setup for the entire weekend.


For our first excursion we tagged along with friends to a campsite in the Forest of Dean, a mere 25 minutes drive from home, so easily do-able on a Friday night after school. It was a nice length of trip for trying out camping for the first time, and we knew that if the worst came to the worst, we weren't far from home! But we didn't forget anything, there were no gale-force winds, just a blissful weekend of free-range children, general outdoorsiness, and eating a lot of food. 


 What I learned:
  • A good mother should not laugh when, just as she's finished saying, 'now careful you don't fall over the guy ropes', there's a huge thunk, and she turns to see her eldest lying on the ground almost winded, having tripped over said guy ropes. And she absolutely should not laugh when, just as she's dusting down the daughter, she reminds the son, 'now mind you don't trip over the guy ropes like your sister just did' only to hear another thunk and find her son spreadeagled on the ground with a bleeding lip. It turns out that I am not such a good mother.
  • Anything tastes nice when you cook it outdoors, even one-pan beans and bacon with unexpectedly-crispy fried eggs. It might not look elegant, but it tastes amazing. Best meals? Gnocchi with a jar of tomato sauce (ready in ten minutes if the gas stays lit, on which see below),  and campfire pizza made from wraps loaded with tomato and cheese and rolled up before being barbecued in foil. 
  • You can very easily cater for a family of five for a weekend with just a single gas ring, but it'll be a lot quicker if you have a windbreak to stop the gas from blowing out every five minutes.
  • Children can cope with late nights, early mornings and lots of fresh air, but it will probably catch up with them sooner or later.
 Post-camping impromptu snooze

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