Three little pigs ballet….and a bit more

IMG_2584After a week of being stuck at home and around our local area due to a bike accident last weekend, it was great to get out yesterday with the kids.  We had tickets booked to see the Northern Ballet’s performance of the Three Little Pigs at Leicester curve, and decided to make a full day of things with a train journey there, I always forget how exciting this in itself is for kids.  They not only love looking at the passing landscapes but the train was transformed into a space rocket and a submarine, all in the space of a 30 minute journey!!

 

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We love going to The Curve in Leicester, it is a fantastically thought out space, with room to roam and explore, and provides a great insight into the workings of the theatre, often with the behind the scenes and costumes on display.  They are also very good at organising events to celebrate local artists and groups, and this week they are hosting the inside out festival.  It is a celebration of comedy, drama, music, dance and acting from within the local area.  As part of t his they had numerous activities on for the kids, including make your own miniature gardens and the chance to sing in a choir supported by a member from the Kaine Choir.   The kids loved this and it really enhanced our day, and gave us ideas to try out at home, and opportunities that we wouldn’t normally have.  We also realised that Flump loves being in the limelight and has natural star ability…ahem!!! I thought I had videoed his rendition of I Believe I can fly, but unfortunately not, as it would have been a good one to pull out to embarrass him in future years!!

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The Ballet itself was amazing, a true interpretation of the original story and a great introduction to the ballet for children. It was really simple with not too much elaborate dancing, and focused a lot on expression and movement to tell the story.  The accompanying musicians were also great at showing how music can portray a story, and demonstrate mood and feelings. The kids were enthralled throughout the 30 minute performance and loved talking about it afterwards and re-enacting the story.

Science and rocks!!

IMG_2499I haven’t posted on here for a couple of weeks, it’s not been intentional, I think I have just been carried along with the ebb and flow of day to day life.  However all has not been quite, it rarely is in this house, and we have been up to some exciting things.  One of the great things we have done was to take part in the British Geological Survey’s family fun day, supported by Rockwatch as part of the science and engineering week.

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We weren’t sure entirely what to expect and whether it would have been appropriate for Bean and Flump, but we had nothing to worry about, there was something there for all of us.  There was the introduction to prehistoric animals,  we came home with our very own sea scorpion, thankfully not life size as I has never realised that they gee to 2.5m!! and then there was the display of fossils, the mammoth’s femur bone was quite impressive, but the kids were far more captivated by the fossilised dung!!   One of Bean’s particular highlights was sifting rocks and the discussion of how the process of erosion causes the large rocks to become sand.  There was also much bouncing up and down on the floor to demonstrate the vibrations felt to detect earthquakes and demonstrations to show how carbon dioxide is captured and stored as part of the fight against climate change.  We didn’t get chance to have a go at all the activities, and felt that some of the talks may not have been great to sit in with kids.  However it was a fantastic day and highly recommended for all ages – there really was something for everyone.

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Following on from our visit I decided to continue with the theme of science at home with my childminder’s and my own kids, and came across an array of science experiments on Pinterest (my new fave!!)  We had great fun in the garden making our own volcanoes.   We also had a go at a cloud experiment  – the kids loved this especially using the squirty shaving foam to make the clouds and adding the food colouring to show how rain comes through.  The kids have loved every minute of it and it has lead onto many other explorations and discussions about science and the world.IMG_2462

 

Baking at Greens windmill

IMG_2358This time last week Flump and myself had returned from a great morning spent at Green’s Windmill.  The lovely Lizzie had organised a morning at the windmill for us to go with our little ones to do some baking – how could we turn down such a tempting invite.  So on the Friday morning after the school run, off we went to meet with some of our lovely friends and their little ones for a ver messy morning.

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The morning was spent making snowball cookies, a tad misplaced seasonally considering how glorious a spring day it was, but they went down a treat.  It did involve an awful lot of squiggling ingredients by hand, a la Paul Hollywood, which the kids delighted in, and I’m not sure how much of the mix went into the little mouths!!  The bloke running the course ( I have to apologise as his name I have completely forgotten!!), was brilliant with kids and parents alike, and it made for a very relaxed morning.

 

While waiting for the cookies to bake, we were left to our own devices to explore the windmill, play in the courtyard, enjoy a culpa.  We decided to climb the windmill – it was great to see inside a working mill and to follow the process of the grain as it was made into flour.  All that climbing led to a great appetite which was sated by consumption of a number of the cookies.

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There are some great activities available at the windmill and we will definitely be participating in some future events,

Recipe for Snowball Cookies. (courtesy of Green’s Windmill)

Ingredients

1.  100g softened butter

2. 75 g icing sugar

3. 150g plain flour

4. 25g porridge oats

5. 25g chopped peanuts (optional)

6. Grated lemon zest

Method

1.  Preheat the oven to 180C/ 160 Fan/ Gas 4

2. Cream the butter and icing sugar until soft and fluffy.

3.  Stir in the flour, followed by the ate, nuts, lemon zest and a pitch of salt.  Mix until it forms a dough(it will be quite dry).

4. Form into walnut size balls and place on a lightly greased baking tray.  Bake for 10-12 minutes

5. Place in al arge bowl with the rest of the icing sugar a toss to coat.

 

 

Knitting a frenzy for International Women’s day.

iwd_squareWell I’m not sure where the time has gone as I have realised I haven’t blogged in for nearly 2 weeks!!!  There have been numerous things going on round these parts, charity bike ride…I will post about that another day.  There has also been some sewing and other crafts going on but the main focus of my spare time has been knitting or crochet ready for a spot of Yarn bombing yesterday morning.  It was organised by the Bingham Belles which I am heavily involved in, in order to help celebrate international Women’s day and bring some awareness locally to this annual event.  The theme this year was Inspiring Change. It is about celebrating the achievements of women in social, political and economic areas, but at the same time recognising that their is the need for continued advocacy of women’s issues. 

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We chose to yarn bomb as a way to change the appearance of the local landscape in the hope it may cause people to stop, look and consider international women’s day and what it means.  We were up with the larks on Saturday morning to adorn our market place with all the wonder flu knitting and crochet that had been done by the lovely belles.  The whole process of meeting with the other women to place the items around the market square felt incredibly empowering and liberating, and there was a definite buzz despite the bitter weather.  It was amazing to stand back and to admire what everyone had achieved and to sit in the cafe overlooking the market square and watch Bingham come to life and peoples reactions to it.  I popped down to the market square a couple of times during the day and it was great to see people taking notice of it.  It was especially heartwarming talking to some of the mums who were with their daughters admiring the work but also chatting about international women’s day and what it means.  We also left little notes to ask people to take some of the items home and give to an inspiring woman in their life.

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It may not have been on the large scale that other yarn bombing projects but it achieved what we hope it would, and you never know next year we may go bigger!!

Stay Play and Explore at Twycross Zoo

IMG_2300Go Leicestershire have a great offer on at the moment, Stay, Play, Explore,  including a one night stay in the Hilton Hotel in Leicester,  breakfast and entry into 3 attractions out of a list of 5, for a bargain of £109!!  Well we would be fools to pass this up and decided it would be great way to end our half term fun seeing as Bean had an inset day today.

The hotel was fantastic and had the added bonus of a swimming pool which we of course made the most of while we were there, Bean demonstrating how much her swimming has come on over the past few months.  The kids especially loved the breakfast on offer, the usual mix of cereals, continental and full English but with the added bonus of the Chef making them fresh pancakes..yum!! I think also it had something to do with the fact they can be so independent in going up and picking and choosing what they want when they want.

IMG_2278We decided to visit Twycross Zoo today as one of the three free entry tickets.  We have until the end of the year to use the rest of the vouchers so we will be visiting Snibston Discovery Centre and The Space Centre at a later date.  Twycross was fantastic and much better than I remember it from a previous visit 5 years ago with Bean.  They have obviously invested a lot of time and money into making the enclosures better for the animals.  It is also great to discover the great conservation work they are doing and was incredibly educational for the children.

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My favourites as always are the orang-utans, and we have been lucky enough to see them in Borneo on our travels many moons ago. I love their playfulness and how like us they are in their mannerisms.  The walk through Lemur enclosure was also fantastic and we were able to get really close up to these inquisitive playful creature. Flump was fascinated with the Penguins and their agility underwater, I am hoping he may get some tips from them.  Bean loved the Amur Leopards and the snow leopards which we had the pleasure of being able to watch in their new enclosure while we ate lunch.

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We are now back home, exhausted but happy although not relishing the idea of the school run tomorrow morning. I also have the trepidation and excitement of a 30mile bike ride for Sport Relief as part of team Honk, but I feel that is a post for another day!!

A day of quilting and a Butternut Squash Soup

Today I had a lovely few hours at the East Midland Modern Quilting Guild, or EMMQ for short.  It is a group that has been set up here in the East Midlands by the lovely Moira, for individuals interested in quilting to get together, share ideas, work on projects, and generally have a great day of sewing. Today it was chance to take along any projects you wanted to start or finish off, and wow I was blown away by some of the quilts that people had finished, such beautiful colours and patterns.  It was also interesting to see what other folks were up to and I picked up some great tips including the use of the sewline fabric pen to baste paper pieces instead of using basting stitches!!  I wish I had known about this prior to the project I was working on today which required basting fairly small pieces of fabric.

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I have just started the pretty petals English paper piecing project in this issue of Love Patchwork and Quilting.  It is by one of my favourite bloggers Florence at Flossie Teacakes.  Some of her paper pieced work is amazing and so very intricate, and although I am working on a hexagon quilt at present, but this project is by far more intricate and includes curves!.  I did fairly well today by getting all the pieces basted and all the flowers sewn together so I feel like I have broken the back of it.

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Along with the sewing today there was a fine selection of food available in the form of a faith lunch.  We all took something along, and my contribution was the following soup, a perfect winter warmer with a slight afterglow ( The hubster’s description of it!)

Spicy Butternut Squash and Leek Soup

1 butternut Squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks

1 leek, washed and sliced

1 dried red chilli chopped

200g diced pancetta/ Bacon lardons

2 tsp ground cumin

1 litre Chicken stock

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  • Fry the pancetta in a little olive oil until browned and slightly crisped.
  • Turn down the heat and add the leek and red chilli and fry until softened
  • Add the butternut squash and fry for a further 5 minutes.

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  • Add the ground cumin and stir to coat all the ingredients
  • Add the hot stock, bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for approximately 20-25mins
  • Take off the heat and allow to cool a little.
  • Puree in a blender.
  • Enjoy as it is or with a swirl of sour cream and some chopped coriander

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Alternatives:

  • For a vegetarian option omit the pancetta and use veg stock instead.
  • Roast the butternut squash prior to adding it to the pan.
  • Swirl double cream through and heat gently for a few minutes to give a more creamy consistency.
  • Add chopped roasted chestnuts with the Butternut squab.

Button Bouquet

IMG_2215Last Saturday I skulked off for a trip out with my friend Tanya to Nottingham Does Vintage at the Playhouse.  While there were plenty of children there it was great to have some child free time and focus on the goodies available rather than worrying too much about what mischief the sticky fingers of my two were up to!!  It was a great little fair, and at only a £1 entry was a bargain day out.

 

There were stalls with some amazing vintage clothes and accessories, the sort I always dream of wearing but never seem to have the confidence to do nowadays!  There was also a great little workshop run by Rachel at The House that Buttons built.  It was incredibly popular but we were quite happy to chat over coffee waiting to have a go.  The mini workshop involved making button posy’s….a fantastic and incredibly stylish alternative to a more traditional bouquet of flowers and also as a great keepsake for a wedding.

 

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We had the chance to make 5 flowers from an incredible array of buttons – I didn’t get any photos, but it was swoon worthy! Rachel who runs the workshops was incredibly patient despite how busy it was and gave us brilliant instruction on what we needed to do.  I purchased one of her button kits in order to finish off my bouquet at home that was destined to be a friends birthday preset.

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It is a great little craft and one that I have managed to do with my kids this afternoon.  They enjoyed choosing piles of buttons from the selection I had and loved the whole process needing only a little help with the twisting and cutting of wire.  A great way to spend a spare hour.  Rachel is also running workshops which can be found on her Facebook page.

 

Homemade Toffee Popcorn

I am going out in a short while for an impromptu Girlie catch up and dvd at a friends house.  I hadn’t got any suitable supplies in that I could take round until I thought about homemade popcorn.  We make popcorn all the time in our house, as a snack for the kids and ourselves in the week, for family movie times.  It is really quick to do and much nicer than shop bought, but we usually stick to the same old recipe of adding a little melted butter and  sugar but I really fancied trying homemade toffee popcorn.  How hard could it be….well actually it turned ou to be really simple!!

The recipe is from Rachel Allen  but I have tweaked it every so slightly.

Homemade Toffee Popcorn

40g popcorn (enough to just cover the base of the pan)

2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil or other flavourless oil

40g butter

40g Soft brown sugar

2 Tablespoons Golden syrup (use a warmed spoon to do this as it will come of a lot easier)

pinch salt

 

Heat the oil in lidded pan.  When hot add the popping corn and shake to cover the bottom of the pan.

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Put the lid on – and keep shaking the pan gently until the corn begins to pop.  Lower the temperature and keep the lid on until all the corn has popped – you will be able to hear it stop. Do not be tempted to lift the lid until this is done, otherwise you and your kitchen will become covered in the hot popping corn.

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Once it has stopped popping empty it out into a large bowl – you will have quite a substantial amount of popcorn

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Meanwhile make the toffee sauce.  Place the sugar, syrup, butter and salt into a small frying pan.  Stir gently over a low heat until the butter and sugar is dissolved.  Once dissolved, turn up the heat and bring to a boil for a couple of minutes.

 

Take off the heat and pour over the popcorn, tossing it in using two spoons.

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Leave to cool completely and enjoy.

 

I have managed to make enough for tonight and tomorrow (unless the hubster indulges in it while I am out!) – I feel a movie afternoon with the kids coming on!

Diorama’s at the Nottingham Contemporary

IMG_2135We spent the day today with a lovely friend and her 2 young children, and although exhausting and the children getting a little frazzled at times, great fun was had by all.  We went along to the Nottingham Contemporary to take part in their half term activities for families.  I have been on a couple of other occasions with Bean and Flump for their weekend activities and they have always gone down well.

When you arrive you are encouraged to explore the exhibitions in the Galleries and there are some great interactive resources to help the kids get thinking about what they are seeing and hearing.  This is with the view that what they experience through the exhibitions, will help provide inspiration for what they do in the art activities.  The Exhibition today was a showcase of Marvin Gaye Chetwynd’s instillations and sculptures.  They are often props  and costumes from performances that are then utilised in  exhibitions.  The exhibition was hosted by Cousin Itt, whom we had the pleasure of meeting today.  I have to admit the children were a little freaked out when he first approached us, but with time and a little distance they soon warmed to him and he added a great extra dynamic to the artwork on display.  The older kids were especially intrigued and drawn in by the Diorama’s and really enjoyed discussing what they were seeing and it was great to hear their own interpretation of the scenes.

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After the exhibition we entered The Space where we were encouraged to make our own diorama’s, the kiddies deciding to split into two groups…the younger ones and older ones.  It was great to get involved with them and help bring their thoughts and ideas to life using recycled materials.  They both went for a seafaring theme, the older girls deciding to do a beach scene and the younger ones, after initial thoughts of rockets and space ships, settled on a pirate ship.  Once completed they are encouraged to add light and sound effects which they thoroughly enjoyed.

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It has been a great experience and the staff were incredibly friendly and interacted brilliantly with the kids.  I love the way in which children are encouraged to explore art and for it to become an accessible part of their life.  It also provide us with inspiration for activities we can do at home.  We will certainly be coming back to the contemporary as a family, next time we will try the explorer bags, and they have some brilliant family weekend activities in March based around the above exhibitions theme.

Belting day at belton

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What else to do on a clear dry day in February half term, but to meet up with friends at belton house. Wellie boots donned, warm coats on and off we went exploring. Belton house is amazing for a day out with the kids. In the summer we inevitably head to the outdoor adventure play area, but during the winter it is closed which is actually a blessing as it makes us explore done if the other gems Belton has to offer.

20140218-204025.jpgToday saw the kids find one of the heavily woods “mountains”, aka a little slope surrounded by bushes but great to allow them to find themselves exploring an alternate world. The flump was in his element and the state of his trousers went to prove how much fun he had.

IMG_2054Bean was in a more melancholic mood today but that didn’t prevent her from getting something from the day… She really enjoyed taking command of the camera and got some wonderful shots of the carpets of snowdrops…. I do love snowdrops and to me they are a real signal that spring has sprung.

The maze at Belton is great…. The volunteers have obviously been working wonders and the new entrance to it is looking fantastic. The kids enjoyed getting lost and at the centre was a wonderful surprise of Bertie Brownlow, the willow greyhound made by Alison Walling.IMG_2082

After all that running around and an outdoor picnic…., yes a picnic in February, a truly british activity!!! We warmed up in the Ride cafe which has a fantastic play area for kids over about the age of three.

We were grateful to be able to be outdoors today but even on a rainy day Belton would have a lot to offer. It has some great half term activities planned so there is still time to get involved.