All quiet on the home front

The rain is back. No surprise there really, but it does mean we're having a few quiet days just pottering around the house.

It's nice, we haven't had a few uninterrupted days to just relax in a while and it starts to feel a bit frantic when there is so much to do.

We've started a new thing around here too. Toots has been a little clingy lately. Well perhaps clingy isn't the right word but she has insisted on doing absolutely everything mummy does for a couple of weeks now.

So this week we've been trying to separate ourselves a bit. She has to play in her bedroom for about 30-45 minutes after breakfast and again for about an hour or so in the afternoon after lunch.

She seems to be taking to it so far, although there is still a novelty to the whole thing. I'm functioning a bit better because of it as well. I know that I have a set out of time to get things done, which she can't help with or which I would prefer she didn't help with and it motivates me to get the tasks done and out of the way. I use the time to make phone calls, write letters, pay bills that kind of thing.

I think in a week or so I may try to bring a little more routine to our day. I'll wait to see what happens once the novelty wears off, it'll give me a better idea of how happy she is to play by herself, but ideally I would like our day to run something like this;

Breakfast (both of us)
Play Time (Toots)
School type work (15 to 20 minutes of maths or working on her handwriting)
Help Mummy (she can help me bake, fold laundry, prepare lunch)
Play Time (toots)
School type work (if she chose maths in the morning, then it would be handwriting in the afternoon)
TV (should be around 2.30-3.00pm and she sometimes "hits a wall" around this time)
Outside play
Help Mummy (a last quick tidy for dad coming home and preparing the dinner)

I'll be able to get bits and pieces done while she plays in her room and really the schedule isn't as strict as it appears. I haven't restricted Toots or myself to times because then it would be destined to fail.

The schedule only accounts for about 4 to 5 hours of the day, but you can't really plan every second of a child's day anyway.

I'm hoping it works. Ideally I would like her to be used to a schedule where certain things are required of her and roughly the same time each day so that the schedule of school comes as less of a shock to her system.

What do you think? Have you had any success in setting a schedule for your kids?

I'd be interested to know if you found a schedule that worked for you.

My Little Experiment

Because you just don't know until you try, right?

This is my pear tree

And this is a lovely big bunch of (hopefully) fertilised pear blossoms

This is an empty brandy bottle (you can tell where I'm going with this can't you).

And this is a lovely big bunch of (hopefully) fertilised pear blossoms trapped inside a brandy bottle.

Hey, so maybe I won't end up with a bottle of pear brandy, but sure where's the harm in trying.

More of the same, but not today

Just another day in the SeetheWoods house.

Toots and I had spent the morning at the playground after breakfast and arrived home shortly after 11am.

I checked the mail box and snuggled behind the usual bunch of junk mail (which don't seem to pay any attention to the "don't send me junk mail" list) was this.

A while ago I took part in Pay it Forward over at Hip Chick's Home and I'll admit that I was surprised to find this package in the post. I've been merrily working on gifts for my first three commenters, but I had completely forgotten about the fact that I would also receive a gift.

And what a beautiful gift.

Inside were a stack of lovely photograph greetings cards, not one or two mind you but an entire stack.

Exeter, N.H.

Philip's Beach, Swampscott.

Hubble Light, York, Maine


The Fruits of the Spirit

York, Maine.

I love the photographs used and probably more so because they're pictures I will more than likely never have the opportunity to take myself.

It may take some serious persuasion for me to part with these cards, I'm very tempted to keep them myself, although there is one which I know my mum will love too so I may be parted with it for her birthday.

Thank you Hip Chick, the parcel really made my day.

Menu Plan - 27/4 to 3/5

Monday again.

I need to have a clear out this week and get rid of some of the things taking up room in the larder and freezer, plus I'm hoping to get a run out to the Asian supermarket some time this weekend.

Monday Smoked haddock risotto. I have a piece of smoked haddock in the freezer, but it isn't really enough to portion out for three people. However, it does have a lot of flavour so I'll use it in the risotto along with some unsmoked trout and maybe a poached egg on top.

Tuesday Hot sandwiches. I have a pack of thinly sliced sandwich steak in the freezer. I'll cook it quickly on the griddle along with some of the peppers I have frozen and we'll have a bit of a salad and some tomatoes with them. I'll make some baguette shaped rolls to make the sandwiches.

Wednesday Toots will be with Nana so the husband and I will have a couple of the packs of chili and rice in the freezer. These things are handy to have but its surprising how much room they take up even after freezing them flat and stacking them like books.

Thursday Baked whole trout with steamed green beans and potatoes.

Friday I have a packet of beef mince which I'll use to make burgers, toots and I will have cheese and tomatoes and the husband will have "the works". I'll use any leftover salady bits with them or I'll make chips.

Saturday Meatball subs for the husband using some of the beef from yesterday. Toots and I will have chicken olives and vegetables.

Sunday Paella. I'll use a couple of small fillets of whiting I have in the freezer along with a handful or two of prawns that are in there. I'll add peppers and serve with some crusty bread.


Gravy rings. I finally nailed the recipe for these last week and the husband sat grinning like an idiot after his first bite. They're basically just ring doughnuts but instead of being baked they're fried on the stove in oil for a minute or so on each side before being drained on paper and then dredged in granulated sugar.

Lemon squares. Along with a huge bag of tomatoes I also picked up a bag of market priced lemons so I fancy having a go at lemon squares.

Vanilla ice cream. Not technically baking I know but I made a strawberry pavlova for the husband on Saturday because he wound up working from home over the weekend and was down in the dumps because of it, so I have four egg yolks in the fridge which I can use for the custard. I might split the recipe before I freeze and add a few handfuls of the frozen raspberries to one half to make raspberry ripple.

Folksy Teams

Folksy Teams is up and running.

It a new social media network for Folksy sellers and fans of Folksy to keep in touch and stay up to date on everything that is happening in the world of Folksy.

You can also use the network to meet makers, crafters and artists if you would like to commission a piece of work. The network is relatively new, but already we have some wonderful people showing off their beautiful work.

And while I am the creator of Folksy Teams, I won't be moderating the site as such. I'll deal with the usual spammers and the like but apart from that my hope is that the members of the group will take over and make the network their own. Already there are a handful of Folksy Groups helping friends meet, share and arrange events.

So head over and take a look. You might find some like minded crafters.

Friday Fun

Updated to include answers....

I'm a bit of a movie nut. Actually I'm a movie bore, not that you would realise that spending any time here.

Seeing as its Friday and everyone can use a bit of fun on a Friday I thought I'd have a little quiz.

What do you mean "Quizzes aren't fun"?

I've listed a handful of movie quotes. A few well known and a few not so much. Anyway, have a go. See how many you can correctly identify without googling the answers.

Cheating sucks the fun right out of it and because I'm such a generous soul, the first one's a freebie.

"I've had people walk out on me before, but not when I was being so charming"

Blade Runner

"I just want to make people silky smooth"

You don't mess with the Zohan (Hilarious btw)

"Stand me up today and tomorrow I'll drive you to school in my robe and pajamas and walk you to your first class. 4:00pm okay?"

Uncle Buck (Seriously, who hasn't seen that movie)

"Pathetic. All the green and the blue sky. They told me this planet was ugly, but this has got to be one of the ugliest crap holes in the entire universe."

Battlefield Earth (ok, that was a trick one, nobody's seen that movie)

"There goes the meanest man that ever took a breath of life"

To kill a mockingbird

The Birthday Party


*ducks and runs for cover*

I don't have any photographs.

I know, but they don't allow cameras in the centre and they're very strict about it even going so far as to check handbags.

I only realised once we were in that they didn't check any husbands. Apparently only women are minded to break the rules in their quest for blog fodder great pictures. I should have had the husband smuggle a camera in:)

I really wish I had a camera with me because more than once I found my mum playing in the ball pit. I caught the husband on the third floor of the play frame using the zip line. And when a good friend of mine (and the awesomest man in the whole widest world ever) put money into one of the go carts for his daughter only for her to climb out and run off 15 seconds later, not to waste the money he climbed in himself. All 6ft or so of him. He managed to get one foot in the cart, his backside hanging off the back of the go cart and his other leg draped around the front of the cart.

The staff were less than amused when they caught sight of him and I was convinced they would ask him to leave, but I explained that he really should be taking medication but we were trying to control his condition through diet alone.

Thank god she laughed, but that could have been something to do with the fact that when she turned again to look at him he had his third piece of cake in one hand and a hotdog in the other.

The kids had a blast and were a real credit to all the parents. We had a couple of really little ones there, brothers of Toot's friends and the older kids were brilliant with them, making sure they were well looked after and that they were playing with things for their age group.

I was also happy that one of Toots best friends came with his mum, I hadn't received an RSVP but I still hoped they would arrive. They are Latvian, and his mum came here while she was pregnant. We managed to get something of a conversation going. She isn't completely fluent in English yet, but she speaks 100% more English than I speak Latvian so kudos to the woman. She explained that this was the first party her son was invited to which is a great shame because he's one of the loveliest little boys I've ever met.

By the time the party was over she was getting along really well with all the other mothers and I'm sure this won't be her last invitation.

Giftwise it worked out really well this year.

My mum managed to restrain herself to some extent, opting to buy a few items of clothing and a couple of small toys. She also bought a crayola set and some new lego which I don't mind. My brother bought her two new pairs of converse trainers (which she loves) and a new game for her V smile (which she still isn't fussed on). He also bought her a handful of learning books to help teach her how to tell the time and a Letts handing writing book.

All the parents at the party managed to stick to the budget. I had asked that no more than £5 or £6 was spent on gifts and she received a load of books, a make your own beaded photo frame, a paint your own piggy bank, some new play dough and two huge mega craft boxes filled with googly eyes and pipe cleaners and card stock and glitter and you name its in there.

Only one person couldn't bring herself to stick to the budget and I wasn't surprised. Every year on Toots birthday she has received a large rag doll from a close friend of mine. The dolls are quite expensive as dolls go, but beautifully made and each one is named. So far the first one she received had the same name as her, the second bore my name, the third her Nana and the fourth is named Freda after my Mother-in-Law. I have told my friend that she shouldn't feel obligated to keep buying the dolls. I don't want her to feel like she's started something and now she has to follow through with it every year. Aside from the cost, the dolls stand 3ft tall. I'll have to get Toots a house of her own by the time she's 16.

All in all the day went well. Of course the celebrations spilled over into the surrounding days and the birthday come down was a little harsh but didn't last long.

And on another note, the birthday cake went down so well that I now have seven orders for birthday cakes and one wedding cake of all things to date. The order for the wedding cake is quite specific. She has a cupcake tree. Its a bit difficult to explain but it is very fine with a lot of swirly, curly little silver tendrilly bits around the outside, which means it looks gorgeous completely void of cupcakes. She is having a relatively small ceremony and has asked for fifty french fancies. She wants the cake part of the fancy to contain crushed raspberries, topped with marscapone and covered in chocolate (25 white and 25 dark), so we'll see how that turns out.

Her wedding isn't until September, so please let it rain and be pickling cold here in Ireland the week before her wedding so that I can temper white chocolate. Please, please, please.

Alright! Who stole my baby?

The alarm clock screams through the early morning brain fog. As I slowly wake and start to climb out of bed I hear the all too familiar sound of little feet padding across their bedroom.

Her bedroom door opens, blissful darkness behind her provided by the blackout curtain. She shuffles out into the daylight before turning into the bathroom calling over her shoulder for me to "put the kettle on".

She hops up on the loo and rests her chin in her cupped hands, her elbows barely resting on her tiny knees as she lets out a great sigh and heaves her shoulders. Another day.

I watch through the crack in the door as she washes her hands and then eyes her toothbrush. She seems to think about it for a while before rubbing her hand over her belly and turning away from the sink, breakfast first.

I head for the kitchen and flick the switch on the kettle, listening to the quiet rustling sound upstairs as she decides on her clothes for the day.

I'm already on my second cup of coffee when she arrives in the kitchen, having settled on a sun dress and a pair of snow boots today. She pushes the curls and tendrils back from her face, asking if I think she needs it cut. I drop a few slices of bread into the toaster.

She pulls her steps to the counter and asks if her tea is cool yet (decaf). She butters her toast and munches in silence, every now and then taking a sip of her tea and looking out into the garden.

She hears her dad getting out of the shower, reaches over and flicks the switch on the kettle and drops another slice of bread in the toaster, buttering it for him as he comes into the kitchen.

She enquires if he has to work today and if so, will he be late home. She talks to him about the random things of great importance in a four year old's life while he has his breakfast and when he finishes she sees him off at the door with a hug, a kiss and a request "not to work too hard".

Back on her step, she finishes her tea. and brushes her hair out of her eyes again Without looking in my direction she asks if we have any plans today.

And so I ask again... Who stole my baby?

I heard a joke

Not exactly post worthy in itself, but it was funny.

I wasn't really paying attention. I was sewing. The husband was watching Comedy Central when an ad break started and a clip of Dara O'Briain's stand up show was playing.

As I said, I wasn't really paying too much attention and then I heard this;

“Technology is just getting so stupidly powerful. For example, my iPod holds 3,000 albums. I own, like, 90 albums. My iPod sits at home, sullen, and frustrated, and underused, like a wife who gave up her career and the kids turned out to be shite.”

Is it wrong that I laughed until it hurt?

Oh we do like to be beside the seaside.

Oh don't look at me like that.

Yes I'll admit, I'm drawn to the water. I can't help myself. It's a sickness really.

It's a handy thing that we have such beautiful beaches here.

This is Knockinelder.

See that, not another soul in sight. That's because Knockinelder is on the invisible part of the Ards Peninsula. The bit below the convenient little red line.

Nobody seems to know it exists.

It's my favourite bit of the peninsula.

We collected Toots from my mum's house on Sunday afternoon and headed out with no real plan of where to go. She fell asleep in the back of the car so we just kept going along the full length of the east coast. She eventually woke up, desperate for the loo just as we were passing Kearney.

We pulled in to the tiny little village and even though it was a full two days ago now, I think the husband is still there. He completely fell in love with the place as soon as he set eyes on it, with its tiny little white washed cottages, perfect little picket fence enclosed gardens, all beautifully manicured and filled with flowers and its private little cove beach, he's even more determined to win the lottery now:)

The tide was out when we arrived and the sun was beating down. We could feel the heat on our faces and the sand was warm under foot.

But none of that changes the fact that we're dealing with the Irish Sea.

If you don't know, the Irish Sea is pickling cold. All. Year. Round.

Not that any of that stops of four year old.

She had already fallen in to the water face first by this stage and was completely soaked, but still that didn't stop her.

I was perfectly content to sit on the sand, with my hot cup of coffee and my camera merrily taking pictures like every good mother should.

But then the husband got stuck in.

The bugger.

Quietly egging my on. Calling me a chicken. Telling me the child had more stones than I did...

So, as promised and without any further ado.

I give you Leanne, the big ass chicken.

Running like a demented person back out of the Irish Sea.

Because the child does in fact have bigger stones than me.

I should have grown out of this kind of behaviour years ago.

And its disgraceful that the husband can still get a rise out of me.

Menu Plan - 20/4 to 26/4

Monday again. Where does the time go.

We're just back from another day at the beach/beaches/ancient windmills (yes we get about a bit) and I'm feeling a bit out of puff.

Somebody suggested it would be a good idea to go in the water. The Irish Sea. I'm too old to be venturing into the Irish Sea. I should know better, but more on that tomorrow.

So on to another week's worth of meals. The hubs is back to work, the house is clean and quiet. I have a stack of half finished projects to get to, so ideally I'd like to keep it simple this week.

Monday: Roast chicken and salad. I have a large chicken defrosting and I find my week goes a little smoother if I start with a big ol chicken.

Tuesday: Mild chicken curry with garlic and herb chapatis and rice. We're slowly starting to build Toots' tolerance for spicy food, she likes regular curry and fajitas now but still hasn't quite developed a taste for Indian food yet. I'll just use those little cheater cheater curry eater cubes and add some fresh garlic and parsley to the chapati recipe.

Wednesday: Toots has yet another birthday party to attend so she'll arrive home with a full belly and heavy eye lids or starving and hyper, which one would you like to place bets on? I'll use the carcass and some meat from the chicken along with stock veg in the fridge to make chicken noodle soup, just adding the egg noodles and some fresh red chili towards the end of cooking. We'll have the soup with bread or I may add some yellow lentils.

Thursday: Lightly spiced lentils with steamed cod. I picked up a few large pieces of cod at the market on Saturday and threw them in the freezer. I'll steam them and make up a basic recipe for dahl cutting back on the spices slightly. I'll put the dahl in the oven to keep the lentils as whole as possible. I'm not too keen on the smooth stuff.

Friday: Burgers with onion rings. Fingers crossed for good weather I'll light the barbecue before the husband gets home, hand him a set of massive tongs and let him get his "man" on while I settle down with a glass of wine. If the weather does look good I'll lift some ribs out of the freezer also.

Saturday: We promised Toots today that if it is sunny again on Saturday we'll have another day at the beach. I'll throw a lasagna together and into the crockpot in the morning and I'll take some sausages, beans, bread and fruit with us along with the camp stove.

Sunday: The husband wants to try meatloaf. He hasn't had it before, actually neither have I so I'm bound to make a complete pig's ear of it. Still at least this means that I can have a crack at and if it doesn't turn out well, I'll just tell him its supposed to be like that:)

Baking: I've already started for this week, because I didn't want to end up with more on my plate than I could comfortably deal with so I made a batch of coconut and white chocolate cupcakes tonight and I made a batch of bread dough this morning and popped it in the fridge to prove. Half of it is now baked for tomorrow. I also want to make some soda bread this week for lunches and some more fruit scones since the hubs swears he isn't sick of them yet. Also he wants some shortbread because he didn't get any last time.

Murlough Bay

On Thursday we spent a long day at Murlough Bay. Murlough National Nature Reserve is on the County Down coast below the Mourne Mountains. The sand dunes are over 5,000 years old and are an area of special scientific interest and a special area of conservation.

Still when you arrive with a four year old all the long haired Dexter cattle, Exmoor ponies, birds, rabbits and butterflies mean squat.

Because sand + water = BEACH.

And there's a lot of beach here.

I spent a lot of time at Murlough as a kid and visited a few times on school trips but somehow I managed to forget that even if a sky high wall were to built around Ireland, it would still be windy here.

Really really windy.

Toots and I left the beach well and truly sand blasted.

But not before she insisted on playing in the ocean.

With all the bravery and determination only a four year old can muster, she psyched herself up.

With her jeans rolled up and an extra jumper added (standard beach attire in Ireland) she tentatively ventured in to the water.

This would be her back out of the water again, complaining about the fact that I really didn't make it clear enough, just how cold the water really is.

Unfortunately, I was the designated coat carrier and I left the photo taking up to the husband so they're few and far between. I do have some video though, and I'll get it up here at some stage.

We had a lovely day and Toots really enjoyed herself, playing in the water and climbing over the sand dunes.

We had an Irish picnic before heading home. For anyone who doesn't know an Irish picnic involves weighing everything down to stop it from blowing away and cooking on the ground, tucked in between the car and a hill to stop the flame on the stove from blowing out.

The husband and I sat at one of the picnic tables enjoying our lunch while Toots roughed it in the back seat of the car with her food and media player

Although in all fairness she was the only one out of the three of us with the brass neck to go in the water.

Five Cheap and Easy Home Repairs Anyone Can Manage

Blogger seems to be playing silly buggers tonight so no Murlough Bay I'm afraid. Hopefully tomorrow.

This is a post I've had floating around the back burner for a while to use in just these kind of circumstances.

Dinged Woodwork

We've all done it, whether it be with a box, the stroller, a seriously overloaded handbag, we've all went crashing through a doorway or along a hallway and taken a chunk out of the woodwork.

You forget about it for a few days and then slowly it really starts to bug you and you're eye is drawn to it no matter how much you try to ignore it. It looks awful. Maybe you even try to get way with just painting it the same colour as the surrounding woodwork but still you can see it.

Easy fix. Get yourself down to your local pet supply shop and pick up a bag of sawdust. The type used for hamster or rabbit bedding. Sawdust now, not wood shavings.

Now take yourself home throw a handful of sawdust into a dish and add enough PVA glue to make a paste, then simply using your finger start to build the wood back up in layers. They don't have to be particularly thin layers, I've been able to get rid of some fairly big holes with three layers but it does work better doing it in stages rather than trying to do it on one go, unless its just a minor scrape or dent in the wood then by all means one layer should do it.

Continue building up the layers over the course of a couple of days. You'll be able to apply a new layer after about 8 hours. Make sure that after the last layer has dried the repair sits slightly higher than the surrounding woodwork. Sand it level and apply paint or varnish to match the surroundings.

You can also use this trick to fill in nail or pin holes in new woodwork before painting, just use the sawdust created when cutting the wood.

Nail Holes (Emergency Fix)

You live in a rental, you've just found your dream home and you want to hang on to as much of your hard earned cash as possible to make your home your own. Except you hung every single photograph you've ever taken in the rental and now you're faced with the task of filling all those holes, waiting for the filler to cure and repainting. Its either that or you can kiss your safety deposit goodbye.

Easy, quick and probably free fix. Pull the nails out, get yourself some toothpicks or cocktail sticks. push one into the wall to check your depth and then cut the toothpicks ever so slightly shorter. Push as many toothpicks into the hole as will fit making sure they don't stick out beyond the surface of the wall. Next grab a tube of white toothpaste (no minty stripes) and using your finger spread some toothpaste over the hole. In an hour or so you can sand the toothpaste flush with the wall and repaint. Chances are the walls are white, cream or magnolia and if you don't have a tin of this lying around there's a good chance you know somebody who does.

Ok, yes that one is a little bit dishonest, but when needs must and I'll bet you there are already holes in the walls filled exactly the same way.

Big ass hole in the plasterboard (drywall)

You might think "sure, that'll never happen" but I've had to fix three of these holes, two in my own home and one at my mum's. Two caused by a certain someone not watching where they're going with a bit set of ladders and one a hammer missing a nail.

Now if the hole is bigger than say, your fist, you can throw as much plaster at as you like, its just going to fall down into the wall cavity, you'll get frustrated, maybe a bit pissed off, you'll phone a guy to come and fix the two big holes in the wall.

Easy fix. Find something you can use to push through the hole, a thin piece of wood, heavy cardboard, or a spare piece of plasterboard or drywall you happen to have lying around. If your hole is round(ish) you want to cut the piece of material into an oval shape, slightly narrower across than the width of the hole but slightly longer in the other direction so that when you turn it inside the wall and pull it back towards you it won't pop straight back out again. Now make a hole in the centre of the piece of material, thread a length of string (long enough to reach the ground from the hole and then some) through the hole and knot it on the other side. Make a pretty big untidy knot, nobody will see it again and you want to make sure the string doesn't come back through the hole.

Now pop your piece of material in through the hole, turn it slightly and pull it towards you so that it is now pressing against the back side of the wall. Now you have a nice shallow hole to fill with plaster.

Fill the hole and level the plaster as much as possible while still holding the string. Make sure the hole is well filled but at the same time don't push too hard, you'll only be fighting with yourself. Once you're satisfied that the hole is filled, tied something to the end of the string and set it on the floor below the repair. You want the string to be taut so cut it if necessary or wrap it around your weigh to keep it taut. Then walk away and forget about it for a day or so. Don't worry if the string looks like its cutting into your fresh plaster a little, it probably will. Once the plaster has had a chance to cure, cut the string level with the wall. I tend to use a razor blade and shave it close to the wall. Then take a small nail and use it to push the string back into the plaster VERY slightly. A millimetre will do. Add another little dab of plaster to cover the string hole and any impressions it left hanging down over your fresh plaster, leave to cure, sand and paint.

Squeaky floorboards

Tiptoeing past the kids room every single night in what looks like some weird ninja or SAS manoeuvre ducking and diving from one side of the hallway to the other is a bag of laughs for anyone watching but probably not for you.

Easy and cheap fix so long as you can lift the carpet to get at the floorboard, but this in itself usually isn't tricky.

Have a look at the offending floorboard. Does it butt up against the other floorboards or is there a slight gap to allow air flow. If there is a gap, then this is wee buns, just pull all the nails, lift the floorboard, throw a few pieces of scrap fabric onto the joists, put the floorboard back and replace all those cheap ass nails with screws. Pick screws slightly wider than the original nails and go ahead using the original holes.

If the floorboard does press up against the other floorboards, then this is still an easy fix it'll just take a little bit more of your time. Lift the floorboard, take it outside with a good sheet of large grit sanding paper and work on both sides like a woman possessed until you're confident you've reduced the width of the floorboard by a couple of millimetres then repeat the steps above to replace.

Broken Floorboard

It sounds obvious, but if you're strapped for cash and need to replace the floorboard immediately to avoid accident or injury just swap it with one buried under a large piece of furniture like the bed or a sofa. You can always replace the broken one at a later date.

Exhaustion. I haz it.

We had a very long, very enjoyable day out today at Newcastle and Murlough Bay clambering over sand dunes.

Although I brought a fair amount of the beach back stuck to my face, hair, boots. Its even in my ears.

In. My. Ears.

So I'm off for a thorough scrub down and I'll be back tomorrow with a real post with photographs and everything.


This probably isn't a post that I should linger over for any great amount of time, because my understanding of war is very limited.

The fact that I'm against war in general isn't really the problem. The problem is that I have no interest in war. Nothing about it all grabs my attention. It should, but I've always avoided it where possible. Even in school we spent the first three years of history lessons studying civilisation without broaching the subject of wars and when, given the choice and realising that we would cover both world wars in the next two years of lessons, I chose geography instead and spent many a happy hour counting pebbles per square metre at Murlough Bay.

War simply held no attraction for me.

Lately though, Toots has been showing some interest. More of a natural curiosity really and I, I'm ashamed to admit, have been dodging the subject and distracting her with something like a woman demented.

We spent an hour or so at Ward Park in Bangor on Tuesday afternoon. The sun peaked his head out for a little while, we jumped in the car and were off.

In my mind the afternoon would be spent playing in the adventure playground, having a look at the peacocks (mating season again, what is it with birds and my timing to go see them) and then a stroll around the lake before heading home.

However all bets were off when she set eyes on this;

In my complete ignorance, either I have never noticed the huge cannon dominating the centre of the park before or I simply forgot it was there.

She ran to it, high pitched excited shrieks trailing behind her.

"Wow, mommy what is it?"
"It's a cannon sweetie"
"What's a cannon"
"It's a big gun"
"You said guns were bad"
"Yes, they are bad sweetie"
"Then why is it in a park?"

Um, that stumped me for a second. It's a kids park. The big almighty weapon is parked right beside and within clear view of the playground.

So why, is a hulking great killing machine parked in the middle of a kid's park. A kid's park with a large sign clearly stating that the park is for under 12s.

I tried to explain that it was there to help us remember the people who gave their lives (world war 2 gun and I'm not sure too many of those people willingly gave their lives, but) and to help us learn from mistakes which were made.

And then I stopped.

She seemed satisfied, although I know the subject will come up again (I love to take her to the cenotaph in Ards because its such a peaceful place and she'll get that it isn't a park eventually). She ran off for a few quick laps of the "big gun" before heading to the playground as planned.

My point is that I stopped because I was getting into dangerous territory. I came very close to trying to explain something which I don't understand myself.

I know that a lot of good men, women and children died both fighting wars and at home and I don't want to undermine that fact. I also know that there were a hell of a lot of absolute atrocities which no person walking this earth today should feel proud off and those are the things which stick in mind.

In my opinion she's far, far too young to know or be expected to understand any of that, but is it possible to give a four year old an unbiased opinion of war if your own opinion is biased.

Is it possible to give an unbiased opinion on anything for that matter.

Don't get me wrong I want her to learn some of my opinions and values, bigotry and racism = very bad for example, but shouldn't I allow her to make up her own mind too.

Sometimes I think that it's much to early to concern myself with issues like these, but then I remember that she'll be starting school in less than five months and the thought of somebody's opinion being stamped on my impressionable little girl terrifies me.

I happen to know a hardened racist. Her only complaint about travelling abroad are all the foreigners (and trust me, I've been a hell of a lot more PC in my description). She was brought up with her father's opinion. She has a daughter the same age as Toots and can see no problem with her racist views. So my concern is that where there is one, there is another, and another, and so on.

What would you do? Is she too young yet? Maybe some of these subjects have already came up with your own kids, how did you deal with them.

Is there an "Idiot's Guide" that I haven't been able to find on Amazon.

A tip for kids and getting ahead

Its time again for Works for Me Wednesday over at We are THAT Family.

I only have a couple of quick little tips which have worked for me in the last week or so.

Toots has had a bit of a stomach upset since having her booster shots last week. We haven't had any really big dramas but she has been off her food a bit more than usual so she needs to take a supplement. Its designed for kids, recommended by doctors if you kid has been off food for more than 24 hours and its supposed to taste of orange. If an orange fell down the back of the sofa and was forgot about for, ooh say, a month or so.

Now if I pour the stuff into a glass and hand it to her there isn't a snowball's chance in hell of her drinking it (she only fell for that once) and all bets are off as to what she'll actually do with it.

Although, if I freeze it in an ice cube tray apparently the taste isn't just as bad and she'll happily crunch away on it. I haven't tried yet, but I would imagine it'll work for an other medicine she needs to take.

Score one for mommy.

The second tip isn't really a tip at all, just something I've noticed.

I like to keep a bag of frozen cookie dough in the freezer. The recipes I have which I like make about a hundred or so cookies and if I baked that many in one go, well, I'd probably sit down with a glass of milk and never get up again.

Anyway, usually I make peanut butter cookies and little coconut cookies which we like. I just roll them into balls, flatten them a bit and stick them in the freezer on a cookie sheet until they're frozen and then throw them all in a ziplock, but a while ago I tried chocolate chip cookies.

For the first couple of weeks they were absolutely fine and baked perfectly either defrosting first or from frozen with a minute or two added on to the baking time, but for some reason they've changed a bit.

I don't know if its the addition of chocolate or something about the recipe but they just aren't right anymore, they get very dark very quickly while still being uncooked in the centre, which makes me think that the sugar in the dough or chocolate has somehow leached out onto the surface of the dough and it caramelizes almost as soon as it hits the heat of the oven making them quite bitter once they're fully cookies.

Anyway, frozen cookies = great idea, chocolate chip = not so much.

Menu Plan - 13/4 to 19/4

Menu Plan Monday again.

A little late with the menu this week, but still better later than never.


Poached chicken with salad and fresh bread. I just threw a large chicken, some carrots, leeks, celery and onion into the crockpot in the morning and added enough water to just cover.


Chicken noodle soup. I'll use the rest of the poached chicken along with the stock created by poaching and add some egg noodles. I'll split some of this off into a smaller pot because the husband likes his spiked with finely chopped fresh red chili.


Beef casserole made in the crockpot. The family really enjoyed this last week and asked for it again. They even went back to the pot and ate all my planned leftovers.


Burgers with the usual dressings and chips (fries). I have some beef mince and some lamb mince in the freezer so I'll use half and half to make the burgers. Plus if we happen to be out today I can throw them in the cooler box and cook them on the camp stove while we're out.


Chicken olives with steamed veg and potatoes. I live to make my own. I usually trim and flatten two chicken thighs after I've boned them, place a few tablespoons of parsley and onion stuffing, wrap the chicken around the stuffing, wrap the whole thing with a slice or two of streaky bacon and bake in the oven at 180C (350F) for about 30-45 minutes depending on size. To test stick a metal skewer into the centre of the meat and hold it there for a few seconds before removing it and carefully touching it quickly to your bottom lip. If its hot, its cooked.


Homemade pizza. I have a couple of bases in the freezer along with the salami so this can be a really quick meal.


I'll either make fajitas or we'll use any leftovers in the fridge just to start the week fresh.


Cherry scones for picnics.
Apple oat bars.
Choc chip cookies and p'nut butter cookies from the freezer stash for the cookie jar.
2 batches of bread dough. I'll use some of the bread to make a few pizza bases, part bake them and freeze them for later.

Twenty Minutes from Everywhere

Its how we can spend the morning at Nendrum Monastic Site in what feels like the back end of nowhere and the afternoon in Crawfordsburn County Park on the coast of the Ards Peninsula.

Its also the reason why I love living in Northern Ireland. I think its why almost everyone loves their life in Northern Ireland, because no matter where you live chances are you're roughly a twenty minute drive from everything you could ever need.

In twenty short minutes I can be spending time with family. I can be shopping and lunching and catching up with friends in the heart of the city. I can be at the beach. Actually I can be at any one of about a dozen beautiful beaches.

Or I can be at the top of a hill with nothing but farmland and tiny villages as far as the eye can see.

Hell, I can't even see my house from here...

We spent a lazy morning taking in the sights at Nendrum Monastery. I've visited the monastic site a few times but this was Toots' and the husband's first time. Of course, it didn't take her too long to start exploring.

And the "No Climbing" signs might just as well have been in a different language

I could spend hours walking around Nendrum alone. Those monks sure knew who to pick a location and even today the views are still beautiful.

For the life of me I couldn't get the whole monastery into one photograph. There simply isn't enough land in front of the building and while I love you all dearly I wasn't about to stand thigh deep in Strangford Lough for a good photo. Some people will, but not me.

It doesn't matter which old relic we visit or how many times we explain to Toots what the building is or what it was used for, as far as she is concerned it is a Castle.

Then she runs around trying to find dragons.

You thought I was going to say she runs around playing princess, didn't you?

Nope, no dragons here!

We had a lovely picnic at the lone picnic table near the visitor's centre before Toots started to show signs of complete and utter exhaustion. We climbed back into the car and a twenty minute nap in the back seat later we were at the coast.

A trip to the beach means one thing and one thing only to Toots.

Trying to bring Northern Ireland and Scotland and little bit closer to each other.

Yes, she spends every second at he beach throwing stones into the water.

It doesn't help that daddy encourages her to do. Even hand selecting the rocks for her.

She'll get there one day, I'm sure.

It doesn't matter that I've pointed out that a perfectly good boats goes back and forward countless times each day.

Lets see where I else I can drag the poor family over the holidays.

Big Fish Games and a Winner

In every effort to prepare Toots for primary school, I have been letting her play around with my laptop for the last few weeks.

When we attended the open night at her primary school a few of the teachers explained that the school actively encourage the use of computers and that from day one each child will spend some amount of time using a PC every day. There are a bank of computers in each classroom and it works out roughly one computer for every three to four kids so there aren't any time constraints on the kids using them.

I've been allowing Toots to play around with the laptop, basically opening either a word doc or paint and letting her do her own thing. I want her to get used to the basics, using a mouse, drag and drop, navigating around the screen, that kind of thing.

Anyway, I'm very likely to be the last person to have heard about
Big Fish Games, but I'll tell you about them anyway.

The weather was awful last week and I was starting to run out of things for Toots to do. We baked, did some crafts, colouring, painting, music, singing, dancing, you name we did everything, but it was getting a little repetitive so I went hunting online for something to keep her occupied. I didn't really have anything in mind, probably paper dolls or some new colouring pages or word games, but instead I stumbled upon Big Fish.

For anyone who hasn't heard of them, you should check them out. Ok, the games are mostly based n characters like Dora, Diego, Spongebob and Wonder Pets but there are a few lego games and such.

The games are designed with preschool age kids in mind and the way it works is that you can either buy the complete game (usually around 60 levels) for about $8 which is totally worth it for a preschool game. Toots received a V smile for her birthday and the games for that thing are £20 and upwards and no offence but they're crap.

The other thing you can do (and this is what I do) is download one free hour of gameplay. You can choose any game at all and once your child uses the free hour it gives you a handy uninstall button and you can download another free hour. I have six hours of gameplay downloaded and ready for her if the weather turns out to be bad again.

Toots loves the games because there is a lot of variety. Mostly they are number games, word association, colour matching and such. The games are actually very educational and best of all, considering that the games are essentially free, there aren't any advertisements at all.

Toots favourites so far have been Dora's Carnival Adventure 1 & 2, Diego's Dinosaur Rescue and the Wonder Pets Save the Puppy, particularly the last one because as she completes each stage she "wins" a colouring page which she can print out all by herself.

She's only played a little bit of each but so far I can see a vast improvement in her computer skills. She has absolutely no problems using either the mouse or the navigation pad on the laptop. She can click, double click, drag and drop ad type her name in at the beginning of each new game without any help at all.

I have linked to the preschool games but they also have free downloadable games for older kids and adults (CSI NY anyone). All you have to do is go to the homepage and click on "Download Games".

Any now for the winner of the Q Bee Chicks Giveaway.

Drum roll please... chose number 11. The winner is Heather who said;

"These are adorable! Are they your original design? My favorite thing about spring is the flowers, esp irises. My nose hates the fine yellow coating of pollen everywhere though."

Heather, I've sent an email to you today and I'll get the Q Bees in the post to you as soon as.

I hope everyone is having a great Easter.

Springcycling Kids Clothes

Can you do me a huge favour, if I ask nicely?

If I add a big photo of my face way up there at the top, can you give it a little slap every time you see me start a new project?


I've had these jeans in the "stuff needing sorted out" pile for a couple of weeks now.

Yes I have a "stuff needing sorted out" pile. Its massive.

I really need sub piles.

Anyway, the jeans. They're a pair of Toot's skinny jeans she wore during winter and she still has plenty of room in them. I don't mind skinny jeans during the winter with a big jumper and tucked comfortably into a pair of boots. They're close fitting so she doesn't feel the breeze betwixt her knees and they're narrow enough to go down the boots without being uncomfortable.

But I'm not so fussed on them during Spring and Summer. Somehow with a little pair of pumps and a t-shirt, they all of a sudden look exactly like tight jeans (funny that) and tight jeans aren't a good look on a 4 year old.

She's been asking every morning for the last to weeks if I've fixed her jeans yet, so I thought I'd better get to it.

First I took the jeans and my little seam ripper and opened up the outside leg seam to just below the pocket.

I didn't have any fabric which I could use the pink belt with so I made a new one using the fabric she chose from my stash (its actually an old summer dress of mine which made me look pregnant when I wasn't and fat when I was).

Then I added a few embellishments (surprised) just to brighten up the jeans a little.

It's much easier to add these embroidered bits and pieces while that side seam is open. Far less futtery.

Finally I cut to lengths of fabric from the dress slightly longer than the open seam on the jeans. Its kind of pointless giving measurements to be followed because if you do this, your jeans will probably be a different length, but mine were 18 inches. The good thing about recycling an old dress or something similar is that you can cut the fabric to take advantage of the hem already in place at the bottom.

I turned the jeans inside out and pressed the open seams flat, trimmed away any little stubborn threads from ripping the seam. Then I lined up the fabric over the opening and pinned in place, making sure the hem on the fabric lined up with the hem of the jeans. I used a simple straight stitch on my machine to sew the fabric in place, although since its such a small project you could easily hand stitch the seam.

And I was done.

Child's faith in mother not being just a big wind bag or all mouth and no trousers (heh) fully restored.

And I honestly tried my best to get a photograph of her standing still, smiling politely, but she was having none of it.