Saturday, 13 September 2014

Theme Week: Fire

Hey, we made it through the holidays!  Toby is now back at preschool in the mornings which theoretically means I have more time to do stuff.  Actually it means I wrote a list long enough to take me the whole year, and then tried to do it all in one week.  So I am writing about the final theme a week after it happened.  The topic may have been apt, as it felt like we were fanning dying embers by this point.

Activities


1. Making a "campfire"
Here's Toby in best boy scout mode, rubbing two twigs together to make a fire.  Peppa Pig obviously is educational really, because he knew to set up the sticks in a pyramid.  Fortunately his efforts didn't produce any sparks.

And where there's a campfire, there must be a tent:


2. The candle trick
With all due cautions about not playing with fire, etc, etc, we lit a candle and I showed him how it goes out when you put a jar over it.  We repeated the experiment several times, and he was able to tell Dad, later, about the candle needing oxygen, so I guess he absorbed some of my explanation.



Outings

1. Playing fireman
We were running errands in Burton, and stopped at a playground which happened to have a structure with a steering wheel at one end and a fireman's pole at the other.  Toby spent quite a long time getting me to call the fire brigade, whereupon he would slide down the pole, drive the fire engine to the emergency, and save the day.  Sadly we didn't manage to visit a real fire station.

2. Barbeque at Calke Abbey
(see Food)

Food

Barbeque
Probably the last one of the season.  We had the burgers and marshmallows, of course, and I tried out tandoori vegetables, for something a bit different.  I forgot to take a photo of them, so here's the obligatory marshmallow-toasting pose.


Can you tell I've been writing this post half asleep?  No captions, no recipe, and some of those photos really needed cropping.  Next one'll be better, promise.  Good night.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Theme Week: Air

A beautifully wide theme which can cover everything from blowing bubbles to spotting planes.  Sorry for the belated blogging!

Activities

1. Straw painting
Toby loves straws at the moment and usually has at least two in his drink, sometimes up to five!  So I thought he might enjoy a spot of straw painting.  We dolloped watered-down paints onto a big sheet of paper, and blew air through the straw to spread the paint out.  The results weren't quite as spectacular as I'd hoped, but it was quite fun.


 2. Balloon on a string
Toby had already been introduced to the idea of blowing a balloon up and letting it go whoowheeewhooo around the room, so we tried the next stage up - racing it along a string.

Thread straw onto long piece of string.
Tie string across room.
Blow up balloon.
Tape balloon onto straw.
Let go.  Wheeeeee!


Duck!
3. Paper aeroplanes
Yeah.  This and the balloon on a string was my attempt to keep us entertained on a wet Bank Holiday Monday.  Very shortly afterwards we gave up and went out for a walk in the rain.

Outings

1. Bournemouth Air Show!
No, we didn't actually drive all the way to Bournemouth just because I'd decided we were having an air theme!  We'd been talking about going for a few weeks, made the decision to go for it, and then I suddenly went, "Oh!  Air Show!"  To be honest they're not really my thing, but my husband informs me that these are actually very interesting:

Vulcan bomber

Chinook helicopter
Actually they did do some spectacular manoeuvres, and the show finished with the Red Arrows flying wingtip-to-wingtip and drawing gigantic smoke hearts in the sky, which is well worth seeing. 

2. Markeaton Park bouncy castle
I thought we had a zillion photos of Toby jumping on a bouncy castle, but they appear to have vanished in the depths of our Pictures folder.  You can imagine it.

Food

Broccoli and Cheddar Puff


My first thought was souffle, but Graham tends to be highly suspicious of any dinner suspected of containing a milk or cream product.  So I found this, which uses the same general idea, but with broccoli substituted for the white sauce component.  Or you can use cauliflower if you prefer your meal not to be a startling shade of green.

675g / 1 1/2 lb broccoli
4 eggs, separated
115g / 4 oz Cheddar, grated (or blue Stilton)
2 tsp wholegrain or French mustard
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 190°C / 375°F.  Thoroughly butter a 19cm / 7 1/2 inch souffle dish.
Cook the broccoli until just tender.  Drain well, put into a food processor with the egg yolks, and process until smooth.  Add the cheese, mustard and seasoning and pulse to mix.

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff but not dry.  Gently fold into the broccoli mixture in three batches.  Pour into the souffle dish and bake for about 35 minutes until risen and just set.

Unfortunately, Toby tends to be highly suspicious of any dinner suspected of containing a green vegetable, so this wasn't entirely a win-win situation.  But he did like the trick of turning the bowl of whisked egg white upside down.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Monthly Munch: August

I feel like you already know a lot of what we've done this month from my theme week posts.  But it's been a busy August, and not all of it fitted into a theme!  It was neatly sandwiched between two trips to my parents' house - the first to use it as a holiday home while they were away, and the second to visit them and go to the Bournemouth Air Show.  In between they also visited us, so it's been nice to see so much of them.  This month we have also seen: friends of mine from school, friends of ours from America, racing trucks, a ruined house, a ring of bells and a rainy reservoir.  Read on!

These are the American friends, who have just got married!

 

Toby

- loved going to the JapFest at Donington Racetrack to see Japanese cars with his dad.  The next weekend they went to see truck racing, which he also enjoyed.  I stayed well clear of both!


- is starting to learn to ride his big bike, with pedals (having almost completely destroyed his balance bike!)

- still enjoys a good snuggle.

 - amuses us by picking up our phrases.  Talking to Graham on the phone, he said, "I'd better let you go now," and later announced that he was "just going to pop upstairs".

 

Theo

- is eating anything and everything (suitably mushed of course) including sharing Toby's home-made ice lolly.

- is sitting up pretty reliably, and starting to twist around to reach for things.  Not quite rolling over yet, but he's usually not in quite the same position you left him in.

- thinks he's such a big boy when his brother pushes him in a swing.


- says: "ah-goo, bababa, eherrrrr *hic*" which undoubtedly translates to something immensely profound.

Thankful for:

- the opportunity to practice my cake decorating skills again.


- a lovely long walk near Ilam Hall, with Theo in the backpack carrier (while Graham and Toby had gone to watch truck racing).

- ringing a bell at Derby Cathedral and seeing the awesomely complicated carillion, which plays a different tune every day of the week.

- my blue-jean family!
Dad, Mum, Toby, Theo

Recipe of the Month: Beetroot gnocchi with broccoli, bacon and pesto



I know this looks like weird animal parts, but I promise you it really is only beetroot and potato, and actually tastes pretty good.  The beetroot gnocchi recipe is from Simon Rimmer's More from the Accidental Vegetarian.  He makes his own pesto and serves the gnocchi simply with that; I used pesto from a jar and added a few bits.

600g / 1lb 5 oz floury potatoes, cut into large chunks
125g / 5 oz cooked beetroot, pureed
1 large egg
salt and pepper
450g / 1 lb plain flour, plus extra for dusting

cooked broccoli, or vegetable of your choice
about 8 rashers of bacon
pesto
Parmesan cheese

Boil the potatoes for about 20 minutes, until soft.  Pass through a potato ricer (no, I still haven't got one!) or mash.  Stir in the pureed beetroot.  Beat in the egg and seasoning, then mix in the flour to give a dough.  Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes.

Divide the dough into quarters and roll each piece into a 2 cm / 3/4 inch sausage.  Cut into 2.5cm / 1 inch pieces.  If you don't want to eat them all at once, this is a good point to freeze them.

Bring a large pan of water to a boil.  Drop in some of the gnocchi and cook until they rise to the surface, which means they're done.  Scoop them out onto a plate, and keep going until all the gnocchi are cooked.

Meanwhile, chop the bacon into pieces and fry.  Add the broccoli, pesto and cooked gnocchi, and warm through.  Pile onto plates and grate or slice Parmesan over.  Serves four.