Thursday, 25 September 2008

pudding of the day: plum tray bake with a cheesecake swirl

...or should I say procrastination of the day?

children are wondeful

With the start of a new school year for the children I look after, has come a whole new set of clubs to join. Grace, being the enthusiastic little lass that she is, loves to be a part of as much of possible, so has joined the circus skills club, art and craft club and two choirs. Add to this her guitar lessons and the extra curricular activities of her other siblings, we have one busy timetable.

Wednesday is the busiest day of the week for them, so my afternoon went a little like this…

3pm: Take a shed load of books that Grace and I have sorted out in her room to the charity shop and double the size of my biceps in the process.

3:30: Collect Will from school, Chat with Kate & Emma from church and realize that while I have taken my eyes away from Will, he has been playing with another boy, and the father of this boy is now crouching down talking to Will. My immediate assumption – Will’s hurt this boy and I haven’t witnessed it because I’ve been talking. Not a good excuse. So I go over to get the down-low, and the Dad assured me it was all fine and he was just pre-empting the inevitable consequences of boys playing ‘games’ that involve kicking. No-one was hurt. Good good. 60 seconds later, the boys have gone behind a wooden structure so are out of view. I call to Will, saying we need to go home, walk towards the structure to find the other boy sobbing. Without even needing to ask, I look at Will and he says, with a fierce, solemn expression on his face, ‘he threw grass in my eyes.’ ‘So what did you do?’ comes my response. ‘I kicked him.’

I am finding that warning children about the inevitable outcome that you as an adult can foresee before it happens, just isn’t good enough. If you don’t want the inevitable to happen, you have to stop them, otherwise it will happen.

4pm Pop into Waitrose on the way home to pick up some butter to make caramel shortbread – Katie’s favourite.

4.15: Collect the horse chestnut’s daily offerings of conkers.

4.17: Listen to Will read his whole school book with great ease and great speed. Ever since introducing the incentive of 1 Gogo for every time he reads, it’s the first thing he does when he gets in from school. Brilliant.

4.20: Make Will his tea whilst simultaneously weighing out the ingredients for the shortbread base and giving Katie instructions about how to rub-in, how to grease and line a tin, and when to get the shortbread out the oven. At this point I’m realizing I should perhaps have held fire on the shortbread making, but I had planned to do it and was determined.

4.35: Leave to pick up Grace from her club and take her to her guitar lesson.

4.38: Realise I’ve forgotten her guitar and music and whizz back on my bike to get them.

4.30: (When I should now be at school getting Grace, I am thankful that I have a speedy bike, but am wishing I could fly or get to the school by teleportation. Am apologizing a thousand times over to Grace in my head – for being late.

4.45: Am rounding the corner to school on my bike when I see Grace with her friend and her friend’s Mum, who I have got to know quite well over the last few months. She had the common sense to start walking in the hope that they would find me, which they did. Thankyou very much, you kind, kind lady. Grace then presents me with a bunch of beautiful paper flowers that she has just spent the last hour crafting and says, ‘They’re for you.’ I feel very special.

5pm Get back to the house and make the caramel layer for the shortbread.

5.20: Struggle slightly to get Will out the door to pick up his sister, but he ends up being wonderfully co-operative and whizzes to Charlie’s house (the guitar teacher) on his scooter at break-neck speed. He most definitely set a personal record. What a legend.

5.30: walk home at a leisurely pace and start to make plans with Grace for her birthday cake. It’s going to be an elaborate affair – a bowling alley with 3D bowling balls and bowling pins, and muffins that spell out happy birthday, and some extra muffins too. (I had as much to do with the quantity of cake here as she did. What can I say? I love to bake and I love a baking challenge.)

5.45: Make Grace’s tea while she starts sketching out more detailed plans for the cakes. Start designing invites.

Bedtime antics ensued and the rest of the evening was spent bathing, doing Soduku with Grace instead of a bedtime story, melting the chocolate for the caramel shortbread which I had totally forgotten about, but Katie most definitely hadn't, running up and down three flights of stairs to get forgotten milk and blue cow for Will, going into the downstairs toilet to discover that Will had done a wee. In the bin. Fun times.

I should probably add that when I mentioned the latter incident to Will's Mum she said that they have a leaky cistern so it was probably that, but I thought the story was slightly amusing and more interesting, so I thought I'd tell it.

Oh yes, and here's the flowers that Grace made me....

cute little note

Next to William's 'book folder' (I keep getting corrected by him for calling it his book bag) I found a postcard and on the back read this little message...(apologies for the poor quality photo - it was all my phone could manage.)

It reads, 'To William, do you like me. Love Mya' I like it. I have yet to ask Will if he's sent her a reply.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

i love to cook

Today has been a great day. The lovely family I childmind for decided that it would be good to give me some extra work and so suggested I cook for them. Well, I didn't have to think twice about that one. So this morning I came up with a meal plan, and in the process of looking at recipes, found one that was perfect for my own dinner. So as I cooked up some carrot and creme fraiche soup for my luncheon I whipped up some potato, leek, and cheese cakes for tea time. They might not sound particularly exciting but they were surprisingly tasty. While I was on a roll, I made some apple crumble, then cycled off to the house I childmind at and cooked up a big old lasagne.

As Grace and I walked home from school we made plans to bake some dough balls with garlic butter for an after school snack later this week. Ah the joys of cooking and eating...

Sunday, 14 September 2008

just keep running...

I realised the other day that I have not really kept a record of my training for the Bristol Half Marathon. I also realised that I have been 'in training' for the last nine months as I didn't take a break from running between completing the Bath Half in March and deciding to run the Bristol Half again. In some ways, training has just become part of my normal routine. However that is not to say that it has been easy. Some days it felt like I was pulling my body through a sludgy swamp. This time round I've felt the physical effects of running on my body, with achey knees and a back that feels like it's compacting, I feel like I'm wearing my body out too quickly.

Having been struck with a stinking cold and a hacking cough for the last 8 days, I knew that I was unlikely to be running like road-runner, but have been telling myself I can do it, it's all about mind over matter. The day started misted and cold, changing to glorious sunshine by 8.30am. Not the best conditions for running in. I felt pretty calm - I seem to have got the hang of not allowing nerves to get to me on the race day as I know there's no need to be nervous - and so enjoyed the atmosphere created by 16,000 runners getting ready to run the 13.1 miles. As I lined up at the start line, it was lovely to have my friend's 4 year old daughter Phoebe (one of my favourite children) shouting my name from the sideline.

I started off well, running 8 minute miles for the first 8 miles which I totally had not anticipated doing, so took myself by surprise. But I could not sustain this speed so slowed down to a more leisurely 9 minute miles. It's quite amazing how the last 3 miles feel like they're getting longer and longer - by the last 1 I was so desperate to see the finish line, and so, so thankful to finish, as my head had started feeling rather fuzzy by this point. I walked the 40 metres to collect my medal and goodie bag (providing me with some much needed chocolate) in a total daze. I seemed to have lost control of my legs and so was totally unable to walk in a straight line. I don't think I have ever craved food as much as I do when I run half marathons!

I made one slight mistake and did what all the training programmes and running magazines tell you not to do - I wore a new pair of shorts that I bought yesterday - which made for some rather nasty chaffing : (

Wednesday, 10 September 2008


There are many times when looking after children that I marvel and wonder at my memories of growing up which come to mind. I am frequently reminded of how wonderful my mum is and just how incredible she was dealing with the constant issues of discipline as we were growing up. There are so many small things in the day to day business of caring for children that it would be so easy to let slip, and although the consequences would not be catastrophic, these things are still important. Like constantly reminding children to wash their hands after going to the toilet and saying please and thankyou when asking for things or when asked a question. Like teaching them not to speak with their mouth full and setting a good example yourself...

Then there are times when I wonder in sheer astonishment at the words and advice coming out of my own mouth. Times when I think, 'what on earth are you saying? what kind of awful advice are you giving to this child?' I had one of these moments yesterday when I was playing marbles with Toby, the 4 year old son of a family at church who I've had the pleasure of looking after for a couple of days this week. So, we were happily playing marbles, and I was relishing in my reminiscing of childhood fun playing this very game. I can still remember which were my favourite marbles, and the ones that I would never want to play with and were too beautiful to play with. Toby was just the same in that he had his favourites, but the difference was he would roll them out and then get sad when I won them. After losing one of his favourites to me for the umteenth time, he'd had enough of losing and burst into tears. Sometimes when children cry, it just makes me want to laugh because they look so funny. (Is that just me, because if so, I think I must be a pretty mean lady.) I was thinking, 'what do I do to stop him crying? we've been through the whole, 'it's only a game and they're only marbles so it doesn't really matter', and that line never works anyway, so why on earth do I carry on using it, and I've reasoned with him that he wins some of my pretty ones too so surely it's all fair, but that doesn't really sit with him..' and so these were the words that came out of my mouth...

Hannah: 'Toby, if the marbles could talk, what do you think they would say?'

Toby: crying lessens and he just looks at me, as if saying, ' I'm not going to say anything and give you some time to explain your way out of this ridiculous idea...'

Hannah: Now thinking, 'oh hannah, where are you going to go with this one?!' If the marbles could talk, I think they'd say, 'Toby don't cry, I'm only a marble and I don't mind if you lose me to Hannah because I'll still be with all of my other marble friends so won't be lonely.'

Toby: But marbles can't talk.

Hannah: thinking, 'what happened to using your imagination?!' I know they can't actually talk but we're just pretending...

By this point I think Toby was so fed up of my ridiculous talk that he had stopped crying and was ready to continue playing. Almost as soon as we started playing again, he lost his favourite marbles, and so the whining started again. It was at this point that I balked at my advice that followed...

Hannah: 'Toby, if losing your favourite marbles makes you sad, can I make a suggestion? Why don't you just keep hold of them rather than playing with them? Then you can't lose them and get upset.'

Basically I was advising him to be possessive over materialistic things to avoid being sad! What was I saying! Le's just hope he doesn't take it to heart...

Another funny conversation I had with children this week was when Grace, Will and I were walking back from school. Will needed the toilet so Grace suggested we run to get there quicker. Will said he couldn't run when he needed to go, and the conversation got on to why it is not good for you to wait for a long time when you really need the loo. I explained how it weakens your bladder muscles and they didn't quite understand. So I came up with an analogy of Will holding a big rock to explain it. He totally understood it, and I had to chuckle inwardly at how satisfying I had found the whole experience of explaining why our bladder muscles weaken!!! oh dear...


Saturday, 6 September 2008

Quite incredible

This weekend sees the annual organic food festival in Bristol. I have always wanted to go, but for one reason or another, have never made it. I was due to miss it again this year, as I had been planning on going camping in Cornwall, but made the rather wise decision (in my opinion) to stay at home. Quite frankly, I've had enough of camping in the rain this year, and I didn't help my cold which is now in full flow.

So, I got to go to the Organic food festival. One of the stalls I was particularly keen on visiting was The Organic Chocolate Cake Company who have a wonderful business totally tucked away in a place called High Kingsdown. I would love to work for them. So they were the first stall I visited and was excited to arrive just as they had piled up a load of chocolately crumbs onto a napkin and asked who wanted them. Needless to say, I was the first to say, 'ooh yes please!' It was as I put these quality chocolate crumbs into my mouth, ready to savour the cakes that I have admired from afar for so long, that I realised my stinking cold had robbed me of all ability to taste anything! I was gutted. There were so many quality food products available for my little taste buds to delight in, but I just couldn't appreciate any of it. However, one thing I did appreciate was a sight that my eyes have never beheld before. Take a look and see for yourselves...

Yes, this lady is in fact knitting. With 50 balls of wool.

And she holds a world record! Well, it kind of goes without saying, doesn't it? It's not every day you go round someone's house and seeing them sitting on their sofa knitting with needles that are 3.5 metres long, is it?

Friday, 5 September 2008

a little worrying

Oh gosh. I just started making an apple crumble and remembered one of my dreams last night. Please don't laugh. I dreamed about le creuset dishes and how wonderful they are. I would absolutely love to own some of these dishes but they cost about an arm and a leg, so there's no chance. They are quite beautiful, though, aren't they?

Activity of the week...

I've had a fun week's worth of childminding, which has been wonderful after doing very little for the past couple of weeks. The family I work for have a big old apple tree in their garden and the apples have come earlier than anticipated this year, and in great abundance. So I have done a whole lot of peeling, cutting, stewing and delivering apples. Probably about three hours worth.

They have far more than they know what to do with, so I was very happy to relieve them of a few pounds worth. Now I have more than I know what to do with, but have plans to make Devon apple cake, Mile High Apple Pie (a children's book which when I read it the first time it brought tears to my eyes and had the added bonus of giving a recipe), apple cake, and some other appley treats!