Friday, 31 May 2013

We're going to the zoo...

DD is a bit of an adrenaline junkie, which surprises most people who know her as she is a very quiet child. However, she loves roller-coasters and has infected her brother with her enthusiasm. Their idea of a brilliant day out is to visit a theme park. I have never yet paid anything like full entrance price. Yesterday I used my points from S*insburys to pay for entrance to Chessington World of Adventures.

This ticks a number of boxes; fun, scary and exciting roller-coasters for my thrill-seeking offspring and an aquarium and zoo for their more sedate mother. The children are old and trustworthy enough to go around the rides themselves, leaving me and my camera to explore the zoo.

This is a Grevy's zebra. Aren't those patterns fabulous? Apparently each pattern is unique.

Who can resist meerkats?

Well, I can't! This little chap was acting as sentinel.

They had proper big zoo animals as well, including an iconic Asiatic lion:

I was very glad there was some sturdy, thick glass between me and this fellow:

These are Humboldt penguins from South America.

This sea-lion was having a break between shows.

These are Asian short-clawed otters. I arrived just after feeding time:

Like most zoos in the UK, Chessington is actively involved in conservation projects around the world and they work hard to educate their visitors. My Mother-in-law can remember visiting the zoo on a school trip. I just hope that some of today's visitors leave the roller-coaster queues long enough to take a look!

Wednesday, 29 May 2013


"For the Spring is really spinging,
You can see a skylark singing,
And the bluebells, which are ringing,
Can be heard"

AA Milne

Monday, 27 May 2013

A parcel from America

I love receiving parcels. Well, who doesn't? Last week I got especially excited because I was sent a parcel from America. I am part of the "Great Tea Swap" over at Lucy's blog "Lucy in the sky". I have enjoyed discovering new blogs as well as trying some new types of tea. Being typically British, I am a bit of a teapot! The very creative Gracie over at "One Saylor's Log" sent me a packet of loose Chiran black tea from Oregon.

It comes with very precise brewing instructions! I thought I knew my Darjeeling from my Earl Grey, but I hadn't heard of this variety. After a little research I have discovered that it is a premium brand from Japan, and it definitely makes a lovely cuppa. The parcel didn't just contain tea...

Gracie is a talented crocheter. (Apparently that is a word!) She has sent me a cosy for a tea glass. I love the colours of this, as it is very similar to my project bag I crocheted last year. (It took me a substantial chunk of last year - it was one of my first crochet makes!) The little brown bags are for making my own teabags to keep my pot clean. How clever is that? In actual fact, I belong to the school of thought that says that you should never use soap on the inside of a teapot. I only ever rinse mine. Does anyone else do this? The postcard has a photo of a very industrious lady knitting socks, which is apt for me as I am fond of my DPNs!

So thank you, Gracie, for my lovely parcel. I feel like I have made a friend over a cup of tea.

Friday, 24 May 2013

DH's birthday it is!

Today is DH's birthday. I don't know about anyone else, but I really struggle with making birthday cards for the men in my life. I'm sure there are some lovely papers out there that appeal to science-mad, football-hating engineers, but I have yet to find them. This year DH's card was a little different:

I am not experienced with origami. I struggle to make a paper aeroplane, so Yoda was a bit of a challenge! I entered a strange world of mountain, squash and rabbit-ear folds and emerged, triumphant if bemused, an hour later. I didn't use proper origami paper, (the cloak is the inside of a wrapping paper roll), but he does stand up, if a little drunkenly. The pattern for him is here

DH had some time owing so we took the day off while the children were at school. It felt like we were playing truant! We went to the cinema , courtesy of T*sco vouchers, to see the latest Star Trek prequel, "Into the Darkness". Can you guess whose choice that was? I did enjoy it; the effects were brilliant and the storyline clever. However, I found the amount of violence in it hard to take, and it really spoilt it for me. Maybe I am getting old!

Of course, no birthday is complete without cake. DH is a fan of Black Forest gateau so I had a go at a chocolate and cherry gateau style cake. Of course it was nothing like a real Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte, it lacked alcohol for a start, but it went down well.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Veggie shepherdess pie

Last month I had a play with soya mince and produced an almost veggie cottage pie. I wasn't very pleased with the results but Shara suggested using lentils and then Bryallen very helpfully gave me this link for a recipe using lentils. Apparently this is called "shepherdess" pie as opposed to the traditional lamb mince based shepherd's pie or the bovine cottage pie. I'm not entirely sure what the link between shepherdesses and lentils is. I have been entertaining visions of flocks of lentil plants wandering around fields...

This recipe uses green lentils. For some strange reason these are called "lentilles vertes" in my supermarket. Well, I suppose it's not too far to France from here! I made a few substitutions, (dried mixed herbs instead of thyme, tomato ketchup instead of puree), but the results were very tasty.

I have now got quite a few vegetarian recipes to draw from. It has been great fun investigating different ways of cooking. Very surprisingly I have fallen in love with lentils. They are so versatile, cheap and healthy! They are fast becoming a staple part of our diet, and that can only be a good thing.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Fractal ferns

Back in the dim and distant past I did a Maths degree. I have stopped mentioning this in polite company as it tends to be a conversation killer. However, I have an enduring love of naturally occurring patterns and one of my favourites has to be unravelling ferns. There were plenty to be seen in the Ashdown Forest this afternoon.

I am fascinated by the way ferns start off in a tight little ball of potential....

and then very carefully unfurl, reaching out to the sun.


Fractal patterns basically repeat at ever smaller scales and happen in nature more often than you would think. (See here if you are interested!) Now, don't get me started on the Fibonacci series...

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Waving goodbye to the ripple!

Since I started this blog I have been inspired to try a few different crafts, and one of my favourites has to be crochet. For the last few months I have been working on a ripple cushion for DD's room. I can't believe that I started it back in February! At first it went very slowly, but as my fingers found their rhythm the ripple pattern gradually took shape, albeit with a lot of unravelling.

As I became a little more confident I have taken my crochet out and about with me. A large part of motherhood seems to involve waiting around for assorted offspring, so I have taken up crocheting at the swimming pool and at DS's music centre. In fact, there were three of us yarnaholics at last week's music session! I have finally finished the ripple section; now all I need to do is finish it off. I hope this doesn't take three months!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Quick and easy veggie chilli

I am still expanding my repertoire of vegetarian recipes, so I was very pleased to stumble across this one on "The Frugal Graduate". I am very impressed with Bryallen's blog, which is a great mix of recipes, tips on saving money and thought-provoking articles.

The beauty of this recipe is that it uses up leftover vegetables, it is very easy to make and it is cheap. It is a useful recipe to have up your sleeve if your menu plan goes awry and you need something to knock up quickly.

The children particularly enjoyed this one; they both asked for seconds! 

Monday, 6 May 2013

Ashdown Forest Llama Park

It has been that rare British commodity; a warm and sunny Bank Holiday Monday! Agreeing that it was too good an opportunity to pass up, we decided on a family trip to Ashdown Forest Llama Park, which is a shortish drive from us. They also accept Tesco Clubcard reward vouchers and have a beautiful picnic area, so it was a cheap day out. 

It was the day after the annual alpaca shearing, so they weren't looking quite as fluffy as usual, but they are still seriously cute.

We all had a go at feeding carrots to Llama Tom, who was very tame and didn't seem to mind crowds of excitable children, plus a few equally enthusiastic adults.

There is a short but steep walk around the grounds. Down at the bottom there are some lovely children's playhouses, with a local connection!

Did you know that "wol" in an old Sussex/Kentish word for "owl"? AA Milne obviously did. DD, at 13, is suddenly beyond all that, but DS took full advantage of them.

It was a calm and peaceful way to spend an afternoon. In my fantasy world we would have enough land to keep a couple of llamas, but as it is we will have to make do with a rabbit!

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Spring Fest

"Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and all around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly house with its spirit of discontent and longing."

Like Kenneth Grahame's Mole of "Wind and the Willows", with the coming of Spring I feel like I have emerged from a cold and dreary world into a place of sunshine, light and hope.

When I signed up for Spring Fest at Mum's Simply Living Blog I was unsure what to do, so I have just taken my camera with me as I have enjoyed this tardy but beautiful Spring. I started in my own garden...

Primroses thrive on my neglect.

Pretty, jewel-like miniature daffs

Grape hycacinths; fabulous colour.

Our pear tree, it was supposed to be a dwarf!

The bees are making up for lost time.

Apple blossom; this is the first time I can remember it being out at the same time as the pear.

I continued my journey in the domain of gardeners a lot more skilled than me. These were taken at Standen, a nearby National Trust property.

I love these bright, bold tulips.

A fabulous rhododendron

Magnolias are known as "tulip trees" in our house.

Finally I settled on a few animals to complete my tour. After all, who can resist baby animals? I am lucky enough to live near a nature centre that specialises in the conservation of rare farm breeds.

This kid is an "Old English Goat". Honestly.

I always love bunnies, these two look very cosy.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

DD is thirteen!

My lovely daughter turned thirteen yesterday. I am slightly in shock at how fast the time has gone. My happy little girl in pigtails is turning into a beautiful, intelligent and creative young woman. It's the bit in the middle that worries me!

Today she decorated her birthday cake, as she has some friends coming to watch a DVD and eat pizza tomorrow. I hope they leave some for me!