Friday 18 April 2014

Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm

One of the highlights of our trip to Stratford last week was a visit to the Stratford-upon-Avon butterfly farm. You can use Clubcard vouchers to pay for entry. Stupidly, I didn't check the website before we went. I won't make that mistake again! The butterflies were spectacular, and the photos speak for themselves.

The butterflies obviously felt that we smell sweet!

Wednesday 16 April 2014


Most regular readers of my blog will know that DS is a keen wildlife photographer. As he is eleven years old, I can't really send him off to nature reserves by himself. There is only so far you can get on a scooter! This week I took him to Warnham nature reserve, which is council run nature and hence very cheap to get into. It's great for a few hours out in the afternoon. The people there are very friendly and very encouraging to my mini-naturalist. They have an extensive bird feeder section and I was pretty pleased to get a photo of this greater spotted woodpecker, which was on a niftily designed woodpecker feeder.

Sunday 13 April 2014


We are a one-holiday-a-year family; usually in the UK and normally self-catering in a cottage or tent. This week was a bit of a change for us - we spent a few days in a hotel, (albeit of the budget variety), in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Stratford is mostly known for being the home of a certain W. Shakespeare. Here is his birthplace, which we didn't actually visit:

The prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company is based in Stratford in the aptly named Royal Shakespeare Theatre, (somewhere else we didn't visit!):

Stratford developed around the river Avon, and boasts its very own canal which runs up towards Birmingham. The hotel we were in, (think large cheerful comedian!), was on the canalside, and we could walk into town along the towpath in ten minutes. We were all fascinated by the locks:

There were many narrowboats moored along the canal, some of which had their own garden areas!

Stratford has lots of quirky shops, especially this one:

I was rather surprised that we didn't meet Harry Potter coming out! One of the attractions that we did visit was the MAD Museum which stands for "Mechanical Art and Design" and was full of complex, intricate, artistic and ultimately pointless machines.

A lot of them were marble runs - the children both enjoyed working out the different paths taken.

We spent hours in here; it appealed to DH's logical engineering brain. For me the most enjoyable part of the break was wandering along the riverside in the sunshine, watching the hustle and bustle and knowing I didn't have to do anything!

Monday 7 April 2014

Learning to cook

DD is in her third year of secondary school, and has two hours of "Food Technology", (commonly known as cooking), every fortnight. In that time she has learnt how to produce two main meals; curry and pizza! Words fail me...
I am fully aware that teaching my children to cook is up to me, and they do help out in the kitchen. However, feeling slightly nervous that she will spend her early adulthood subsisting on ready meals, we have decided that during school holidays that she will cook one main meal a week from scratch. I found an out of print cook book for young people in a charity shop, and off she went. In February we had a pasta dish, and this week she decided to make chicken nuggets. 

I don't know about DD; but I learnt a valuable lesson - always read the recipe carefully before agreeing your child can cook it! This particular version required DD to deep-fry the nuggets. I have never deep-fried anything, and I wasn't very keen to leave my 13 year old in charge of a pan of hot fat! We decided to use a small saucepan, and fry in batches.

The results were very tasty, if not exactly the healthy meal I was hoping my daughter would be learning to cook! They would give McDs a run for their money. I will post the recipe if anyone is interested.

Friday 4 April 2014

Hoping for chillies

DS has always had a passion for trying to germinate all kinds of seeds. Over the years various pots, containing apple pips, orange seeds or avocado stones have graced our windowsill, with varying degrees of success. One apple seedling did make it as far as the garden, but had a dry and dusty demise.

I cook quite a lot of spicy food and usually buy little packets of fresh chillies from the supermarket. I have often thought about growing my own, but never actually gone for it. Today DS took the initiative, and now I have a chilli nursery on my dining room windowsill. Like all good maternity units, the pots are carefully labelled. Pete, Toby and their siblings won't get mixed up!

He used seeds from a supermarket chilli, so I shall be interested to see if they germinate. If you look very carefully through my window, you can see our rabbit in its run. I will introduce him properly one day, because he is rather lovely.

Monday 31 March 2014

Continental washcloth

A few weeks ago I decided to have a go at learning continental knitting, and optimistically started out on a simple washcloth. For the technically minded, I used Norwegian purl for the moss stitch and normal continental purl for the stocking stitch. The knit stitch is very simple but the purl took a bit longer to get the hang of. It is not the most beautiful piece of knitting; but it is a forgiving pattern and my deficiencies aren't obvious.

I have been knitting in the English style for over 30 years. So, is continental knitting quicker? Was it worth the effort of learning a new style? Being of a mathematical and scientific bent, I timed myself knitting English style and continental style. Remembering that I am very much a novice continental knitter, I am already quicker at the continental knit stitch. However, at the moment I crawl along at continental purling at about half the speed of the English purl. I obviously need more practice! Well, a girl always needs more washcloths!