Monday, December 10, 2007

Menu Plan Monday - Dec 10th

This week we have to do some Christmas baking. I don't know how we are going to manage but I really want to do it with Big Monkey so it's vital. The problem is that her attention span is still short and Little Monkey can't really help at all yet.
Perhaps I'll do it all by myself in the evening and just leave a tiny bit of dough for the Monkeys so that they think they've done it.
Any suggestions?

My parents are coming for a pre-Christmas visit this week. It's been about six months since we met so we are all looking forward to it. This is what will be on our table this week.

MONDAY Veggie burgers with boiled potatoes and veg

TUESDAY Leek soup from the freezer and leftover pasta

WEDNESDAY Savoury bread and butter pudding (A favourite of P.'s)

THURSDAY Savoury waffles

FRIDAY Potato, leek and mushroom bake

SATURDAY Cous cous

SUNDAY Roasted vegetables with rice (my mother's speciality)

Visit Laura to see what other people are cooking this week.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Thursday thirteen #5 The Ballad of Lee Cotton

I've just finished reading the novel "The Ballad of Lee Cotton" by Christopher Wilson and want to write a review for the Fall into Reading Challenge. I hope all you Thursday Thirteeners will enjoy reading something about this novel and perhaps even be inspired to read it as well. So this week I'm writing

Thirteen Things about "The Ballad of Lee Cotton":

  1. Lee Cotton, the hero of this novel, is born in Eureka, Mississippi in 1950 just after a bull is found dangling from a tree forty feet up and before it rains bull-frogs. His birth is just as strange.
  2. His full name is Leifur Nils Kristjansson Saint Marie du Cotton.
  3. At a later stage he changes his name to Lee McCoy.
  4. He is a black boy with "buttermilk skin, azure-blue eyes, and straw-blond hair". Identity conflicts are present throughout.
  5. He lives through and is shaped by racial segregation and the Civil Rights movement.
  6. He also hears voices. A gift he maybe inherited from his voodoo practising grandmother in New Orleans.
  7. The plot is so weird and unusual I would love to write lots of details but I don't want to give anything away.
  8. The British author, Christopher Wilson, wrote this book from North London. He never visited the American Deep South but spent three months virtually there through the internet.
  9. "The Ballad of Lee Cotton"is just called "Cotton" in the U.S..
  10. This novel was shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize in 2005 and was described by the judges as "wholly original, utterly riveting and full of surprises".
  11. It really is surprising and very funny. Lee is such a sympathetic character, you can't help but like him and wonder what's going to happen to him next.
  12. This book is FUN. The plot is fantastically unrealistic but I never felt that it was too silly or unbelievable while reading.
  13. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it to anyone who doesn't mind a bit of weirdness!

Click here to read more TT lists. Or go to Callapidder Days to find more reviews for the reading challenge.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Monday, December 3, 2007

Menu Plan Monday - Dec 3rd


I've started knitting myself a cardigan and have hardly switched the computer on for over a week. This meant that I didn't refer back to last weeks plan very much and only followed about 2/3 of it. I hope to finish the cardigan soon and get back to posting a little more often, and checking this week's menu plan, of course.

MONDAY Creamy parsnip soup with baguette

TUESDAY Veggie burgers with potatoes, green beans, carrots and sweetcorn

WEDNESDAY Sweet potato curry from the freezer with rice

THURSDAY Moosewood Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

FRIDAY Pizza with lots of vegetable toppings.

If you're looking for more Menu Plan Monday participants check out Laura's blog. Have a great week.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thirteen things I bought yesterday


Big Monkey had to go back to the doctor's (in the "big city" on the other side of the river) for a check-up yesterday and as P. had a day off work we decided to do some shopping we were very successful!
So here are thirteen things we bought yesterday:

  1. A new keyboard - yes, at last I can use all the letters and punctuation marks I want without having to copy them from old documents!
  2. Lots of picture frames to put family photos up in the living room. Our next project is to work out how many pictures we need of each size, choose them and get them developed.
  3. Round bamboo knitting needles for the huge cardigan I've foolishly started. Why didn't I choose a scarf for Little Monkey to start with?
  4. A ruler with paper trimmer. I gave my big guillotine away years ago as I didn't have enough space after the birth of Big Monkey and also didn't want her to find it and play with it. Yesterday I found a really small, safe replacement.
  5. A grey polo-neck jumper for me.
  6. Grey cardigan for me.
  7. Green cardigan for me.
  8. An advent calendar with a different tea bag for everyday for me.
  9. Magnetic photo frames - to put photos in and give to grandparents some time.
  10. Three wooden Christmas trees, they are really unusual. I can't wait to put them up.
  11. A magic Christmas tree for the Monkeys to decorate on Christmas Eve (I had these as a child sometimes and loved them)
  12. New specially soft flannels for me.
  13. A cookbook holder, this has been on my wish list as long as I've been cooking and yesterday I saw a really smart one that doesn't take up too much space.

My normal shopping is just basic groceries, nappies and baby wipes and even when I want to buy things I rarely find things for me, I always just find things I know Big Monkey or the rest of the family would love. So it was really fun to buy things for me! Nearly everything was on sale or we got special discounts (everything apart from the advent calendar in fact) I also managed to resist the temptation to buy anything for Big Monkey.

Click here to see more Thursday Thirteen lists.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Shadow of the Wind

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón is a melodramatic thriller with elements of horror, lots of romance and politics set in Fascist Spain after the Civil War.

I really enjoyed it. I'm a booklover and the whole plot revolves around books.

Some parts really made me shiver but it never got too gruesome for me. The suspense held up till the end and there were some really interesting twists in the end.

The characters are sometimes rather simplistic, either thoroughly good or evil but I didn't mind at all here.

I'd recommend this to anyone who's not afraid of such a thick book!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Menu Plan Monday - Nov 26th


Big Monkey was finally well enough to go to kindergarten today. Life can start to get back to normal.

I'm sure I would have gone crazy with her at home for such a long time just a few weeks ago but although the last two weeks have been very tiring it's been OK. It is such a relief that she has finally accepted her brother and doesn't spend all her time annoying him any more.
She's also started getting dressed (even by herself) without long tantrums. She doesn't take her clothes off all the time any more. She stays with me most of the time when we go out.

She's a reformed character - finally out of her terrible twos phase (it only lasted 3 years!) Everything has suddenly got much easier for all of us. She's very proud of herself - as you can see in the photo (dressing-up at her best friend's house)

Little Monkey is, of course, now reaching the terrible twos! But he is generally more reasonable, doesn't scream all the time and I can normally understand what is annoying him. I hope it stays that way.


Anyway, to my menu plan. I'm very late posting this Monday so today's meal has already been eaten.

MONDAY - Speedy Potato and Cheese Bake (prepared by P.!)

TUESDAY - Tofu sausages, broccoli, sweetcorn, carrots and cottage cheese.

WEDNESDAY - Stuffed spinach and mushroom pancakes.

THURSDAY - Lentil curry (this has been on my plan for weeks and somehow always forgotten!)

FRIDAY - Baked potatoes with aubergine puree, hummus and salad

SATURDAY - Left overs (time to empty the fridge and restock)

SUNDAY - Pasta with vegetable sauce (from the freezer)

Thanks to Laura for hosting menu plan monday. Visit her to see more participants.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thirteen things I Enjoy


Thanks for your encouragement last week. This time I feel much more confident.
What I'm wondering is; did anyone actually read to the end of my last list? I've hardly told any real flesh and blood friends or family about my blog but my closest friend reads it thoroughly and told me in evening that he was very confused; what did #2 mean? and why 13 when there were only 12 things on my list. I didn't believe him but when I checked he was right. Did you notice that? Please tell me in a comment if I do anything really stupid again!

So here are thirteen random things I enjoy -

  1. seeing my monkeys playing and smiling together
  2. photos - in every way, taking, looking at my own and other people's, sorting...
  3. a hot cup of coffee in the morning
  4. sleeping all through the night
  5. eating with friends
  6. getting out into the fresh air
  7. flicking through cookbooks and testing new recipes
  8. getting post
  9. the smell of freshly baked bread
  10. watching obscure films in arthouse cinemas
  11. lying in bed and reading a book
  12. dreaming of future holidays and travel
  13. good health

Happy Thanksgiving to anyone celebrating today and a wonderful Thursday to all! Go here to read more Thursday Thirteens.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Long Way Round


Long Way Round (Chasing shadows across the world) by Ewan McGregor & Charlie Boorman

This is a description of travelling from London to New York by motorbike. It's no literature but a chronological account of the journey and preparations, written alternately from McGregor's or Boorman's point of view. It's almost like listening to the two men talk - a very easy read.

The reason I picked up this book was purely because it was in English. I'm not a fan of the authors or of motorbikes but I found it enjoyable. I once did a 4 1/2 month bike trip myself and had some similar experiences with border crossings, camping, trying to make myself understood and meeting amazingly friendly and helpful people and reading this brought it all back to me.

McGregor and Boorman travelled in a totally different style to me though. They had funding for everything, a cameraman travelling with them and a support team never far away. In my opinion, this makes their claim of being adventurers and achieving something amazing seem rather thin.

Unfortunately, this book contains a lot more moaning about than enjoyment of the journey. Wonderful scenery is mentioned but barely described (and the photos are unimpressive). Maybe it comes over better when you've seen the TV series of the journey.

The two men also write a lot about missing their wives and families (both have very young children). I think it was incredibly selfish of them to go off on a bloke's holiday like this leaving their families alone for months on end. Did they really think about how their partners felt about it?

"The Long Way Round" is an easy read with entertaining anecdotes for people who like travel stories but nothing memorable.

Wordless Wednesday - 21st November

Monday, November 19, 2007

Menu Plan Monday - Nov 19th

This is my fourth post here and last week I found that with seven new meals a week my fridge couldn't hold all the leftovers. Both monkeys were ill last week and we had a couple of unplanned meals just because I wanted to be able to spend the time with them and for them to eat really well without fussing over anything.

This means that I've been able to recycle most of the plan I wrote last week and want to try planning just five new meals. I'm going to stick to planning for particular days even if this sometimes get changed around because it just makes it easier for me to stick to my plan.

This is a normal week here on Germay so there are no Thanksgiving meals planned.

MONDAY Vegetable Spaghetti Bake

TUESDAY Leek soup from the freezer

WEDNESDAY Dahl and brown rice

THURSDAY Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie with extra vegetable side dishes

FRIDAY Microwave baked potatoes with leftovers...

It looks very bare but we're having visitors again on Saturday for French food and P. is responsible for that. I' sure there'll be enough leftovers for Sunday, if not, omelette.

We had French visitors last night last night and cooked a huge meal. One of the starters was my tartlets and this time I managed to take a picture before they all went. Aren't they pretty?


Thanks to Laura for hosting menu plan monday. Visit her to see more participants.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Boom boom

A lot's happened since I last wrote anything here.

The best development is definitely Yann's vocabulary. He's been saying Mama forever and Papa for quite a while. He woofs a lot (at all animals) and says brumm brumm for car. He's been able to say ball clearly but not regularly for a couple of weeks now. As I got him out of his car seat this afternoon he pointed at a ball on the floor and said the word at the same time. I was thrilled.

Yesterday he started saying boom boom / bonbon. It was so funny to see him pointing at the cupboard well out of reach of any children where we keep sweets and demanding bonbons and anytime he slips or drops anything he grins and says boom boom. I think he's really proud of being able to say things.
He's a bit late at starting to speak (although earlier than his sister was) but has a very good excuse as he has to deal with three languages.

It's normal that multi-lingual children start speaking later but I think my monkeys might have been later anyway as they are so extremely mobile and lively. They're too busy bouncing to think about speaking. Charlotte's latest achievement is sianding on her head and Yann likes me to hold his hands so he can walk up me and push himself off to do a backwards roll in mid-air. I'm amazed each time he does it.

I'm sure that second children have a big advantage in being able to copy the first-borns. Yann has been slightly quicker with almost everything so far.

I have a lot of ideas at the moment and could go off at a tangent on many things. Backwards rolls to role models to public toilets...
I used to live near a train station with very fancy public toilets and of course, had to use them from time to time. Don't worry this isn't going to go into any intimate details, it's just about a funny translation.
Next to the toilet paper was a sign with "For new Role push button" written on it. I had to think of Mr Benn and wonder what role I would get if I pushed, a zoo-keeper, a cowboy or a clown?

This leads me to a lovely mistake that Charlotte makes in her German. The Germans have a lovely word for finishing work and freetime starting. The translation is perhaps finishing time but it's used much more commonly than that and has a much more positive connotation. It's Feierabend (this literally sounds like "party evening"). Charlotte has taken this idea of a party and connected it with fire (pronounced the same as Feier). therefore she thinks Feierabend is a barbecue and often asks me if she can go to so-and-so's fire abend when she hears them saying it.

I could continue (I have those role models to write about) but I think I'll leave that for another time.
Tomorrow's going to be a busy day and as I couldn't get to sleep last night (you won't believe it but I stayed up till all hours wrapping Christmas presents and then couldn't sleep. I got up at about 5 this morning and started re-organising my living room cupboards!) So I need to get to bed at a reasonable time today.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Another One Down


I've finished another book from my pile for the Fall into Reading Challenge!
This one had a real plot and kept me guessing to the end. I'll have to be very careful what I write in order not to give anything away. This book might not be everyone's choice, apparently out of 4000 British readers 35% gave up without finishing. I feel sorry for anyone who only got halfway through - it gets better and better towards the end. The language is coarse and it's written from the perspective of a 15 year old boy but I enjoyed it. I felt so involved with the narrator and so confused by/frustated by/elated with the world around him. This book really brought out emotions for me.

Wikipedia introduces the plot like this:

"The title character is a fifteen-year-old boy who lives in a small town in the U.S. state of Texas. When his friend Jesus Navarro commits suicide after killing sixteen bullying schoolmates, suspicion falls on Vernon, who becomes something of a scapegoat in his small hometown of Martirio. Fearing the death penalty, he goes on the run to Mexico.

The book satirizes trailer park residents, the media, and most of all, those who believe that life in the United States is just like what they see on the TV news. The Booker Prize judges described it as a "coruscating black comedy reflecting our alarm but also our fascination with America".[1]"

Despite the bad language I found this book to be wonderfully written and full of neat, fresh, surprising concise descriptions that were a wonderful change after Bluebear. If you don't take offence easily, then you should definitely read it.

The NY Times review is good.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #2


I've spent so much time pondering about what to write about this week and could easily write a list of thirteen ideas for lists that I have discarded. I think I'm just nervous because I'm new to all of this and wonder who on earth would want to read my ideas. Am I right? Does it get easier when you've been here longer?
In the end I've decided that I'm probably not the only one who likes reading trivial facts about total strangers and am going to write about the simplest thing - me.
So here goes with THIRTEEN FACTS ABOUT ME:
  1. I'm 35.
  2. I have worn glasses nearly all my life and can't imagine putting contact lenses into my eyes.
  3. I have long brown hair.
  4. I grew up in Warrington, northwest England.
  5. I always wear black socks.
  6. I'd like to start jogging again.
  7. My favourite food is Indian.
  8. I have a good memory BUT
  9. I'm very good at losing things.
  10. I have a very sweet tooth.
  11. I have a bachelor's degree in European Studies.
  12. I live on a former island in the river Elbe.
  13. I can count most of the time!
So there it was. Random trivia from the top of my head. As the idea of Thursday Thirteen is to get to know each other I hope it's not too inappropriate.
I'm going to post now before I change my mind again. It's Thursday here now but who knows what time will come up on my blog. Can anyone tell me how the posting times work? I'm totally confused by them.

Click here to read more Thursday Thirteens.

Thanks for reading and have a good Thursday.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Wordless Wednesday - 14th November


Click here for more photos. Happy WW

Mini-pirates and spiderwitches


I've finally got through the first of my books for the Fall into Reading Challenge. It has 703 pages but a lot of pictures and fairly large type and I've now heard it described as a children's book for adults. Many of the stories in it were pleasant and entertaining but I found it a drag and am sure I wouldn't have finished it, if not for this challenge.

Wikipedia introduces the plot like this:

"The Thirteen and a Half Lives of Captain Bluebear describes the first half of Bluebear's set of 27 lives. The story progresses from Bluebear's first memories of life, floating in a nutshell near the giant Maelstrom, to his career as a professional liar called a Congladiator, to his time spent on the SS Moloch, the world's largest ship, and everywhere in between. The novel intersperses Bluebear's narrative with excerpts from The Encyclopedia of Marvels, Life Forms and Other Phenomena of Zamonia and its Environs by Professor Abdullah Nightingale, a teacher Bluebear encounters in his sixth life.

The plot is set in the fictional continent of "Zamonia" (location of several other novels by Walter Moers) before the "great descent" in which Zamonia and many other continents sink beneath the waves."

I liked the beginning but quickly got bored by his long detailed lists of every sort of demons and monsters. There were chapters (or lives) that I did enjoy throughout the book and which I found a bit more meaningful but I lot I found just silly or repulsive.

I never normally read any sci-fi though and perhaps it was just the wrong book for me.

My Big Monkey was very interested in the pictures and spent along time looking at them. The funniest thing about the book was when she spotted a tiny skull and crossbones (with the bones below the head) and assumed it was a tiny animal:
"Aaaah, look it at it. It's so mini. Aaaah, I want one. Aaaah, it's mine. Look how many legs it's got." I didn't have the heart to explain what it really was.

I'm so pleased I've finshed it and am getting through the next one much quicker. The monkeys are not on form and today we all hung around around the flat feeling weak and I found time to reading while resting.


Monday, November 12, 2007

My Day

Little Monkey went to his playgroup this morning and proved his reputation by throwing himself around, climbing up the wall bars and rushing up and down the slide nearly all the time we were there. I'd been asking if we could do finger painting for a couple of weeks and was very disappointed that he didn't like it at all.
By the time the goodbye singing started he was so exhausted that he just lay on my lap, he didn't even have the strength to sit up.

He had a good nap and then we set off to pick the Bigger Monkey from Kindergarten. But where was she? Not in the downstairs playroom, not upstairs with the dolls, not in the garden. I finally found her stting in the dining/homework room - sitting at a table and writing! She had asked for homework! I was so proud of her. As a treat I let her ride on the helicopter on her way home. This photo was at the start of the ride before Little One got too scared and had to be lifted out.


After this, she told me that she wasn't hungry (an exceptional occurence) because she'd eaten so much lunch that her tummy was full. I didn't put very much thought into this but then we had to run for the bathroom and she lay down on the sofa complaining of stomach ache.
Little Monkey didn't eat any lunch but was banging on the window to show me that he wanted to go out and play. We have a handerkerchief size garden but are very lucky to live directly next to a playground with access through said garden.

I was relieved when Bigger Monkey announced that she felt better and we went out for a little while until it got dark. Little Monkey played well but his sister wasn't in a good mood. However when we came back inside she seemed O.K. whereas he went to lie down on my bed. He was extremely pale with red eyes and a temperature.

They kept going until P. arrived home ate a little and then feel asleep quickly. I hope they sleep through and are better in the mornng but I don't think that the next few days are going to be much fun.

I fell asleep on the sofa once they were in bed and woke up in the middle of a dream in which P. hadn't got home and I hadn't put the monkeys into bed. I panicked and started to run round the flat looking for them. I even thought they'd opened the door and gone out by themselves! P. heard me and did manage to convince me that all was fine and they were sleeping in their beds. - WEIRD!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Menu Plan Monday - Nov 12th


Thank you to Laura the Organising Junkie for setting up Menu Plan Monday. I love planning and showing my menu like this, it really helps me to stick to it. Click here to see what others are eating this week.

We're having:

MONDAY Savoury Bread and Butter Pudding with leeks (P.'s request)

TUESDAY Leftover Lentil and Nutroast (this is sooo good)

WEDNESDAY Sweet potato and vegetable curry with coconut milk and brown rice

THURSDAY Vegetable Spaghetti Bake

FRIDAY Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie with extra vegetable side dishes

SATURDAY Leek soup from the freezer

SUNDAY Microwave baked potatoes with leftovers...

We have cold muesli or cereals every day for breakfast, occasionally freshly baked bread rolls on Saturdays or Sundays.

We often eat Bread with cheese and salad for lunch.

If I haven't managed to cook a proper meal, our emergency staples are eggs, pasta or frozen veggie burgers.

“I’m grateful for my children because. . .”

I've stumbled across a Group Writing Project for November with this title, hosted by Jordan at Mamablogger.

It fits perfectly with my feelings and what I want to blog about so I'm going to give it a try.


My children are the focal point of my life I love them to bits and I don't know what I'd do without them.

They show me what's really important in life and help me to appreciate the little things. They love to search for snails, insects, stones... when out walking and it makes me so happy to show them something and enjoy their excitement. I hope their interest in their environment and ability to be amazed by it lasts for a long, long time.

I'm filled with pride about every step of progress they make. I find myself on the phone to friends and family each time they do something new. My Mother began to get a bit fed up of all the toilet training stories but normally enjoys listening to every detail.
As all the grandparents live in different countries most of their knowledge about the children is second-hand via the phone and my children have brought us much closer together.

Yann has just become an avid picture book reader and I love reading with him and hearing his attempts to speak.
I find their language development absolutely fascinating and I'm grateful that I can experience that. We are bringing them up trilingually (I speak English with them, their father French and they get German with the rest of the world) and every day it is such fun to hear what Charlotte comes out with. I love her little quirks.

Yesterday Charlotte helped me in the kitchen and after pronouncing "I'm not eating that" when she saw the finished mix going into the oven she did manage to try a little bit when it was ready and found it delicious! I'm so grateful that I have a family to cook for. Even if I sometimes wonder why I bother when Charlotte just begs for cold, plain pasta instead I love the challenge and am so happy when we are all together and there is silence because everyone is busy eating. I don't miss my single life at all in that regard.
When I was single, I nearly always had a mountain of clothes waiting to be ironed in my bedroom. That's gone now. The effort that I couldn't be bothered to make for myself is (almost) a pleasure for my children. I just want them to have the best in life and to do all I can to help them. This is much more productive and rewarding than being stressed by my ironing pile all the time.

I love their smiles.

They make me laugh (every day) (and cry(sometimes)).

Having children has really taught me what unconditional love is. Whatever they do I can't stay angry with them for a second.

Thank you, Charlotte and Yann.
Thank you for introducing me to parenthood.
Thank you for filling my life with laughter and happiness.
Thank you for showing me the world through your eyes.
Thank you for not bearing grudges about mistakes I have made so far.

I love both of you so much.


Please visit mamablogger to read more contributions.

Friday, November 9, 2007

It's been an eventful week - from a meteorite to a winter storm.

Saturday: Hello Kitty. See here.

Sunday: Was a perfect sunny autumn day, while driving home from an afternoon walk in the woods we saw a meteorite burning up just over our village!

Monday: Was taken out for lunch in the swanky restaurant in the expensive new hotel just near us. We were practically the only guests and although Yann immediately put the tablecloth over his head and got very restless, all the staff very very friendly and seemed pleased to see him.

Tuesday: Picked up a ticket for Charlotte's very first theatre performance! It's going to be on in the local library at the end of the month. We're looking forward to it already.

Wednesday: Yann went to kindergarten! Only for about an hour and a half and I was in the building all the time (listening to Bruce Springsteen in order to help the woman who runs the place understand and translate it!!) He played happily with the other smaller children and there were no problems between him and Charlotte.
I'm now constantly thinking about when he could start (= when I go back to work) and whether Charlotte should go to pre-school next year.

Thursday: Overslept! In the afternoon Charlotte and I went on a magazine (and breakfast cereal) buying spree in the supermarket. We bought lots of magazines for the stickers that came free with them (don't worry, they were cheap ones). We'll use the stickers to decorate our Christmas cards and envelopes .

Today: Storm tide. P. arrived home before 3p.m. because his office building was evacuated before being cut off by flood water. He's been working there for three and a half years and had never seen the river so high. Yann and I went down to the ferry terminal to see the water and give P. some quality time alone with Charlotte.
Normally the white-sided pier on this
photo descends steeply to the pontoon for the ferry. At four o'clock this afternoon, as you can see, it was going up.
That was almost half an hour after high tide. We could see from the tree trunks that the water had been higher.
I heard on the news this evening that it was the highest tide since 1999, 3.33m above normal high water. There were hurricane force winds on the North Sea coast but it wasn't too bad here.
I'm pleased to say that no-one was injured and there wasn't so much damage.
I was a bit worried about my parents who took the ferry from Bruges, Belgium to Hull, UK today but they didn't have any real problems apart from not being able to sleep because of the storm.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Thirteen websites for children and parents

This is my first Thursday Thirteen and I want to share a few of my bookmarked sites with you.

  1. Boowa and Kwala is a brilliant site full of games,songs and stories for children under ten and suitable for the tiniest. It’s all bilingual - English and French We love it.
  2. Also in French and English is Poisson Rouge – Red Fish. I find it a little strange but P. and Charlotte have had fun with it.
  3. Starfall is designed to help children learn to read and even though it’s still a bit early Charlotte enjoys looking at the letters and playing the games.
  4. Kneebouncers is designed for small children. There’s no mouse necessary, the babies just need to hit the keyboard for something to happen.
  5. The Fisher Price site is also suitable for the very young
  6. DTLK’s printable crafts for kids is full of lovely craft ideas for kids. We’ve made lots of cards from it, pumpkins, penguins and even P.s Christmas present last year…The craft ideas are very clearly explained, easy to use and adaptable for different ages.
  7. Family education has great ideas for crafts for toddlers and sections on just about anything parents might want. I’m addicted to their sudoku game in the Mom’s Coffee Break section.
  8. Activity Village has coloring pages, crafts, educational resources and, and, and…
  9. Gayle’s Preschool Rainbow has loads of fun and educational activities for children.
  10. For tiny tots – the Go Baby homepage at the Disney Playhouse. The Disney site also has lots more characters – we liked Ooh & Aah and Mickey Mouse among others.
  11. The BBC website has pages for all their children’s characters. We found it through the Teletubbies but our favourite is probably Boogie Beebies. We ordered the Boogie Beebies DVD’s as soon as we found the site.
  12. Another TV website is the Australian ABC Parenting. This has the ABC Playground site for children from 2 – 7 but I bookmarked for the wonderful parenting advice pages.
  13. Find more useful advice at Raising Children Network.

After all this you probably won't believe me when I say that the monkeys hardly ever use the computer! When Yann was tiny and it was too hot to go out Charlotte and I spent a lot of time playing children's games. We have just re-discovered the songs at Boowa and Kwala though and here are the monkeys entranced by the Beep beep song.

I hope you'll find something useful in my list. See more here.

Happy Thursday

Wordless Wednesday - 7th November



Go to Wordless Wednesday hq or 5 minutes for mom for more participants.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Fall into Reading 2007 - better late than never





I've been considering taking part in this challenge that Katrina at Callapidder Days is hosting for a while and have now decided to take the plunge. It doesn't matter that to me that I'm joining halfway through - I'm a quick reader, I don't have to make myself a huge list.
I'd be reading all the time anyway and I hope that this list will make me get through a couple of books that I've started a few times and haven't managed to finish yet.

Most of these books are from the local library. It's English section only has one and half small shelves and I hadn't looked at it for ages because I'd read everything From there that I was interested in. Suddenly quite a few new books have appeared - a delight for me!!

My selection was mainly based on the covers as I hadn't heard of them all before, so my list is a real mixed bag. At least three of them I know absolutely nothing about. I hope they'll be interesting and worthwhile.

Here goes (in no particular order)

Long Way Round (Chasing shadows across the world) by Ewan McGregor & Charlie Boorman

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

The Ballad of Lee Cotton by Christopher Wilson

The Cloudspotter's Guide by Gavin Pretor-Pinney

Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre

The Thirteen and a Half Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers (in progress)


That seems like plenty in the run-up to Christmas.

Go to Callapidder Days to find out what's on everyone else's list and join in too.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Menu Plan Monday - Nov 5th

The long-awaited meet and have your photo taken with Hello Kitty was not quite what we had been expecting. The "official" polaroid photo is probably no better than my snap and everything went extremely quickly.

Charlotte enjoyed herself though. She was really well-behaved, held my hand all the time and was fascinated by the city centre. She loves the goody bag which I was impressed by as well. Its contents were much better than I had feared - cute pencil, stickers and a lovely keyring.



Here's my menu for this week


MONDAY Tofu sausages with boiled potatoes, carrots, broccoli and tomato salad

TUESDAY Savoury waffles (we had guests last Fri so they didn't get made)

WEDNESDAY Vegetable stew (to use up the celeriac P. bought by mistake!)

THURSDAY Lentil curry and rice

FRIDAY Homemade pizza with mushrooms, peppers, sweetcorn, olives and cheese.

SATURDAY Nut roast (if we manage to find celery!) with red cabbage and lots of veggies

SUNDAY Fridge surprise - to eat up all our left-overs (with microwave baked potatoes)

We had some changes to last week's menu but all in all I was really satisfied about how well my plan worked. Putting it up here gave me great motivation to stick to it.

The monkeys also ate pretty well. Yann was not 100% fit so he didn't eat as much as I expected but both of them tried a lot. I was proud of them.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Frugal Friday - Bananas


We eat a lot of bananas here, of course.

Occasionally the monkeys seem to go off them for a couple of days and they start to go brown and spotty.

They are sweet and delicious (and much more fattening!) then but do need to be dealt with quickly before the fruit flies arrive.

My frugal tip is to peel the bananas, wrap them in cling film and freeze them. Eat them frozen and they taste better than any banana ice-cream, just wonderful. This doesn't work with those tiny baby bananas - they have a strange consistency when frozen and aren't good.

If I don't have time to peel and wrap, I just put all the bananas in a freezer bag and freeze. I defrost them (in a large bowl - to prevent gunk getting all over the fridge) when I want to make banana bread and treat them like fresh bananas. They look absolutely dreadful but are fine for baking.
Our favourite is Delia's banana and walnut loaf. I buy reduced brown bananas whenever I see them just for this recipe and walnuts are a must for my cupboard.

Mmmm... my mouth is watering already.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A few favourite books

Chapter One - from Charlotte's bookcase


I started reading a bedtime story to Charlotte every day when she was just a few months old. At first she hated it and screamed as soon as she saw the book coming. At that age though, she didn't have any chance to escape so I read to her whatever.

We have always read a lot together and to try and give her a bedtime ritual she had the same book at bedtime for well over a year.
I find "Hush, little Ones" very peaceful and relaxing, perfect for going to bed with.

As she's progressed we've found many other books that we've read as often as this one.

I can read this book aloud with my eyes closed and I think Charlotte probably knows it off by heart too. I just love - the idea, the text and the illustrations.

Another favourite by Judith Kerr is
We also love Mr Gumpy and the children and the dog and the cat and the rabbit and the pig and the calf and the goat and the chickens...













This list could go on and on but it's too late for more now.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Some thoughts on all of this

A week ago I started this blog on a whim.

I hadn't planned anything at all - no name, no posts, nothing. I had and still have a head full of ideas about what I want to do but decided to follow Flylady and just jump in.

The main reason that I pressed the create blog button late last Tuesday evening was to see if I could do and prove to myself that I don't need to ask my computer-addict boyfriend about everything connected with a computer.
It is really fun to see my own blog online and also amazingly easy to do.

Another reason for doing this now is I've finally decided to give my film camera a rest and go digital. This was a very difficult decision for me as I really like my Olympus and it's not so old but I wanted all the advantages of digital and especially to be able to send my photos by email.

I've always enjoyed photography and love being able to snap away without having to wait to finish my film and take it to be developed before getting the results. It's also great not to have to worry about wasting money on photos that don't turn out, especially with my monkeys who can't stay still for a second.

I feel like I'm blundering about with this blog and haven't found my style yet. Last night I wondered if I should just delete everything and forget about it but I'm not going to. I've enjoyed the feedback I've received so far and will keep at it. Rome wasn't built in a day and I can't expect my blog to build itself.

I'll come back to my feelings about blogging another time.

Before I go I want to show you how much the monkeys have grown!!!


They've started playing together!!!

Yann discovered this game at his playgroup yesterday morning and didn't want to stop playing - he kept running back into the building to play more when the hour was over. So Katja (course facillitator) let him borrow it for the week.
Both children love it. They sit together and co-operate! No fighting over pieces! The hand each other pegs and help each other to pick up any that fall down! Charlotte praises Yann all the time and tells him how clever he is and how much she likes him!
They even played together at the playground this morning. Instead of complaining and wanting the swing that Yann was on, Charlotte pushed him and played around with him.

This is a major breakthrough and today was probably the most relaxed since Yann was born. I'm so happy about it.

Look how happy he is now:


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Menu Plan Monday - Oct 29th


My in-laws were here for the weekend so I didn't have any time to write but did a lot of cooking.

On Thursday morning I was out shopping and at the bottom of the ramp up to the drugstore I saw a box with a help yourself sign sticking out of it. My first thought was that I've managed to declutter so much and don't want anything new in my flat so I shouldn't look. My second thought was that it probably just contained a few mildewy old books and/or chipped cups so I didn't need to look. I couldn't stop the collector in me looking in though - imagine my suprise to find that it was full of Martha Stewart Living magazines, fairly recent and in mint condition!!! (Bear in mind that I live in Germany.)

I managed to fit all the magazines under the pushchair and spent Thursday longing to lie on my bed and start reading. I've been flicking through them with pleasure at odd moments since then.

I don't even have to feel guilty about extra clutter because my dear friend Bettina wants to read them after me.

I'm sure that they'll give me loads of ideas for meals in the next weeks. The best thing we ate this weekend was a spontaneous experiment based on something I'd seen in one. I'm not sure where I saw it and it wasn't a real recipe in the magazine, just a hint. Unfortunately I didn't take a photo - it looked really pretty, but I'll make it again soon and next time get my camera out.

We were all too full of birthday lemon cheesecake to want my planned meal but I wanted to put something on the table and this was a great success.

I don't know how it was described in the magazine but I can call it "quick savoury tartlets". This is what I did. I took twelve pieces of sliced white bread, cut the crusts off and pressed them a flat as I could with my rolling pin. Then I placed the slices into the moulds of my muffin tin and put them in the oven at 180 degree Celsius = 356 degree Fahrenheit while I prepared the filling (maybe 10 minutes?).
I chopped 12 cherry tomatoes, sliced 12 stuffed olives and crumbled a bit of feta cheese and mixed with olive oil, tzatziki spice mix, rosmary and thyme.
My plan was to bake the filling as well but I worried that the bread might burn so just put it cold into the bread cases and served it like that.

I will definitely make these for a starter the next time we have visitors.

Here's my menu for this week


MONDAY Baked potatoes with hummus, salad, cottage cheese...

TUESDAY Potato, leek and mushroom bake with broccoli

WEDNESDAY Vegetable couscous (left-overs from the weekend)

THURSDAY Vegetable soup (from the freezer)

FRIDAY Savoury waffles

SATURDAY Nut roast (so I can make double mixture and freeze half for Christmastime) with red cabbage and lots of veggies

SUNDAY Pasta with vegetarian bolognese sauce.


I hope that the little monkeys will at least try a bit of everything.


Friday, October 26, 2007

frugal friday





Nearly two years ago, a few months before my son was born, I decided to test the very strange looking soapnuts from my local organic shop.

The whole idea seemed really strange to me but I thought I had nothing to lose and that it would be good or the children.

Anyway, it was a wonderful decision. I'm so impressed by the nuts.

They get my washing clean, they don't have any irritating smell and are
SO cheap. I buy them in 500g packets and one packet lasts for months. Before that I was buying an expensive bottle of unperfumed washing liquid about once every ten days.

I've only used them in my washing machine but you can apparently also but them in the dishwasher or boil them to make an all-round cleaner. I want to try this soon.

I can only recommend soapnuts - good for your purse, your family and the environment.

Please check this site www.inasoapnutshell.com or google soapnut for more information.

I hope this suggestion is useful to someone. Please let me know what you think of it.

Wishing you a nice day xxx