Friday, 30 April 2010

Haircuts and trees

I took Little Monkey to have his hair cut. He took his little stroller and pushed it happily. We even managed to get a seat in the front row at the top deck of the bus. This is the best place and Little Monkey commented every pot hole, corner, starting and stopping with loud giggles and squeaks. His happiness makes the price of a ticket really worth every penny. But I couldn't persuade him to actually enter the hairdressers. We had to run past it a few times before he walked in. It's a cool hair salon, they have lots of toys but you only get to play with them if you let the hairdresser cut your hair. This is a hard concept to understand. But doesn't he look cute with his new sticky up hair?
In front of my house grows an ornamental cherry tree. It looks pretty with all those flowers, right?

Last year the tree surgeons rocked up to trim the branches, which were reaching into my garden and the passion fruit plant tried to grow up on it. I was hoping they chop they whole tree down. I know, I know but this morning when I came to my car, it was spotty!

This is the roof after I've been driving for an hour and Big Monkey and I have removed a lot of petals from it already to occupy our time while waiting for the school doors to open. But to experience this tree at its full potential you have to wait until the not yet ripe cherries give the poor birdies upset stomachs! That's when it gets really, really nasty. The car is not a nice sight then.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Toddler wisdom - Part 1: walking

1. walking is only good when it's running
2. making noise or singing while running multiplies the fun threefold
3. balancing along the edge of the pavement and stopping only at the last minute at the crossing keep Mum on her toes and helps to maintain constant high blood pressure
4. running into every front garden and flapping the letter box gives a sense of control and adventure
5. carrying an umbrella, pulling quaking ducks or pushing a stroller are a must

Wednesday, 28 April 2010


On Monday Big Monkey's new after school club started. She'd decided to do drawing club. A very good choice I thought, I would have loved to do something like that. Her first choice sewing club clashed with her swimming lessons. Anyway, it ends at 5pm and in the hope that Little Monkey doesn't fall asleep that late I promised him a trip to the park before picking her up. A new park with a new playground. There's one sort of on the way and every time I drove past I thought I take him there, it looks lovely.
I told him and he agreed that it would be nice to see a new playground. We drove there, he fell asleep on the way, I found change in the depths of my bag to pay the pay-and-display and we wandered there. NO! Little monkey said, the moment he saw the playground. No. No. No.
It was a really nice park with a climbing frame with wobbly bridges, slides and steering wheels. Swings of course and even wobbly little rid-ons. Would he go on anything? No. We had to wander round the whole playground two times before he went in and looked at the count-the-shapes-board.

I was disappointed but at least it wasn't difficult to get him away from there. He happily ran off again to find the car. And we had some fun swirling the sun cream and umbrella round on the little round-about until they got dizzy.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Garden work

I've decided to create a bigger flower bed so on Saturday with the monkeys at a birthday party at the British Museum I got going.

As always with work in the garden it took much longer and was much more exhausting that I hoped it would be.

I'm pleased with the new bed though, there will be space for flowers and for vegetables. I will have to take out some more stones though, it's a very well drained soil in my garden. I've found though that plants also like a bit of soil to attach their roots to.
On Sunday we had a look at a possible party venue for Big Monkeys upcoming Birthday. I think Little Monkey approved.

Big Monkey thought that balloon animals were needed. She made this one in preparation. Unfortunately "coleman" didn't survive the car journey.

Monday, 26 April 2010


This is my bathroom.
Can you spot what's wrong with this picture? Lower right corner? Mental grinning blue rodent? The sticker!? Can I just say how much I hate stickers on furniture or walls or everywhere other than a piece of paper. Just thinking of cars with their back windows covered with stickers makes my skin crawl. Why? Why spend money on something to then ruin it with stickers. I watched the monkey do this. Unfortunately this monkey has a good argument. He paid for the bathroom...

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Look it's Grandpa!

Grandpa had one of his photos selected to be shown on a billboard in Vienna.


Little monkey discovered the joy of painting recently. He saw big monkey paint and when she left and the pots and brushes were left behind he saw his chance. He grabbed a brush and demanded paper to create a master piece himself. I'm glad he asked for paper and didn't just start. So far nothing got painted that shouldn't have. Fingers crossed it stays this way. Every day he painted pictures. And hands... and arms...

Well, that was so last week. This week it's all about water bottles. Water SPRAY bottles. When I resigned to the fact that my green bottle was taken I used a red one. How exciting, because what's better than one bottle? Two of course. We had to have discussions. Now we swap regularly.

On Monday the spray bottle had to come to the health centre for his eye test. Just in case they had plants that needed a boost. They didn't. Then we visited Missus Wookie. She has plants but also trains, which is better. So the water bottle got forgotten for a little bit. But not for too long.

The moment we arrived home, little monkey had to check out the garden and give the plants a little spraying. For the past week every morning and every evening and maybe a few times in between, just to be sure, he wanders round the garden. Singing water, water, water and sprays plants and big monkeys and patios and cats. At least it's not raining so all that spraying makes sense.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

The good weather and various things going on kept me from the computer so it's only today that I get round to upload the photos from our trip to the farm and bed shop.
They are next to each other so it was a necessity to go and see the farm after we've been to the shop.

The bed shop was the cause for the complaint letter I'd received and when we arrived we had to admit the note was not unreasonable. All the beds were raised and they included slides, turrets, desks and hide outs. I want one too! Who can I complain to?
Little monkey himself preferred the red fire engine with the steering wheel of course. It was easy to convince him with the slide though. It was steep and because of the store flooring he whooshed down and away as fast as never before... We will have to have carpet to stop him, never mind the burns but he'd slide out of the room otherwise! Still, he is too small and he got the basic version which is only raised a little off the floor. I'm not sure how good that is as an incentive to move from Mummy's bed but it's as good a try as any. I might get a steering wheel for the bed. In a few years we will be able to buy an extension kit to raise the bed up and include a slide, a hide out, a look out and various hooks and bags, maybe a black board too.
Next the farm, I would have preferred a garden centre but I was overruled by the monkeys. It's mainly a big playground now, the animals are only a side point nowadays.

They have ride-ons, an enormous sand pit, a big adventure playground. And diggers! Little monkey loves diggers, so he couldn't be side tracked, where ever we went to try and divide his attention he always came back to the "di-ga", what can one do, one pound less and a happy little monkey!

Note, however, big monkey's stance! She was not happy that she wasn't allowed to pull the levers. Little monkey wasn't able to pull them himself but no amount of arguing would convince him otherwise. It took him a while to realize that he wasn't able to move any sand without help.
I got a chance at a garden centre after all, we managed to dash into the biggest garden centre I've seen in a while. Unfortunately we only had 20 minutes to closing time. It would have taken me longer to find my way round so I didn't even go to the plants just bought a few pots and three lupins that sort of bullied me to take them home. They did look needy for a home, all alone next to the pots... Yes, it was a good deed.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Tense cakes and quiet notes

Now, the cupcakes, they were dense rather than tense. Even though little monkey didn't like them for lack of chocolate they are now gone so they didn't really have to worry there. Thanks for Missus Wookie for pointing that out. I'm sure that made for interesting translations for the people who use computer programs to read this blog. Very funny, the English language often gets me like that.
This weekend I also received my first note of complaint from big monkey. I woke up to find a little letter saying I'm not happy, to Mum from monkey. Why, what? Apparently she doesn't like the thought that little monkey might get a bunk bed. A bit early considering he's only two and even a normal bed is a challenge for him. Nevertheless we have ordered a big boy bed in the hope that this might entice him to sleep in his room. I expect a fight.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Courgette Chamomile Cupcakes

So, I've gone and made those cupcakes I've talked about so much. Of course I had to fiddle with the recipe a little even though the author was very stern and even emphasized the correct tin with the strongest of words. But there wasn't a crumb of ground almond in the house at all and in any case I don't like it anyway. The cupcakes just had to be a little less healthy. And the lemon that I found in the corner of the fridge hidden behind the big cabbage, that had seen better days too. Still it all turned out well. I even found a correct-ish bun tin that worked with the very cute red polka dot cases I bought. Thinking of it I could have bought the ground almonds while I bought these? Ah, next time. I tweaked the icing because of that old lemon but we have sprinkles. Yay! I've said it before and I say it again, you simply can not go wrong with something that's covered in sprinkles.
It's basically a simple recipe for cupcake with some of the sugar and eggs substituted with a courgette (that's a zucchini by the way for my lovely American friends)and the chamomile thrown in. It's more tense than otherwise but it's basically a health food. I mean healthy cake? What can be better than that.
I don't have a stone lion to pose my cupcake on nor chamomile flowers so that's the next best thing, it's that very cute little daisy like flower that bullied its way into my trolley last time I've been to the garden centre. I obviously had a premonition that I would need it for photo staging when I bought it.

Oh and the taste? Yummy, very yummy this time even big monkey thought so. Daddy monkey liked it until he was told of the Chamomile than he didn't like it anymore. Obviously as he is so traumatized by Chamomile tea. Little monkey didn't even try it as it obviously doesn't contain any chocolate therefore it's not worth his while.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Clean stuff

Recently Neroli found her dolls again to play with. For a long time they stayed tossed in their little bed. But now they have had a bath, went to school and several trips to the garden. The bubble bath was a big favourite and provided several hours of entertainment. That's one very clean dolly!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Manx knobs

Here's a quick picture of the Manx knobs I promised.

Art I've recently made

With the lovely weather I spent more time outside in the garden and found less time to create. But here are a few things I made the last couple of months.
Alice Atc for a swap
Atc for another swap, several people worked on each card, adding something. There were 6 sets so this is just an example. Mainly for my forgetfulness, I should have taken photos of each I worked on. Don't be angry with me, I've already been told off by Miss Bossyboots.

Then I made some fabric boxes to store little fabric scraps and organza and velvet. They turned out rather nice, I like the rim that "happened". I presume it came about because I used a rather heavy interfacing and some wonky cutting.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

While the big monkey was away

Little monkey raided her dress up rail... He mainly tried out all the necklaces and bracelets she owns but he also had found those Halloween bats on a hairband. He was most taken by it and posed happily for me. He also found the big suitcase with all the dress up clothes but he only liked the glamorous evening gloves the rest he preferred on the floor.
He and the cat are thick as thieves, when those two are together you can be sure something is about to happen. Of course he had to show her and they started running up and down the hallway. She did like those wobbling bats too. Luckily nobody got hurt but I heard worrying noises. Sometimes I just don't want to know. I think the cat saw sense and hid in the end. I get the feeling she doesn't like it when little monkey tries to ride on her.
On the vegetable cake front I can report that I'm now the proud owner of the vegetable cake book. It's called "Red Velvet & chocolate heartache" by Harry Eastwood. The next project will be involving those courgettes that came yesterday morning in the organic veggie box. With vanilla or chamomile that's the question right now. I'm tempted by the chamomile cupcakes, they sound rather exotic... I'll keep you posted.

Monday, 12 April 2010

From the Monkey tree

Big monkey and daddy left Sunday for a trip to the Isle of Man. She took a few pictures.

They came home this evening with lots of stories, shells, pebbles, fudge and a can of Manx knobs... I'll take a picture of them tomorrow to show.
Meanwhile at the Monkey tree we did more of the No-cutting-of-flowers-lectures. They begin to make an impression. Little monkey now asks before he rips a flower out. I think it's progress, by the end of today we were down to asking and then actually doing as told. Several flowers were saved that way but a few bluebells didn't make it. They can take it though, there are loads of them already.
Then we had some fun with lentils. Now, me I didn't think that possible. But apparently I was very wrong. I left little monkey in the kitchen for a minute. My wrong. I was drawn back by hysterical giggles and little monkey emptying a bag of red lentils all over the kitchen floor. He then tried to hide that by pulling a chair over the mess. As it is one with a solid base it smashed those little red lentils up real good. What could I do other than get the hoover out. At first I didn't understand little monkeys cheering and clapping. But then I realised I normally only ever hoover when little monkey isn't at home. For good reason... soon little monkey tried to push buttons and turn knobs and feed it shoe polish out of a spray can. Sadly the hoover had to go back to its home very quickly.
One little monkey was very unhappy and tried to get over this by trying to climb up that very chair for a chocolate Easter bunny.
Oh, the mayhem that ensued for not being allowed chocolate instead of dinner.
I see lots of little orange dots on the floor...

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Scooter mayhem

Yesterday we finally got round to unpack little monkeys scooter. Boy, that was a surprise: it came in all its little pieces! Oh, dear and the instructions as usual were written by someone with a twisted sense of humour. Those illustrations kept the way on how to sort the parts of the screw that holds the wheels a tight secret. Hey, why tell me? I'm just the one who has to build that scooter... In any case I managed to construct the thing even with the squeaks and disappearing wheels and maybe the odd word for the swear box if we'd had one.
Good that it was another sunny day so everybody could have a go on various scooters. Little monkey was so happy about his big boy present, he dragged it around with him for the best part of the day. We learned that scooters don't drive well on the lawn and that throwing it down the steps is not such a good idea either. On the positive side we also discovered that I put it together well as nothing became loose and it didn't break either so other than the instructions its good quality. Grandpa made a good choice here!
In between the scootering I managed to get some gardening done. I found some more flowers. This discovery made me happy, for some reason these didn't come up last year and I'm sure they looked slightly different when I planted them, more whitish with stripes but I'm not really complaining. I like them. I'm not sure about their name, I call them snakeheads but I could be completely wrong here. Our lovely neighbour passed three little courgette plants over so we had to make a pot for them ready. We have now eight plants and are hoping for a bumper crop. You know you can use courgettes in cakes too.
Little monkey who sees me weeding all the time obviously thought he helps me a bit. The moment I finished planting the little courgettes and turned my back, one was already out and one leaf short. Not so great as it only has three yet. I put it back in but it doesn't look terribly happy this morning. Little monkey received a lecture about weeding and what are weeds and what are not. Again. Basically it goes, don't cut off (don't ask, whoever said toddler scissors only cut paper is plain wrong!) rip off or pull up anything. It obviously paid off. A little later he caught me cutting off a few dead branches from the Hydrangea. No, Mummy, NO! he told me with a serious frown.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Art quilt

I signed up for a Lucky Dip swap and decided to make another Mixed Media Art quilt. I really enjoy doing these even though they always end up wonky and completely different to what I thought when I first start. I only ever start with a rough idea of what I want to create, like a colour way or a feeling. I do like blue and green it has to be said, so my pieces very often end up in those colours. Well, as luck has it at the moment I'm working on an art quilt that actually includes pink! Now that's shocking to me too but I couldn't find a second background piece of fabric so I had to take what was on hand. On both quilts I used a baby wipe. I normally clean brushes with them or paint straight from the bottle. I added a little spritz of a colour spray and that's it for backgrounds. Throw on a few embellishments, add some meaningful words, a way of hanging it up, add some sparkly thing, try to take some off again, try and hide where things were taken off and sew on the Chinese tassel from Hongkong and voila! A piece of art!

Beetroot Chocolate Cake Recipe

50 g cocoa powder
180 g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
250 g caster sugar
300 g cooked fresh beetroot
3 eggs
200 ml corn oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 180g. Butter and flour the cake tin.
Put the beetroot in a food processor, add one egg at a time, then the corn oil and vanilla and beat until smooth.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the beetroot mixture into it, mix lightly and pour into a prepared cake tin.
Bake until done. You know until the inserted skewer comes out clean. The recipe suggested 40 minutes but mine actually took 55 minutes.

Now I don't have the american equivalent of meassuring, maybe Mrs Wookie would know? Beetroot are the red ones, more commonly used in salad. Maybe I have to bake it again using cups. ahem.

I found the recipe on The Times Online

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Beetroot Chocolate Cake

After all that chocolate that the Easter Bunny brought we felt the need for more er chocolate. So we baked a cake with beetroot and chocolate. After the success of our carrot cupcakes the other week I thought I give vegetables another chance to prove themselves in a dessert. We used a fairly simple recipe that didn't ask for any exotic ingredients like some form of cheese. In my opinion cheese has nothing to give to a cake. I know, I know quark is strictly speaking cheese too but that might just about be the only exception. But then I previously did think this about vegetables too so I might change my mind about that. Feel free to invite me for cheese cake...
Now our beetroot cake, it was slightly disappointing. I was expecting a really deep red cake that would scare the faint of heart. (like daddy monkey) But alas it looks just like any chocolate cake. Wonder whether that's why some recipes asked for red food colouring? That would be so cheating, hence a big no no! The taste, however, was delightful. Well, to be honest I only thought that after I've eaten half a piece. At first I tasted the beetroot quite strongly and it certainly has added fibre and crunch. Shows you, never give up on chocolate... The cake might benefit from a pad of ice cream on the side... Big monkey, however, didn't like it! She's given up too early. Ah, she's still young, she hasn't learned the never-give-up-on-chocolate-mantra. Still I think there might be something with those vegetable cakes. Although I'm not totally convinced that it isn't all a ruse to serve you something healthy while you expect a treat. Maybe I should try another recipe. Anybody have one for fennel? I'm also considering that cookbook mentioned in the Able and Cole newsletter a fortnight ago.

Little Monkey is lucky too

In the evening little monkey opened his presents. He now knows very well what wrapped up parcels mean. The first one contained a little toy camera, he was very pleased with that and ordered us to "mile" for the camera. Very good, although I doubt that this will keep him from requesting my camera. In any case he was very busy with that and he delegated further opening of presents to big monkey. She was more than happy to oblige, after all she had to wait the whole day until she found out what little monkey got.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Lucky, Lucky Monkey

This morning two parcels arrived, Easter presents from the Grandparents. Form the moment big monkey laid her eyes on them, she needed, NEEDED to know what was inside. She was delighted with everything. As it was sunny and warm today she had to put on one of her new T-shirts straight away. We played the new game and big monkey needed to put everything Hello Kitty in a special box.

She even was very happy about receiving a second scooter she got from Grandpa. I was worried she would do her teenager impression but no, she hopped around happily singing lucky, lucky. She tried it out straight away, she even tried to scooter on both at the same time. Not such a good idea but it had to be tried out anyway.

The good thing about the new scooter is that the handle bar go higher up than on her old one but the disadvantage is that it is not as fast. Considering that it will be the garden scooter, as she had decided and how small our garden is, I think that is an advantage.

A garden surprise

The predicted sunshine never came so we did some gardening with dark clouds looming above. I planted a few strawberries and a Helleborus which looks lovely under the lilac. I thought I prepare a few pots for planting vegetables. But I got a rather nasty surprise: Chafer grubs. Yuck. Look! The one on the left tries to get away. The others were too stunned to be out and didn't move but that one was really fast. It rolled around and crept along and rolled around and crept some more. All rather quickly. I wonder whether it would have tried to get into the lawn? Can't imagine it getting there, what with our hard baked soil... Those little leggies aren't very useful for crawling when you're that fat...
Chafer grubs are the larvae of the Welsh chafer beetle that comes out of the lawn in May or June to have a big party. Then they lay the eggs in the lawn again where the grubs hatch and chomp away on the roots of the grass leaving it looking nasty and bald with brown batches. Now, we have a few bare batches but I did find all of these grubs in a pot. 20 actually! In one not terribly big pot! I sure hope that isn't a sign of things to come and how it looks under the grass. Because the way to get rid off those nasties is with nematodes. Unfortunately they need a certain temperature of the soil to live and work. Which is only reached in September. Ah, the joy of leaving in such a hot climate as the UK!
Here you can see their size a bit better, those chafer grubs are enormous. That little black thing is the lens cap of my camera. Apparently much bigger than the beetle they turn into. I don't really want them to hang around for that long, I take the natural gardener's word for that!

Sunday, 4 April 2010


Aww, the excitement... The Easter bunny came and he was in a cheeky mood this year. Big monkey wondered whether this was because of the carrot she had left out for him. Maybe there was something in it that made him go all funny, she mused. Because there was one present hiding in the shower! Most, however, were outside hiding between flower pots, under daffodils and inside the tree. The moment we realized he's been already here, at 7.30 in the morning, the rain started. Hence the search was a rather hurried affair. Luckily the clever rabbit had hidden the uncovered chocolates inside but he put the new dress for big monkey outside. I guess he couldn't resist in hanging it onto a tree branch. He drew the line at putting things into bird feeders though. The monkeys were a tad bit disappointed that they couldn't take apart various feeding stations.
Still, I see somebody has been very happy with the amount of sweet findings and was looking forward to taking a bite.

Meet the master in speed-unwrapping chocolates

Little monkey tried his best to consume his own body weight in chocolate. Therefore he was thoroughly disappointed that the parents did everything to foil this worthy effort.
I guess it was a good thing that the Easter bunny brought something for exercise.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Evem more photos and what we did on Friday

So after the farm and a trip to show our guests the shops of Canary Wharf we had a quick office chair race.

On Friday we had tickets for the Moscow State Circus, which was great fun. Everybody enjoyed it, even little monkey. I expected him to get bored and cry but he sat on my lap staring in awe at the acrobats. Only at the second half he fidgeted a little but that was mainly because the person in front of us moved so he couldn't see as well.