Friday, 18 December 2015

Last Deep Coal Mine in Britain - Kellingley Closure: Learning Resources for Mining & Labour Laws

Bread & Roses 

I have just read the news that the last deep coal mine in Britain has now closed.

We are going to take the rest of the morning to revise our resources on British coal mining, which I have previously posted for the anniversary of the Miner's Strike.

One of my great grandparents was a miner and came from a mining family.  My grandad said his dad's back was black, thick of the coal dust which had amalgamated with his skin and could never be scrubbed free.  We own a coal figuirine; it isn't an expensive trinket but the figure looks proud and hard-worked and strong, and it moves me to think of my great grandfather and many others who lived so much of their lives underground with those same qualities to provide for their families.

It is thought-provoking that the Kellingley miners have not been made redundant because there is no coal left, or that it could not be used in a more environmentally friendly way (as the article above explains), but because the mine lost the contract.

Links for our previous blog posts on Coal Mines and Mining:

Witness Experiences
Interactive BBC Primary History of Victorian Children in Coalmining 

School Project resources on coal mines and labour laws

Do you have family members who have worked, or do, in mining somewhere in the world?

This subject appears in schools as in the BBC resources above; is this a subject you will cover in your home learning?

Thursday, 17 December 2015

A Christmas Carol for the Kids - without the help of Disney

While my eldest and I have been enjoying sharing A Christmas Carol, the younger ones find the wordiness a little too much to understand just yet.  However, sitting by the fire and lights of the tree as the dark afternoons creep in, it feels so warm and festive that everyone is enjoying the time together nonetheless.  Being exposed to the readings helps the children become familiar with the archaic language and so they will eventually begin to be able to read and understand similar literature independently.  My eldest has recently taken to to using the word "thrice" in everyday conversation - whether that is a useful thing or not, I cannot be certain, but it tickles me anyway.

Storynory have a great audio production of the classic on their website.  Even the littlest did not stray throughout the three parts, and the older ones asked to listen a second time a couple of days later.

Someone has also kindly uploaded to Youtube the 1951 film with Alistair Sim as Scrooge.  We will definitely be watching this over the festive season.  Like the issue Jo March had with presents, I find it just isn't Christmas without Scrooge.




What says Christmas to you? When does it really feel like it has descended?

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Festive Round-Up: Food



Looking for ideas for meals and nibbles this festive season?

Look no further...


Meals










instead of individual rolls, make one large roll and cook at 200C for 30-40 minutes


Need a veggie option? Simple... check the recipes above for info on how to make them suitable for a vegetarian or vegan Christmas



Accompaniments







Desserts

















Low Potassium Christmas Cake




I have mentioned my grandmother's low potassium diet in the past; I made her a Simnel Cake for Easter gone.  This is the Christmas Cake I have made this year with the guidance of the British Dietetic Association.

This cake also boasts health benefits to anyone without chronic kidney disease; there is no salt, it is relatively low in sugar, and has no saturated fat added.  It has less alcohol than my usual Christmas cakes too. It is also very nice.

There is no need to add the two colours of fondant icing.  My grandmother always loved marzipan and misses it, so I include the yellow icing layer to fool the eye and add almond essence to the mix for a safe marzipanny flavour.  Renal recipes from respected sources use almond essence, such as this Christmas Cake recipe from dieticians via Kidney Matters and on which I based my very first kidney-friendly fruit cake.  With much respect and thanks to the source, this version is preferred at Acorn Towers in its much evolved form to suit our own tastes and in making it even better nutritionally without harming the cake; in fact, the oil for eggs and butter makes a moister lighter cake.

How we made this year's low potassium Christmas Cake:

Cheaper Alternatives to the Christmas Roast Turkey


I understand the argument that everyone deserves to feast at Christmas.  I not only understand it, I support it.  Fact remains, especially right now, the money might well not be there to enable that feast.  By offering alternatives, I am not supporting the idea that the poor should be glad of crumbs; this is not me declaring, "when there is no dough, let there be dough..." We must tackle the long term causes of course, but the short term also needs to be taken care of.

In that spirit, let me share some ideas that we have served even when we could have afforded a turkey (which I probably should have begun selling these recipes with, rather than clarifying my political stance.)  I was always squeamish preparing a roast bird, we had a family member who did not trust meat unless it was roasted until desiccated, and I wanted something that was easily carved... hence the trusty pie.  It was easily made, easily served up to look neat on the plate, and as you can see from the photograph will feed a few quite nicely.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Fig and Chocolate Christmas Cake (Super Easy)


This was the cake of two years ago.  You can see I have a haphazard approach to icing my Christmas cakes; you can, however, take the principle of adding starry Marzipan cutouts to the top of ready-to-roll fondant icing but actually take care to give the edges a neat look... if you want.

Cakes made with vegetable oil are not only better for you than using saturated fat, but they also have the advantage of ease in the making; no creaming stage, you just need to give the whole lot a mix.  If a slice of Christmas Cake does give you anxiety when it comes to health, please be reassured than there is less sugar in this one than in a standard Christmas Cake recipe.

Moving on from the health aspect, because we aren't really eating Christmas cake for nutritional benefits, the figs here needed sherry.  I usually always use rum for my Christmas Cake; I even used white rum to make a lighter cake with dried mango, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg the same year for variation which was also very yummy; but as this is a chocolatey Christmas here on the blog - see Christmas Plum Pudding with Chocolate and Pecans, - and because this cake went down the best with visitors like the most luxurious fig roll they had ever eaten, rich and chocolatey and dark, I figured I had best share this one.  

This recipe is actually nut-free.  This is because we have little ones around and one of our close relatives can't manage them.  50g chopped pecans would be really luxurious, or 50g ground almonds would add marzipanny richness, or 50g chopped walnuts would be lovely with the figs and sherry flavours.

I like to make these around the 16th, ready for Xmas Eve and henceforth; I sometimes leave it too late and, while delicious, it doesn't cut as well and has to be fed to the mouth finger-pinch by finger-pinch in crumbs.

I also like to make them in 2lb loaf tins in a huge batch - they are easier to ice neatly (as you can see, I need all the advantage I can get with that) and easily packaged up in cellophane and ribbon to offer as gifts.  A full-sized loaf of Christmas Cake, especially a variation on the theme such as this one here, and especially if it becomes a routine gift so you vary it every year, tends to be well-received by even those who are usually reluctantly thankful for homemade gifts.

How I made this cake:

Monday, 14 December 2015

Festive Round-Up: Homemade Gifts


Looking for some quick and easy ideas for inexpensive homemade gifts?

Look no further!

Foodie Gifts




Gingerbread Shapes

Marzipan Stars:
roll fondant icing and golden marzipan on top of eachother until 5mm thick, dusting with sifted icing sugar if necessary to avoid it getting sticky.  Cut into stars.  Leave out on a wire rack for 24 hours to dry out.

Festive Chocolate Shapes: (use holiday cutters)



Craft Gifts















Lap/Pram Blanket: Stylish Striped Monochrome with Custom Edging (also know as "The Liqourice Allsorts Blanket")


This is a really gorgeous pattern, and it is so simple to make; it works up quickly while you watch TV.  The edging can be customised to match the recipient's decor or so that it is suitable for a new baby; this one in the picture is a gift for a friend's baby granddaughter.

When edged in baby colours like the one in the photo, the blanket becomes very reminiscent of Bertie Bassett; this makes it perfect to be matched with a box of sweeties for a nostalgic adult - edge in pink, blue or lemon for full effect!

As the pattern and monochrome is genderless it works wonderfully for self-conscious males too, and makes a crochet blanket suddenly seem like a gift they want to receive!

If you want to make a really festive stripe for a holiday blanket, you could swap the black and white for a deep red and green.

How I make it:

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Festive Sausage Rolls: Spinach and Lemon, Orange and Cranberry, and Apricot and Mint

Festive Sausage Rolls


We love sausage rolls here.  If party fare is required, then sausage rolls are inevitable. This Lincolnshire sausage mix from Asda is only£1 and, along with a 500g pack of puff pastry which is currently £1 at Asda, makes approximately 50.

Sausage rolls looking like pedestrians on a busy city street
Ok, so these homemade ones are twice the price of  a pack of Asda's party sized frozen sausage rolls. But mine are bigger than the mini shop version. And you could make smaller ones to match the price if you wanted; I prefer to offer a more generous bite.  These homemade ones do taste enormously better and have a much lovelier texture though.  I have served them countless times without meat-eaters noticing that they are meatless which saves arranging two types of nibble. You could of course use your own favourite type of sausagemeat and this would work out fine (though the little guys photographed here are less fatty than pork sausagemeat would be.)

Making them yourself also has the benefit of being able to add flavours.  I mix crumbled greens from my freezer or snip in a handful fresh spinach leaves, lemon juice and lemon zest into one batch.  A handful of dried chopped cranberries, orange juice and orange zest go into another.  A few snipped mint leaves and a handful of chopped dried apricots go into the final batch.

These feel so festive, being all seasonally-scented with citrus, and look it too, all studded with colour. I have found that a batch of the various flavours go down well as a foodie gift for family members who are not partial to sweet bakes - they can be wrapped up in just the same way; just keep them in the fridge and instruct the recipient to do likewise or to freeze them if they will not be eating them in the next couple of days.

How I make them:

Snow-Iced Cranberry Biscuits (another festive gift idea)


I've hummed and hawed over whether to call these cookies (attractively alliterative), shortbread (which sounds nicer than biscuit, but in actuality these treats do not have the slow-baked dry crumbly nature of shortbread), and eventually came to the conclusion that the texture bears most resemblance to the soft chewy and crisp-around-the-edge nature of a Shrewsbury Biscuit, and the "iced biscuits" of the school canteen and small cosy sweet-scented bakeries tucked away on the village high street....

In short, biscuit it is.

I love the cranberry speckle and the pretty frosted snowflake tops... they are even nicer to eat than look at (I had to have a sneaky try... it would be wrong to send an untested batch out into the world, wouldn't it?)

In cellophane packges, tied with ribbon, and a nice label, they are fantastic token gifts for teachers, youth group leaders and friends in the community.  It's the sort of gift a child can get involved in making for their own leaders and friends too; easy to make from scratch for keen or older bakers, or decorating for the younger ones.

Bonus Variation - Rainbow Chocolate
The Snow-Iced Cranberry Biscuits would look really pretty boxed up with some cookies decorated like these ones I found on Food Network to make a variety pack; simply make the recipe below minus the cranberries but add a drop or two of vanilla essence to the dough, and then top with melted white choc instead of icing sugar and sprinkle with coloured sugar strands instead of coconut.

Here is how we make our Snow-Iced Cranberry Biscuits:


Monday, 7 December 2015

Pulse Power (Part Two)


In Part One I covered the cheapest and most convenient pules; in Part Two I want to go over how to use pulses in cooking which will still be appreciated by the family.

I mentioned wooly red-lentil-bolognese in the last post.  Just pouring red lentils into a usual recipe will cause a wooly texture which although edible, and perhaps enjoyed by some, might not go down well with the family.  It is good to know which pulse will go nicely in a dish to help your purse, health and the planet.

Here are my favourite ways to mix them up:

Canny Christingle Marmalade (a nice festive gift)


Christingle is such a lovely service.  Festive carols and candlelight, what could be nicer?  Once the sweets have been munched on the way home, I gather up all of our oranges.  I check the fruit over for wax drips and give them a good wash and scrub.  They are then ready to be used for a jar or two of marmalade.

This is how I make marmalade:
(feel free to use any oranges you have... they don't have to have been a Christingle!)

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Pulse Power (Part One)

Split Yellow Pea and Rhubarb Curry with rice and Rhubarb Pear Chutney

Meat and alternative products can be costly.  Supplementing them at mealtimes with pulses is good for the purse, health and planet.  They are a good source of protein, so there is no need to worry about replacing chunks of animal protein with these "vegetables".

Easy Cowboy Beans
You could, of course, as I have often heard people advise, just throw red lentils into everything willy-nilly:  I am sure it will make a cheap filling and healthy meal.... but don't you sometimes want something a bit different to the usual lentil-heavy chilli? And what if the family just won't go for the new mealy woolly bolognese?  In Part Two I will post ideas about what to combine for interesting, tasty and easy family meals.

But for now... what if, like me, you have noticed the hiking cost of red lentils which were pennies only a handful of years go...?


Friday, 13 November 2015

The Best Card Games for Preschoolers


I have mentioned before that we play cards quite a lot in this house, and include it in my curriculum details for our home ed checks. (See free preschool curriculum here.)

A few kind people have gifted us several children's versions of card games over the years, such as Uno (basically Switch but with special designs instead of using ordinary playing cards) or playing cards in a larger size which just seemed to make a hand even more difficult to hold!  Some just had childish pictures on them.  We always come back to a straight playing deck.

Cards are great for helping numeracy in the early years, and continuing into later years with games of Fish and then 21.  The best thing about this activity is that unless you tell the kids that this is a "lesson" they would never know.  We enjoy card games sometimes on family evenings and occasionally the kids get them out in their own time.

Our favourite games for our preschoolers are:


Sunday, 8 November 2015

To Poppy, Or Not To Poppy


Today on Remembrance Sunday, the papers are not only full of Remembrance Day coverage but seem to be debating on whether or not to wear a poppy determines the sort of person you are i.e. good or bad.

I could never decide which to wear: the red for remembrance, the purple for all of the animal victims of war, or to wear the white poppy of peace. I am more inclined to wear the white, though the response to the possibility that the current Labour Leader might have worn a peace poppy, I wonder if it would be taken as an insult to some.

Anyway, I decided to give to each cause and crochet my own poppy declaring support for each of the issues. Unfortunately, last night when I was getting my things together to make leaving for Sunday service easier the next morning, I could not find it! Having turned many things upside down as quietly as possible at 11.30 last night I found myself hastily creating a replacement through sleepy-squint.

Red for remembrance of the human victims of war,
Purple for the animal victims of war,
White in hope of and supporting future peace.
I think the crochet poppy looks really cute, and am thinking of crocheting a little flower to keep permanently pinned to my collar. I had a couple of very kind compliments at church too, so I feel quite pleased with how it turned out despite slightly wonky work due to the late night crochet session!

As for the children... although I see a few wearing poppies and I remember them being sold at primary school twenty (or so) years ago... I would rather wait until my children can understand the issues and are able to take their own feelings into making a decision on whether to wear one or not.  I will happily crochet custom colours as long as my children are more organised than I am so I am not madly crocheting numerous versions in an annual Saturday midnight session!

Are you wearing a poppy, and if you are, what colour?

We still have 3 days before Armistice Day and so you still have time to make one...
This flower in whatever colours would also make a cute brooch to give as a gift.
The pattern was really simple and was as follows:

Saturday, 7 November 2015

State Savings



I have recently been reading and thinking about socially accepted views of the working class and social security or "benefits" as they have become known. (Chavs: the Demonization of the Working-Class by Owen Jones for reference: although no longer immediately current, it is still very significant in its updated edition; I always find his political articles very interesting reading and look forward to reading last year's The Establishment - And How They Get Away With It .)

As I stay at home to educate our children, have more than the generally accepted two children, and we are working class living in a relatively well-off area, I am fairly often reminded of the assumption we must be"on benefits".  Of course, the tax I paid when in work and that my husband continues to pay and that which we pay through purchases etc do not seem to be enough of a contribution.

Those casting aspersions are likely to also be recipients of the same rate of child benefit as us (it is for anyone earning less than 50k pa) but the occasional few seem to assume we must collect various other benefits from somewhere, though it is unclear what these mythical benefits actually are.

I am glad of state provision and know that should we need to rely on it e.g. NHS, social care, schooling, tax cuts, or financial aid, that it is available.  We do our bit to support it to help others also. Surely that is the point in tax and social security.

So perhaps others who "benefit" from state provision in whatever area, shouldn't be so hasty to cast aspersions for me not being in paid work in order to educate our own children...

Especially when you consider if I was to return to work on the minimum waged salary I would pay under 50k in tax over the period of 18 years...

 Though this article is 5 years old, it shows that at 2011 costs, each of my children will save the state at least just short of 50k.

In essence: the tax I would have paid if working for 18 years is equivalent to that saved by not using state education for just one of my children.


Thursday, 5 November 2015

Bonfire Night



Looking for some last minute Bonfire Night activities and recipes?

One of our majority readers from the U.S. and confused?

Look no further...!

Schooling

Bonfire Night Colouring and info

Ideas for Bonfire Night schooling activities

Main Meals

Sloshed Steak Stew

Barbecue Feast Pizza

Heritage Sausage Casserole

Cakes and Sweet Things

Bonfire Night Chocolate Cake with Treacle Cream

Root Beer Ginger Cake

Gingerbread

Gingerbread Cookie Dough Ice Cream

Jam Roly Poly

Victoriana Squash Pie

Heritage Sausage Casserole


This is one of the most comforting casseroles ever for me; a real autumn/winter warmer.  It brings back memories of cold evenings after school, overheating by the fire and staring at the TV with a plateful of this on my lap.  Back then, it was a simpler casserole: flour, stock, sausage and onion.  But that is all you need; the basic recipe to which you can add your own interpretation.  I still keep it simple; at this time of year we have pumpkin hanging around, or chunks of swede work well too; both make the meal feel really seasonal.  I sometimes think I have more sausages in stock than I do; in these cases, I cut the sausages into chunks and augment the vegetable component.  I also like to add a little herby warmth and digestion aid with a bay leaf and some thyme from the garden.  I like to serve it like I was always given it in childhood i.e. with chopped white cabbage and mashed potatoes, but it also goes very nicely in bowls with some bread to mop it up with.

How we make our Heritage Sausage Casserole:

Friday, 16 October 2015

Food Waste Week (bread): Squash Pie

Nutmeg and Almond Squash Pie
The pie above was a gorgeous and super easy version of my Victoriana Squash Pie, using (appropriately) acorn squash rather than butternut (pumpkin of course also works perfectly.) As much as I love American-style pies full of cinnamon and vanilla, I adore this English nursery style version with almond and nutmeg. 

This version of the pie evolved due to having only a wedge of squash left, and so the mixture becomes more of a set custard than the more breadcrumby variety of the Victoriana pie - in fact, this is more authentic (at least, in that American squash pies tend to be a set custard and Victorian nursery puds were often of the blancmange type.)  If you have more breadcrumbs than I did this time around i.e. a quarter of a slice of cream cheese and buttered white bread, then feel free to try the Victoriana recipe instead.  This version also has the advantage of being lower in sugar yet still being sweetly perfect.

This is how I made it:

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Food Waste Week (bread): Roasted Vegetable or Sweetcorn and Bean Enchiladas with Cheese


I wish I had a better photograph of this. It looked lovely in the dish.  It was so nice and I was so ready for my meal that I forgot all about taking a picture until there was only my youngest's still fairly untouched!  I caught it before the sweetcorn was gone and so everything else on the plate began to get some attention!


Cocoa and Bean Enchiladas
I have already posted a Cocoa and Bean Enchilada recipe on From Acorns. This is more of a cheat version, as well as a leftover version.
In this went some vegetables that had been roasted for the fajitas we had two evenings earlier.  There were only enough flour tortillas to have one per person in the enchilada dish, but that really is plenty - especially when it is topped with plenty of blitzed up cheese sandwich crusts and cream cheese sandwiches plus the handful of salted crisps that were leftover from that lunchtime...

(Though if you really wanted, you could add some potatoes to the plate.)

How I made it:

Food Waste Week (bread): Pineapple or Grapefruit and Coconut Dhal with Spiced Potatoes


I wanted to share a recipe in which I could prove that you can use leftover bread or crusts in pretty much whatever you are making.  The uneaten crusts of peanut butter sandwiches where blitzed to crumbs and mixed into this dhal. The peanut butter and bread were indistinguishable but were useful to thicken the stew and add a little extra creaminess - the protein of the peanuts did not go to waste.

I would usually use pineapple in this recipe.  However, when I went to the cupboard I realised there were no tins of it left.  We did have some grapefruit in syrup though.  I was a little sceptical things would work out, particularly as I am the only one in the house who likes grapefruit, but it went down beautifully.  Everyone cleared their plates and were none the wiser; the segments broke down into stew and the tangy syrup added a lovely undertone to it.  There has a half-eaten apple hanging around too, so that was peeled and chopped finely to complement the grapefruit and hopefully reach the light sweet sour tang and similar bite that the pineapple would have; it wasn't very much similar but no less pleasant.  The sultanas left on the table at lunch time went in - I mean, why throw them out just to add another handful from the packet to the next meal?

(As an aside, further leftovers of this dhal make an amazing cold sandwich filler, along with some cream cheese, spring onion and with or without walnuts and lettuce - either in bread or in a flour tortilla wrap - yum!)

Oh and I would have potatoes like this every single mealtime...

For the dhal:

Food Waste Week (Bread): Jam Roly Poly

Jam Roly Poly with Ice Cream

This gorgeous rib-sticking pud can be made with all flour or up to half of the flour quantity replaced with breadcrumbs. 

It might seem odd to make it with an unsweetened dough but the jam makes up for this and with added sugar, it would be far too sweet.

How we make it:

Friday, 9 October 2015

Food Waste Week (bread): Lazy Everyday Yeast Bread


Apologies for disappearing with my bread recipes on my self-declared food waste week.  Family circumstance saw it put on the back burner.  However, we are back and ready to retackle wasted bread products!

First of all: making the bread itself.  I touched on a thought of mine in my last post regarding wasted bread: perhaps when it is not the product of someone's own effort and time, the small cost of the waste from a mass-produced loaf might seem less significant at that moment it is tossed in the bin - and I speak for myself here. Homemade bread is tastier however and so is less likely to be left languishing in the cupboard but it is also cheaper than bought stuff.  You can use cheaper plain flour and more expensive bread flour in any ratio you like, bearing in mind that the plain flour gives a slightly cakier texture if still a very decent loaf.

I find that if I want to make bread without any added sugar at all, this is best achieved by using a packet of fast action yeast rather than the cheaper dried yeast; skip the frothing stage and mix it straight into the flour with the liquid then leave to rise until double - this will take a bit longer than it would with added sugar as the yeast has not been given an energy boost. More often though, I use the cheaper dried stuff.

I am quite a lazy person and so I discovered that rather than leaving the dough to rise a second time - the proving stage, that is - if I do not preheat the oven but set the oven at temperature and pop the bread in the oven straight away, then the oven heating up gives a speed-boost to the rise.  And when it comes to kneading, well I am often known to give it more like 2-3 minutes, and things still work out alright - basically, once the dough loses stickiness and becomes smooth, it will be ok.

This dough is what I use for pretty much any bread product: pizzas, flatbreads and rolls all turn out great with this recipe.

This is what I usually do:

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Free Pre-School Curriculum



I hope you can benefit from my research and its collation to produce a curriculum that fits in with everyday life, and is presentable to education welfare as proof of educational provision.

See this post for activities and resources that I find most helpful.

I find that for this curriculum to work, I do not have to plan and structure beyond if siblings are scheduled maths, then tot sits with playing cards or buttons or Numtum colouring sheets for at least 10-15 minutes, then goes off to play or look at picture books as is tot's wont.  Things like crafts, and so using scissors and junk modelling, is an activity the children all often choose to do in their own time so does not require scheduling into the timetable.

You can simply adjust things such as the rhyme/story times to insert any groups you attend (although these are run nation-wide at public libraries) such as toddler groups or your own visits to the library/children's centres etc.

Free Pre-school Curriculum

Food Waste Week: Bread


Ok, I know I have already posted ideas on food waste. But this morning, I was faced with an article claiming that the Office for National Statistics found that 1 in 5 households in the UK waste a whole loaf of bread every week.  There is a poem that springs immediately to mind.  It comes from one of my favourite kitchen books, More with Less Cookbook edited by Doris Longacre.

Be gentle 
when you touch bread.
Let it not lie
     uncared for, unwanted
So often bread
is taken for granted.
There is so much beauty
     in bread -
Beauty of sun and soil,
Beauty of patient toil.
Winds and rains have caressed it
     Christ often blessed it.
Be gentle
     when you touch bread.
 - Author unknown

Perhaps this bread the ONC calls attention to is often the stuff in which the figurative or literal blood and sweat that has gone into it's creation is hidden; someone else has done the work.  Perhaps in these cases, the thinking is... well £1.50 (max) vs. actually doing something with it....?

My first suggestion, in cases of homemade or bought, is prevention vs. cure: Put your bread straight into the freezer.  If you can get into the habit of slicing it and then storing it in the freezer immediately after it is made/brought home then there is no chance of it languishing in the cupboard and being forgotten about until it is too late and breeding its own green fluffy ecosystem.  It really only takes minutes for an individual slice to thaw, less if you butter up and add the filling as this speeds up the thawing.  You can make up sandwiches from frozen bread in the morning, and they will certainly have thawed by lunch time, having the bonus of keeping your filling chilled.

Look out for recipes and more ideas during the week....

Please feel free to share any tips you have for combatting bread waste...

Friday, 18 September 2015

Root Beer Ginger Cake and Cleaning the Bathroom

Ginger Cake, Gingerbread... whatever... it's yummy!
Last weekend, we had an American Football party to watch the first game of the season (husband is a big fan and now the kids love it.)  This basically meant junk food to eat. I did, however, warn them not to expect it every week!  We had sorta-ribs, chicken dippers, homemade cheese dip and sour cream dip, tortilla chips, BBQ pretzels, baby corn and sugar snaps, homemade cookie dough ice cream, and gave root beer a try for the first time... Once I got over the Savlon/Germolene flavour of root beer, it became quite a nice drink that especially works with spicy food (perhaps that's the numbing anti-septic cream type effect at work...)  Two of the kids really didn't like the root beer so the next morning I had two opened almost-full cans.

Realising the same principle as applies to cola should be so with root beer, I used one of the leftover cans to clean the toilet bowl. Wow it sparkled!  Same effect as using soda crystals (sodium carbonate) that I would normally use, but less powder and somehow really satisfying to be cleaning it with pop. (edited to add: it brought the bathroom sink up a treat too!)

It was equally satisfying to pour the same ingredient I successfully cleaned a toilet with into a cake that turned out just as, if not more so, successful.  It really felt gloriously trashy to pour a can of pop into cake batter and did not quite expect the gorgeous moist beautifully flavoured gingerbread above.  I am afraid I still call all ginger cakes "gingerbread" due to early indoctrination and so now so do my kids.  Either way... point is... the ointment hit is dulled and leaves an ever so slight sarsaparilla element which gives this such an old-fashioned flavouring when mixed with the warm ginger and spicy cinnamon.  It also has the advantage a standard gingerbread has in that it gets moister as it matures over a few days to give that traditional sticky texture.  Even though it is great as it is with a cup of tea, coffee or milk after a meal, it is great with ice cream or custard as a proper pud too -you could reheat the slices if you want to do the latter but it works fine straight from the cupboard too.

Anyway, here is what we did:

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Pre-School Curriculum Activities

Happy Autumn!

The air here really has gathered a cooler damper chill, particularly in the mornings.  I love it.  I am always ready for the new season by the time it comes around.  (By ready I mean I am glad for it, not necessarily practically organised!)

We have simplified our timetable for this term.  This not only helps me, but it means that my older ones are able to organise themselves more.  I have put the timetable on display so that the kids can take responsibility for themselves and know that, for example, get maths out now and continue until 11 every morning before moving onto writing.  Making days have the same structure as much as possible makes it easier for them to remember and follow - less time with everyone bumbling about looking for what they should be doing and waiting for me to instruct each individual through every step.

My tot is now of an age where if being cared for in nursery or by a childminder, a curriculum would be required.  For home ed council inspections, I figured I should draw one up.  It turned out to be an interesting task to research the national curriculum and milestones for tot's age, because it turns out that it is what I, and I would imagine most involved parents with common sense, have been doing anyway.  It meant the curriculum involved drawing up things we already do.   It has been good to read other blogs on this, such as Proverbs31Woman's preschool curriculum, for new ideas too.  In the spirit of this I thought I would share some activities that we enjoy in our house (and look out for the upcoming curriculum - edited to add, free pre-school curriculum now posted here):