Saturday, 31 July 2010

Jam tarts

What do you do when you have nothing sweet to eat in the house? You get Nathaniel to cook you something!

We had some pastry left over from Nimmy's (the house-elf) amazing gooseberry meringue pie, so Nathaniel and I settled down this morning to make jam tarts. I was really surprised at how well he managed! Rolling the pastry proved very difficult, which was odd considering how much rolling of things he's done recently.

But cutting the tarts and putting them in the pan went extremely smoothly.

The best bit is adding the jam. Nutmeg today - the sweetest concoction known to man.

It does tend to descend into jam smearing.....

And then it's only a short wait while they "coo(k) innnn ho(t) ov. Wai(t) for beep beep. Coo(l) downnnn".

Not bad considering how little help was provided!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010


Maybe it's because there are three adults in the house at the minute, maybe he's just got to that stage, but suddenly things are making a lot more sense.

There are some final consonants: you get "downnnnnn" from the "tay-dul".

Many things have got more than one syllable: we play with "war-ta" and "puh-zul(s)". I am "Mummy" (at last!) and Nimmy is "Arn Nin". There is also the mysterious "Gra-Ja onnn la(p)-to(p)"

And we hear about some wonderful things:

"Ca-va pullll bow o(n) tray-tray back to hayng hub"
"Daddy han bow in gra"
"Arn Nin no(t) here, gone da-ing"
"Plu pie in mouf, bie and swa-oh"
"Bu bee gone ou-hide"
"Arn Nin dri Da milk!"
"Ke-ul too ho(t). Coo down"

Sometimes, when you ask, Nathaniel will tell you what he did at Nursery that day. Normally "Nie day nur-nur. Innn garden. Innnn cars"

There are many requests that we hear on a regular basis:

"Ree bear boo(k) on hoha?"
"Hash shoes on?"
"Pi(ck) broa(d) beans?"

And there are some things that we should never have said in front of him:

"Eeee ca-van"
"Nie" (after any loud emmision)

[Translations for those bits you didn't get: The caravan will pull the boat on the trailer back to the sailing club, Daddy is sanding the boat in the garage, Aunt Nimmy isn't here, she has gone dancing, Plum pie in mouth, bite and swallow, The buzzy bee has gone outside, Aunt Nimmy is drinking Daddy's milk!, The kettle is too hot, it will cool down, Read the bear book on the sofa?, Flashing shoes on?, Evil caravan"

Monday, 26 July 2010

A little camping

In general, I have a habit of feeling that if you are going to do something, you might as well do it properly. But what "properly" actually is can sometimes get a bit lost. It doesn't necessarily have to involve quantity, or duration, or every aspect. Sometimes its about chosing the experience and doing it without trying to cram too much in. It's amazing what toddlers can teach you!

So this weekend we did a little bit of camping. Not a long weekend in spectacular scenery, just one night in a small campsite in the Moors where we had once spent a very misty weekend. Even the journey there would have been enough. We took the best road, over the moors through Hutton-the-Hole and Rosedale Abbey, up silly roads with ninety degree turns on double-arrowed hills. We crossed inumerable cattle grids (always the mark of a good road), and drove through miles of purple heather that was busy encroaching onto the tarmac. We had to stop for sheep (and to turn the stupid explorer map inside out), and to see the view which was of gently corrugated, rough, high land stretching as far as the eye could see, broken only occasionally by a strategically placed tree in silhouette. Marvellous.

The campsite was just as we had expected - tiny, with no real facilities but very friendly hosts. We had the orchard - a square of bumpy land housing a crab apple tree. Just enough room for two tents on a slope.

Nathaniel charmed our hosts by being very curly and very blonde and very happy. He explored and walked up and down the hill and requested company to visit the chickens and the ducks. He wandered in and out of tents and explored sleeping bags and zips and bags. He spent a happy time playing with all of Nimmy's belongings as she sorted out her tent.

The sun shone, and we were in no rush to do anything. I had a whole host of walks prepared, ranging from bimbles to hikes, but instead we drove to Grosmont. We didn't walk to the waterfall or along the rail trail or into the woods, we just saw the trains.

And they were good trains!

Nathaniel was so excited that he became very serious and carefully pointed out the wheels, the steam, the tracks, the station clock. He was very clear, on departure of the afternoon's penultimate train, that there should be more trains. So we waited for more trains.

The trains were sometimes rather loud and he wasn't entirely sure the whole time. In the picture below, he's clinging onto the carrier hood and his little legs are all tensed and drawn back!

When the train was about to go and we stood right by the engine, we saw and heard and felt the pressurised steam vent into the air. It was a bit overwhelming, but Nathaniel was clear that he wanted to stay and watch.

He was a very happy little boy.

That evening, we debated whether the campsite was in a valley destined for bad weather as the unforecast rain started to hiss on our fire. The orchard came to our rescue and Nimmy and Ian rigged a bivouac so that we could toast marshmallows and be warm whilst still being outside.

After striking camp at a leisurely pace, and watching the chickens and ducks eating their breakfast, we headed into Whitby to reintroduce Nathaniel to the sea. It was probably just as well that the swing bridge was closed and that we were stranded on the tacky side of the estuary. There was no option of walking up to the Abbey and wandering around the little cobbled backstreets. We just purchased fish and chips (much to Nathaniel's delight), and took them to the beach.

The Magpie is probably the most famous fish and chip shop in North Yorkshire, and every time we have passed it, there has been a queue down the street. It's the sort of place where the council have been compelled to mark the pavements to show where you should wait. We got take away, and it was okay. Not as good as the Helmsley option, and not in the same league as Mr Stein himself.

Then we did our best impression of British holiday-makers. We weren't sure how Nathaniel was going to react to sand. In the past, he has not been keen, and won't touch the stuff in other children's sandpits. He wasn't immediately enamoured. His little toes curled right up!

But we ran down to the sea, and the fun really began.

How many pictures does it take to convey giggling and skrieking and laughing and grinning and jumping and splashing and "more waves, more waves, more waves"?!

And then there are acres of open sand on which to practice a silly walk.

Three small things - tents in an orchard, a steam train, the sea. (And of course, the sun.) A great weekend.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Little Houses

This weekend, Nathaniel has become very interested in dens. He has had many in the past, but this time, he curled up in them and played independently for ages and ages.

The first was under his table. He took up residence, asked for the trap walls to be placed around each side, and we passed in various toys and household items that were retrieved by a little hand and then carefully placed in a line and played with one by one.

This afternoon, a house on the sofa was constucted. He sat in here and read books and did some excitable leg thrashing!

He refers to his den as his "li how", which adds to the number of "li howes" that he now recognises including the sailing club wendy house ("hay-ing hub li how"), his dolls' house ("boiy li how") and a rather pretty detached house that we sometimes pass on the way to the shop!

Fruit picking

We have all been enjoying the summer fruits now that they have eventually ripened, and the appearance of raspberries, blueberries and even still strawberries have lead to many puddings consisting of fruit, crushed meringue and ice cream.

So this weekend, on a typically british saturday morning (ie drizzle), we went raspberry-ing at a local pick-your-own. Nathaniel was rather taken by the idea, especially when he discovered that it combined his favourite activities of going in the car, wearing wellies and eating raspberries. He was even happier when he discovered that there was a basket to carry!

We were totally convinced by the idea when we tasted our first raspberry and recalled that pick-your-own fruit resembles in no way the punnets that you buy at the supermarket. It was delicious!

We were heading back to the "shed" to pay for our fruit when we saw the magic word: broad beans. So we headed back out past the amazing cylindrical ripening blackberries and past the red and black currants (very tempting), to the broad beans. None of us really knew what a broad bean plant looked like (how city are we?!), so we had great fun chosing and harvesting our bean pods. Nathaniel found it rather hard to detach the pod from the plant, but enjoyed shelling the beans and putting them in the bag. He was noticably confused when I insisted that he bagged the pod as well as the beans. The business case for paying for the heavy bit that you don't eat was rather lost on him!

That afternoon we ate a lot of raspberries and had fun freezing them so that we'll have a ready supply for months!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Rain and rain and rain and rain and rain....

This week was the annual YRISC Ullswater trip and to make it extra fun, we persuaded Nimmy and Mikey to come too. What they didn't realise was that the forecast was for a little precipitation!

The journey was wonderful - bright sun, far too hot - generally very nice, until we dropped over the other side of the Pennines and saw the leaden skies ahead. Nevertheless, the rain held off so that we could pitch the tents and have a good run around. Nathaniel greatly enjoyed the amount of space in our own private field and the opportunities for flying and zooming!

Because we got to this campsite every year, and its never been a choice, I've never really noticed how much nicer it is than a lot of British campsites. I always complain that American campsites are much better than the typical British field, but actually the Ullswater one is lots of very small fields, so you are always surrounded by trees. We had the overflow field to ourselves, so we spread ourselves out (and the sensible people avoided the tents containing the under-5s) and put up the gazebo in the middle.

It was just as well that we did have the gazebo, because as soon as we had sourced fish and chips, the rain started. Gently at first, but with no sign of letting up.

It starts!

By the next morning, it was apparent that our hopes of craziness on the part of the Met Office were silly, and in fact they had made a totally accurate forecast. So with at 24 hours of rain ahead of us, we climbed into dinghy suits and other waterproofs and prepared for a damp day.

We were just trying to decide whether hanging round in the marina or walking were better rainy options for small children, when it became apparent that Nathaniel's waterproofs were no longer waterproof. The moral of this story is that Muddy Boots branded clothes are not worth their extortionate price!

So we bundled into the car and headed for Keswick for some essential shopping. Keswick is a rally pretty little town, and if it weren't for the tired child, I think we could have spent many hours (and probably many pounds), bimbling round outdoor equipment shops.

By the time that we had got back to the campsite, eaten some lunch, waited for Nathaniel to wake up, and let him eat some lunch, it was chilly, very wet, and everyone was a bit miserable! Some people napped, and Nathaniel and I played rowdy tent games and "drove" the car. It's amazing how much time can be spent putting on the lights, turning on and off the radio, and generally changing every setting in the car! There was playing in the rain in the new waterproof waterproofs and wellies.

The others started returning from the their wet sailing, and we hurriedly dispatched a group to Penrith for additional gazebo supplies. When they returned, we coined a new transitive verb, gazebare, which refers to the act of covering grass with gazebo, and made important A-team-like adjustments with clothes pegs, gaffer tape and cardboard to create a complicated three-gazebo fort. Then we put lots of fire under it and hoped for the best!

The barbeque is always a high point of the trip. Many barbeques, lots of food, many beers and wines and general frivolity! No-one got burnt (except some rather carcenogenic sausages), the smoke somehow managed to escape our fort, and Nathaniel sat happily in his chair, positioned carefully so that he could watch and be warmed by the fire as well as observe all his very silly friends trying to cook their feast.

All our efforts were rewarded when the rain slowed to a drizzle, and in stages, the sun came out. Bedtimes were forgotten and a great game of football/frisbee was initiated. Toys and bikes came out and there was much rejoicing! Nathaniel spent a good hour following around Mikey (aged 5) and his remote control, flashing lighted, car. We're not sure whether Nathaniel ever understood that Mikey was controlling the car's direction, but he had great fun chasing it round, and Mikey was very understanding when Nathaniel insisted in picking it up and examining it carefully. There was also lots of time to teach Nimmy important skills in water-play.

It's very hard to take a photo of a football game!

The rain had not gone. We paid for our evening of fun with a night of gale force winds (they sounded that bad from the tent) and lashing rain. I'm not sure anyone slept that well.

The next morning, Nimmy, Mikey (the elder), Nathaniel and I set off on a drizzly walk, leaving Ian to nurse a damaged toe and to pick us up from the end! It was a fine walk across moorland, through proper woods (not silly plantations) and over humocky hilsides to Aira Force, a series of waterfalls.

It was a tad drizzly!

Nimmy enjoyed alien things such as sheep, churches on hills and ferns (you don't get these in North Carolina), and Mikey (who crazily volunteered to be Nathaniel's packhorse) introduced Nathaniel to the different types of wood you find in forests, and a new game entitled "more speed!". It was a really good walk - just long enough, but not actual hard work. Enough to make us feel properly alive after wimping out of the rain the day before.

As we walked across the last bit of hillside, the sun started to appear and Nimmy eventually saw the top of the mountains that we had been raving about.

It's hard work being carried around and generally entertained!

We spent some time in the marina while Ian did some topper sailing and Nathaniel learnt about paddling and returned to the campsite to remember what camping was all about: sitting around in the sun on rugs, drinking tea, and generally being relaxed.

General happiness in the sun

We had a good night's sleep in almost silent conditions and met the morning with bacon sandwiches and a very exciting tractor!

It was generally agreed that despite the rain, it had been a good camping trip. We spent most of the journey back trying to work out what we could have left behind in order to make more room in the car and planning the next adventure!

NB Mikey, the other photos are here:
Ullswater 2010