You, Me and Teddy

Parenting adventures and activities in and around Neuchâtel, Switzerland.


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JOB VACANCY:STAY AT HOME PARENT

I might add event organiser and hotel manager but pretty spot on!

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APPLICANTS PLEASE APPLY WITHIN…




After almost 30 years of working whilst raising a family I decided to become a stay at home mum…our seventh child is expected shortly and I will not be returning to work after her birth.

I’ve never applied for the job but if I did this is what I would expect the qualification stipulations to be based on the actions I myself have partaken in as a parent that has already and continues to have the experience of six growing children.
Absolutely big up to all parents that juggle work alongside parenthood…this reiterates the fact that you have multiple jobs.
For others that are stay at home parents, your job role is as listed above.
We all have the vocation of motherhood….

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Introducing New Foods

I like offal: liver, kidney, sweetbreads. I am big on seafood as well including whelks and winkles. Scottish black pudding beats English black pudding hands down and Haggis is delicious.

I was brought up on “interesting” cuts of meat none of which I considered odd until I reached secondary school at 11 and people started eeeeeeeeeewing everything. Then I turned veggie for a while but that’s another story.

Unfortunately hubby is a little less adventurous than me. I mean he’ll try everything, which I applaud, but we have had a few, albeit rare, dashes to the bin for things he considers too revolting. There aren’t many things I haven’t been able to stomach in life; I can list them all on a couple fingers:

  • Jellyfish – It was just like eating rubber and I couldn’t figure out how to take a bite or even swallow it.
  • Tripe – I reckon I’ll try it again at some point but cooked in a clear broth was just too much texture for me on a first try.

I haven’t had to try many insects yet. I’ve eaten ants (in chocolate) but I don’t know how I would react to deep fried locust for example. I’d like to think I’d give them a go. I know a lot of it is mental and perception can definitely influence how we taste things but its hard to override your brain.

Fried crickets

Fried crickets

Now, I’m not saying you should like everything. I don’t really like onion, for example, and frogs legs can hop on. But its all about being open to new flavours. Did you know that children may need to be offered a new food as many as 10-15 times before they will eat it?

Probably, like a lots of things, there are tastes best acquired at a young age. One study showed that repeated taste exposure can increase liking for certain food products in young children.

This is why I am on a mission to introduce my kids to as many flavours as I can before they learn from their peers that somethings “shouldn’t” be eaten.

This week we had tongue. Ox tongue cooked in broth with carrots, celery, onions and boiled potatoes is one of my favorite childhood dishes. It is super easy to cook: Firstly you clean the tongue thoroughly and then you pop it in a large pot. Chop up 3 to 4 carrots in to batons, 3 sticks of celery into batons, one onion into chunks. Add all the veg to the pot with the celery leaves, 6 peppercorns and a bay leaf and then just cover all with some stock. Then you cook the tongue until the skin can be peeled off easily. This can take a few hours so I tend to pop it on at low temperature when I go out for the afternoon. While I am peeling the tongue I add my potatoes to cook in the stock. Then I slice the tongue and re add it to the broth to warm it before serving.

Tongue has an acquired texture but it has a great taste plus it is really easy for the kids to eat. I was determined that the kids would like it, and not snub it like their Dad, so I pulled out the big guns: the paint palate plates that I’ve shown you before. The trick is to make it as colourful as possible to make it more appealing!

tongue

Success! The plates were spotless and no complaints. M even had second servings of tongue.

What foods do you eat that others might consider odd? How adventurous are you with new flavours?

 


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The Apples Are Ready!

Today while I was attempting to tame the garden, and prevent my little boy from eating the rotten apples under the tree, I noticed that they were finally ripe as the healthy ones were starting to drop.

I quickly scooped up a bowl and with the help of E picked the remaining apples off the tree. I reckon we have about 5 kilos in total so not amazing but certainly good enough to do some baking. I have no idea what sort of apples they are but have a pinkish tinge and they turn to purée when cooked. I believe they are something related to a Duchess of Oldenburg apple thanks to this very useful website called the Orange Pippin but I’m no expert.

apples

This week I saw a brilliantly easy Apple and Sage Sausage Roll recipe posted by The Peachicks Bakery, a blog which specialises in dairy, soya and egg-free recipes. I do not have any need for specialist recipes but the lovely lady who runs it keeps her baking appealing to all. This recipe actually popped up on her Facebook page and I loved the idea so decided to give it a try with my new apples.

I adapted Midge’s recipe slightly to our ingredients, for instance, the closest we can get to British sausages is a a Saucisse Vaudoise, but this comes rolled in a spiral as one extra long sausage.

Firstly I made my apple sauce by peeling and chopping my apples and placing them in a large saucepan with enough water to cover half. Then I cooked them on a medium heat until they were soft and pureed. If your apples remain firm you could always puree them in a blender but it is nice to leave a little bit of texture in my opinion.

Sausage rolls
Ingredients
  •  2 Saucisses Vaudoises (or any sausage/sausage meat you like)
  • 10 sage leaves
  • 1 cup apple sauce
  • 1 roll of puff pastry
  • 1 beaten egg
sausage rolls
Instructions
  • Preheat oven to 220°C (200°C fan oven).
  • Firstly lay out your pastry and up it in half lengthways down the middle so you have two long strips.
  • Then spread the apple sauce on the pastry.
  • Tear the sage leaves and sprinkle on top.
  • Place the sausages on the pastry and roll them up into long rolls. Press the join together with your fingers.
  • Cut the long rolls to desired lengths and lay out on a non-stick baking sheet.
  • Lightly brush with beaten egg.
  • Place in oven for 25-30 minutes.

The preparation was simple enough that E could help which she loves and we served them for dinner very simply with some green beans (and ketchup for the addicts). The kids wolfed them down and even came back for more.dinner

They were really delicious, fabulously easy and all I can really say is thank you very much to Midge at the Peachicks Bakery!


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Eureka!

I did it! I managed to create a decent substitute to Heinz baked beans!

baked beans and spud side
After promising baked beans and spuds for dinner panic stations hit when I realised I was totally out of supplies.

Now E is a pretty stubborn creature and, while she is a good eater, trying to get her to agree to a dinner which isn’t pasta based (her current absolute “favourite food in the whole wide world”) can be tricky sometimes. I was over the moon when she said she’d happily have baked potatoes without any argument.

There was no time to get to the shops. M was napping and besides the potatoes were already in the oven. Hmmm… I would have to improvise.

Looking in my cupboard I discovered I had: tinned tomatoes. Check. And, yes, tinned cannellini beans. Hoorah!

So here is my recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 10 sage leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic or 1/2 a teaspoon of dried garlic
  • 400g tinned tomatoes
  • 50ml water
  • 800g drained and rinsed tinned cannellini beans (you could also cook dried beans)
  • 2 small tablespoons of low salt & sugar ketchup

Instructions

  • Heat the oil and fry the crushed garlic on a low to medium heat.
  • Add the tomatoes and sage.
  • Heat through and add the water.
  • Blitz the lot with a hand held blender (my absolute favourite kitchen gadget) and bring to a simmer.
  • Add beans and the ketchup (to give some of that authentic “Heinz” taste) and heat through.

beans in pan

It wasn’t the real deal but it was similar enough not to cause a fuss. You could probably get closer in taste by adding more ketchup but I think it was much tastier as it was, not to mention more nutritious!

It was so quick and simple to make and I will certainly be doing this in future rather than buying the beans ready prepared.

kiddie beans

Hope you are all well and having better weather than we are here.


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London Baby!

This past year we have made a real effort to visit our family based in London regularly so that they can see the children growing up. They change so quickly at this age and I feel a little guilty that maybe we didn’t visit enough when E was very small.

Our 10 day visit was, however, packed this time with plenty of self indulgent activities. We arrived Friday as that Saturday I had been given tickets for Wimbledon. I love watching live sport and tennis has always been a favourite of mine even if I play pretty badly. We popped down to the local farmer’s market that morning with the kids and picked up supplies for a picnic. The farmers markets have increasingly more popular over the past few years and I love to visit when we are in town. To take part all the producers must come from within 100 miles of the M25 (not many farms in Central London) but they also sell products that you can not find anywhere else. Everything is seasonal and sometimes they do things as a one off. For instance that Saturday we found gorgeous Scotch Eggs (with the yolk still runny) but the following week this particular producer was doing Salt Beef instead.

We left the kids for the day with Grandpa and headed off to Southfields.  It was drizzling when we arrived and we headed straight for our seats. Typical British weather… We were actually lucky to have play that day as we were under centre court’s roof – it rained all day long! There was an amazing line up: our first match was Nadal followed by Sharapova and finishing with our home team star player: Federer. Yes, we brought our flags.

I also haven’t mentioned the fact that it was People’s Saturday meaning that the Royal Box was filled with sport’s stars rather than royalty. We jokingly took pictures of ourselves with the box in the background so we could say we had had our picture taken with Victoria Pendleton, Tom Daley, Beckham, Amy Williams or Sir Bobby Charlton (to name some of the biggest household names). Despite the bad weather we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and treated ourselves to a wee bottle of champagne before we started on our picnic.

Wimbledon

Play didn’t continue till very late that evening and we headed back to discover that the children had managed to amass a lifetime supply of sweets and chocolate as they had spent the day at a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Event which included a chocolate raisin river and candy trees. They had had had a lovely day and a very proud Grandpa informed me how M had been in heaven crawling along this chocolate raisin river eating them one by one… I can only say well done Grandpa and I’m glad I didn’t have to deal with that sugar high! It is amazing some of the things that go on in London. Its another world compared to Switzerland sometimes.

fountains and birds

There are some pretty great days out in London for the kids. Sometimes we stay simple and just explore like when we went to the Duke of York Square and E played in the fountains or when we went for a picnic and M chased the birds.

funfair

A funfair in Battersea Park – the view from the top of the Ferris Wheel.

One day I took them to Battersea Park. Battersea Park is just south of the river and relatively small but it is a brilliant place to take kids. It often plays host to funfairs and has an enormous playground for all ages. There is also a zoo, bike rental and a duck pond with pedalos (paddle boat to the non-Brits) and rowing boats.

It was a beautiful day (sod’s law after the weekend) and we rented a bike from London Recumbents called a Nihola. It is a Scandinavian design bike with a seating area in front of the handle bars for two children. This is fab as it means you can keep an eye on them, unlike with the trailer system I have on my bike at home, and it certainly feels safer in traffic. The kids loved being peddled around and I enjoyed watching the world go by. We spotted a statue by Barbara Hepworth on the other side of the pond and signs that a funfair had recently been there but was sadly now packing up. I certainly got my exercise for the day!

bike ride

After our bike ride we went to Battersea Park Zoo. It is only a small one but I think it is better for it as it is never very crowded and its easy to keep an eye on the children meaning they can run wild. It is London prices though and cost us £6.50 for E and £8.75 for myself (M begin under 2 was free). We had our lunch in the café which does a great pick-and-mix lunch box offer for children and E even managed to somehow charm a free ice-cream off the girl working there. The staff are lovely there!

M is animal-obsessed at the moment and was running in all directions pointing and going “ooooh” while E was busy going in the other direction following the painted caterpillars or footprints on the floor. As I said: I’m glad it wasn’t crowded. It is actually a similar size to the zoo near us up in La Chaux-de-Fonds but much more interactive.

At one stage we crawled through a tiny tunnel to find ourselves peering through a bubble in the middle of a Meerkat enclosure. Once we had seen all the animals we found ourselves in the zoo’s playground. The playground there is kiddie paradise. There is a giant sandpit with mechanical toys, playhouse, trampolines, tractor, firetruck (complete with helmets) and the usual playground paraphernalia. Needless to say that evening they slept well.

zoo playground

By the time the weekend rolled around again it was time for another parent treat as we had tickets for the Monty Python Live (mostly) show. It was great to get to see the old boys (and gal – Carol Cleveland). For the most part it was old sketches but some new bits had been added in especially to the “penis song” which had two extra verses about vaginas and bottoms added which they put up the lyrics for so we could all join in. There was also a rather glitzy dance element added to the show to give it some extra energy – it was these men and women who, for example, performed the “Ministry of Silly Walks” sketch as Cleese is, unsurprisingly, no longer able to do it. I am glad I got to see the Python (minus one) and albeit not in their heyday. It is definitely something I will be proud to tell the children when they are old enough to know what Monty Python is!

monty python

It was a lovely week for all of us and I do sometimes miss London despite being happy to live here.


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Goodbyes

A couple of weeks ago we kidnapped some tadpoles from the forest and took them home to try and teach the kids a little about growth and a frog’s lifecycle. This week we returned them home now frogs.

I remember clearly having tadpoles in my Preparatory class at school when I was about 4 years old and watching them grow into frogs. I don’t even know if it is allowed any more in schools. Someone told me something about health and safety a few years ago, I never checked the claim, however for me the experience was magical and when we came across the tadpoles in their hundreds in the pond I couldn’t resist borrowing a few for a little science experiment for the kids at home.

We started off by doing some research into how to give our froggy guests the best home we could. I knew that we needed a container but I didn’t know how big. My research suggested that you needed 1 litre of water for 5-10 tadpoles and we had 7. Unfortunately if you put too many in a confined space they start to eat each other (a bit like goldfish). The research also suggested giving them some sheltered space where they can hide, some plants like grass or weeds so that they can nibble the roots and something they can climb out on as once they are in the frog stages they need to come out the water or they will drown.

Initially I used a pyrex dish we found some pebbles, dug up some grass from the garden (which we rinsed), and used a stacking cup to give them some shelter. We could use the water directly from the tap but if you live in an area where they chlorinate the water you’ll need to either use bottled water or get some dechlorinating tablets from the pet shop. Our little tadpoles seemed relatively happy in there and we fed them on finely chopped over-boiled lettuce. I took care not to give them too much as I didn’t want the water getting dirty but, generally, they seemed to eat about a teaspoon a day.

tadpoles first home

As they started to grow their arms (and legs) I realised that we would probably need a container with higher walls so that our frogs didn’t escape. Luckily my hubby managed to borrow the work fish tank for us, as their goldfish had recently passed away, but you could just use a bucket.

new home for tadpoles

We loved watching the tadpoles develop. At 3 E is very close to the age I was when I was enchanted by the tadpoles but, to my surprise, M was too at only 15 months. Every time we would take any visitors to see our froggy enclosure he would point at them and quack (I think that M believes all pond creatures quack).

tadpole timeline

They did seem to develop at different rates but I guess they must have come from separate spawns. We had our first frog after about 2 weeks. While still young and having a black sheen, rather than the mottled green he later developed, he would attempt to scale the sides. I was very happy about having the fish tank as images of a frog infested house, and random croaks coming from the bathroom, kept springing to mind.

The other tadpoles developed at a similar rate (luckily as you need to decrease their food once they have legs as they ingest their own tails) and suddenly we had an “army” of young frogs – that does sounds very odd but the collective noun for frogs is “army” apparently… It was time to send our boys home.

We took them back up to the forest in jam jars trying not to shake them as much as possible. Frogs are very sensitive to movement. The forest is currently in”periode des naissances” (birthing season). All the young wild creatures are generally born between April 15th and June 30th and so we were greater with numerous warning and were extra careful to remind the children of the Rules of the Forest:

  • No Cars
  • Cyclists must stick to the paths
  • Try not to pick the flowers
  • Dogs should stay on leads to avoid scaring away wildlife
  • Dead wood is dangerous
  • The forest, while fun, can be dangerous
  • Take all litter away with you

tadpole swarm

Finally we reached the pond and saw that it was still full of frogspawn who were once again clustering in the same spot. We let our frogs go and said our good byes.

froggy goodbyes

M was seriously in awe of the whole experience, now being able to totter along and touch everything, rather than having to stay sat in his pushchair. His little finger was pointing and big “ooooohs” were fairly frequent as he wanted to make sure we saw every interesting thing he spotted. E is still unsure what to make of her increasingly mobile brother but she seemed happy enough and enjoyed feeding the ducks at the pond (an activity that M is less taken with for now).

little boy exploring

There will definitely be more trips back to the frog pond in the near future but we will not be disturbing them by taking them home again.

Hope you are all keeping well.


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Parc National Suisse

Just a quick one but the Swiss National Park is currently running a mini exposition at the Maladière Centre this week. It ends tomorrow but I would recommend doing your weekend shop there with the kids as they have some pretty cool mechanical origami structures of different animals which my 2 adored.

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Most of the structures are Swiss animals:

frog

But others are less so:

dino

They also have some Zeotropes which you will remember from your childhood as the spinning cylinder with slits in the side that produces a moving image. I was so thrilled that E got to see one of these as I remember them from my childhood and haven’t seen one since. Who knows we may try creating our own next!