You, Me and Teddy

Parenting adventures and activities in and around Neuchâtel, Switzerland.


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La Fête Nationale

Did you know that today is Swiss National Day?

This means it is a national holiday and everything is closed in preparation for the festivities tonight (well, not entirely true, some towns celebrated last night and are nursing their hangovers today)! Neuchâtel’s 1st of August celebrations, however, take place tonight and I’m looking forward to it. The Swiss may be pretty straight-laced and rule bound most of the time but when it comes to organised events they sure know how to let their hair down.

Swiss National Day has been celebrated as the 1st of August since 1891. The date was chosen for a couple reasons. The main one that every one quotes is the fact that the Federal Charter of 1291 was signed at the beginning of august. This was when the first 3 cantons (Uri, Schwytz, Nidwald) signed a treaty which was to become the basis of the Swiss Confederation. The second reason is because in 1889 the Federal Counsel wanted to organise a national fête and 1891 marked not only the 600th anniversary of this treaty but also the 700th anniversary of the city of Bern (Switzerland’s Capital City).

1st august rides

Everything is pimped up swiss style

1 August is celebrated each year with paper lantern parades and music (Alphorn is especially common in the German speaking regions). There are also bonfires where you can grill your Cervelas. Oh and everything is covered in Swiss and Cantonal flags and of course there are fireworks. We are lucky that we live on a lake as we can generally see all the firework displays from the other lake towns across the water meaning. It can be pretty spectacular when the skies are clear.

alphorn

Yesterday: the man playing actually mooed his thanks down the alphorn as E gave the money. She nearly jumped out of her skin (this was that moment)!

What are cervelas I hear you ask? Also know as cervelat, servelat or zervelat (depending on where you are) they are the national sausage made out of a mixture of pork (50%) beef, veal (20%), and bacon. The original sausage contained some brain hence the name from the latin cerebrum but this is no longer the case. A swiss party is not complete without your cervelas which has to be prepared in a very particular way – I had everything carefully explained to me last year after a swiss friend found me cooking my cereals completely wrong. Firstly you must cut a cross in both ends of your sausage which is about 3-4cm deep and then you have to peel off the skin. Then in order to roast it to perfection you must skewer it on a stick and turn it over the flames slowly so that it browns and doesn’t burn. Once it is cooked the cut ends of the sausage should curve out from the centre and it should resemble this picture that I have borrowed of the Swiss newspaper 24 heures:

cervelas

La Fête National, as we call it in Neuchâtel, is a great occasion for the Swiss to celebrate their country and their heritage. While is is a big party it still has its serious note and is probably the only occasion where the head of the local commune gets to address such a large audience. Every first of August the president de la commune gives a speech to outline current political issues and policies (and of course to praise Switzerland). Sometimes these speeches become famous for their content and the newspapers the next day are filled with every journalists’ analysis of what was said and what was meant. I guess it is a bit like the Queen’s speech every year at Christmas except the fact it is so local.

I was tickled to hear that apparently, in Britain, it is also Yorkshire Day thanks to Bettys and Taylors tearooms. This is because Betty’s tearooms were founded by Frederick Belmont, a Swiss confectioner. He arrived in Yorkshire speaking no English (although I probably wouldn’t have understood much as a native speaker with the accent back then either) and set up this very English sounding tearoom, Bettys, in July 1919.

We are going to watch the fireworks from a friends terrace tonight which overlooks the port where they are set off. We will try and keep E up to watch them as a special treat and grill her first cervelas but M is too young to take part yet. Next year we will do the lantern parades all together but tonight should be a blast.

Happy 1st of August!

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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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Wow! Garden Suprises Again!

Despite my utter uselessness when it comes to gardening we have actually been lucky enough to inherit an obviously previously very well-tended garden which keeps surprising us again and again.

The first summer we bought our house we had tonnes of apples. Seriously, it was insane. I had at least 20kg of them off of one tree and ended up composting all those that were slightly nibbled as there are only so many apples you can use. I even broke my juicer through over use! Since then harvest has been much less spectacular but then the poor old tree did take a beating when it had to be chopped back to put railings up to keep the kids from falling off the wall that runs behind it.

Last summer after we had moved in I also discovered scores of raspberries down the bottom of the garden which I made into icecreams, jams and even ate fresh or in jellies. They had to be used very quickly as they were very ripe when I found them.

raspberries

This summer for the first time we have had cherries (which the birds mainly got although the kids managed to get a fair few of the low hanging ones too). I wasn’t upset about the loss of the cherries though as I enjoyed having the birds in the garden.

This week on returning from our travels we have had the happy suprise of finding out that not only do we have one fruiting plum tree but we seem to have three!

plums

One is a Damson tree, another is a Mirabelle tree and is nearly ready and the other has what I believe to be Greengages on it. I managed to get most of the Damsons before the birds got them giving me about 2 kilos of plums to deal with. Unsure of what to do I started googling and quickly found some interesting recipes.

I didn’t particularly want to make any desserts as I have some other cake ideas on hold at the moment (there is only so much pudding you can eat). However, I did have plenty of fruit I had frozen before leaving to go on holiday and so some of the plums got de-stoned and added to the mix to make some Summer fruit jam.

jam batch

After all that de-stoning I was keen on something which required less work (Damson flesh tends to stick to the stone). It was a toss up between a cordial or a flavoured liqueur… Damson Vodka won!

It was a very simple recipe that I borrowed off Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in the Guardian.

Damson Vodka

Ingredients

  • 1kg Damson Plums
  • 500g Sugar
  • 1l Vodka (use good quality or else you’ll regret all your hard work).

damsons and vodka

Instructions

  • Prick the plums all over with a pin.
  • Place in a 2.5 litre sterile container (I used a 5 litre jar which I sterilised by baking  in the oven at 125°C for 20 minutes before taking it out to cool).
  • Add the plums and then the sugar.
  • Add the vodka.
  • Seal the jar and place in a cool place out of sunlight.
  • Invert the jar every week or two for 6 months.
  • After 6 months filter the mixture through a muslin.
  • Keep for another 6 months minimum.

damson vodka instructions

Easy peasy! My jar is now sitting in our cellar room and my phone is programmed with reminders so I don’t forget about it.

The fact that the kids get to grow up eating produce from our own garden is fantastic for me – although they definitely won’t be trying the vodka! Can’t wait for the rest of the plums to be ripe and I’m very excited about next summer!

I wonder why some trees don’t fruit every year?

Does anyone have any suggestions for Mirabelle or Greengage recipes? It looks like there are a lot more of them than we had Damsons!


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A Beach and Some Books

I told you we had been totally jet set! Our final destination was Cyprus.

We have not had a family holiday (all of us traveling together) since before M was born. So when the Hubby said about 3 weeks ago he was totally free and off work for a week I was ecstatic. Then I panicked at the task of finding the perfect holiday for us at such short notice.

bfb_head_logo

My first stop was Baby Friendly Boltholes a site I have use previously and have mentioned before (see my post on herbs). Both of us were knackered after a year of me basically raising the kids alone and the poor hubby traveling around Europe every week for business. As horrible as it sounds we basically wanted someone to take the kids away and give us a break. Not knowing exactly what was possible, and not wanting to sound like the evil person I felt, I rang their hotline.

The lady who I spoke with, Juliet, quickly sent me back a list of options with everything from babysitters to hotels with crèche facilities. One hotel caught my eye called the Almyra in Cyprus. It looked amazing with creche facilities, baby concierge service, spa, numerous restaurants and generally very good reviews.

There was one problem: despite being able to see direct flights existing between Switzerland and Cyprus I couldn’t find any I could book (except some stupidly timed ones leaving at 3am and the like). So feeling disheartened and now desperately wanting the Almyra experience I started to look at Kuoni.ch.

The funny thing was that by searching through Kuoni for Cyprus I was offered a huge selection of flights which didn’t seem to exist elsewhere. We could leave and arrive at perfectly civilised times for a decent price and then I found the Almyra. So I did the sneaky thing and thanked Juliet for her help and booked with Kuoni. Yes, I feel guilty. If I lived in the UK with the flight possibilities available I would never have done it but this is Switzerland and we are very limited.

Next thing we knew we were flying that very weekend out to Larnaca, Cyprus on an Edelweiss charter flight.

It was an interesting flight over with the lads all heading over for a week of partying in Ayia Napa… We were surrounded by the party group who had come with their own supplies for the flight. One was violently sick and passed out before the end of the flight while another decided to offer him pills to give him enough of a pick me up so he could get off the plane. Thank goodness the kids didn’t understand what was going on. Needless to say I wasn’t very impressed at Edelweiss. I know they don’t choose the clientele but I was shocked at how they ignored the walking around the cabin with drinks and the blatant lies the boys fed them when they asked if they had been drinking.

Any who we were just excited to arrive and get off that plane. After an hour and a half taxi ride to the hotel we had made it. We asked for a couple of glasses of milk for the kids on arrival and they were presented with beautiful teddy shaped cookies to enjoy with their milk while we checked in by the wonderful Guest Services Officer Lefteris.

The hotel was beautiful but what made it was the friendliness staff. The restaurant, porter and guest services team were brilliant as were the kids’ club! Actually Cyprus was a pretty welcoming place. Despite us being unable to speak a word of Greek (we were in the Greek half) they were always very accommodating and mainly spoke english.

Dinner at the hotel was included under the half board and consisted of a buffet affair from 7 onwards. There was a kids’ buffet in a room where they showed films so the parent of older children could eat in peace while the kids had a movie night. One night there was a family BBQ which was run by the kids’ club. It was well done as each family had their own table and could socialise as much or as little as they fancied. The staff were also only really interested in the children and left the parents who didn’t wish to play alone.

The Kids’ Club was closed on Wednesdays but we didn’t mind as it was nice by that stage to have a full day with the kids. I did see some families taking advantage of the babysitters that day though which could be provided by the Kids’ Club whenever you needed one.

The whole hotel was fairly family centric (especially as it was school hols) and I probably would be wary of recommending it to non parents. There was a kids free spa area with horizon pool and its own bar/restaurant but this was often pretty full as all the parents who had put their kids in the clubs would flock to escape the family swimming pool and make the most of the peace and quiet. This was where I spent my days reading and trying to get a tan and not burn.

Being a total bookworm I was horrified to figure out that I have not actually read a non-Baby book in over a year! Oh, I listen to audiobooks but its not the same. I had been given a few books that had been sitting on the side at home for months so I blew off the dust and brought them along on holiday.

books

My first book was Sharon Osbourne’s third autobiography: Unbreakable. I would never have chosen it for myself as I don’t really know the woman, not being an X-Factor fan or a major Ozzy Osbourne fan, but I felt obliged to give it a go. It was interesting but I put it down with a intense dislike for her character. She is a wonderfully loyal wife and a strong protective mother to her children but on the other hand she seems suffocating, interfering and completely thoughtless at times. In a way I admire those who say “I only care about myself and my own” but that is so far from my own character it rubs me the wrong way.

Feeling in need of some mental stimulation I picked up the book my father had given me called Hanns and Rudolf by Thomas Harding. It was the story the Jewish investigator (Hanns Alexander) who pursued and captured one of Nazi Germany’s most notorious war criminals (Rudolf Höss – the Commandant of Auschwitz). My father had given it to me saying that it had been written by a cousin. This didn’t mean much to me though as most people seem to be “cousins” according to him – he seems to include cousins by marriage and right down to fourth removed sometimes – but I was surprised to recognise some names as I read it and it made it all even more real. The book drew me in and I was left sobbing at some of the descriptions of the atrocities however it was written in such a balanced way I felt sympathy for both sides. It was definitely one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read: filled with information that I didn’t know about that period and I thought myself a bit of a WW2 history buff. Its a sad one but really recommend reading it!

Feeling a wee bit fragile after the berating of Sharon Osbourne and the tales of Auschwitz I moved on to the American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. This was a book I had been given and recommended about three years ago but never got around to actually reading. I discovered that it was a fiction very loosely based on Laura Bush’s Autobiography and it was very gripping for the first half while you she laid the background information down and we rode the roller-coaster of teenage emotions but I found myself starting to wonder how much was left as I got to the middle of the tome. I couldn’t put it down unfinished though and I stuck it out through her difficult marriage and realisation of her mistakes. It was a good beach book but it did leave me rather wanting to read Laura Bush’s Spoken From the Heart to compare.

paphos collage

We did some exploring of Paphos but it all fairness it was too hot to go very far during the day and our holiday aim was to relax. It was amazing to see the amount of Roman ruins about though including the surviving roman habour wall.

padi

We also did some diving with an excellent diving school called Cydive which provoked us into doing a PADI refresher course and hubby finally got his Open Water Qualification. I must say I was impressed at how thorough they were after some of my previous experiences with dive schools. While there aren’t many fish (due to over fishing) there are plenty of wrecks to see and hubby even saw an old Roman anchor on one of his dives.

7 st. georges

One other this I feel I should mention was an amazing restaurant we visited while in Paphos called 7 St. Georges. We were hesitant as the name sounded less promising than the other authentic Cypriot restaurant Laona with good reviews but were pleasantly surprised. The food at the two places was probably on a par but the welcome and authentic atmosphere of the 7 St. Georges stole my heart. I loved the idea of it too: they give you local organc wine and bring you various meze until you say stop. We had to get a cab there but they were really easy to organise and it was a €20 round trip but considering the all you can eat meal including wine was excellent and only about €20 per person we were happy to pay that.

Leaving was tough as I would ideally have liked another few days but it was time to go. We had our only major unpleasant experience with the hotel on checkout too. Despite trying to negotiate the reception were being very tough on our checkout time and made us vacate the rooms a couple of hours before we were due to leave. On departure when we asked about our bags we were told that they would be brought up to the reception from our rooms meaning that our rooms had been sitting unmade and empty since we had been made to leave them and that we had been unable to shower properly before leaving for nothing. When we asked the reception they were apologetic and unable to explain why we had been forced to vacate the rooms early. Unfortunately I think the reception and their staff were the weak link at the hotel but not having to deal with them much it was generally ok. My word of advice would be to preorganise everything with Guest services to avoid having to deal with them. During our stay we mainly managed this by always going to Lefteris for restaurants or the Kids’ club directly.

Ah but it was so beautiful!

paphos


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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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Pretty Puglia

I apologise for my long absence but it is holiday season and we have been rather jet set this past month visiting family and with the wedding season kicking off. It has been packed and pretty amazing but I am happy we are home again and settling back in for the summer.

It all started with a wedding of a dear school friend back at the end of June. She shipped us all off to Puglia in Italy for an amazing weekend. The wedding was beautiful thanks to the gorgeous setting they chose, some organisational wizardry and the extremely impressive creativity on their part. I won’t go on about it but I have never been to a wedding like it and it was probably made by the fact we got to go and visit a new place we were unfamiliar with. The bride and groom had left us with some suggestions of places to visit while we were in Puglia. Despite being limited by how far we could travel by the kids we managed to see some lovely places.

Our first day there we decided to go to a beautiful hilltop town called Ostuni. The whole of the old town is white-washed and gleams in the sunshine topped by a cathedral. Being mad Brits we were probably the only people out in the midday sun by the time we got there and soon we went in search of some shade for lunch. As we were in Italy I was keen to find a nice restaurant for lunch and saw there was one close by on my tripadvisor app. After arriving there and discovering the place was empty and looked pretty dingy with no view we left. Unfortunately in Italy it is rare to find someone serving lunch before 3pm and it was only 1pm. By this time the family were dying of heat and we ended up walking completely by chance into a small beer specialists called La Gilda which had a very basic looking snack menu but the man was so welcoming we decided to stay there for a while and have a quick bite before we continued. In fact, we ended up sharing a couple of mixed meat and cheese tagliere (platters) and having a beer each.  The meat and the cheese was so fresh and local, it was absolutely delicious, and was actually the perfect lunch. Looking it up on our return I was not surprised to see it is now the highest rated restaurant in Ostuni.

ostuni

On our way back to the car we came across an exhibition of beautiful classic cars in the street. They were stunning and we spent a good while inspecting them and posing in front of them pretending they were ours.

That evening we had a welcome drinks for the wedding party but it was not a late one as we knew the main party would be the Saturday night so the next morning we were very fresh when we headed out to Grottaglie. Grottaglie is a town known for its ceramics quarter. Just waking around we saw beautiful ceramic mosaics.

ceramic mosaic

Also as we arrived at the “wrong” time again we got to see the artists at work drying their wares out in the street.

grottaglie

Unfortunately much was closing for the siesta hours by the time we had wandered around but we did get to see a few shops including one where we could peer into the work room and watch one of the ladies busy painting.

workshop

That afternoon we explored the town we were staying in called Manduria. It always amazed me how many churches there are in Italy. Manduria seemed to have one on every corner. This was highlighted to us by the religious procession which went on that weekend linked with Midsummer: all the churches had their doors open and hundreds of people chanted and held up banners to represent their group from boy scouts, to those children dressed in white going for their communion, to the nuns from the local convent. It seemed disrespectful to photograph them but here are some pictures of some of the churches and cathedrals we visited.

churches

Manduria was actually a very pretty town with the traditional narrow streets you often find in Italian towns and that I remembered from my travels to Tuscany. I was tickled by the number of old fiats around the place. They are the Italian equivalent to a British mini and I love the old dears just as much.

towns

While walking around Manduria we came across the amazing Il Calvario (the Calvary). To those who were unaware as to what a Calvary is: it is set of religious edifices imitating Jerusalem. It functions as a sanctuary of the Passion of Christ where plays are held before Easter.

calvario

The Sunday was the final day for the wedding activities and we all headed to the beach for the afternoon. It was a lovely end to the weekend and especially enthralling for the kids who had never been to a sandy beach. We drank slush puppies, danced and swam until the sun started setting and it was time to take everyone home to bed.

beachIt takes a bit of a shift in rhythm to get used to Southern Italy with children but I would really recommend a trip. The people are so lovely to children and we never had a bad meal. We will definitely be back over the next few years.

 


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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.