You, Me and Teddy

Parenting adventures and activities in and around Neuchâtel, Switzerland.



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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What’s going on?

Its a fairly happening weekend in Neuchâtel this week. Some of it is less exciting than others, for instance, the big Security Fair (SecuritExpo) next to the Maladière stadium. Nope, I didn’t know that sort of thing existed either. On a more exciting note there is also a music festival tonight and tomorrow evening, just 15 minutes down the road, in Cornaux called the Corn’Rock.


Tonight is the Fête des Voisins where those living in apartment blocks or places with shared gardens hold parties to get to know their neighbours better. The event is sponsored by the city and they even provide you with party ideas and invites to kickstart any initiative. Its a great idea as today many people find it hard to get to know their neighbours even in a small town like Neuchâtel.

fête des voisins

This weekend is also the start of the La Quinzaine neuchâteloise! During the Quinzaine participating shops give a discounts and tickets to take part in the raffle and there are numerous activities and shows organised in the streets. Officially it kicked off Thursday with an opening ceremony and late night opening of shops but the more interesting parts for those of us with children are yet to come.


This Saturday is the first Grande Braderie (Big Sale) which takes place from the rue de Seyon in the centre of town all the way down to the hospital by the Maladière Centre (10am to 6pm). The buses are all diverted out of town all day as generally most the shops in the centre put out stalls in the street and those selling food or wine do free tastings. There will be carousels and each quartier will be organising their own events so it will be fun to explore with the kids tomorrow.

Wednesday afternoon (2 to 5pm) on the Place des Halles there are more events for the kids as there is no school on Wednesday afternoons in Neuchâtel. They promise free carousels, a blind cordial tasting, crêpes, ice-cream and presents to be won!

Next Saturday there is another Grande Braderie (from 10am to 6 pm) and you can enter your ticket into the raffle by putting it in the big urn by the Hôtel de Ville  from 3pm. The main prizes range from an electric car to laptop and its free so what do you have to lose? After the raffle is drawn there will be a closing ceremony and music up at the top of the painted street in the free commune of Neubourg.

On the lake tomorrow and Sunday there is the 28th Bol d’Or Regatta where over 100 sail boats will race from Grandson up to Neuchâtel and back again on a 60km circuit. It should be a site to see if the weather stays clear and the thunderstorms don’t hit. They set sail at 11am from Grandson.

neuchatel boat

If you actually want to get out on the lake the boats finally start their tours again this weekend after their winter break including the old steam boat “Neuchâtel” which has recently been refurbished. Check out the timetables for “Neuchâtel” here. Otherwise you can take one of the regular boats.

fete de la nature

Finally it is also the 4th Fête de la Nature which takes part all over Romandie (French-speaking Switzerland) and there is lots going on the Neuchâtel Botanical Gardens this weekend. For the early birds who can get themselves to the Botanical gardens for 8:30am it begins with a guided walk to discover local mushrooms. The walk should last  2 1/2 hours and is suitable for anyone over 10 years of age. For those of us who won’t be up for a stroll through the forest that early there is also an indoors exposition of local mushrooms from 11am to 5pm up on the top level of the Gardens.

There is a fabulous walk tomorrow from 9am to 3pm for anyone over 5 which has been organised from Montmollin-Montezillon called Plantes utiles à croquer (Plants good to eat). It includes a culinary workshop and drawing activities. For those who want to stay in Neuchâtel town there is also the Belles à croquer exposition in orchard of the Botanical gardens with more information on edible plants.

From 11am to 12pm on Saturday there are also some rather intriguing sounding Jeux en forêt (Forest Games) up by the Roché de l’Ermitage in the woods above the Botanical gardens.

There are another couple of easy nature walks taking place tomorrow if you fancy a stroll: Balade pédestre : de la Ferme Robert à Champ-du-Moulin and Balades nature Valangin-Engollon-Cernier and an Elfen excursion Plat de Riaux, Môtiers.

Sunday brings with it yet more activities starting very bright and early at 5:30am at the zoo du Bois du Petit-Château in La Chaux-de-Fonds with a guided dawn chorus of birds (Les oiseaux de l’aube) suitable for those over 8. If you like birds but not in a 5:30am kind of way you could always go to the derniers Tariers des prés du Jura neuchâtelois excursion at 9:30 in Les Ponts-de-Martel.


There are more activities on Sunday too in the Parc du Chasseral including several based around edible plants: Cuisine sauvage (Wild Cooking) from 10:30 to 12 or 2:30 to 4pm and Miam! Une plante (Yum! A plant). You can even go an learn to build stone walls (Les secrets des murs de pierres sèches).

If you want to take part in any of the organised activities of the Fête de la Nature please sign up on the given pages as they all say to do so and I wouldn’t want you to turn up and be told to go home.


Anyways as I was saying Neuchâtel is a busy place this weekend and all of this is not even starting on the various opera and plays in the theatres. No excuses with not getting out over the next few days.

I hope I’ll have some fun pictures to share with you on Monday. Enjoy your weekends.

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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.


Most of the structures are Swiss animals:


But others are less so:


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!


Practical and Easy Gardening

Armed with my Royal Horticultural Gardening Bible and a very keen 2 year old I attempted some more green fingeredness. I couldn’t face the mess that is main garden yet but we decided to create a little kitchen garden.

As a cook having herbs is a necessity to give flavour but having them fresh out of the garden is like a dream come true. I have never been able to keep my herbs happy indoors. They just drink so much water I can’t top them up enough and I end up with very sad shrivelled looking things.

We took a trip to the garden centre down the road in Gampelen to get all the equipment we needed and our herbs. The problem is that when you go to such a place you invariably get side tracked. We went in for a couple of herb pots, some soil and herbs and came out with a proper kitchen garden complete with:

  • Parsley (curly and flat leaf)
  • Coriander
  • Dill
  • Basil (greek and standard)
  • Verbena
  • Camomile
  • Chives
  • Thyme (silver leaf and lemon)
  • Oregano
  • Mint
  • Sage
  • A bay tree
  • Radish seeds
  • Two tomato plants (cherry and vine)
  • Pots (2 large, 2 medium and one small)
  • Ceramic drainage beads
  • Plenty of soil
  • 1 purple child’s rake


plant purchases

(The only reason there is no tarragon is because it is still too early for it and I have already Rosemary taking over the main garden as it is.)

The problem is is that E and I just got so over excited at the prospect of making our garden so we kept finding more “good ideas”. Plus its all useful stuff. “Just think at the savings we will make over time no longer buying the everything in small bunches overtime,” I explained later to the tutting hubby.

Firstly all the herbs were on offer and they were right next to the seeds (I remember planting them as a kid and how easy it was) and then E spotted the tomato seedlings.  Then I found some great big plastic pots that looked just like real terracotta ones by an Italian brand called Marchioro. Going in I had no idea how much soil it would take to fill a container and so was very happy when I found the drainage beads (a less costly method to fill the base of the pot). It also seemed a good way to create a water reservoir for the plants (as per the manufacturer’s handy instructions) however, I have since learnt on the gardening forums that drainage wise it makes no difference.


pot preparation

So about 15 unloading trips to and from the car later we had all our materials ready to go in the garden. I filled up the pots and then E fetched the plants for me and helped me to remove them from their pots, slightly separate the roots and place them in the new containers.


I had previously done some research on which herbs I could put together after previous experience with some mint that killed all my herbs in one pot. It turns out mint should be planted in its pot in the container to try and limit its roots spreading and strangling all the others. Aromatic herbs such as thyme, oregano, sage and chives are all very happy to be planted together but should be kept apart from herbs such as parsley or basil. Thus we had one pot for the aromatics (including mint) and another for the rest. The Bay tree I planted in a small pot alone and the tomato plants both had a pot each on the sunniest side of the patio. I had been told that I could simply plant the tomatoes into two grow bags cut open and place one on top of the other but since I fell in love with my Peter Rabbit style pots the grow bag was used for the radishes instead.

Once the grow bag was cut open we made some holes for drainage in the side and then made a series of holes to pop the seeds into which we then recovered with soil.

We also kept one bag of soil for our potatoes . We put 3 in a bag, made some holes for drainage and closed it up to keep them away from the sun.

Now it was E’s turn to be a watering demon with her little blue watering can.

The next day our herbs looked extremely happy and perky much to my relief after their extreme watering trauma which left them a little flat.

Indeed they have all gone from strength to strength except for the basil which I might have to relocate. The Greek basil seems to be more resilient but I think they need more light and the other faster growing herbs are smothering them.


Our radishes are also sprouting well but I think the initial watering washed them all to one end of the grow bag, leading to slightly cramped growing conditions.


Check out the tomatoes and potatoes! Now we are just waiting for the flowers on the potatoes to give us an idea of when they are ready. We need to wait for the flowers to come and then wilt and hopefully we will have a sack full of spuds.

potatoes and tomatoes

E is turning into a proper little gardener as she learns along with us and she is very happy with her little rake.

gardening fiend

I’m generally very pleased with our latest gardening experiment and am thoroughly enjoying using herbs every time I cook… I actually have to use herbs every time I cook or else they will take over (they are thriving that well).

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Pierres d’Hauterive

The Pierre d’Hauterive is actually a very special local yellow limestone which was first used for construction by the romans who inhabited the area 2000 years ago. Most of the older buildings in the area are build with this stone and it helps define what is Neuchâtel. Do check out the photos of the stone around town on our local newspapers’ site here. We also came across it during our trip to the Latènium museum where it was carved into gargoyles.

gargoyles horizontal

Our Pierres (rocks) are more Cailloux (pebbles) d’Hauterive and not really limestone but as we collected them in Hauterive on our walk the other day its not exactly an untruth.

I’ve been meaning to give a use to our pebbles as they have been cluttering up the side in our kitchen for a while now so we got some paint out and set up the table for some crafts.

Firstly I asked E to arrange her pebbles into sized order. This was a tricky exercise at times, with them all being different shapes, so we got out the scales to help. I am slowly teaching E her numbers on the basis that she will learn them if I show her the character and explain often enough. She can do very basic maths  – addition and subtraction up to 4 for tasks such as: “if you eat three more broccoli florets you can have one yoghurt” her response being “But Mummy I already eat two so I just eat one more.” Someday soon I  am going to have to start teaching her seriously but for now she is only two and it can wait.

Once we had our pebbles in order we started to paint them in sequence. The sequence of colours also helped us to tell if they were in the right order once we mixed them up again.

Stone sorting and colours

Confident in her sorting abilities we moved on to some more number recognition. I wrote numbers on the end of some craft sticks and then on each of our stone and asked E to match the stones to the numbers on the sticks. This one is still a work in progress and I keep it out for her to muck around with at the moment so she can familiarise herself further with the numbers.

number sorting

I have seen some fabulous number activities this week by the way on Teaching my Tot including a number hunt which I will have to try out too.

Hope you are having a good week and thanks for reading.


Foraging for Dandelions

Today turned into a lovely day and we spent the afternoon in the garden admiring our beautiful weeds.

Recently the local market has been full of dandelion leaves. I really love dandelion salad. It is great with lardons and a olive oil and white wine vinegar dressing but considering the state of our garden I couldn’t actually bring myself to pay for some. So finally today I did a little research and found out what I should be looking for when I pick my dandelion leaves.

It turns out, unsurprisingly, that you should go for the younger plants which haven’t yet given a bud or flower as they are less bitter. You can also eat the flowers and the buds. Apparently the buds go well in omelettes and you can tempura the flowers. The flowers are bitter but have a sweet taste and I am definitely going to start using them in my salads for extra colour.

You can eat this?

Now when I started explaining to E that we can eat dandelions she was a little skeptical but did taste a few admitting that they were ok but needed a bit of salad sauce. I think our dandelions might be getting a bit bitter but I managed to find a decent selection of fresh leaves for a tonight.

Then E found one lone blossom that had already turned to seed and I showed a very excited little girl how you can blow them and watch the seeds fly away.

Dandelions collage

E also picked a bunch of dandelions for Teddy in-between scooting around on her tricycle.


picking dandelions collage

After all our salad picking we sat down for a little tea party with Teddy and tried out a batch of some homemade Jaffa cakes. I am still perfecting the recipe though so bare with me on that one.


It was a lovely day in the sunshine and the only shame was that poor M has been under the weather and slept it all away. Fingers crossed he will be back on form tomorrow.

Hope you enjoyed your weekends too!


Potato Monsters

We have been gardening again!

I normally get my vegetables from local suppliers and they come in brown paper bags meaning they last longer but for some reason I had to go to the supermarket for a change and ended up with a bag of sprouted spuds. It seemed a shame to simply compost them especially as they had rather beautiful furry purple shoots. So after some close examination we decided to do some gardening.


E was initially a little afraid of the almost caterpillaresque sprouts but after having a feel of the little hairs she felt more at ease.

We put some potatoes into jam jars filled with water on the windowsill and some into some soil outside.

The indoor ones quickly grew fine roots and started producing leaf shoots. A couple in jars, however, just rotted and the outdoor ones have been very slow probably because it has been very dry recently. We will try and update you on our outdoor success another time.

Potato to monster

E has loved watching them grow over the past 7 weeks as you could see changes every day.

Soon we had some rather crazy green potatoes which my Hubby termed my “potato monsters”.

I decided to make them truly monsters by using permanent marker to draw mouths, fangs and noses on white electrical tape. These I then cut out ready for E to stick onto our potatoes. We also had a selection of googly eyes which I decorated with the markers to give extra variety.

E decided some monsters would be really scary while other would be more friendly. Some potatoes had eyes for noses while others had 3 eyes and no nose.

The tape was sticky enough to be able to try numerous combinations of monster features and here are a selection of some of our creations.


Have fun decorating vegetables!