You, Me and Teddy

Parenting adventures and activities in and around Neuchâtel, Switzerland.


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Evologia

One day this week we woke up to discover it was a beautiful sunny day. We immediately set to work making ourselves a picnic and decided on the Evologia gardens in Cernier as our destination.

historiqueEvologia was initially an agricultural college founded by Frédéric Soguel in 1885. For over a hundred years it was the site of the École cantonale d’agriculture until 1995 when the school was moved to a new location and a committee was appointed to develop the site. Today Evologia still holds agricultural at its heart promoting nature and its related professions to the general public. Throughout the summer there are numerous events that take place up in the gardens and exhibition centre from music concerts to art workshops.

I knew there was an exhibition on currently called Tractorama which I thought would be right up the children’s street but I also knew that what they would appreciate most would be being able to run free around the gardens after being cooped up because of the bad weather.

Cernier is a beautiful spot high up in Neuchâtel in the Val-de-Ruz backing on to the Jura Mountains. I am a mountain girl. I once had a conversation with someone where we discussed there being two types of people: mountains and lake people vs sea and beach people. If I ever had to choose it would definitely be mountains and lakes. Heading up there I immediately got that mountain feeling which causes me to relax and immediately lifts my spirits.

Evologia

We started off with a bit of an explore of the gardens and M was in his element! He has gotten so steady on his feet now and he just loved pushing his way through the slightly over grown bushes, admiring the butterflies and generally running in all directions. I thought at one stage I had lost him to a giant flower pot but he reemerged looking very chuffed with himself.

M's favourites

E found different interests. She was intrigued by bamboo which we found round the back of the greenhouses. I can only imagine at her height how impressive it must look. I explained to her about how we use bamboo in gardening to support plants and even for decoration, when we found some colourfully painted in another part of the gardens, but I don’t think she quite believe me. We also found some “Christmas Trees” which E decided she had to spend a good 10 minutes decorating with dried grass while singing loudly to herself.

E's favourites

It was getting pretty hot so we found ourselves a shady spot for a picnic before we continued our exploration. Unfortunately I forgot our picnic rug so improvised with a towel which actually worked pretty well absorbing all spills and being easier to clean. I suspect we got a little carried away in making our picnic as we had tonnes of food but we had a good selection of sarnies including some jam ones from my batch the other day. There is a restaurant, la Terrassiette, up in the main building but a picnic suited us much better.

picnic

After lunch we went in search of some tractors. The exhibition Tractorama closes for lunch but reopened just in time to prevent WW3 as both kids fought to ride on a tractor just outside of the exhibition room. It turns out that all of the antique tractors are actually all in working condition. They are all owned by one man who has a major tractor addiction (by his own admission). He buys them and then restores them to like new. There were plenty of old American models like the ancient blue Titan and a classic John Deere below but I think M was less than impressed by the fact I wouldn’t let him ride on them in the exhibition with the caretaker observing us.

tractors

It was a lovely free day out with something for all of us and I would definitely take the kids back up there. Enjoy your weekends!

The view


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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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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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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!


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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

Whoops….

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.

PLANTING

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.

Growth

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.

radishes

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.


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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.

sprouting

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.

monsters

Have fun decorating vegetables!