Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Child Safety Week

Here in the UK we're in the middle of Child Safety Week.  A lot of my philosophy on raising healthy happy kids revolves around them spending time outside, playing using their whole bodies to climb and run and roll, and this does come with it's own element of risk.  These risks are ones which kids need to develop fully, so long as you carefully reduce the ones of greatest danger, for example children under around 6 years old don't have the awareness to safely judge car speeds and cross roads by themselves.

However, in the modern obsession with risk outside the home, we forget what the statistics tell us year on year - the number of accidents involving children which are serious enough to require hospital treatment far more commonly occur within our homes.  Part of this is undoubtedly due to the sheer amount of time children spend in the home, but a quick read through what the admissions are for will tell you that an awful lot of injuries and tragedies are caused by things that would have been relatively easy to avoid with a bit of planning.

Even when we crawl around our house on our knees and check out what hazards are at reaching height for our little ones and correct what we can, we are then totally at the mercy of others when visiting friends and relatives homes.  I am probably very annoying to everyone whose hot drink I move out of reach, but even with my cautiousness my kids have pulled a teapot down over themselves at our house and a cup of tea at a relative's home because I wasn't quick enough to push the offending items back out of the way when others left them in reaching distance.  We were just lucky both times the contents were only warm and not hot, or I would have had children with extensive facial scalds.  You cannot rely on others to be as careful as you, so unfortunately you never get a chance to really relax.

You can't watch kids every minute of every day - even the most camel-bladdered of us has to go to the bathroom, so the best we can do is try to make our own homes safe, and remind visitors and relatives of trying to be safe too - who cares if it seems rude, I'd rather kids don't pay the price for us being too polite.

The Child Accident Prevention Trust has lots of great advice, but here's a few of the top things that I think are easy to implement and which will help keep the ones precious to you safe.  There's lots more, but these are the things which have directly affected us, our family and friends:

1. If you have the option to go to a home safety class, go to it.  We got a free stair gate at the one I went to when Ollie was a baby.  They will be able to alert you to the most common causes of accidents.

2. Find out if there are first aid courses running in your area - you can sometimes get on these for free if you are in receipt of certain benefits such as income support.  The chances of using most of the things you are taught such as rescue breaths are thankfully fairly uncommon, but every person trained is in a position to save a life, especially given small children's proclivity to choke on food and other items.

3. Stair gates only work if they're closed - this is particularly tricky if you share your house with older children at that between age when they can open the gate and manage stairs safely, but not reliably close it again when small brothers or sisters are on the move.  If there's a chance they could get through, start training little ones to slide down the stairs on their tummy rather than trying to walk down them.  That way even if they slip they will just slither to the bottom.  Toby fell down a few stairs when he was smaller and Ollie left a gate open.  He had a bumped head but fortunately nothing worse because he hadn't made it to the top and had slithered on his tummy.  Stair gates are also particularly useful to divide off hazardous areas of the house, such as the kitchen when you're cooking, or the dog who needs a place away from poking fingers.

4. Cord pulls on blinds are the cause of death through strangulation to children every year.  Tie them up out of reach, including when staying at others homes.  If you are replacing your blinds, you can get a new style which has a twirly round stick thing instead of a cord - much safer.  While you're at it, look to see what else could end up round their necks - ties on dressing gowns, skipping ropes etc...  I once caught Ollie wrapping the vacuum cleaner cord round his neck in the hall where it was plugged in while I was vacuuming in the kitchen.   Sheer luck that I went to see why the cleaner didn't pull behind me easily rather than just giving it a sharp tug.

5.  Water is a massive danger.  That couple of inches in the paddling pool or bath is enough for a child to drown.  Anyone whose seen a child slip over in a pool will tell you that it's as if the shock of being dunked causes them to lose all ability to just sit up.  I was knocked face down into a paddling pool myself when I was three and could have drowned if a neighbour hadn't vaulted over the fence (which was back in the 1980's when everyone just had low chain link fences instead of the 6ft fence panels we all have now).  Tragically mum also had friends years ago who lost a child when someone failed to lock the fence around their pool.  If the phone rings or the doorbell goes when your kids are in the bath or pool, you can either ignore it or carry your child with you wrapped in a towel.  Don't start running a bath and wander off to do something else either - kids are crazy fast and will get into that bath before you even know they can climb like that.  It's not a bad idea to add cold water before hot too, as this reduces the risk of scalds.

6.  Hot drinks cause horrific scalds to kids.  Can you tolerate adding more milk for a couple of years until they're bigger?  I switched to fruit teas when they were really small as these weren't so yuck when they were cool as regular tea and coffee.  One really clever suggestion I saw was to use a lidded coffee cup - like a travel mug - since even if it got knocked over there was a limited amount of liquid which could get out.  Be cautious when eating out - the amount of times I've had to ask servers not to pass hot food and drinks over my kids heads is ridiculous.  My relative was recently badly scalded all down her back by a server spilling coffee over her, it doesn't bear thinking about what if this had happened to one of her small kids instead! If you can, place kids in seats away from thoroughfares through restaurants, and make sure they don't run around as they could trip someone carrying hot food or drinks.  At home keep cups, tea pots and kettles pushed well back to the back of the counter, with no leads within reach either.  Other sources of scalds include pans on the cooker - get everyone into the habit of turning in pan handles so they don't hang out just where a child will reach up and grab them.

7.  Fire risk can be reduced by following basic safety measures.  The advice is to never leave a candle unattended - even when blown out for a short time afterwards there's enough heat and candle wax vapour in the air above the wick for it to relight or for the flame to jump.  Incense sticks are potential risk too.  The biggest risk however is from cigarettes and candles when people fall asleep with them burning.  In the constant tired state of many parents falling asleep unexpectedly is pretty likely, so the best option is to remove cigarettes and candles from your home.  I have a friend whose first memory is of being carried from his house by a fire fighter because of a fire caused by his Dad falling asleep with a cigarette.   You can get LED candles now which are a safer option, and you don't need me to tell you about why it's a good idea to quit smoking, or at the very least do it outside.  Deep fat fryers fall into problem categories due to burns from hot oil, but also from fires, so again if you can it's going to be the safest option just to get rid of it if you have one.  A surprise cause of domestic fires is washing machines and tumble driers, so if you can make sure they are only used when attended it is a good idea, although not one I always manage when the machine hasn't finished before I have to leave the house.

Your local fire service is likely to run free home checks if you're in the UK, and often supply free smoke alarms, so it's well worth talking to them.  Checking the alarm works every few months and keeping a supply of batteries for your alarms in the house is helpful too.  Modern alarms are better at not going off for every bit of burnt toast, so if you have an alarm which you've taken the batteries out of because it goes off all the time, now is a good time to replace it with a newer one.  Teach little ones what to do if they spot a fire - shout for help straight away and get to safety - lot's of kids cause fires by accident and then hide because they're afraid of getting in trouble, with tragic consequences.  Always hide matches and lighters.

I have been going over a fire drill with Ollie since he was three - how to shout for help and then open the door and get out to the back yard and keep shouting until help arrives.  Working out a fire plan for your home is not over cautious - it's sensible.  The kids windows are locked to prevent them falling, but we have other windows upstairs that are not locked which are also large enough to climb out of if necessary.  When staying with friends and family, work out where your exit points are.  I get teased for this, but it doesn't bother me.  Our biggest problem in our house is a lack of doors downstairs, but if you do have doors dividing rooms it's a good idea to shut them at bedtime to help slow the spread of any fire that does occur.

8. Poisons come in all shapes and sizes.  If you have a load of toxic, irritant or poisonous cleaning products, having a child in the house is a good chance to reassess if you actually need all this stuff or if you can be a mean green cleaning machine with safer options such as vinegar, bicarbonate of soda and soap nuts.

Kids have a knack of getting hold of things they shouldn't have.  As an 18 month old I left Ollie playing in his room while I went to the bathroom.  When I came back he had knocked over the laundry basket and found a packet of silica gel nestled between the outer bin and the liner - I didn't even know it was there.  He had eaten half the packet, resulting in my panic stricken rushing him to hospital who phoned the poisons advice line and established he would be fine.

Medicines and vitamins need to be kept out of reach - you may be surprised by what your child's reach is given their ingenuity at moving furniture and climbing.  A relative as a child climbed up and ate a whole packet of children's vitamins.  She was taken to hospital and was OK, but if they had contained iron she would probably have died.  Grandparents can be a horrifying source of poisons to children - medicines left on bedside tables, pesticides that have been sitting forgotten in sheds for the last 20 years, kitchen cupboard full of bleach....  Toothpaste is a surprising hazard too as a tube has enough fluoride in it to kill a child, so as well as carefully supervising during brushing, that tube of paste needs to live out of reach.

Garden plants can be very poisonous - I bet you knew foxgloves were poisonous, but did you know that lupins were too?  How about every part of the potato plant apart from the actual potatoes?  Don't forget daffodils, lily-of-the-valley, rhubarb leaves, yew trees (with their enticing red berries), cyclamens ...

As always, I know you are all sensible folks and I don't want to 'teach grandmother to suck eggs' but every so often we come across something we didn't know about, and I hope this gives some food for thought without preaching to the choir.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Cooking with kids (and the best pan I have ever owned)

Yesterday I received the best thing I have so far been sent to review - a really amazing pan.  I know this isn't the coolest statement ever uttered, but I was genuinely really excited because  I have been looking for a great alternative to traditional non-stick pans for a couple of years and the Ozeri Stainless Steel Earth Pan is THE ONE.

Twenty or so years ago, when I was a kid, my parents twigged to the idea that cooking food in aluminium pans could release aluminium into your food, with the associated health risks that were just beginning to be reported, such as a potential link with Alzheimer's disease.  With two young kids in the house my folks decided it wasn't worth the risk and ditched the aluminium in favour of stainless steel.

With my own family I have always used stainless steel pans, but we also had non-stick coated frying pans.  These got pretty bashed up and scratched and I was concerned that some of the non-stick coating that was disappearing from the surface of the pans might be ending up in our food.  I started to hear suggestions that this coating was a potential carcinogen, and although I'm not one for jumping on the media scare band-wagon, this particular one sounded all too likely, so out went the non-sticks and in came the regular run ins with burnt on food.  This is kind of ironic since burnt food also contains carcinogens.

The opportunity to review one of the new generation of non-stick pans therefore came as a real delight.  These pans are manufactured by Ozeri, an American company that supplies luxury holiday homes with items such as top of the range pans and kitchen scales.  The company is so chic it doesn't even advertise, relying instead on customers using the products when on holiday and not being able to live without them when they get home.  The pan I was sent features Eterna 'the world's longest lasting 100% PFOA-free non-stick coating developed in the USA'.  With a few simple care instructions, including a cute little blanket to put it to bed with so it doesn't get scratched when stacked with other pans, this product has a lifetime guarantee.  The pan feels good quality, a nice weight, comfortable balanced hold and I'm looking forward to trying out the hob-to-oven feature that will make frittatas really easy.

I had been mulling over a few ideas for how to really road test the pan while I was waiting for it to be delivered.  My final conclusion was that my special egg fried rice was the meal that was certain to stick and burn in every other pan I have ever owned.

Special egg fried rice is one of Toby's favourite meals to help with because it means he gets to break some eggs.  Usually more eggs than are actually needed because he loves it so much.  My rice recipe also contains mushrooms, so lots of fun chopping for him, plus anything else that needs using up (hence why it's 'special').

It's very simple: cook rice, let the rice cool and dry out a bit.  Whisk up eggs.  Add rice and egg to a frying pan and cook over a medium heat.  When the egg starts to cook, add in anything else that needs using up, season, add a little soy sauce and jobs a good 'un.  Then serve with a nice seasonal salad (with edible flowers if you have them) and enjoy.... followed by soaking the pan, boiling vinegar in it and cussing it gently as I scrub it late into the night.

Not this time - the new pan actually lived up to the hype and nothing stuck to it, nothing burned and the pan ended up coming off the hob looking like new.  Hubby Matt was so awed he even put it to bed in a cupboard with it's blanket on instead of wedging it under a stack of other pans on the shelf.

As to the meal, clean plates and not too much on the floor, so definitely a success.  Ollie and Toby especially liked the lack of black bits in the rice, and were definitely more adventurous in eating the nasturtiums and marigolds in the salad than their daddy was.

Baker boy - Spelt dough bread

Have you ever worried that making play dough might be a bit wasteful of a food resource?  Why not make sure that less of that dough ends up in the compost heap by sometimes making bread instead?  The key skills are measuring, pouring, stirring and kneading, plus the sensory experience of smelling the yeast and feeling the texture of the ingredients.  This activity contributes to self esteem and helps to build a healthy relationship with food.

The recipe I've developed here uses spelt flour (explanation at the end), but you can substitute with regular strong white or wholemeal wheat flour if you prefer it or can't get hold of spelt, in which case increase the flour quantity to 475g.  I used wholemeal spelt, but I prefer to mix half and half wholemeal and white spelt if I have them as it makes a lighter loaf.  The original recipe was on a packet of Allinson wholemeal bread flour, but I have fiddled with it to make it work better for spelt flour.

I used 15g dried active yeast but you could substitute for a 7g easy bake yeast sachet.  I like making up dried active yeast because I think it may be gentler on the tummy, and also it makes it more obvious to the kids the role that the yeast plays in the baking process because they can see it bubbling up.

 Step 1:  Mix 100ml cold water with 50ml boiling water to make warm water, stir in 5g (1tsp) sugar and sprinkle 15g (1 tablespoon) dried active yeast on top of the water, then whisk in thoroughly.  Leave for 10 minutes or so in a warm place until about 2cm of froth is on top, then stir this back in to the water - it's ready to use.

You can explain to your kids that the yeast is a tiny fungus that is asleep when it is dry, but by getting it wet it wakes up and starts to multiply.  The sugar is it's food - the yeast eats the sugar and 'burps out' carbon dioxide bubbles which make the water go frothy.  It is these bubbles which will make the bread rise up.

Step 2:  Help your little one to measure out your wet and dry ingredients ingredients into separate containers - 400g spelt flour, 1 tsp sea salt, 150ml warm water and 15ml (1 tablespoon) vegetable oil (cold pressed rapeseed oil is a good flavourless nutritious oil which won't produce bad things when heated), plus of course your 150ml yeast mix.  If you use a sachet of easy bake yeast, make sure you still have a total of 300ml water.

Step 3:  Help your child to mix all the ingredients together - we usually use a spoon to stir it all initially so we don't get too sticky as Toby is not a fan of sticky fingers.  Once it starts to come together, proceed to step 4.

Step 4:  Tip the bowl out onto a clean surface and gently knead it by squishing, folding and stretching until it has a silky feel.  If it's sticky add more flour, if it's crumbly add more water.  Spelt flour is a bit different to wheat flour if you're used to baking with that - the gluten doesn't require such a heavy working so you don't need to knead it anything like as much.

Step 5:  Put on floured baking sheet/ floured loaf tin, cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place until it doubles in size (about 30 mins).

Step 6: Remove clingfilm and bake in a preheated oven at 230 degrees celsius for 15mins, then drop the temperature to 200 degrees celsius for the rest of the bake - about 15 more minutes but it depends on if your making buns, a large loaf or two small loaves.  I bake by nose mainly, then test by tapping the base of the bread - it should sound hollow.

Leave to cool then enjoy with yummy home made soup.

Notes on spelt: spelt is an ancient grain related to wheat but different from it.  It fell out of favour because it is harder to remove the hard outer case by threshing but modern machinery has now been developed to deal with this.  Nutritionally it is superior to wheat - the good bits are inside the grain and are not lost when it is processed as in wheat where the best bits are on the outside of the grain.  Spelt is higher in protein than wheat and contains all nine essential amino acids that our bodies need through diet because we can't make them ourselves. It is also higher in certain B vitamins and iron than wheat.  It is not gluten-free, but the gluten is different to that in wheat so some people who are intolerant to gluten get on better with spelt - it is not suitable for coeliacs though because it does still contain a form of gluten.

 Spelt is more delicate to use than wheat flour - if you use wheat, give it a lot more of a whalloping when you knead it - for at least 10 minutes - and I would recommend double proving wheat flour dough - let it rise, then knock it down and rise it again as this produces a better loaf that is easier on the tummy.

Notes on cooking safety: usual sensible stuff - clean hands, utensils and surfaces needed and keep little ones away from the oven and the bread when it is hot out of the oven.  I try to avoid them eating a lot of dough, but they've had no problems from munching on a bit of it.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Preparing your child for hospital

 Back in April this year Toby had a stay at the Children's Hospital in Brighton to have his tonsils and adenoids removed to cure his sleep apnoea.  I was really worried about it as the day approached and didn't know how best to prepare him for the upcoming operation.  One day we received a mailing from the hospital containing a brilliant information pack which included a booklet called 'Monkey has an operation'.

This brilliantly simple and informative booklet had been written by a mum to prepare her own family for her little daughter's major surgery.  The photographs were taken at The Royal Alexandria Children's Hospital in Brighton and featured all the things that Toby would see when we arrived and what would happen, right down to the electric quad bike he got to drive to the anaesthetic room.

It helped to prepare both boys and us parents for what was coming up and when a thing is known it becomes less scary.  It also helped that we just happened to have a similar-looking monkey toy at home, so the boys could act out Monkey's trip to hospital.

Having benefited so much ourselves from this resource I jumped at the chance to help spread the word about it when I saw that bloggers were wanted to review new products in the range.

This morning we received a pack which included stickers, the booklet 'Monkey has a blood test', a children's guide to healthy living, and an activity pack 'Monkey visits the emergency department'.  The resources are really well thought out with clear pictures that toddlers will recognise even if they don't quite follow you reading out the written description of what will happen.  Four year old Ollie is just about the right age to really get the full benefit of the guides and was able to complete all the fun and informative activities in the emergency department booklet.  Best of all there were lots of stickers with the emergency department pack, plus pencils and a card ambulance toy.

The resources represent really good value, especially the two books 'Monkey has an operation' and 'Monkey has a blood test' which are less than £3 each.  We were very fortunate that Brighton sent us the operation book, but if we had friends and family attending all the other hospitals that don't send them out I would 100% recommend that they get hold of a copy before they go.

Note, we received the

Friday, 13 June 2014

Toddle Waddle 2014

Today we completed the annual Toddle Waddle in our local park.  The event is organised and run by a number of organisations with the aim to get little children walking and having fun outside.  There is also the option to raise money for your chosen organisation through sponsorship.

We walked today for the Play and Learn Service (PALS) who run the play groups we go to.  Last year PALS raised enough for a nice tee-pee play tent, and lots of other local nurseries and groups also raised money for new play equipment.

It is a lovely day with a real community feel as you bump in to all sorts of people from different groups.  This year we even roped in my mother in law who kindly made a fantastic duck outfit which was worn by one of the volunteers stewarding the event.  This confused Toby since the last person he had seen wearing the outfit was his Daddy and the volunteer got lots of long hard looks before Toby was convinced it wasn't him.

I think we are particularly lucky in the effort local organisations go to in providing opportunities for children in our area, but it is well worth keeping your eyes open to see what is going on in your own neighbourhood.  If there isn't much going on, perhaps you might have a great idea to get people together yourself, maybe with a street tea party, or organising a play date in the park for your children and their friends with a picnic and some outdoor toys.

If you are lucky like us to have it all organised for you, it's well worth popping along to as many things as you can.  By showing your support with your presence you help to ensure the success of events which makes it worth while to the organisers to keep offering these things.  Each and every event, from the smallest craft course to the biggest play in the park is a masterpiece of organisation and form filling, so it's up to us to step up and make sure that they're well attended.  The toddle waddle today was a great example of a community coming together and I hope that it continues to thrive for many years to come.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Tales for tots - storytellers and art

Once a month a gallery and performance venue in the next town from us hold an event called Tales for Tots.  It was three years after becoming a parent that I first heard of it, and four before I plucked up the courage to go along.  This sounds silly, but even for someone pretty outgoing like me I find going to new groups in unfamiliar venues quite daunting, and with a couple of little lads who prefer charging around to sitting still I was afraid we wouldn't fit in at all.

Eventually we did try it out, and the kids did charge around and try to climb on the storyteller to my constant embarrassment of retrieving them and trying to get them to sit still.  The storyteller was lovely, it was a good story, and had lots of fun craft activities mixed in to break up the time, plus singing, but it wasn't quite right for us at that time and I was a bit disheartened.  Never one to quit at the first hurdle, I took the boys along again.  This time a different storyteller and a different room.  The boys still wanted to charge around, but this time the storyteller spent most of her time on her feet directing the energy of the small kids into useful actions and I had a much less stressful experience.
 This gave us the courage to try other storytelling events at other venues, mainly galleries, and I've found that each time the kids get more into the swing of things.  The big difference with the last one we went to this Monday was that by now we felt like old friends of the storyteller that day, Ed Boxall, and now that Toby can hear he sat at the front with rapt attention as Ed wove his tale with the assistance of his amazing self-crafted shadow and light book.  After the story we had a chance to make our own shadow pictures, and then finished with a big dance around.  Hard as that first session felt, it is worth it all now because the tradition of storytelling is such a fantastic one to pass on to our children.  Not just reading from a book, but an theoral tradition of using voice, gestures, rhythm and song to draw you in to a tale in a way that would have seemed very familiar to our ancestors.

This exposure to professional storytellers seems to me to be a wonderful way to help children to build their vocabulary and language skills, as well as awaken their own imaginations.

After the storytelling, we enjoy looking at whatever the latest exhibit is and often the boys will pick a particular picture they would like to try at home.  On Monday the inspiration was a colossal wall sized painting.  Ollie wanted to go straight home and paint something big, so off we went, rolled out the lining paper and got busy with feet and hands and brushes.

Art galleries can seem like a crazy place to take small kids, with the panic of what they're going to knock into or touch with sticky hands, but generally so long as you do your best to keep them from causing too much chaos they welcome children.  For their part, the kids attention spans may be quite short and they are unlikely to want to hear any deep exploration of the themes of the painting, but a charge around enjoying the colours and the odd description of what their favourite piece was and why is really fun.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Outdoor maths - garden stew

Basic maths skills are one of the most important things you can share with your children while their brains are so sponge like and they haven't been given the idea that they can't do maths.

Simple things like counting when you go up steps, hunting for shapes in pictures and using maths language - 'here, you can have two quarters of this sandwich, that makes a half a sandwich' all build up the ideas without ever sitting down and getting out the books.

If you're looking for a way to take your maths into the garden or park, this idea might be for you.

We call it 'garden stew' and it's a way of encouraging counting, shape and colour recognition as well as a little botany on the side.  You can use any props you have to hand, such as plastic plates or an old plastic plant pot, but if you have nothing at all it still works.

Holding an imaginary recipe card, send your little ones off to hunt for ingredients for garden stew.  For example, show them a dandelion flower and send them off to collect four dandelions and bring them back.  If they bring a different flower say 'hey, that's a really pretty buttercup and it's the same colour as a dandelion but right now we're hunting for dandelions, lets save this for later and look for these ones now' then show them the one you want again and help them hunt for it.  If they bring too few, say 'brilliant, that's three, we need one more to make four' and send them off again.  If they bring too many 'wow that's six, we need to take two away to make four for our recipe'.  Avoid saying 'no that's wrong, you need four' because the point of this is to have fun and build their confidence with numbers and the words you use have an incredible effect on children, either building them up or knocking them down depending on how you phrase things.

Continue with whatever flowers and leaves you wish - obviously common, non-poisonous plants that are close by.  You could also do this with pebbles, sticks, or whatever safe items you have to hand.

Once you have all the 'ingredients' tip them into a pile, give it a stir, sit down and pretend to eat your yummy garden stew.  Once again you can use your fractions words - 'help me to give a third to your brother, a third for you and a third for me'.  It's our job to build their maths confidence high enough now that they carry that through their lives.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Home made fruit lollies

Ollie doesn't react well to artificial colours and sweeteners, and for the sake of both boys teeth and general health we try to limit refined sugars.  One of the treats this therefore precludes is shop bought ice lollies.

This year I saw lolly moulds in the supermarket and thought we'd give it a go.  We have been making lollies with a high fruit content cordial or something refreshing like elderflower cordial watered down to at least the recommended dilution.  Last week though I saw a leaflet in Sainsburies explaining how to make fruit lollies and it seemed really simple so we gave it a go.

I substituted a couple of ingredients for things we had in the cupboard already, left out the chocolate dipped tip and added in passion fruit and this is what we came up with (Makes 8 of the size we used):

Roughly chop two large bananas and a mango
Blend with a squirt of agave syrup (the original recipe called for honey)
Tip into a pint jug, top up to the pint mark with plain yoghurt and stir well
Scoop half a passion fruit into the bottom of each mould
Pour or spoon the lolly mix in to the mould to the fill line and freeze overnight


Monday, 2 June 2014

Be a tourist in your own town

Last night after dinner we headed down to the beach - it's about a 20 minute drive so not too far.  For once there was actually another family with children there.  Very often it's just us, fishermen and dog walkers.  We can never understand why the beaches aren't packed, then we drive home past rows of houses with flickering lights from TV screens showing through the windows.  Perhaps for these folks who have grown up with the sea behind their houses they have just got familiarity blindness and don't appreciate the coast in the way they would if they were down for the day from London?

One of the things that made me surprised when we used to take teenagers on geography and geology fieldwork locally was how many of them had spent more time on beaches abroad than they had the one on their doorstep.  It's not just beaches though, it's all the parks, museums, woods and wetlands of the area that people who've lived here their whole lives have never visited.

Perhaps I'm lucky then for two reasons.  The first is that I have parents who liked to take us out and about, as does Matt, so it's a natural thing for us to do.  The other is that I moved around a fair bit as a child and also as an adult, so we were always newcomers to each area, exploring places with the eyes of a tourist.  I hope we always keep that feeling of enjoying our town as much as the tourists do.