29 December 2013

I Baked Biscuits With My Children ... And Survived!

MissyMoo1 (7) has been nagging asking me to let her bake something for a while now. This interest in culinary delights was compounded when she received a book on easy baking for kids. (It's my fault really - I bought her the book through the bookclub at school thinking that if it was aimed at children, it might actually contain recipes with a degree of difficulty that even I could manage)

You might not understand my reluctance to bake with my daughter, particularly some bloggers out there who blog about baking and who, I therefore assume, enjoy it. Let me explain. I don't dislike baking. I sort of enjoy it. But I don't find it easy. It requires concentration and effort on my part. Baking with my seven-year-old is no more difficult than baking alone - she is capable, keen and tall enough to reach the bench. Except that it's never just baking with the seven year old, is it? There's the four-year-old and the two-year-old to consider, climbing over one another to get a look at the mixing bowl, wanting to "help" with things like sifting flour - oh the horror!

Nevertheless, being the selfless mother that I am, earlier this month, I grabbed a free afternoon after school and set it aside for baking. MissyMoo1 was allowed to choose three recipes from the book as possibilities. From those three selections, I chose "the one" (the easiest).

Biscuit dough

The biscuit dough was easy to make and formed a dough easily - something I've struggled to find at times in other biscuit recipes.

We got out our new fancy-pants cookie cutters and cut wreath shapes. MissyMoo2 (4) was great at this too (I may have underestimated my under-the-radar middle child).

Cut into wreaths

And what would a post about baking with children be without photographic evidence of the mess they left behind? I threw them the line that when you're a chef you have to learn to clean before you learn to cook ... to no avail ...


Despite the mess, the biscuits started to look pretty darn good. So does the oven, by the way. I love the kitchen in the house we're renting right now.

Cooking pic

After the biscuits cooked, we let them cool and then we decorated them. We had a production line happening with the older two MissyMoos icing the biscuits while MissyMoo3 (2) passed me the mint leaf lollies and glacé cherries.

Finished product

They look pretty good. They tasted even better. They didn't last until Santa came. We had to bake again for him!

4 Years of Blogging

Can you believe it has been four years since I started this little blog? Well, the blogiversary was a couple of days ago, but I forgot about it until today ... oops.

So from my humble beginnings four years ago, what have I achieved? I haven't become a big-time blogger and I haven't even published my book yet - if I'm being completely honest, I probably would have expected to have a bit more progress in either or both of those areas in the space of four years. Having said that, I don't really care - they're not my goals in doing all this.

In the past four years, I've learned a lot about online communications, writing and websites. I have made wonderful connections with others in the blogging community. Blogging has recorded important times in the life of my family, seeing us through pregnancy, baby, toddler, pre-schooler and school stages with one or more of my children. It has documented my journey in writing my first (and hopefully not only!) novel. Next year, you'll have more to look forward to with blog fodder in the form of building a house! I love the memories blogging preserves, the conversations it starts and lessons it teaches. I have really enjoyed this blogging journey - it is a small but important part of my life and I hope to continue with it in some shape or form into the future.

I don't consider myself a "blogger", but blogging is one of the things I like to do with my time and something I have enjoyed for four years now. Thanks so much for reading and I hope you'll keep visiting Francesca Writes Here!

22 December 2013

Christmas Ducks

As you may know, I go to a bookclub which we call the Old Ducks Bookclub. It's a collection of friends who like to read and we gather on a monthly basis to catch up and talk about anything but the book we have collectively chosen to read in the preceding month.

One of the old ducks gave me this as a Christmas present:

I exclaimed that we could use it to make duck-shaped chocolates or cupcakes.

Oops, I really should have read the label :-)

21 December 2013

Playgroup Christmas Party 2013

I've blogged before about co-ordinating playgroup. B and I have continued on with it all this year. To be honest, I thought I would have blogged about it more, writing about craft ideas or other fun stuff, but for whatever reason, it has for the most part slipped under the radar this year.

For the last playgroup session of the year, we always have a little Christmas party. Everyone brings a plate, kids get in their swimmers and play with the hose, "graduating" kids (and parents) are given certificates and all kids get a small gift along with some reindeer food.

This year was no different, with great weather for water play and a magnificent spread:

The lovely playgroup parents and carers were a bit sneaky and organised a gift each for B and I:

I drink my cup of coffee from it every morning!

Unfortunately, one of the "graduating" parents was B herself, which means that I will be taking on the running of playgroup on my own next year. I have already had a few offers of help, which is lovely. I will miss B and I wish her all the best for the next phase of her life, having all three of her children at school and I hope playgroup can flourish again next year, as it did in the later half of this year with the influx of a few new families and gorgeous little ones.

Francesca's Festa of Favourites: December 2013

Now I know I normally open up the Festa at the start of the month and it's now the 21st of December. There are only four more sleeps until the fat man in red comes down the chimney (or slips in through a door left strategically unlocked) and I'm only just putting together the Festa of Favourites for December.

I wish I could say that it was a strategy on my part to generate interest at the end of the month when people have read a few posts they might want to link up (hey, that's a good one!), but actually, life has just been so busy that it has left little time for blogging. I now find myself sitting at the computer, three MissyMoos playing nicely together following an hour of grouching at them on my part (don't jinx it, please kids keep playing nicely for a little longer), so I am taking this opportunity to create an extra festive festa!

Without further ado, welcome another edition of 

For anyone who's new to the link-up, here's some background: "Festa" in Italian means a celebration, a party. This link-up is a place where you can place links to your favourite posts in a given month, but here's the difference: they don't have to be posts you've written (although they can be). You can link to any post for the month that, for you, has been a must-read, that you're proud of, or that you think is entertaining.

I add some of the posts, from blogs I read regularly, so you might see the same bloggers cropping up over the months. I make no apology for that - I love being able to use this space to bookmark my favourite blog posts for the month.

But, more importantly, I love seeing what everyone else likes reading and it makes me smile till my cheeks hurt when other people add their favourites to this festa. So feel free to link up as many of your favourite posts as you like during the course of the month.

(Let me know in the comments if you have trouble with the link and I'll try to fix it.)

Pick of the November bunch (in my humble opinion)

There weren't very many posts linked up in November, not because there wasn't any good stuff around, but I put it down to my almost-never presence on the blogosphere during the month. But there were some, and they were good, so I have chosen one post from last month's linked posts to showcase here. I think it's a great way of showing off other bloggers in my own little corner of blogland. To check out all the posts linked up in November, click here.

The November Festa Favourite is:
 Time for Some Blogging Confessions by The Muddle-Headed Mamma.

Lizzy's blog celebrated its 1/2 birthday and with that, she makes many entertaining blogging confessions. You should totally read about it.
Now, let's see what goodies you bring along to Francesca's Festa of Favourites in December (what's left of it). Happy linking!

18 December 2013

Kidspeak Gems: MissyMoo3

I swimming! I swimming in the water!

I love, love, love play centres with my adventurous child. I just want to capture that two-year-old enthusiasm and bottle it!

15 December 2013

Bare Walls

Our moving journey began with the first packed box:

But nothing says goodbye like bare walls.

When I lived away on campus in my first year at uni, through the term my walls would be covered in posters and photos - putting my interests and everything I held dear out there on display, helping me feel at home in a place far from there. During each term break, we would have to pack up our rooms completely to allow distance education residential students to use the rooms. So at the end of each term, I would take everything down, pack all I could into a high cupboard and padlock it until my return to campus after the holidays.

Bare walls. As if I had never been there.

A few weeks ago we packed up our home of seven years; the home we'd lived in as each of our three children were born; the first house we bought.

I took a few photos of the rooms before we started packing everything away. Here are a couple of pics from kiddy rooms:

And then afterwards.

Bare walls. Only a hook to show we had ever been there.

Now we are set up in a rental house - a lovely new four bedroom house. But we aren't allowed to hang or stick anything up on the walls.

Bare walls. Nothing up around us to make us feel at home.

But we have each other. We are not alone. And we can look forward to the day when we have walls of our own (or the bank's if you want to get technical about it) upon which we can make our home.

14 December 2013

Putting up the Christmas Tree

Now, we did this on 1 December and I'm posting on the 14th - better late than never!

The first Advent activity for this year was putting up the Christmas tree. (Let's ignore the tiny fact that I added this to the Advent calendar retrospectively, as I put the calendar together on the 2nd of December!)

It was a bare corner of our new house, with many things still packed in boxes, but a great spot for the tree was decided upon very easily.

We had a bit of a production line, with two helpful little MissyMoos passing branches, and my big girl and I putting everything into place while the Hi5 Christmas album played in the background.

This was the first year MissyMoo3 (2) was able to join in with helping and it was very special to have all three MissyMoos enjoying decorating the tree together.

12 December 2013

Advent Calendar 2013

Amidst all the crazy business of the past few weeks, I still managed to put together an Advent calendar for the MissyMoos, albeit a relatively effortless one.

If you were reading my blog last Advent, you'll know that I'm not into chocolate Advent calendars. So I made another activity-based calendar this year.

The first thing to do was to put together a list of activities. I did this with a little help from the calendar, as some days call for quick things and other days can be more involved, depending on what we have on:

Here's a close-up so you can get a better idea of what the activities are:

Thankfully, I still had the numbers I used last year stored on the computer, so I just printed those off again and stuck them onto envelopes.

I then cut out the activities, put each in the corresponding envelope and there you have it. It's not a craft-blogger's masterpiece, but it's a time-poor parent's Advent calendar! And I managed to get it done the day after Advent started - not too bad at all ;-)
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