gardening with kids – our first allotment sowings of 2018

21-4-18- allotment-first sowings 2018 - nipitinthebud.co.uk-12.jpgI’m so happy to be returning to the allotment this year thanks to our friend Dave giving us a small patch of ground on his plot, just like he did last year when 5 year old Euan tried allotment growing for the first time.  I was a bit dubious about how productive it would today with a wandering toddler in tow so set my expectations low to avoid any sense of frustration.  If nothing else we’d enjoy some fresh air, sunshine and chats with lovely allotment holders.  We did just that having arrived an hour before Dave with no tools or seeds (our amazing plot guardian Dave he even shares his shed palace with us so we can just rock up without having to bring things with us!).  It was so lovely to chat to our old plot neighbours Pat and Robin.  I had feared I might feel wistful for the days when I was able to spend all day at the plot but I obviously love my kids more than gardening which is good to know! I love being at the allotment but enjoy it in a different way now.
21-4-18- allotment-first sowings 2018 - nipitinthebud.co.uk-4

It’s beautiful to see how much Euan loves being there too. Admittedly he loves exploring more than the actual gardening at the moment but he shows interest and diligence with the latter when he does help because he gets to have some free time to play first. Pat and Robin are very gracious about him doing laps of their plot via the secret path behind the shed and zig zagging along the pathways between their vegetable beds. On this occasion, between playing hide and seek and pointing out plants he recognised, Euan assisted Pat with planting her seed potatoes (she didn’t need the help of course, but E was thrilled to be given the responsibility of tucking the potatoes into their trench).  This is what I always loved about the allotment – the sharing of knowledge between generations and the relaxed and easy sharing of time.
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Euan correctly guessed the name of the rhubarb plant and happily helped to tug some stalks from it when Pat offered us some.  We also received some forced rhubarb from Dave so we shall have to decide how to use our two kinds of rhubarb.  The beauty of blogging is that there is never a shortage of ideas so a quick look at my post 5 ways with… a ton of rhubarb will be a good place to start!
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We wandered over to Dave’s plot to await his arrival and saw that he had prepared the ground for us so we could get straight on to the business of sowing our first seeds (I know!  how lucky are we?)   We rummaged through Dave’s seed tin and Euan chose kohl rabi after his success with growing it last year, Autumn King carrots, watercress and lettuce.
21-4-18- allotment-seeds sown

Luca was actually quite interested in what we were doing but had to be distracted with invitations to dig holes away from where we were working.   He just couldn’t grasp the concept of walking around the seed beds every time he decided to make a beeline for me.  He loved the watering can but found it a bit ‘‘big, big” .  I admired his determination to keep returning to the watering can and check whether it was still to heavy.  A couple of lines of seeds later and it was just the right.  He looked so pleased with himself as he dragged it over to me.
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Luca definitely worked up an appetite for his snacks after all that effort.  He’s not a big eater but loves nibble sized fruit and veg and chomping his way through apple slices occupied him for a little while at least.  I can’t wait until our allotment growing starts bearing fruit as I always loved snacking on green beans, peas and berries freshly picked.  I think Luca will too so it was very thoughtful of Dave to give us some space right by the blackberries.
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The allotment provides a sense of community for us that is lacking in the street in which we live (as home owners in a street of tenants and students who come and go). We have history at the allotment and there’s an ease in conversations as we stop to chat with people tending their plot. Although we had a 5 year gap after letting go of the plot when Euan was a year old it feels like we never left. Only now we have the privilege of enjoying the space and growing again with 1/10th of the effort it would normally take.  It makes it a joy to be there with the boys and we are ever grateful to our wonderful allotment friend Dave. Gardening with kids is fab!
allotment gardening with kids_toddler wandering

April 23, 2018 at 10:02 am 2 comments

To practice any art .. is a way to make your soul grow

‘To practice any art, no matter how well or badly,
is a way to make your soul grow.  So do it.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

30-7-15 - E drawing in the kitchen 1 4B
Collage - drawing in the kitchen
30-7-15 - E drawing in the kitchen 5 4B
30-7-15 - E drawing in the kitchen 6 4B
”It’s not only children who grow.  Parents do too.
As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives,
they are watching us to see what we do with ours.
I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun.
All I can do is reach for it, myself”.

– Joyce Maynard

I first published this post in 2015 when Euan was a 3 year old artist.  He’s now 6 years old and he’s done much soul growing since then.  I love his drawings and the confidence with which he thanks people when they commend his artwork – ”thank you, I’m an artist” he replies with a hesitantly proud smile.

6 year old artist - nipitinthebud.co.uk.jpg

After such a long wait to have Euan I never dreamed he’d have a sibling to share his love of drawing with.  At nearly 2 Luca is already picking up pens and pencils and having a scribble.  He hasn’t quite grasped the ‘‘only on paper” message yet though so his freedom to create is being supervised at the moment!

25-3-18 - brothers drawing in the back yard - nipitinthebud.co.uk

I enjoyed a bit of creativity myself turning E’s picture into a quote card – simply upload your photo to Big Huge Labs, click on Motivator and add your quote.
Motivator - to practice any art - nipitinthebud.co.uk

 

April 16, 2018 at 8:40 am 1 comment

making chocolate courgette cake

If you’ve still got whopping great marrows knocking around (they store for weeks afterall so it’s quite possible) then reach for your grater and make a simple, delicious chocolate courgette cake.  Super easy, moist and tasty this is a great recipe for making do with what you have in the cupboard as it uses oil instead of butter and cocoa powder instead of chocolate (although on this baking day I found G’s dark chocolate in the cupboard and the cocoa powder pot empty).  It works just as well for making cupcakes (made another day when cocoa powder supplies had been replenished).16-8-13 - chocolate courgette cake_slice 4B

I was so sure I’d already posted this recipe but it seems I imagined that.  E’s hair, or rather the lack of it, is the measure of the passing of time since taking the photos with the intention to share it!  Woops, well over a year ago I’d say.
Collage - Chocolate Courgette cake 4BTo make Chocolate Courgette cake

350g self-raising flour
50g cocoa powder (I used 100g dark chocolate in this cake)
1tsp mixed spice
175ml olive oil
375g sugar
1tsp salt
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
500ml grated courgette
140g toasted hazelnuts roughly chopped

      • mix flour, spice, salt, cocoa powder
      • mix oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla, grated courgette
      • combine the dry and wet mixtures and fold in chopped hazelnuts
      • line a 24cm cake tin and pour the mixture in (or spoon into cup cake cases)
      • bake for 40-50 minutes (reduce to 25 mins for cup cakes) before turning out
      • place 2 squares of dark chocolate on top of the warm cake and move around the cake with the back of the spoon to create a thin melted topping.
      • Alternatively cool for 10 mins and see original BBC Good Food recipe for making a gooey chocolate frosting topping

I sandwiched my cake with butter cream and jam and decorated with blueberries.  Who knew melting chocolate squares on top of a fresh-from-the-oven cake could be so satisfying?  My topping was a bit meagre (I only saved 2 squares for it) but once it hardened properly a few hours later it created a lovely thin crispy topping (very satisfying to cut into!)
16-8-13 - chocolate courgette cake 4B
The inspiration for the melted chocolate topping came from Conner Middelmann-Whitney’s video post for Chocolate Beetroot cake (fast forward to 6 minutes if you just want to see the icing stage).  It’s next on my list of recipes to try as unlike this recipe it’s packed with nutrients, gluten-free, dairy free and sweetened only with a smidgen of acacia honey. Conner is the author of Zest for Life: The Mediterranean Anti-Cancer Diet and her YouTube channel is well worth checking out for other video recipes.

First published in 2014.  If you like this recipe you may also be interested in Making beetroot and chocolate cupcakes

April 15, 2018 at 12:46 pm 1 comment

drink up (a review of the Tommee Tippee explora bottle)

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We’ve tried all sorts of drinking cups and bottles as you’ll know from previous reviews.  We still use E’s Tommee Tippee first cups for milk drinks in the bath to ensure E doesn’t end up wearing his milk (you know how toddlers love to pour!).  We didn’t ever try the 12m+ range from Tommee Tippee having fallen in love with our Oxo Tots water bottle by then.  When Tommee Tippee offered us an Explora Active tipper bottle we were happy to try it – you can never have too many non-spill water bottles afterall when friends come to play.

The Tommee Tippee Explora bottle claims to be truly non-spill and easy to drink from and it satisfies these claims unfailingly. Aimed at 12m+ it has no lid or fiddly push/pull spout; it just seals automatically thanks to the Easi-Flow technology inside the top. You don’t have to worry about accidents or your toddler needing to come and ask for a drink when thirsty at home. And for going out and about the sporty can be tossed into a bag without releasing a single drop.

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Truly non-spill.
E enjoys drinking from his sporty cup and it holds a good volume of fluid (360ml) but for my busy toddler he seems to tire of the effort it takes to suck up smaller quantities of drink than the gulps he’d get from an open cup (always the downside of non-spill spouts). Nevertheless it’s still a keeper as we find it brilliant for little pitstops while playing, drinking in the car and for playgroup where having an interesting picture on your bottle counts to a small boy!sporty cup

E is more inclined to sip little and often and then ask for a big drink when he really needs one so for encouraging independence and listening to his body we’re very happy to have the sporty cup in our cupboard. And for mooches in the stroller, when he has all the time in the world, he loves to sit back and chill while supping from it, chewing the spout, waving at passers by …wpid-img_20141123_203958.jpg

Disclosure: We were sent this bottle to try in 2014. We were not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

April 15, 2018 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

#myheartylife 15 – gratitude| success| beauty

Reflecting weekly on the beauty in every day moments, reasons to be thankful and celebrating small successes with the #myhearty life linky.

12-4-18- Slimbridge visit playground

I am grateful for …
Living near to Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetland Centre.  The school holidays have been a bit dreary weather wise and while we’ve loved our indoor time over the Easter weekend we’ve also had to cancel some activities when being out in a downpour would have been a bit miserable or created epic muddy clean up jobs.  When you have a special place you like to visit as a family it’s easier to push through any reluctance and as we only had one day this week with George we made it work for a trip to Slimbridge.  It was cold but dry and we had a lovely time doing the Dusty Duck Easter hunt and then claiming the prize of a delicious Pulsin bar.  Luca was in his element bimbling about saying “Hiya” to the birds and calling every bird variety we saw “wack“.

12-4-18- Slimbridge visit_12-4-18- Slimbridge visit with Dusty Duck12-4-18- Slimbridge visit stepping stones

I succeeded at
Creating our first video review.  I’d not used iMovie before but George has been making trailers for his Spaces music project.  He gave me a few pointers and we put together a short video of the boys bimbling about on Selsley Common with their OXO Tot water bottles.   My initial plan had been for E to talk about why the bottles are so great but that proved tricky to capture and edit as I’ve never used my camera for video before!  I did get some lovely footage and some funny outtakes but quality was poor from shooting indoors and it just didn’t stitch together very well.  So I decided to use the small amount of outdoor footage from our Easter Sunday amble.  The funniest thing about the whole process for me was being named a ‘composer‘ by GarageBand when we used it to create the music for the video.  GarageBand was George’s solution to my question ”how do you put Music on it without having to worry about copyright?’‘.  I wouldn’t have dreamed of making my own track but when you know someone who can their confidence and ease rubs off.  Of course, it wasn’t really like I made my own song as the loops were samples but if matchmaking two country style loops, inspired by Luca’s Benny Hill like bimbling, is successfully writing a theme song I’ll take it.  Anyway here’s an outtake from our first video making attempt when I didn’t even realise you couldn’t shoot in portrait!

I found beauty in ..
Wildlife and seeing how much pleasure our boys (and kids in general) get from being around animals.  First at Slimbridge feeding the birds and seeking out Euan’s favourite otters.  And then during a visit to our local city farm where we saw lambs, cows, pigs, guinea pigs, rabbits, goats, ducks and chickens. I loved watching how curious Luca was peering into the guinea pig hutches and E running up to tell him what they were and read their names out. Parenting outside feels easier too, they’re not the only ones who feel lighter for the fresh air!

Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetland Centre swans
Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetland Centre
My previous #myheartylife reflections can be found here

If you’re publishing a blog post that fits in with one or all of the #myheartylife prompts why not join the linky? Simply add your blog link at the bottom of Mary’s latest post here. Sharing comments with other #myheartylife bloggers is always lovely and if posting your cheerful moments on social media too please use the tag #myheartylife. Enjoy living and sharing your hearty life.

April 13, 2018 at 2:42 pm 1 comment

5 reasons to love the OXO Tot twist top water bottle (a review with a pair of thirsty explorers)

boy drinking from OXO twist top water bottle on Selsley Common - nipitinthebud.co.ukIf you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know how much we love OXO kitchen tools and utensils.  If you’re a new visitor here thank you for taking the time to hang out with us – you might like to read our other OXO product reviews after you finish here.  We first reviewed the OXO Tot twist top bottle when Euan was 18 months old.  3 years later when his baby brother Luca was in need of his first drinking cup we returned to the OXO website and reviewed it again.   Luca was 9 months old in our second review but soon got the hang of drinking from the straw (the packaging recommends 18 months + but in our experience there are no safety issues for children younger than that, they just might find it tricky to hold the bottle or drink from the straw).  We wanted to try something a bit different for this review so we took our bottles out for an Easter Sunday bimble on Selsley common and this is the result.

If you already love these water bottles you’ll understand why we kept our video short.  It illustrates all you need to know really – that this water bottle is easy to drink from with or without hands, it’s lightweight and easy to carry and it’s strong enough to handle whatever a toddler may throw at it.  If you’re not familiar with the OXO Tot brand and need a little more persuading here are 5 reasons why we love their twist top bottle and think you will too:

1/  the flexible rubber drinking straw

There’s something about straws that just makes drinking easier.  I share Luca’s water bottle during the day and find it much easier for both of us to stay hydrated than drinking from a cup.  Luca likes drinking from it because we share it and he feels so grown up having the same bottle as his big brother.  Euan likes it because when he’s  drawing at the table he doesn’t even have to pick it up (did you spot Luca carrying it by the straw in his teeth in the video?).  It’s a brilliant water bottle for travelling as children can’t tip their head back in their car seat to drink from a normal cup or bottle.  Or when the boys are poorly or need a drink in the night it’s much less disturbing to their sleep to just turn them on their side and put the straw to their mouth for small sips than sitting them up to drink from a cup.  We all agree water just tastes better from a straw! If that’s not been your experience because of plastic mould growing straws the OXO designers have thought of that too.  Their rubber straw is in two sections and comes apart easily for cleaning.  If you do find it starts to deteriorate, gets lost or your toddler bites through it using it as a carry handle (the texture is quite appealling to teethy toddlers) you can buy a replacement (2 for £4) .  It makes good environmental sense to make sure a perfectly good water bottle doesn’t need to be discarded when the straw goes astray.
30-3-18- OXO Tot water bottles for review

2/  It doesn’t leak. 

This is like the holy grail of claims with baby/toddler food and drink storage.  The twist top design of the OXO water bottle means the straw disappears inside when the lid is closed creating an airtight seal.  There will be a few drips if the bottle is opened and shaken about as a little water from the last sip remains in the straw and even OXOs brilliant design can’t defy gravity! (as demonstrated by Luca below).  But I’d take a few drips over less effective designs any day.  Of course the clever design can’t account for user error so we have had leaks on the sofa or carpet when Luca has cast it aside unnoticed with the straw still out (he’s a wanderer afterall).  And I have had a leak in my bag when he helpfully posted the bottle into it upside down and I didn’t notice it was not shut properly.  To be really sure of no leaks you’ll want to take on responsibility of closure with smaller children.  Euan can be trusted to close it properly, Luca cannot and is not physically able to at under 2 years old.

3/  it’s easy to measure your fluid intake

This might sound obvious as it’s a see through bottle but it’s a really important feature for us.  At a glance Euan can see exactly how many fingers worth of water he’s drunk.   If I wanted to be really precise about how much he’s had from a full 300ml bottle there’s a measuring guage on the side.  Between losing his previous twist top bottle and receiving this new one Euan didn’t get on too well with staying hydrated at school.  He was taking in a plastic Lego water bottle which is opaque and every day it was coming home full.  At 6 years old he found it too hard to remember to drink from it when he didn’t have the visual prompt of seeing the water level inside the bottle.  It was such a relief when his replacement OXO bottle arrived!  When he has a cough or a cold I put cooled herbal tea in it as that also encourages him to pick up his bottle more when the drink inside is an interesting colour.  In the summer the nice wide opening at the top of the bottle means ice cubes can be added easily to keep drinks cooler.

4/ it has an easy grip handle for hands big or small

The bottle can hold 300ml so it’s not too heavy for children and is a nice clutchable size even for a toddler like Luca.  It’s easy to hook your finger through the carry handle on the top as shown by Euan running along after Luca in the video.  If you didn’t want to carry it by hand you can use a caribiner to clip it on to almost anything – a bag, on the buggy, through a coat button hole etc.
toddler holding OXO twist top water bottle on Selsley Common

5/ it’s strong, durable and made of BPA free plastic

Our bottle was unscathed by Luca’s ”kick, kick” experiment down the hill.  He’s heading towards 2 years old with throwing arms in full force and so far his bottle has shown no signs of distress being thrown down the stairs and launched down the slide at the park.  We’ve never know any OXO Tot products to break and unlike some other clear plastic items in our cupboard it doesn’t even look scratched or cloudy from daily use.
OXO Tot twist top water bottles on Selsley Common

Disclosure: I requested and was sent a replacement OXO Tot twist top water bottle to review.  I was not required to write a positive review and any opinions expressed are my own.

The OXO Tot twist top bottle is available to buy from the OXO website and costs £8

April 13, 2018 at 6:58 am 6 comments

making Delia Smith’s one pot Basque Chicken

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If there’s one thing I love about Delia’s recipes it’s the satisfaction of creating a dish that looks just like the photo from her Delia On-line recipe archive! We were first introduced to Delia’s one pot Basque Chicken by our friend Alice who seemingly whipped it up out of nowhere when we visited one Saturday. While the kids played and we chatted in the kitchen she browned off some chicken thighs and chopped some peppers. After a brief interruption from Euan I returned to the kitchen to find Alice popping her full casserole dish in the oven. An hour later she pulled it out again and 4 adults and 4 children were soon tucking in to this lovely spanish blend of chicken, chorizo, peppers, and olives soaked brown rice. Delia’s original recipe uses a whole jointed chicken but we like to use skinless, boneless chicken thighs which are not only cheaper but suit the flavours and texture of this dish and require no preparation. I also omit the hot paprika and wine find this makes it more agreeable as a family dinner with small children. I did include wine for the making and photographing of the dish for this post but couldn’t honestly say it made all that difference that I could notice so will continue to omit it in future.

18-03-20_BLOG chicken basque

What you need to make Delia’s one pot Basque Chicken (with slight variations)

Salt and pepper seasoning
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
225ml brown basmati rice (measure using a jug)
275ml vegetable or chicken stock
170ml white wine (optional, increase stock quantity above if not using wine)
half a large orange cut into wedges
50g pitted black olives
2 large red peppers
1 large or 2 medium onions
2-3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
150g skinned and sliced chorizo sausage
50g sun dried tomatoes in oil
2 large cloves of garlic chopped
1 tbsp sun dried tomato paste

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How to make Delia’s chicken basque

  • Season your chicken with salt and pepper.
  • Heat two tablespoons of oil in an ovenproof casserole dish and brown off the chicken thighs. Remove to a plate lined with kitchen paper.
  • Slice the red peppers in half, remove the seeds and pith, then slice each half into six strips. Likewise, peel the onion and slice into strips of approximately the same size.
  • Drain the dried tomatoes, wipe dry with kitchen paper and cut into ½ inch (1 cm) pieces.
  • Add a little more oil to the casserole dish, at a medium heat and when the oil is hot, add the onion and peppers. Allow them to brown a little at the edges, moving them around from time to time, for about 5 minutes.
  • After that, add the chorizo, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic and toss these around for a minute or two until the garlic is pale golden and the chorizo has taken on some colour. Next, stir in the rice and, when the grains have a good coating of oil, add the sun-dried tomato paste, paprika and chopped thyme.
  • Pour in the stock and wine, and add some seasoning. As soon as everything has reached simmering point, turn the heat down to a gentle simmer. Add a little more seasoning, then place the chicken gently on top of everything (it’s important to keep the rice down in the liquid).
  • Finally, place the wedges of orange in among the chicken and scatter with the olives.
  • Cook in a pre-heated oven at gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C), for 1 hour. (I have also cooked this on the hob before I invested in a casserole dish and it works well that way too, just make sure it’s on a low heat and gently stir from time to time so it doesn’t stick)

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We enjoy this dish with some steamed greens or broccoli but it’s just as good as a stand alone dish.

April 10, 2018 at 12:12 pm Leave a comment

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About Nip it in the bud


Welcome to my blog about growing and cooking allotment veg since 2009 and growing sweet boys since 2012. Take a walk with us through our life in Gloucester with a boy, a baby and 3 cats.

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2 year old Luca's growing collection of hand knits. What I love about them is that half of them have been saved from when E was little and all have been made with love and care #kidsinhandknits #nipitinthebudblog #gloucesterlife
Throwback to Es playgroup days when we took part in the Giant Wiggle to raise money for @actionforchildrenuk . Check out their website for activity ideas based on the hungry Caterpillar story or click the link in my bio to see what we did. #gloucesterlife #nipitinthebudblog
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