dinosaur days – cardboard dinosaur models

arts and crafts

Having battled the rain and wind, we made it into London and visited the Natural History Museum yesterday, the boys were keen to keep the memories alive, and wanted to make some dinosaur models.


Cardboard-3D-dinosaurCardboard dinosaursOnce we had drawn out the body and legs onto cardboard, we carefully cut our the shape and slotted the pieces together to make the 3D dinosaurs.

With all of the scissor work now done by me, it was time to hand over the project to the boys to apply the paint and add some detail.

Painting-cardboard-dinosaursStick on a couple of eyes onto each dinosaur and we are good to go.



kermit the frog and miss piggy muppets birthday cakes


H-cakesThe brief from our son for his birthday cake this year was a chocolate cake, and as it was a Muppets party, it had to be Kermit. As I had not made a chocolate cake before I did a test run last Monday (without the icing) and spent quite a while researching the best recipe. Loosely based on Jamie Oliver’s Chocolate Orange Birthday Cake, which based on his guarantees, seemed the easiest one to make. We had more guests than one muppets birthday cake would provide for, so we decided to also make a Miss Piggy cake as well.

The recipe makes two 8″ cakes, so you need to cover the base of two cake tins with baking paper and then grease the sides of the tins, before you start the mixture. I cook the cakes at about 160°C-170°C for 24 minutes.

200 g butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
200 g caster sugar
200 g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons cocoa powder (mixed with 5 tablespoons of boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 large/ 4 medium  eggs


Mix the butter and sugar together in a mixer (or by hand) until they become light and fluffy (about 30 seconds).
Add all of the other ingredients to the mixture and mix for about another 30 seconds.
Evenly pour the mixture into the cake tins and cook for 24 minutes at about 160°C-170°C.

Icing the cake
Having previously made a mess of the last time that I iced a cake, I decided to look for some tips. I first watched the following, but the icing is white and so did not completely help as I was using coloured icing.

The following used coloured icing, which described the process of polishing a little icing sugar into the top of the icing ball prior to rolling and not using any more during the process.

muppet-cake-kermic-1A reasonably easy cake to make once the cake is covered in icing. I made a template of Kermit and then cut out a black background and then the various features.

muppet-cake-kermic2Miss Piggy was a little more difficult in that I also added a cup cake under the icing for the nose. As long as you are gentle in smoothing the edges and do not force the icing into the shape it should cover the area without creases or cracks.

muppet-cake-piggy1A little bit of free form in creating the hair, eyes and mouth completes the cake.

muppet-cake-piggy2One final tips is to keep the cakes out of reach of a two year old, who says ‘ah play-doh’ and pushes his finger into the sides.


muppets birthday party

arts and crafts

For our sons fourth birthday we had a Muppets themed birthday party with cakes, pinata, and party bags. My wife even made a Kermit hat, like Walter in the movie, which for once he even wore during the party.

Having made several pinata’s for other birthday parties, we had to make a Kermit pinata for a Muppets party.


pinata-kermitHaving never made a chocolate cake, I made a test cake (without the icing) last Monday, I knew that the recipe was edible. After a few tutorials on youtube on how to ice cakes, I was off and managed to make a Kermit the Frog and a Miss Piggy.

H-cakesMy wife made the party bags with a selection of chocolates, toy bugs, glow sticks, and lollies. Itemised stickers were placed on all bags.






rhs wisley butterflies

places to go

Every year the glasshouse at Wisley RHS is turned into a butterfly house.  The temperature is turned up and the humidity increase, which makes it difficult to take pictures, but creates a very atmospheric

This was the second time that we have been to the Butterflies in the Glasshouse with the boys, although last time R wasn’t able to walk, and so we spent this time running around after two boys.

wisley glasshouseScattered along the walkways there are feeding tables where you can get up close to the butterflies.



wisley rhs butterflies
Butterflies in the Glasshouse.
Saturday 18th January – Sunday 9th March booking times essential.


everythings going swimmingly

places to go

The last time I went to a public swimming at the weekend, other than Tooting Bec Lido, which is a different story, I probably paid about 20p and needed to go with a responsible adult.

As the responsible adult in our family, I took my eldest to Guildford swimming pool last weekend and paid about £10 for the pleasure to be in a crowded pool full of teenagers, geriatric swimmers, and as is the case with most weekend activities, fathers.

H was oblivious my misgivings and enjoyed the wave machine, various slides and fountains, but spent most of our time climbing out of and jumping back into the pool. Whilst H seems to have forgotten his previous aquatic life in Dubai of private pools, turquoise seas and golden sands, the memory for me is not so distant. There are few things that I miss about our previous life in the sun, but lounging around swimming pools is on of them. However in reality the days of lazing around a pool all day relaxing.


I also took R for his first swimming lesson in six months this week (again at Guildford). It funny how it doesn’t matter where you go or what type of activity you are doing there is always that level of presumed knowledge of the songs and actions. I seem to be missing the handbook so please forward if you have a spare copy.

I also took R for his first swimming lesson in six months this week (again at Guildford). Considering he has been out of the water for quite a while and even a bucket of water over the head at bath time is traumatic, he managed pretty well. All in all not a bad class, which would have been more bearable had R not screeched all the way through, as the teachers were engaging and despite it being the second week of the class (we missed the first), knew all of the children’s names.


It’s funny how it doesn’t matter where you go or what type of activity you are doing there is always that level of presumed knowledge of the songs and actions. As always, I seemed to be missing the handbook so did my best Vic and Bob Shooting Stars impression and made lots of sounds and random noises.

school applications

the everyday

This week marked the deadline for school applications for children starting reception classes this September. We had spent several months deciding where to relocate to when we moved back to the UK, with our decision primarily based on accessibility to London, proximity to family, and quality of schools and nurseries, and affordability of houses.

The local educational authority website provides detailed analysis on the breakdown of placements, (such as siblings, proximity to the school, special circumstances), for each school using this information it is possible to create a map with vectors to mark a sweet spot of probable acceptance to a range of schools.

So having marked up the probable catchment areas of three acceptable schools in the original area that we looked to relocate into, overlay with that the locations and catchments of the junior schools, we were left with a sweet spot of one street with about 20 houses. None of which were for rent.

Having been intently following the targeted property market on Zoopla all year, it was unlikely that a suitable place would come on the market in out sweet spot, either to rent or buy, and so we decided to look further afield

We eventually ended up in the next village and decided to hedge all of our bets on one school, which housed a nursery, an infants and a juniors all on the same site.

So with such large amounts of due diligence completed well in advance the process should have been straightforward and stress-free. However upon starting the online application process we we’re presented with the option to list up to four schools and so had to start the process all over again.

Roll on April 16th when we find out whether we backed the right horse or whether we will need to move house to be somewhere near the school of our (2nd/3rd/4th) choice.

R’s first day at nursery – ever

the everyday

R’s first ever day at nursery today in the same place as H.

No tears or tantrums, he just walked off into the room, having already seen his brother go into another class, slightly bewildered.

Typically on my walk home alone I see a squirrel, which the boys keep missing and a flock of parakeets, which I’ve never seen before in the town!


r-first-day-3After pick up both boys were tired and so shared the Maclaren  home.


back to school

the everyday

The early morning 530am wake up call by our youngest must mean that my wife is back to work and that H is back to nursery. The last few weeks have shot by and term starts again. This week also marks the start of R’s first day at nursery, as he turned two in December. H started at the same age, but R seems so little.

As has been the case for the whole of Christmas, the heavens opened and the grounds flooded. Pushing the best part of 50kgs, uphill, one handed whilst holding an umbrella is quite a work out. I somehow need to secure the umbrella to the pram, so an afternoon in the garage to work some magic.

We were very lucky last term as I don’t recall having any days with the weather as bad as today. So, as it was so miserable I wasn’t going to stop to take a picture, so here is one from a sunnier day in October.

school walk


family day out bowling

places to go

This was the first time bowling with all of the family, and my first time in about seven years. The boys were really excited as we went to the alley on the train, which just adds to the fun.

Bowling1_20131219Even using the kids bumper lane I struggled to hit any of the pins. H seemed to take to it pretty well and managed a few spares, and he younger brother a strike. Not sure on the final score, but fun was had by all.



cooking super gooey cookies


The boys wanted cookies, but we didn’t have any in the house and it was raining so we couldn’t go out and we needed something to do. Looking on BBC Food I found the following recipe, which I then adjusted a little. They are probably the best cookies that I have ever eaten, especially hot, as they are soft, chewy and very chocolaty.

Before you start on the mixture, cover two trays with baking paper and set the oven at 160°C.

150g butter, at room temperature
80g light brown sugar
80g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
225g plain flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
150g plain chocolate chips and/or chunks

Mix the butter and sugar together in a mixer (or by hand) until they become light and fluffy (about 30 seconds).
Add all of the other eggs, vanilla, flour, and bicarbonate of soda to the mixture and mix for about another 30 seconds.
Cookie-mixtureStir in the chocolate and spoon large teaspoons of mixture onto the baking trays. The mixture should be enough for about 12 cookies.

cookies3Cook for about 14 minutes at about 160°C and then allow to cool down a little before eating so that they firm up a little in the middle.



Santa’s Grotto at Bocketts Farm Park

places to go

In previous years we had visited a variety of Santas, both in the UK and in Dubai, to varying degrees of success. Sometimes the boys were a little in awe; sometimes they were in a state of complete terror. We had recently visit Santa at our local school and everyone had a great time, so expectations were high.

We had visited Bocketts Farm in the summer and are big fans of the place as it has a wide variety of activities, both indoors and out, lots of animals, and on this occasion, Santa.

christmas-carriageRiding aboard the Santa Express from the farm entrance to the big barn where we were to meet Santa and the rest of the elves.

santa-in-his-grottoAll of the children sat down on hay bales and listened intently as Santa explained how all of the toys were made by the elves, and then asked everyone if they had been a good boy or girl and what they wanted for Christmas.


santa-giving-presentBocketts Farm – Fetcham, Leatherhead, Surrey


rocket ship

arts and crafts

Having previously built an earth-based vehicle we decided to aim for the stars and build a rocket ship from scratch using brown cardboard moving boxes.


We taped together the two boxes and cut into the top box to make the pyramid roof. Having covered our previous car creation in newspaper (which didn’t paint too well), we pasted white paper all over the rocket and waited for it to dry before deciding which colours to painting it.


remember rememeber the 5th of November

arts and crafts

Bonfire night for the boys is a new experience this year being back in the UK. Only professionals were allowed to buy and use fireworks in Dubai, so this was the first time that we had our own in the garden.

As I was lighting the fireworks and my wife looking after the boys we were unable to get any good photographs so the boys drew some pictures instead.


First we made fireworks using coloured lollipop sticks on a black paper background.


Then using coloured pipe cleaners we made some 3D fireworks. I had seen this on, but the boys were not quite as proficient.



The following evening the local school has some amazing fireworks, which with the strong winds, blew them almost overhead.