Kids are full of such wonderful ideas.

I did another Lottie and Dottie school event today. This time at a Pre Prep School in Ashtead. I was at the school all morning with 80 children, reading my book, and getting them to think about using as many “WOW” words as they could to describe something. For those who don’t know “WOW” words are any words you can come up with that describes a person, place, animal, or thing. So for example instead of saying “A dog”, you may say “A huge, brown dog”. Firstly I had 2-4 year olds, and we talked about vegetables, what did they know, have they ever grown anything. They were fabulous and very chatty. We then described a person using WOW words, and then I read them Lottie and Dottie Sow Carrots. I then had the 4-6 year olds and we made up a story. They came up with such imaginative ideas to describe the 2 characters in the story. What they looked like and what they wore. I think Gok Wan would have had a field day with their wardrobe choices. We talked about where they lived and described that. The kids decided that the 2 characters lived in a flat, which had lady birds painted on the inside walls and the flat had a giant pink cardigan wrapped around it!! Don’t ask!! The kids went on an adventure and found a spooky ghost and got chased by a bear. They then got lost (how did that make them feel), fell into a hole (how did that make them feel) and finally got rescued by the ghost who was called Jemima. The ghost showed them how to get home and they all had dinner together and became friends. To be honest that sounds perfect if you ask me. I would read that story any day. Afterwards I read them Lottie and Dottie Sow Carrots as well and they then went back to their classrooms to continue their stories. I then cleared up ad signed 48 books, which was amazing!! That was over half of the school that had bought a book I was thrilled. I’ve got another event on Wednesday, but all day that one. If you would like me to do a school event, library event, garden centre event, please get in contact. All the information is here. Or pass on this information to anyone you think will be interested.

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I’ve got a good stash of Seaweed Fertiliser.

It’s that time of year again when The Shropshire Seaweed Company have a special offer on their products. I got an email from them saying that if I used code WORM15 then I would get 15% off if I spent over £20. The offer ends Sunday 1st March, so get it today to make the most of the offer. I was very impressed with them, as I ordered it one afternoon, and then it arrived first thing the following morning. This year instead of ordering several of the 1 litre bottles, I ordered one 5 litre bottle. It works out much cheaper, and with my 15% discount I think it’s a bargain. I’m sure that it makes a huge difference to the size of everything, and yes I know that size is very important, especially if you’re a man. So here goes for huge potatoes, onions and everything else that I grow this year.

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Saturday 21st February 2015 – Mark’s 42nd Birthday!

What is the answer to “The Ultimate question of Life, the Universe and Everything?”….42!  Mark has been looking forward to turning this magical age for quite some time…..42 years in fact. So for his birthday (being that it fell on a weekend) he wanted to go to London for the day. Now I know that he works in London, but doesn’t really see much of it because he’s in an office for most of the day, and then crammed into a train. So today we were tourists. In our house when it’s your birthday you get to choose what you’d like for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s a tradition, and doesn’t matter how old you are. So after a “Fry up” for breakfast, we headed to the train station. When we arrived up in our big capital city we headed for Westminster Abbey. None of us have every been here before, I don’t know why but there you go. You have to pay to get in, but we had 2 for 1 tickets so it didn’t work out that expensive. For some reason (we’re not sure why) you’re not allowed to take any photos or film anything. There was no service going on, just a lot of tourists wandering round listening to their little information phones. Can anyone answer this question for me? If you did try, then you were very sternly told not to. I would like to say that I didn’t get told off, or even try to take any photos…I was a good girl. Mark on the other hand took a sneaky photo of the “Oldest Door in Britain” which was made in the Anglo-Saxon times and built in about 1050. He didn’t get caught.

Outside Westminster Abbey because you're not allowed to take any inside!!

Outside Westminster Abbey because you’re not allowed to take any inside!!

There are lots of dead people in the church, and we were forever standing on tomb stones or memorial stones. Poor dead people must be fed up of tourists wandering over them, there they are trying to lie down for a bit of peace and quiet. After we left the Abbey we sat down outside for a little snack, and then wandered over one of London’s many bridges to our next destination.

On one of London's many bridges. The cross wind was rather brisk.

On one of London’s many bridges. The cross wind was rather brisk.

Our next stop was The London Dungeons. This is now in it’s new home on the Southbank near the Aquarium and the Big Wheel thing (again I’ve never been on this). Mark has been to the Dungeons before, but in it’s old home in Tooley Street, but a long time ago. Now I like scary things, like horror films, but not scary things like roller coasters (see our Florida trip for more information on THAT!). It was really good inside the Dungeons, you were in groups and moved from room to room being told information about various killers and historical gore from various times. It was done very well. We were in for a good 2 hours and they had group participation whether you wanted to or not. It was great fun. At the very end of the tour, you get strapped into a chair and dropped the height of a house TWICE!! I was not sure about this, but was convinced that it would be ok by the rest of my loving family, but when I heard the screams from the previous group and I made my choice NOT to go on it. Apparently I would have hated it!!

We had a little time to spare before our dinner reservations, so firstly we went to Forbidden Planet. It’s a geek store, and we’re all geeks in our own little way. Emily is into Japanese stuff, Mark is Sci-Fi mainly Star Wars (the original ones episode 4, 5 and 6), George is into Marvel and stuff, and I love various things, like The Big Bang Theory. The kids bought some things, and I treated Mark to a Star Wars T-Shirt and I bought myself one as well. Mark saw his book on sale which was a little surreal.

Oh no, it's that author again!!

Oh no, it’s that author again!!

Afterwards we went wandering through China Town. It’s beautiful at the moment as they’re celebrating their New Year and the town is decorated beautifully. If you get a chance, pop up to see it very soon as it’ll all be over in about a week. The year of the Goat started on 19th February, just incase you were wondering. They had some wonderful fruit and vegetable for sale. I wonder if I’ll be able to grown this spiky Thai Durian.

Do you think I can grow this on my allotment?

Do you think I can grow this on my allotment?

We had dinner at Ceviche, which is a little Peruvian restaurant. The food was amazing!! Go if you can, it’s well worth it. It’s fairly spicy, and all the dishes are for sharing, which is great for the kids as they can try all sorts of different foods. George liked the octopus, and Emily found that she now likes beetroot. The sea bass is out of this world!! You must try the cocktails as well, I had 2 Pasion de Ceviches which has ginger, apricot brandy, passion fruit and cinnamon in it. You could drink a lot of these if you weren’t careful because they don’t taste alcoholic. Once we’d finished we got the train back home and once back home it was time to sing Happy Birthday and have a bit of cake before we all went to bed exhausted.

Happy Birthday my love xxxx

Happy Birthday my love xxxx

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Triple chocolate cookies!!

Now I would like to say that this is my own recipe, so if you want to make them yourself you are making a “Claire’s Original”. It goes as follows:

Heat oven to Gas mark 4. Beat together 9oz Margarine and 9 oz Sugar (whatever you have, a mixture is fine. But not Caster as it’s too fine). Melt 150 grams of good chocolate and set aside. Combine 10oz of Self Raising Flour, 2oz plus 2 tablespoons of Cocoa Powder and a large pinch of Salt together. With the mixer on slow speed, slowly add the Flour, Cocoa and Salt mixture, then the melted Chocolate. Mix til it has all combined. Finally add some white chocolate chips (a small packet is good). Using an ice cream scoop space out on baking trays and bake for exactly 15 minutes.

They are very yummy and should be soft in the middle and melt in the mouth. Enjoy xx

They're soooo good!!

They’re soooo good!!

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Half Term fun.

Both my 2 are on half term this week, and as it was such a gloriously sunny day we went out to Winkworth Arboretum. Now I know that we’ve been to this place quite a few times before, but we really enjoy it, and we always see something new. The kids wondered if we really needed our wellingtons, and knowing that they are both magnets towards mud and puddles I insisted. Lucky I did as you’ll find out a bit later. Now at this time of year Winkworth looks very bare, but there were plenty of Daffodils coming out and Snow drops. There were several trees that had blown down over the winter and some were made into wonderful carvings like this one, that they’d attached to a tree.

What a perfect little house.

What a perfect little house.

As we walked round by the lake the geese came over to honk at us. We didn’t have any food for them, just our lunch and I wasn’t going to share my soup and salad with them. They were clearly very used to people as they had no fear what so ever. As we were walking along, I very sensibly stuck to the paths, but the kids walked near the stream (well of course they would). Now George is the one that always falls in the water or slips in the mud at some point. However, this time Emily decided to have a go instead. She was walking back to me when all of a sudden she dropped about a foot into the mud. It came up to the very top of her wellingtons. I’m afraid I burst into laughter (not very helpful I know). She stood there rather miffed and said in a stern tone, “Well is anyone going to help me?”, by which I remarked, “George is closer.” Good on George he helped her the best he could. You may be wondering what that blue thing on his left arm is, well it’s a plaster cast! Yes he’s done it again, but playing Dodgeball at school this time. But this time he’s fractured the scaphoid bone in his wrist. The plaster has to stay on for 6 weeks, but unlike when he broke his ankle (he’s done that twice) he can walk with a plastered wrist. He’s right handed so that also helps. Emily had very muddy knees when he finally got back up, and a little while later saw the funny side of what had happened.

"Emily's turn to fall in the mud...it's usually George.

“Emily’s turn to fall in the mud…it’s usually George.

We sat down on a fallen tree and had our lunch and looked at the view, it was very peaceful and quiet. Then after exploring a little bit more we went to the cafe and I had a cup of tea and the kids had an ice cream. It doesn’t matter how cold it is they always want an ice cream. But I don’t mind buying them one as I’ve not paid anything to get in as we’re members.

There's always time for ice cream.

There’s always time for ice cream.

Then it was back home to let the chicken out in their big run. They laid another egg today, they’re doing really well and seem very happy. Their feathers are growing well and they’re not as frightened of all the noises that they hear. They’re still very silly though, but then they’re mine, so what would you expect!!

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Sunday 15th February 2015 – And so it begins again!!

What do you do on such a lovely sunny Sunday? Well that’s quite easy, you go and play in the greenhouse. Today I spent the afternoon in my greenhouse starting off my Garlic and Onion sets in half toilet rolls. I’ve been saving up our toilet roll tubes since this time last year and still I’ve not got enough for all my garlic and onions. I even had my sister saving them for me as well. It’s not something that you can ask your neighbours for. They know I’m a bit odd and this would just make them realise that I’m completely dotty!! We all get on really well, but there are somethings you just don’t discuss. This year I’ve got the following Onions sets all from Mr Fothergill’s Seeds: “Sturon” which I do grow every year and they tend to grow really well, “Centurion” which I’ve also had great success with and “Hercules”. How do they get their names? I imagine my Hercules Onions running around with a beard and a nappy on like in Jason and the Argonauts, and my Centurion Onions with red helmets, being “Stwiked and thwon to the floor very roughly!” Like in Monty Python – Life of Brian. Now briskly on to the Garlic. This year I got mine from Homebase and the only variety they had was “Casablanca” I’ve never tried these before so it’ll be interesting to see how they grow. Every time I go in the greenhouse I’ll have to say to them “Here’s looking and you Garlic!” Enough of the terrible cliches, I think I’d better go now.

Garlic and Onions starting to grow. There are more don't worry.

Garlic and Onions starting to grow. There are more don’t worry.

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My Chickens have finally arrived!!

The last few days have been very interesting and exciting, well for me anyway. Mark just leaves me to it, and nods and smiles in all the right places. Saturday 7th February was the day that we had to go and collect our new chickens. As we had to go down to Southampton to get them, which is about and hour and a half drive away, we decided to make a day of it. So on the way we stopped at The Devils Punch Bowl to have a look around.

Nothing like a 3 mile walk on a cold Saturday morning!!

Nothing like a 3 mile walk on a cold Saturday morning!!

We’ve never been here before but it’s a National Trust place that I’ve wanted to visit, but never got round to. We put on our warm coats, gloves, hats and scarves and put our wellingtons in the car and after I’d packed up lunch off we went. It was a cloudy day, dry but rather chilly. The Devils Punch Bowl is very beautiful even in winter, but I can imagine that it’s glorious in the summer. We went on a 3 mile walk following a specific path, which went down and down. When this happens you know that you’ve got to climb up and up at the end. The kids were very excited to see some snow still on the ground. It was very muddy so if you go visit it soon, make sure you take suitable footwear, flip flops just won’t do! We got back to the car park and cafe for lunch and sat inside and ate (we did buy a hot drink each so we were not being that cheeky). As we were eating, I got a text message to say that we could go and pick the chickens up sooner that we were told, so once we’d finished our lunch we got back in the car and drove to the chicken pick up point. I expected that were would be collecting our chickens from a farm, or at least a chicken rescue place, but no. We drove into a car park, and there were several large cages crammed full with chickens. We’d taken 3 large cardboard boxes with us to put them in and had cut holes in the sides for ventilation. I reckoned on 2 birds per box. Some people turned up with crisp boxes and other small boxes. To be honest I was quite stunned by what people though would be good transportation holdalls. When it was our turn she grabbed 6 birds who were all very scared and frightened and shoved 3 in 2 of the boxes. You could have fitted all 6 in one box as our boxes were so large. We then carried them to the car and started the long journey back home. The hens were quiet on the journey back. They were in the dark so they were very subdued. When we got them home we put them straight in their new house. They didn’t mind me picking them up and putting them in. I think they could tell that they were in a lovely place now. We tucked them up and left them for the night. On the Sunday morning they were still very unsure, and it took them ages to come out in their run and get their food. But eventually them got brave and ventured out. They didn’t eat much that first day, but since then, they’ve soon made up for that. I then bought some wire fencing to make their run a little larger and as the days have gone on they love coming out and exploring the grass and finding worms.

Freedom!!

Freedom!!

They’re getting used to various noises, but some noise make them all panic and scamper back inside. They didn’t mind me using the drill to put an extra lock on their back door, BUT when a crow made a noise in a tree about 30 meters away, that made them panic and they all shot straight back in their house. Now they’ve been with us for 5 days and they’re getting a little more adventurous. When I open their door in the morning they come straight out for their food, and yesterday (Wednesday) we got our first egg from them, and another one today (Thursday). Not laid in the nesting boxes, but never mind, I’m sure they’ll figure that one out soon.

Hopefully the first of many.

Hopefully the first of many.

We have 6 names for them, but at the moment have only allocated names to 2 of the chickens. Saruman is one, as this one picks on all the other chickens, and the smallest and cutest is Gizmo. Yes they’re all film related, but what else would you expect from us?

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