Friday, 22 April 2011

Palm Easter Tree

Have we all enjoyed a great Easter weekend? It's been absolutely glorious in the North of England. Apparently it's been warmer here than in Spain and France, unbelievable.

I am not sure if it is a sign of the times or whether it is just me but I am very keen to keep to traditions. I had planned traditional fayre for the whole Easter weekend, starting with Green Thursday (called White Thursday in Holland and Belgium) and for the first time we made a 'palmpaasboom', a palm Easter tree. When I mentioned this to friends here I got blanks so it may well be a Dutch tradition. This 'tree' in the shape of a cross was decorated with ribbons and flowers and carried around on Palm Sunday. I have never actually seen this carried in a parade at school or elsewhere but this is what happened up to the sixties apparently. The monkeys love learning about what they call the 'olden days' and they like that we do things on certain days so I thought this would be a great thing to pick up for years to come.

On a trip to Delamere forest we found a couple of sticks that we turned into a cross and decorated with yellow ribbons and Easter decorations. The monkeys then had a great time threading biscuits and sweets for a couple of garlands that they were allowed to eat today on Easter Monday.

I searched online to find tips to turn bread dough into a cockerel or an Easter chick to put on the top and found that it was remarkably easy:

Make sausage shapes of about 15 cm, then make a few cuts in one end for the tail and a few at the other for the comb, pulling one bit out to make a beak and sticking a raisin in for an eye. I wasn't all that sure when I put them in the oven but .....

the result wasn't bad:

And this is what our tree looked like in the end:

Proportionally the chick is a little small but I'll divide the dough differently next year and make a bigger one. In the meantime the cross is going to be used for a sword by boy monkey. I am glad the monkeys get into the spirit of reusing and recycling too!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

I could have been a farmer's wife

Yes I could have been a farmer's wife, should have been perhaps but never would have been as a farmer never crossed my path. Having grown up in the Dutch country side, a mile from the seaside but having been addicted to the London high life I have a strange mixture of sentimental feelings for both places. I do think the seaside wins... the smell of the North Sea and that of the flowers and animals is really quite appealing. I have no green fingers yet but would love to grow my own veg. I have a real make do and mend attitude and never waste anything and often dream of living on a farm. On top of that girl monkey would love to move to a farm near grandma in Holland; that would make all her dreams come true (well apart from that being an actress or a chef). Farm life is getting a little closer though in Didsbury with plans of getting a few chickens and growing rhubarb in the back garden.

The week started with some inspiration at a book launch at the Albert Tennis Club organised by Action for Sustainable Living. The book entitled "Didsbury Dinners" promised to give tips on sustainable living and some good recipes. It ain't a Nigella or Jamie but we should all support our local community and the effort that has been made and make this a sell-out publication.

The lovely volunteers made the event a memorable one and we got some lovely goodies. I particularly love the shopping bag: Love Food hate waste, the strap line was made for me! We got to taste some vegan snacks (the pastry was a little wasted on me) and I was nearly persuaded to join the WI. Who knows when I've got more time on my hands and an actual house fairy who could deal with cooking and monkeys I might even give this a go.

For the moment I am feeling quite green and sustainable by growing my own tomatoes. I am very proud of these so far.

Having just recovered from neck pain I decided to do some work in the garden and do my back in. I'd spent a day pulling weeds, planning the kitchen garden and making space for the chicken coop and then I decided to put this little baby together:

It promises to be a tropical Easter weekend with chocolate eggs melting everywhere so had to buy this beauty to BBQ some goodies.

Girl monkey cheered me up by planting some Phlox and to relax from all the hard work I bundled some lovely purple and white flowers (weeds I believe!) for the kitchen.....

.... and added some lovely smelling white lilacs to a bouquet in the lounge.

All I need now is a cup of tea and a foot rub. Shame I've got to do that myself......

Monday, 11 April 2011

Hello Summer!

Surely this was the hottest weekend I have ever experienced in Manchester. Looks like it is fast becoming the Nice of the North (well not quite but you know what I mean).

After finishing the last Busy Betsy order of the week it was time to put up my feet and enjoy some sunshine. I wish I could write lots about what I had done but there isn't much to report apart from enjoying the sun and relaxing. The weekend felt like a proper holiday and for the first time in months I feel totally recharged.

The weekend was a real community affair, hanging out with friends and neighbours, going from place to place. By Saturday night the monkeys and their friends were in holiday mood too so they set up camp in the back garden, complete with chairs, duvets and sticks to build a pretend fire, whilst the grown ups were preparing a fabulous barbecue.

This seemed the perfect moment to open a bottle of Shloer as the new flavour had arrived on Saturday morning. As I have said before I really do like the drink but was quite blown away by the new taste : Summer Fruit Punch, which apparently is a limited edition drink. Not sure if this is a marketing trick but I will stock up for the Summer. It is like Pimms but without the alcohol. I loved the taste of cucumber and even the colour resembles Pimms. The monkeys call Shloer kids champagne and were thrilled to see the new flavour but girl monkey and her friend weren't impressed. I think the taste was perhaps a little too grown up for them. No problem: more for me!

To break up the celebrations a bit we went for a walk around Delamere Forest yesterday and guess who we saw on Hunger Hill:

Smiles all around for the monkeys! Well it is still Lent for me but I will be tucking in soon....

To finish a fabulous weekend I dropped off my car for an MOT this morning and got the pleasure of driving around in the latest racing car:

Well racing is a slight exaggeration: I don't think I've ever driven this careful. Felt a bit like a granny behind the wheel and sure enough I did get the occasional stare from particularly the male drivers, needless to say I did not go cruising. A visit to Tesco and straight back home!
Just four more days and it is the Easter holidays, the start of a few fabulous weeks!

Monday, 4 April 2011

Hello April

It's been a good start of the week. Well apart from the fact that my phone went from full battery to empty overnight and failed to wake me up this morning. However I got myself and two monkeys washed, dressed & fed within 20 minutes so got to school on time.

I then made a sturdy cover for a MacBook Air. It looks a little like a summery purse, which serves the purpose just fine in my opinion. I am not sure if it will catch on to a wider public as it has already been deemed too girlie by some in my immediate circle. Anyway if anyone is interested in something that does not look like a laptop bag please email us at

Preparations are in full swing for the hands-on Craft Cafe at the Didsbury Arts Festival and the Christmas Craft Cafe later on in the year. We are looking for artists so if you are interested please send us some images of your work to

A couple of times a year I sort out my kitchen cupboards and today I realised I have a decent amount of semolina and almond flakes that are approaching use by dates in the next month or two. I know it is still Lent but on the other hand I do not like food waste so baked an almond and semolina pie.

I've cut myself a decent slice and I'll make myself a cup of tea, put my feet up with the new copy of Making Magazine and get some great inspiration for Spring. I love the cover, the content is most likely going to be very good, It simply is the best craft magazine around.