Friday, September 28, 2012


Between the torrential downpours and flash floods there have been some pretty decent bursts of Indian summer. I am definitely a summer person and any day spent in flipflops is a good day in my book. The sun came out while my mum and dad were over and we headed into the forest with the kids and dog in search of blackberries.
This is our absolute favourite tree. We call it the Totoro tree after the massive camphor tree in the movie My Neighbour Totoro. Whenever we pass by we all yell “Totoro!” at the tops of our voices. To date he hasn’t called back, but we are hopeful…
There seemed to be some kind of horse meet up going on so we kept the shouting quite brief to avoid a stampede.
Weirdly later on the horses all took off at a slow canter down to the stream. The ones already down by the water whinnied back to those still at the tree maybe to tell them to get a push on.
I think the horses had already done a good job of stripping the bushes, but we still got a decent haul of blackberries. I did notice the children put more in their mouths than the bags.
Anyway we got a very decent pie out of them.
And despite the falling temperature we gritted our teeth in a way that behoved our northern roots and had dinner outside under this amazing sky. 
I admit that I chickened out and came inside for my pudding.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

New school, new skirt

Since Little M started big school a couple of weeks ago, Little P has been begging me to let her start pre-school. Last week I relented and signed her up. To mark the occasion I ordered her a shiny new Dora backpack off ebay (her choice) and got the sewing machine out to attempt a new skirt for her first day of pre-school, a lovely idea I borrowed from Dana at Made.
All my fabrics are really summery lightweight cottons perfect for a pretty sundress, not so great for wrapping up on chilly autumn days. Luckily she went for a cute navy cotton with cherries which was a weeny bit heavier. 

I was really happy with how her yellow summer skirt turned out, so I did pretty much the same thing except this time I made a two-tier skirt by sewing two skirts of different lengths together and inserting the elastic waistband between the two layers.
The tricky bit was figuring out how to join the two pieces together for a neat finish and end up with them both facing the right way. After a lot of trial and error I worked it out; slip the shorter skirt inside the longer skirt both facing right-side out. Stitch together around the top and flip the shorter skirt to the outside. Feels wrong but weirdly it works.
Then I sewed some red ric rac around the hems to pick out the two tiers.
A ra-ra skirt perfect for stomping through autumn leaves,
collecting conkers
and playing hide and seek.
Right, time for pre-school!
'Stop taking photos now, we're going to be late!'

Friday, September 7, 2012

Last days of summer

My little boy starts school next week. I feel like we've been gearing up to it forever. We've read and reread Topsy and Tim start school, bought the uniform, met the teachers, toured the school. I'm working on bringing his wake up time from 8.30am to 7am so far with limited success. 
I do think it's going to be great for him. It's a lovely school and I like the focus on outdoor activities and play and creativity. But I'm going to miss that freedom of just taking off with the kids each day on a mini adventure or just hanging out with them doing nothing much.
Little M and I had a perfect day together just the two of us at the weekend. It was gloriously sunny and we made pizza and ate it in the garden.

'I'm making tiger pizza'
It felt like the last day of summer and the last day of freedom. We enjoyed every minute.
I am going to miss my little man. Even though I know I'll be picking him up again at 3 o'clock each day.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Fiori di zucca

These were definitely worth the wait. A pretty long wait too... about twenty years.
When I was 18 I worked as an au pair in a town south of Rome. I met a very sweet lady there who showed me how to make fried courgette flowers stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies. They are pretty much the most delectable thing I have ever eaten but I have never come across them since.

Anyway this summer with a garden to tinker in for the first time in my adult life I decided to put in a vegetable patch and was pretty chuffed when I spotted a packet of seeds for Italian flowering zucchini at the garden centre.
I planted twelve seeds but only one plant survived. The slugs were the number one culprit but the heavy rain and flooding didn't help much either.
This was our garden in July.
My mum and little P scattering egg shells to keep the slugs away - it didn't work.
Then miraculously last week the courgette plant actually flowered.
I racked my memory for the recipe and managed to fry up some pretty decent fiori di zucca fritti alla romana. Here's what I did in case you too are willing to wait two decades until you find some.
First wash and dry the flowers very thouroughly and carefully. That's the boring fiddly bit done. Next make the batter by beating plain flour and beer together with a hand whisk until it is smooth and the consistency of double cream. Peroni or Nastro Azzurro are ideal but I used Carlsberg because there was a bottle in the fridge and it worked fine. 

Cut a ball of bufala mozzarella into sticks a couple of inches long and chop your anchovies in two then stuff each flower. Coat your flowers in batter and fry in shallow hot oil, a few seconds on each side. Once slightly golden and crisp place on kitchen paper.
Sprinkle on some salt, crack open a bottle of chilled white wine and you are good to go. 

Eat them hot and enjoy.