Monday, 29 February 2016

07/52 A Portrait A Week 2016

I'm behind on my portraits... (of course I'm behind) these two photos were taken during half term. Coco being her dreamy self, she does do a good stare out into the middle distance.

Henry watching over his lego corner - I was really impressed at how well he shared his lego with the other children we met on holiday; it seems we might be out of the years where we had to say "share, share... SHARE" constantly.
Having said that; these do are perfecting their somewhat clich├ęd sibling bickering skills.
C'est la Vie!

Monday, 22 February 2016

Videos of our Family Holiday in Essaouira...

We've become proper creatures of holiday habit - we've just come home from our third trip to Morocco, staying in the same hotel and having just as much of a good time as we've had on previous visits.
Although the temperatures aren't high, the skies are (mostly) blue and the air is definitely warmer making it a real treat at this time of year. Returning to Le Jardin des Douars, a place that we all loved has some major plus points; for children especially the familiarity is wonderful, but a year is also a long time for little people so there was real joy for them in re-discovering the haunts of last year. We were also completely swung by the fact that Easyjet are now flying direct from Luton to Essaouira, so a short trip of five days was totally doable and returning to a place we knew meant that no time was wasted on getting our bearings, we even got the same room so we were straight in the holiday mood, in fact we were in the pool within an hour of our plane landing.

While the children made and re-made friends - another family had also decided to make a return trip - I decided to try to capture this years trip on video. I've been really enjoying the Make Films course I'm doing with Xanthe Berkeley but I haven't really had the time to get totally stuck in so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to practice... I shot a bit on my big 'proper' camera - but I also wanted to do some editing while I was there as I'm finding that's the bit that takes me AGES so I also shot a lot on my iphone and edited it with the iphone iMovie app... in fact editing my iphone movies was a great way to kill time on the 3hr flight home (although also means they are all without audio).

So here are some videos made on the hoof as it were - small memories mostly cobbled together while I pretended to my kids that I'm not scared of flying at all; honest.

From England To Morocco from Alexis Allan on Vimeo.

Wandering In Essaouira from Alexis Allan on Vimeo.

Holiday Games from Alexis Allan on Vimeo.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Henry & Hugh's Granola Recipe

Granola, or crunch, as it's known in this house is generally our breakfast of choice (when I'm not trying to mix it up at the weekends).
More often than not Hugh makes batches of granola in the evening, but every now and then Henry gets in on the act and they make up a batch on a Saturday morning. Now for some reason our family granola recipe - which really is very simple - has taken a lot of experimentation. We used to buy a well known brand and Hugh wanted to re-create the clusters of crunch that you got in it. There was lots of recipe development but in the end we all decided that actually we preferred it without clusters.

Ever the scientist, Hugh tweaked and tweaked away at his recipe - the notes above show only one of three pages - but now it's so simple that even Henry has it down to a fine art... well you know under Hugh's supervision.

Ingredients are approximately:
1kg jumbo oats
250g sunflower seeds
150g pumpkin seeds
250g nuts
200g raisins
75ml agave nectar
50g maple syrup
A large dollop of honey
1-2tsp vanilla extract
150ml of fruit juice (cranberry is good but anything goes)
200ml sunflower oil

...and here's the method:

Pour a full bag of jumbo oats into a mixing bowl

Add your nut of choice - in this case a bag of flaked almonds

A good couple of handfuls of seeds - we like pumpkin seeds -

... and sunflower seeds

Give your dry ingredients a mix.

Then put your wet ingredients in a measuring jug - we use a mix of agave syrup, maple syrup (although are using less and less of that as it's pretty £££), a tiny bit of honey and then cranberry juice... and a very carefully measured teaspoon full of vanilla essence!

Add your wet ingredients to the mixing bowl and give it a really thorough mix.... 

Measure out your sunflower oil

... and pour it in...

Mix until everything is well coated! Can take some effort...

Optional: take a rest once it's all mixed together. I know I didn't do a great job of editing down these photos... I am indulging myself.

Pour the mixture into a baking tray and spread it evenly

First bake is for 30 mins at about 150 degrees - and keep an eye on the edges - they can burn if you're not careful or lucky.  Once it's toasted around the edges, mix it over and put it back in for a further 15 mins or so.

Once that is done you can add your raisins... if you put them in the first bake then end up too hard, so we add them half way through.

Scatter them about and put your crunch back in the oven for a further 10 mins.

Then turn the temperature down to zero but leave the fan running for a good 20 mins to dry it out and get it crunchy.  Then covet until morning... or if you are like us maybe have some for pudding!?

We like it best with plain yoghurt and chopped fruit... although the kids seems to like adding it to any other cereal and just eating it with milk too, but it's definitely a much lower sugar option than supermarket cereal. I'm on a mission to keep an eye on how much sugar the children have (without jumping on any crazy bandwagons...) I don't think I'm doing them any favours if they grow up with a sweet tooth but it's a hard line to tread; I don't want to do too much straight out denial in case that just make the urges stronger. It's work in progress.

My friend Hattie is being much more systematic about the same mission and is sharing some great recipes over on her instagram account @thetwohatties - this is one you need to be following people!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

05/52 A Portrait A Week 2016

I hardly got my camera out last week it seems which leaves me with very little choice of photos - but actually this snap of Coco taken on my phone is a good record of her right now. It was taken after her school assembly. She raided the dressing up box and my wardrobe for her 'outfit' (I think I'm resigned to giving her this old Topshop poncho that I never wear but she seems to love). Considering how much I like making things I'm pretty awful when it comes to costumes, so I'm quite happy for her to concoct them herself... and luckily so is she. Watching her assembly is always very heart warming and I often find myself on the verge of tears (the teachers know what they are doing - last year I heard her teacher bragging that she 'even had the Dads in tears') her class has a lovely bond and seeing them growing together is something quite special.

For Henry it's another one at the kitchen table - it's not often where he is, but maybe it's where he is most still? He got given a water filter experiment kit for his birthday and he had been bugging us to do it all week so finally on Saturday morning we mixed up some dirty water from the garden and Hugh sat with him to 'experiment'. It's safe to say he LOVED it. I wonder if/when he'll grow out of his water obsession?