Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Monday 1st May Bank Holiday- a trip to deliver a surprise

As forecast it rained overnight and also in the morning – so that watered in my parsnip seeds nicely.

We were off to Essex to see our three older grandchildren – it is my eldest's birthday on 3rd and I was anxious to take her birthday present and to see her open it.

I guess it was a bit daft of me, considering the way I am feeling right now, but it is not the same if you send a parcel is it. I was also a bit apprehensive that she might not like what I had put together for her – it wasn’t a latest gadget or anything you see.

When she stays with me, and when the children pay a visit, I have always given them little jobs to do, so help out at mealtimes. Ever since they were small. One of the first things that they could manage was to lay the table, and they just love to put out the place mats and knives and forks and spoons and plates etc, and they take it in turns to write place names.

The last ritual started when the eldest two came to stay and used to argue over who sat where, who had which place mat and which particular flower pattern on their china. So I decided that each day, one would write out the place names and the other would decided who had which china. It worked. I also let them help with some of the cooking – baking mainly as it was safer. So the tradition is carried on each time they come.

My grand daughter has now started cookery at school, but these days it is Design and Technology. Her first cookery lesson was making a smoothie with a banana – she was not impressed nor were her class mates apparently!

She is at an age now, where she could safely prepare or cook some things, so I decided to make up a birthday present around that.

I bought the River Cottage Family Cookbook, which is designed with children of all ages in mind, but particularly the age group 10-12 year olds who can do a lot of the recipes unsupervised – and those that do need supervision are clearly labelled.

It is not just a book of recipes but is well written in a language that children can easily understand. Each group of recipes is pre-fixed with explanations about the ingredients. For example a recipe using eggs tells all about chickens and eggs and explaining the different ways that poultry is reared and the difference between battery hens, shed reared, and free range.

There are lots of photos and all the recipes show children of the authors actually making them.

I thought that it would be useful for any future homework projects as well as introducing her to the joys of cooking.

I picked out a simple recipe – Chocolate Chip Cookies, and bought all the ingredients. To make it look more interesting I weighed and packaged each one – soft brown sugar, caster sugar, strong flour etc, sealed each in a transparent plastic bag and labelled it with its contents and weight. I bought the 100g bar of chocolate so that was the exact measurement, a pot of baking powder and small bottle of vanilla essence. KoKKo donated an egg (and the Ginger and Adelaide and KoKKo donated another 11 to be used during the week), and I bought the unsalted butter, which will have to be weighed. I added the parchment sheets too. (I didn’t want to cause my daughter in law, any extra work of going out and buying all the ingredients)

I commissioned a lady on one of the forums to make an apron – with a cat motive on it and the letter A. My grand daughter is ‘mad’ about cats and theirs in particular.

I commissioned another lady on another forum to bind a note book and personalise it with her name – and she also added a cartoon type print of three modern young girls which she coloured in different shades of pink – my grand daughter’s favourite colour.

I then covered a cardboard box and added shredded paper which I covered in lavender tissue paper, and created a hamper. The cookery book and apron I wrapped and I added slices of dried oranges which made it smell lovely, and lots of pink ribbon. I covered it with cellophane and added a big pink bow and we put it in a pillow case so that she could not guess what it was.

As soon as we got there K the four year old said to us, that her sister was in the back room and that we should take her birthday present in for her to open it. She is so funny. I explained that we were going to save it until after lunch, as mummy had got it ready for us all.

When we went through, little K very proudly showed us that she had made place names, just like the others do at our home, and she had put people where she wanted them to sit. They were written in a four year olds ‘best’ writing and it was so lovely and reminded me of when her big sister was that age and did it here!

They also excitedly told me that their mum makes wedges chips just like I do – in the oven with the potato skins on and without any fat.

When the time came for the opening of the present I was a bit concerned that she might be disappointed with it. Her brother and sister said that they knew what it was and that concerned me more as I thought they had looked and it would spoil it – they were so convincing that they knew – and I was so relieved that all their guesses were wrong. Children are so funny aren’t they.

My grand daughter opened it very slowly, and daintily, which is what she likes to do, but little K goes at things like a bull in a china shop! She grabbed a pink ribbon and promptly tied it around her little head under her chin – so she had a huge pink bow on the top of her head with the long bits of ribbon dangling over her ears. She looked quite sweet as well as comical.

I needn’t have worried about the present – as each bit was opened there was a lovely smile and 'thank you's' and lots of questions and she really liked it. I explained about the cook book and got her to look up Chocolate Chip Cookies in the book, then explained about all the ingredients and she asked what baking sheets were etc. Her brother dived on the bar of chocolate which we soon retrieved when I explained that it was the exact amount for the recipe, so they couldn’t eat some of it beforehand or the recipe wouldn’t work.

This is the parcel almost finished - I just had to add a few more bit and bobs inside and to pretty it up.

She really loved the apron with the cat and her initial on it, and couldn’t stop looking at the personalised book – in which she can make a note, if she wishes of any recipes that she makes, or any that she wants to write in, or any notes even about what she need for cookery at school.

They were all keen when I explained that they could make butter and all they needed was a glass jar with a clean marble in and some double cream. I think that might be a project for this week – it is certainly a fun thing to do and taking it in turns to shake it is bound to keep them all amused.

In the odd quiet moment my daughter in law got to have a look at it too, so hopefully they will all get some fun out of it. I bought a copy for myself so that they can choose a recipe and cook or make it here. ‘A’ wants to come and stay on here own this summer for a few days, so she can do some cooking then.

So all in all I was happy and relieved that she liked the hamper. She said that no one else would do a present like me, and she liked the fact that it was different – and there was me worrying that she might already have the book or would have preferred clothes!

I was totally shattered when I got home – mainly from the journey as I was not able to do my usual playing and cuddling with my grand children, but just some reading and talking this time.

Next time I will be back to energetic normal!


  1. My Sister Patsy has a birthday today. She reads your Blog daily. Give her a shout to let her know she is old today! : )

  2. chris7:10 pm

    Lucky A! I bet she remembers that present a long time.
    One of my favourites was from my lovely Aunty,it was a big case of sewing things with real metal pointed scissors(I was about 7).She always tried to personalise presents to us and it always showed us how much she loved us.

  3. Hi 4th sister - I did pop over and post a message - I have been poorly today so did it as soon as I read Patsy comment and then yours. I hope she had a wonderful day and she shares the same date as my grand daughter.

    Thanks Chris - in this day and age when they get lots of 'gismos' and fashion items I sometimes worry that I might be a bit old fashioned, but I really do like to do something a bit different - then worry in case if falls flat!

    It is lovely that you can remember the present from your Aunty - how great - and I bet you used it a lot and remembered the day ever time that you did.

  4. I was so sorry to hear you aren't well at the moment. From what I have heard shingles isn't nice at all. The pictures of your garden looked lovely in the sunshine. My tomato plants look very similar to yours in the picture - I haven't grown them from seed before so am a bit anxious about them! All the best for a speedy recovery and a few less aches and pains, Mike


  6. What a great gift! I know a certain daughter who would love the idea and she turning 25 this year! She has just got a new kitchen in her first home so is itching to cook. I was thinking of making a book of our favourite 'family' recipes as both the kids often ring/email for the recipe for that thing we used to make. And she loves it when I sew her things so an apron personalised somehow would be great. Anyway something for me to think about. You take care of yourself and rest lots so your body can heal itself!

  7. Thanks one and all for your lovely get well messages - they really cheer me up. I guess I should be resting more, but being stuck indoors just makes me feel so sad and what with the pain - well - not point sitting there dwelling on it.

    I am resting inbetween bursts of activity and despite how it sounds I usuall do triple the amount of things that I am doing at present!

    Scarecrow - glad you like the idea, you can add all sorts of things to personalise it, especially as your daughter is older.

    How about getting a note book and sticking on the front a photo of her as a child - have you got any with her eating or cooking? You could have the photo copied and use that. And type up her name etc on the computer and paste those on the front too! That would really personalise it.

    Let me know how you get on.

    Mike keep me posted on your tomatoes - we can compare notes at harvest time!


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