Sunday, 27 May 2012

Japan Worldwide Culture Swap package

As well as helping to organise the Worldwide Culture Swaps I love to take part (even though Freddy isn't yet 3 years old!), and I have to say that this package that I received from Japan is very very special to me.  

It was sent by a lovely blogger friend Lulu - you should check out her blog if you are interested in learning more about day to day Japanese culture.
I think that the reason I love it so much is that the package was absolutely full of things for me to enjoy as well as Freddy.  For example,  I have a real thing for rubber stamping so I was tickled pink to find some wonderful little transport stamps inside and Freddy is obsessed with trains so to find several high speed train related items was perfect for him!
For a complete list of what was sent please check out the full post on the new Worldwide Culture Swap site.

Lulu, thank you once again for your kind and thoughtful generosity!

[This post is shared with the wonderful Living Montessori Now]

IKEA undercover: Daim cake

Sometimes Freddy gets so full of energy that he needs to go wild a little.  Most of the time we take him to the forest but for those times when we want there to be other children around, but not children that we necessarily have to see again (if you know what I mean), we have IKEA.

I'm sure that we are not the only people who use IKEA as a kind of free drop in play centre but it's just so handy.  Freddy especially likes playing in the little mock up children's bedrooms that they use to showcase the furniture and toys.

We usually just point him in the direction of those areas and then retreat to a distance far enough that it might not be immediately obvious he is ours but close enough that we can step in if things get ugly. 

But I digress. 

The point of the post is to say that we love IKEA food and the Daim cake is a favourite not least because it is egg free and dairy free (if you use dairy free butter and chocolate).

So as requested by Sandra on Facebook and as made by Rachel here is how to make the delicious Daim cake from IKEA.....
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tsp cocoa
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • Handful peeled and chopped almonds
  • 100 g or 1 cup milk chocolate
Mix everything except the chocolate and a few chopped almonds in a deep saucepan, preferably one with a thick bottom.

Cook on low heat until the mixture thickens. 

Spread the mixture on a greaseproof paper and leave to cool. 

Sprinkle on the almonds.

Melt the chocolate and spread on top of the crunchy almonds.

This is Rachel's attempt at it and I think it looks fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Transitioning from 3 to 2 daytime naps

You may say I'm a bit weird but I do like to try to keep track of sleeping times in our house. 

My husband and I started our parenting journey thinking that routine was a rude word and we went through nearly 15 months of highs and lows and never really knowing when anyone was going to sleep. 

We just could not cope.  We were like zombies hoping to get through the day just so that we could sleep.  So we made a plan and did three things that literally changed our lives:
  1. We found out the cause of Freddy's severe eczema and so were able to remove the associated foods from our diets (resulting in much better sleep).
  2. I started keeping records of Freddy's naps whenever things seemed to be going a bit haywire.
  3. We started a routine.
I must point out that my idea of a routine is just a sequence of activities throughout the day - a rhythm dictated by the child and not a minute by minute scheduling.  You can see how we implemented it here.

The combination of these things allowed us to know when Freddy would probably be tired and get him sleeping then rather than when he became overtired and exhausted.

Where am I going with this?

Well I have been doing the same for Henry which allows me to show you how he went from 3 day time naps to 2. 

I wanted to show it because you can see that we did not smoothly go from 3 to 2 but instead had a nearly 2 week period starting at 7.5 months where there was not a lot of daytime sleep happening at all.  I was thinking are we giving up naps altogether?  Henry was miserable (and teething) throughout this whole period so it was tempting to think that this was just as a result of the teething pain.

The numbers across the top are time from 6am to 9pm and green squares are naps (rounded up or down to make it easy to record).
This is what happened:
  • Henry was waking up earlier and earlier but going to bed later and later.
  • All naps got shorter and were more difficult.
  • Some days I had no idea when he was going to sleep.
  • There were a few days where there was only about 30 minutes of napping all day.
  • Although I haven't shown it here the nighttime wakings also became much more frequent.
  • He eventually settled down to 2 naps (10.30am and 2.30pm) and although the early mornings continue the nights also start much earlier.
I'd love to hear your experiences with this too.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

The best 2 hours of his life

Freddy (28 months) has been waiting for this moment with great excitement ever since we bought him a wooden balance bike several months ago.

We knew he was ready to try the bike but we didn't appreciate that he would not be tall enough to use it.

But finally the day came last week (I'm sure it was after a growth spurt) when he could finally reach the floor whilst sitting on it.
That called for a celebration so we hot footed it into the forest to try it out.....
He got it straight away! It was as if the months of staring at it had somehow prepared him for this moment.
 He went up and down a hill over and over again pausing only to wade into a muddy puddle.
And then as quickly as it had started it was over.
Such a roller coaster of emotions on that day.

Here's a little video just before the bike broke....

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Funky Swedish stamps

Is it just me or are these the cutest stamps you have ever seen?
The stamps, from Sweden, came on an estate agent's letter and I have to say that I like their style.

Things are settling down a bit here now and I'm just trying to catch up with things.  I never feel bad about not posting everyday because this blog is for my family and not instead of them but I do feel bad when I don't reply to your comments, especially after you take the time to post them. 

We will have a post very soon from a lovely trained Montessori teacher so please leave a question for her in the comments for her to answer.  I have quite a collection now and some themes are emerging (especially discipline!) but ask away and I'm sure Charissa will do her best to answer as many as possible.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Thank you for your support

Thank you for all the warm wishes that I have been receiving since setting my new site with Deb and Mymy!

To give back a little love and in the spirit of culture swaps we are introducing our first giveaway! Oh and we will post it to anywhere in the world :)

Each month we will have a competition/giveaway with a different theme and there will be lots of ways to take part so keep your eye out for them.

This month's theme is the United Kingdom.

The lucky person chosen at random from all entries will receive this wonderful little mini culture swap package with some goodies representing the UK.
The package includes 3 die cast metal models (a London bus, a telephone box and the clock tower from Westminster (Big Ben) as well as a Union Jack notebook and pencil.
Find out how to enter here (it's really easy).

Normal service will now be resumed on the Little Red Farm but I'll be sure to post about some of the great packages that I received over the last few months. Including one of my favourite packages EVER from Japan.

Monday, 14 May 2012

The Worldwide Culture Swap has a new home

I am beyond excited to be launching a new website today marking the end of the Little Red Farm exchanges but the start of a whole new fun chapter of posting little parcels to each other :)

When I decided to put together a collection of little bits and pieces for my children from the different continents and countries that I have travelled to I realised that it would make a wonderful activity for us all to enjoy together; to be able to hold a shell from a beech in Argentina, cook a traditional treat from Africa or join in with a custom or tradition from Russia.

What better way to be able to do all this than to be in touch with different families all hoping to learn a little together.

Since starting these exchanges last year their popularity have been such that I really needed to give it its own space.  And that's when I met Deb and Mymy who have helped me so much to bring my new site from a little dream to a reality in just a matter of weeks.  

The three of us share a common love of all things cultural and this is our little way of helping families just like yours get in touch with each other and exchange information and gifts relevant to the country that they are representing.
I encourage all new visitors to take a look at some of the packages that have been sent, look at the many different ways to get involved or even just leave a comment in our guestbook if you have sent one of the 1300 packages that have already been exchanged.

Starting a new project can be tough when you are trying to get the word out so please help us to reach as many families as possible by 'liking' us on Facebook, following us on Twitter or Pinterest or signing up to receive our posts by email (at the bottom of the page).

Thank you once again for helping me get this project going and don't forget to spread the wor(l)d...


ps The Little Red Farm site will of course continue :)

Friday, 11 May 2012

Forest baby

Perhaps the best thing about where we live in France is that the beautiful Forêt de Marly (Marly Forest),  the historical hunting estate of the kings of France, is at the end of our garden. 
Henry (7.5 months) is showing all the signs of being just like his nature loving brother and the recent dry weather has allowed him to crawl and pull and taste and touch the forest rather than being carried through it.

One of his favourite things to do at the moment is to try to bounce whilst in the seated position.  He loves to watch Freddy (28 months) jumping on his bed so you can tell that he is really keen to copy him.

That's why he was so happy to find this bouncing branch.
 Keep on smiling Henry! You can brighten up the dullest of days.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Let the battle commence!

OK, so not really a battle but as I mentioned in my previous post about these fruit pouches I have a love / hate relationship with them.

Freddy loves them; I guess they are quite exciting to eat and so different to the normal spoon and bowl thing but they are so so wasteful, both financially and environmentally. 

But when hubby pointed out that per kilo they cost more than sirloin steak I hatched a plan to keep his wallet happy, Freddy happy, the environment happy and the manufacturers......ever so slightly down on their weekly turnover.....

So as I take on these little pouches in a battle to win the heart of my son I am pulling out my trump card.......enter Emil and his mini pot of homemade apple puree!

I found these tiny little jars in the supermarket (they contained pesto paste I think).  I emptied them out and covered them in a picture of Freddy's favourite character - Emil of Lönneberga. 

The puree is a homemade version that up until now Freddy has been snubbing in favour of his fruit pouches.  But the good news is that now he prefers the homemade version!
Better yet is the fact that one day when he didn't want to eat his dinner I asked what he wanted instead and he said 'Emil dinner'.   I just scraped his food into the jar, stuck in a small teaspoon and he ate the whole thing.

This is just a small but powerful example of the effect of advertising on the food choices made by our children.  All I did was to use the same character association that large companies do all the time and even though he doesn't watch TV (apart from this one episode of Emil now and then) you can see how much he wants to copy him.

The good news for me though is that we will surely save a lot of money and waste.

How do you feel about this experiment?

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Cultural Exchange - Canada

A big thank you to the Rudden family from British Columbia, Canada for sharing their package contents with us.

They were representing Canada in the Worldwide Cultural Exchange which I started last year to help put families from around the world in touch with each other so that we can all have a little glimpse into each others lives.
The family very kindly sent me this photo and a description of the goodies:
  • Symbols of Canada publication from Government of Canada
  • Canada Sudoku from
  • Canada lapbooking papers (about 10 sheets)
  • Itty Bitty book of French words or sayings
  • British Columbia map and information/ activities/ questions
  • 4 sets of 3 part cards in orange folders (Canadian symbols, Canadian animals, Canadian money, British Columbia symbols)
  • descriptors/ information for the animals cards
  • black and white photocopies of First Nations animals in drawing form
  • First Nations story about a local landmark - "The Lions" mountains
  • 7 photos - 3 of family, 3 of various places around BC and one of "The Lions"
  • iron on Canada flag
  • pencils
  • maple syrup candies
  • Canada stickers1 letter
Phew! What a lot of things!

If you want to know more about these exchanges and how you can take part look out for some exciting news here in the next few days.  Or if you can't wait until then just sign up now.

Friday, 4 May 2012

How do you find time to?

I have been tagged in a meme called "How do you find time to ..." by Jen at Jens Place.

I'll be honest and say that I don't know what a 'meme' is but it seems quite straight forward to answer a few questions.

BUT I've never been a 'gotta follow all the rules' kind of lady so I decided to change the questions a bit and make them a bit more interesting (sorry to the person that wrote them originally). And hereafter I do declare that all future participants in this little game must also change the questions a bit. do I find the time to....

Do the laundry - Hubby is in charge of the Laundry and as a Swede he takes pride in finding the most efficient way of washing [read no colour sorting allowed]. I can no longer complain about whites changing colour because we have no whites. He has set up two washing machines next to each other and actually takes the time to compare their performance (amongst other criteria) between them.

Write a blog post - As long as Henry is breastfed there will be posts. I can type better with one hand than two now :).

Spend time with your other half? - We are together as a family all day every day. It's truly the most wonderful way to raise children because whenever you are tired you can just handover to the other person. Life takes on a whole new perspective when no one is looking at the clock and waiting for some help. We often don't even know what day of the week it is and that's just the way we like it.

Do fun stuff with your children
- Anything that must be done can be done in a fun way. If I have to cook I can put Freddy on chopping detail. If I have to mop the floor he can mop the floor too. If I want to crochet for 30 minutes he can play with my button collection. It's all about a little preparation and setting the scene. If I say 'do you want to mop the floor?' the response might be no but if I say 'oh I've got an idea - let's make the floor really clean and shiny so we can race cars!' then I guarantee the reply will be 'yes!!'.

Do bulk ironing - Bulk or non bulk there is no ironing being done in this house I can assure you. Freddy even calls our iron 'Nanny' because she is the only person he has seem holding it.

And my new questions......

Be the parent you want to be - This is difficult because I'm not. I want to say yes to every invitation to play that Freddy makes and I want to immediately comfort every cry that Henry makes. But more often than not these things occur at the same time and I hear myself say over and over again 'yes, but I've just got to....'. Also, Freddy seems to want to hit and kick everything and everybody so I often feel totally infuriated and say things like 'why did you hurt him???' instead of helping him to deal with his emotions , learn empathy or whatever the developmental need is that he is experiencing that day. My biggest challenge right now is to be the type of peaceful and loving parent that I really want to be.

Set a good example - My biggest wish on a day to day basis is to be a role model to the children. I think that this can only be authentic and convincing if it is actually the way you live your life and not just a display you put on in front of your children. I believe that model behaviour can only come from a place of love so I try hard to do everything, say everything and act everything from a position of love for myself and others.
Find time for yourself - We have a family clean up each day after dinner where we all tidy up the mess that was made during the day. This meas that once the children are sleeping at around 7.30pm I can spend the evening doing creative things, preparing activities for Freddy or just watching Man vs Food on the internet.

Achieve your dreams -We have a little family policy that we will do everything that we can for each other to fulfill our dreams. I wanted to learn another language so hubby agreed to move to France for me to work here. He wanted to start his own business so I encouraged him to quit is job. We want to use the same policy with our children too so we'll see how we get on with that as they get older :) Most importantly though, you can't achieve your dreams if you don't know what they are so I spend a lot of talk talking to hubby about what our dreams are for ourselves and the family.

Now for the tagging! I chose Sparkling Bay, The Kingdom of the Pink Princesses, Je veux une tite soeur filleSixtine and the Little Things

So for the people that I have just tagged here are the (new) rules:
  1. Please post the rules
  2. When answering the questions, give as much information as possible.
  3. Leave a comment on Sex, drugs, rocker…and stroller,baby. This is so we can keep track of the Meme and take a polite nose into everyone else’s lives.
  4. Tag 3 or more people and link to them on your blog.
  5. Add new questions, delete old questions and play about with the rules.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Doctors, doctors and more doctors

I feel like I've been sick with some sort of illness on and off for months now.  I never get sick and I rarely visit doctors but I've been to so many of late that I have even started photographing my favourite waiting rooms in order to share them on my blog.

If there's one thing that works extremely efficiently in France it's the healthcare system.  Coming from England, where you have to beg your doctor to 'allow' you to see a specialist, it's somewhat unbelievable that you can just pick up the phone and make an appointment with whomever you want here.

Waiting lists are pretty much non existent and if you just feel like having your blood analised for signs of infection just for the hell of it then you can just drop in,  give a sample and get your results the next day.  I really can't speak highly enough of the system here.

But back to the waiting rooms.
I've been to this doctor's waiting room twice now and the first time I went I couldn't stop imagining that I had somehow been transported to the hotel in the film The Shining.
Yes, the beautiful patterned carpet is also on the walls.
Yes, the reception desk is made from plastic tiles shaped and coloured to look like wood.
And yes, the orange leather chairs highlight what is for all intents and purposes an autumn palette of mixed textures.
 This hasn't been designed as a retro fabulous kind of arty statement.  No.  This is origional. 
I would copy this style in an instant for the living room of our home if it wasn't so impractical to live with (my days of carpeted living are right behind me thank you).

Next time I come here I'll wear gold lamé trousers and see if I can get a photo of me for the blog.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Baby's first treasure basket

We are all about treasure baskets with Henry (7 months) and I thought I would share with you the very first one that I put together for him.
The contents include a knitted ball, puzzle ball, various rings, eggs, egg cups, a suede cloth a satin ribbon, a pair of socks, interlocking disks, shaker, wooden pot, wicker ball, wooden cube and a crochet toy.  All items chosen to be safe for a 6 month old as well as being interesting and texturally different.
But the thing that I wanted to share is that instead of putting the items in a basket, as is traditionally the case with these treasure baskets,  I used a soft, unstructured storage basket bought from IKEA (it was in a set of 3 from the bathroom section).  This means that for babies who might wobble and topple a little whilst exploring the contents of the basket they won't fall onto any hard wicker edges which can be a concern when first presenting them.
Of course this stage doesn't last for long and before you know it the baby is sitting confidently and able to really rummage around other containers but this worked wonderfully for us during that first month of sitting.
It's really lovely when you notice that there are some favourite appearing from the mixture of goodies.  For Henry at the moment it s the wooden ring with jingle bells and the interlocking disks (how cool that he chose two items that I made!).
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