Tuesday, April 26, 2011

We Play - Dressing Up

When I imagined my life with children, the things we'd do, the games we'd play, one of the images that burned mostly strongly in my mind was a picture of a big, chaotic box full of silks and feathers and old bridesmaids' dresses, angel wings and fairy dresses, parasols and fireman hats and bonnets and masks, overalls and bunny-rabbit suits and raincoats and long, winding scarves. Dressing up is such an integral part of my own memories of carefree childhood play, and it was a high priority for me to make sure that my children would have access to their own glorious mess of a dress-up box.

Well, true to my instincts, my three girls have always loved dressing up. This week in particular, there has been a lot of fun with dress-ups in my house; feather boas, ladybug suits and Dorothy the Dinosaur tails being employed to good effect. The toddler has been wearing her fairy dress over all outfits, every day. My two elder children even decided to come grocery shopping on the weekend in full dress-up regalia, one wearing a Dalmatian dog costume, the other dressed as a pink rabbit. They were entirely unselfconscious about the amused looks and smiles they attracted ;-) Sadly, there are no photos of this event, as neither big girl wanted the moment recorded for posterity. Ah well.

I took my second daughter, E, out to the movies the weekend before Easter for her one-on-one Mummy-and-daughter treat. She chose a viewing of Rio, preceded by video games at the Intencity game parlour next to the cinema. We had a wonderful time - 4 hours just together, which she revelled in and so did I. Being of a creative turn of mind (and still in the dressing-up groove), E came home and set to work to make a mask inspired by the movie. She ended up making something that I think was a recognisable representation of Jewel - and then wore it the rest of the day with great pride ;-)

I love dressing-up play for the kids because it is creative, self-driven, open-ended, and often feeds into complex narrative-style games. It releases the inner child in me, too, as I prance around the house draped in whatever the girls select for me!

This post is part of the weekly We Play meme at the wonderful Childhood 101. Check out the main page over there for lots of fantastic play ideas.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

For and Against: Online Grocery Shopping

Online grocery shopping seems to be one of those things that divides people radically. I have friends who swear by it - who never, or rarely, shop any other way. I have other friends who loathe the very idea or are gun-shy of the concept to the point of unwillingness to even try it.

I fall somewhere in the middle of these two camps, having used online grocery shopping pretty extensively for the three months either side of the birth of each baby, but much more sporadically thereafter, and recently not at all, until I placed an order earlier today, my first one for almost a year. I find myself ambivalent about the whole business, which is why I don't use it regularly and tend to fall back on it in exigent circumstances only, but at the same time, I have found it invaluable at those hibernating stages of parenting where the very notion of trekking to the grocery shop with one, two or three small children in tow seems akin to climbing Mount Everest in January. In bare feet. And board shorts ;-)

The advantages (the "for" case) of online grocery shopping mostly relate to time-and-motion efficiencies for me, although I know some people also avert that there is a cost advantage (this might be true for extremely organised people like the Planning Queen, but I haven't found it consistently true for me). I see the advantages as follows:

1. No physical shopping trips with small children / in evenings by tired parents
Depending on the age and stage of children, the general busyness of your weekly schedule, and everyone's state of health and energy, this can be a blissful boon of online grocery shopping. For those weeks when the very thought of a possible supermarket toddler meltdown makes you sob in advance ... teh InterWebz is your friend.

2. Overall, the time expended is less (although not as dramatically less as you might suppose at first).
I grocery shop once a fortnight, buying fresh fruit & veg and meat weekly at the greengrocer / butcher. (I count groceries as everything else - packaged food, frozen & dairy, breakfast foods, bread & baked goods, pasta, rice, legumes, dried foods, canned foods, cleaning & household products etc).

A grocery shop at the supermarket takes my toddler and I approximately 45-50 minutes in-store, plus 10 minutes to load the car, 10 minutes total travel time, 25 minutes unloading and putting away - a total of 1.5 hours. An online shop takes me about 35-40 minutes to enter, and the unloading / putting away time is the same, but I do save the 20 minutes travel and loading.

3. The timing of delivery can be chosen to suit you.
One of the things I like least about physical grocery shopping is the unloading part, which has to be accomplished by me alone with a usually tired and mischievous toddler in tow. With an online shop I always select a delivery time when my husband will be home from work, so one of us can put away the groceries while the other kid-wrangles uninterrupted.

4. It is somewhat easier to control costs
Because you can see the total mounting up as you go, it is easier to take out discretionary items if your budget starts getting blown. I set myself a $250 budget for a fortnightly grocery shop (bearing in mind that this doesn't include f&v and meat) and I can usually stick to it online. My in-store buying varies a lot more, sometimes as low as $180 but often as high as $300.

However, there are some disadvantages to online shopping that mean I don't see it becoming my default / always mechanism. The against case for me is:

1. Losing the opportunity to model and share public behaviour with my kids.
The thing about kids and shopping is that, in my experience, each of my kids has become noticeably more pleasant to shop with the more times we practiced and invested the time into learning about shopping behaviours. In a nutshell, if they never get a chance to do it, they'll never learn how to do it. (I fully realise this argument is bollocks if you have kids with sensory issues or who are neurodiverse).

2. Quality of products / out of stocks and substitutions
I have often found the quality of any fresh produce disappointingly poor with online shopping (hence, I never order fruit & veg online now, although if pushed I will order meat sometimes, such as this week when I know I won't get to the butcher). The amount of times that an item I've ordered has been out of stock, and substituted with an item I wouldn't have chosen, is also annoying if you've based a menu plan around specific items.

3. Missing out on specials
I know they do have online specials but frankly, the better bargains are always in-store. I've often switched laundry detergent brands, for example, based on a price cut, or stocked up on loo paper or crackers because they are super-duper cheap. Overall I think I spend more intelligently in-store when I can see what's on offer and make decisions based on that.

What do you think? Do you like or loathe online shopping (or neither)?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Winner: Snow White DVD / Blu ray giveaway

Thanks to all who entered the Snow White competition. As promised, I used Random.org yesterday evening to pick a winner. Below is the result:

Random Sequence Generator

Here is your sequence:


Timestamp: 2011-04-22 09:00:03 UTC

This makes comment 6 - Katrina - the lucky winner ;-) Congratulations Katrina, I will email you later today to get a mailing address so your prize can be sent to you.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

We Play - Coloured Icypole Sticks

Ages ago, someone gave one of my kids a pack of miscellaneous crafty objects for a birthday. That pack included a bundle of multi-coloured icypole sticks, I assume intended to be used as part of montages or pasting crafts.

Well, they've never been used that way, but last week, they were put to another use in play!

The kids made pictures with them

and patterns

and then decided to lay out a trail for their littlest sister to follow to find her "treasure" (a storybook and a chocolate frog) at the end.

Much hilarity, and a half-day in the school holidays, done and dusted!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Snow White: Review and Giveaway

Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of this DVD courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment via Aussie Mummy Bloggers. No financial payment was offered nor accepted for this post. All opinions expressed are purely my own.

When I was a child, Disney movies were IT when it came to animated children's films. I have vivid memories of classics like Cinderella, The Jungle Book, Sleeping Beauty, Bambi, Pinocchio , Lady and the Tramp, The Aristocats and so forth, drinking them all up with delight. I retained such a fondness for the Disney oeuvre that I went to see latter-day movies like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin as a young adult, dragging various unwilling boyfriends along with me to enjoy the show.

But of all the Disney classics, the one that, for me, became (and remained) The Iconic Disney Film was the 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Snow White in her buttercup-yellow dress with the high white collar and puffed red and blue sleeves is my mental image of The Disney Princess, the uber-Princess if you like.

Yet, astonishingly, this is one film I have neglected to share with my children, and which we (until recently) did not own. Partly this was just one of those inexplicable gaps, like my failure until recently to read any Ramona books to my big kids (honestly, where was my head?) Partly it was my memory that Snow White, like Sleeping Beauty, features a genuinely scary villain - the Queen, like Maleficent, is extremely frightening and effective. My kids can be a little bit sensitive when it comes to frightening elements in films, although they're rarely scared by the things you'd think are frightening (monsters, aliens, dinosaurs all OK!)

When a review opportunity came up via Aussie Mummy Bloggers, I thought - alright, it might be time to break the drought on this. The kids recently watched The Little Mermaid for the first time and coped well with scary-Ursula, so I thought it might be doable for them now.

So on Saturday night, we sat down with popcorn and drinks and watched Snow White as a family movie, all 5 of us. (My fine tradition of making male partners sit through Disney films remains unbroken ;-)

It's been literally twenty-five years since I last saw this film, and a few things surprised me about it. Firstly, I didn't remember how really, genuinely funny the seven dwarves are. Their slapstick is done in the best Disney tradition and it's no wonder they get the most screen time. All the kids (and even the man!) laughed and giggled through the dwarves' scenes.

Secondly, I had forgotten how appealing the older style of animation, with the watercolour-look backgrounds, can be. We're so used to modern animation with all its CG bells and whistles (and these days, increasingly, its 3D elements), but for all that, the artistry of this style of hand-drawn animation shines through, for kids as well as adults.

Thirdly, I had forgotten exactly how high-pitched and, um, trilling Snow White's voice is. My husband and I both winced a few times in the higher registers, although it didn't seem to trouble the kids any. I read somewhere recently that human voices are gradually moving to lower registers over time - which is why, for example, 18th century hymns and Christmas carols are so difficult for modern voices to sing properly. Snow White's voice, which was no doubt very attractive in its day, now, 80 years later, sounds shrill.

One thing I had not misremembered was how creepily effective the evil Queen is. My sweet, sensitive 7 year old was thoroughly scared by her, but didn't want to stop watching (the movie had her in its thrall by then!) The art of the villain is one that Disney perfected right at the get-go with their animated films.

All in all, it's not hard to see why Snow White is such an iconic film. My kids all loved it, and I think my husband was surprised by how much he enjoyed it. This special edition contains a great range of extras too and comes with both DVD and Blu-ray formats (we, being Luddite enough not to possess a Blu-ray player, watched it in DVD). It's a classic that everyone should watch at least once, and most kids will want to watch it more than once, I reckon.

If you would like to win a free copy of the Snow White DVD / Blu-ray, please leave your name in comments below by 5pm on Friday 22 April. I will use Random.Org to generate a winner on Saturday and will post the winner's name on Easter Sunday, so we can organise the delivery of the prize!

Here's a little bit for your perusal:

Friday, April 15, 2011

Cooking by the Book - Pink Soup

(This is reposted from a 2007 post on my other blog, Zucchinis in Bikinis. We made pink soup again this week and I was all gung ho to write a fresh post about it with new photos and all, but a) my camera ate the photos and b) I am reeeaallly sick and tired. So I hope you enjoy the iteration of 4 years ago instead!)

One of the things that followed from A's persistent ear troubles over the past three weeks was a retreat into home-based, quiet indoor activity. This was necessary to spare her ear from the cold wind, and her from the misey of having to be niiiiice when all she wanted to do was be coddled. We did a lot of puzzles, a lot of reading, and, before E's gastro kicked in on Wednesday night and made food preparation a risky prospect, a lot of cooking and baking. I tend to cook a lot when feeling in need of a boost, and the girls love to cook with me, tasting, talking, stirring, rolling, cutting, icing and measuring (I retain control of the knives and appliances, of course).

One really fun thing we found to do, which brightened up last Monday considerably, was combining two of our favourite things - books and cooking - into one gorgeously messy and ultimately successful experiment. A and E possess a lovely series of picture books by British author-illustrator Helen Cooper, called Pumpkin Soup, A Pipkin of Pepper, and Delicious! These beautifully drawn stories are all about the Cat, the Squirrel and the Duck who share their lives, music, and beloved pumpkin soup in their old white cabin in the woods. Cooper's illustrations bring the gentle stories alive for the kids and they are truly a pleasure to read (fortunately, as we have read them many, many time over).

In the latest book in the series, Delicious!, the story starts with a grand catastrophe - THERE ARE NO RIPE PUMPKINS IN THE GARDEN! Oh the humanity! Pumpkin soup is all they ever cook, all they ever eat or want ... and now they have to find something else. Consulting the recipe book, they make fish soup - but the Duck won't even try it. Mushroom soup - but YUK says the Duck. The Cat and the Squirrel make Pink Soup (beetroot soup) in a valiant effort to get the Duck to eat ... but he tips the pot over, wailing "That's pink!! Pumpkin soup is orange!" Finally the Cat tricks the Duck into eating by making a mixed vegetable soup which turns out a nice rich orangey colour (with carrots, corm, tomatoes and squash).

A expressed interest when we first read the book in all of the soup-making processes and soups except the fish soup (that one extracted a flat "Oh no" from her). So on Monday, as I had some fresh beetroot in the fridge, and we'd finished an hour's reading, including Delicious!, I suggested that we should try to make ... PINK soup.

We had a ball. First, we boiled the beetroots, and the girls ooh-ed and aah-ed over the deep ruby red that the water went at the end. Then, they helped me stir the onions on a slow heat, and add the cubed beetroot to the pot. Then A measured 5 cups of water and added them in, and E added the salt and pepper, and we set the soup to boil while we turned our attention to the lamb stew for dinner and our chocolate cake-for-a-treat.

This is how it looked cooking:

I wasn't convinced that, despite its undeniable prettiness, either of the kids would consent to actually eat it when it was finished. A, my 4-year-old, can be quite conservative about food, and E, at 2 years 4 months, is going through an extreme picky phase (not untypical but still can be trying).
However, it seemed that weeks of reading about the Cat, the Squirrel and the Duck in their old white cabin, and tsking over the pain the Duck puts the other two through in trying to feed him, had an effect. Because when the Pink Soup was brought to the table at lunchtime, both girls took a cautious but immediate sip, their faces brightening as the sweet, rich beetroot and sour cream taste filled their mouths. E didn't finish hers (although she did have fun painting her bread bright pink with it), but A drank every drop, commenting frequently, "It's just delicious, Mummy!"

Mission successful - a Monday diversion, a new vegetable introduced, and a favourite book brought even more to life.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

We Play - S Day

Belatedly (thanks to an Internet outage that lasted 40 long hours) here is our contribution to this week's We Play - our "S" Day.

Last September school holidays, we decided to refine our long-standing pyjama day tradition into a letter-themed day full of activities and food related, however tangentially, to one letter of the alphabet. Naturally, we started with P for Pyjamas, and had a great time with it.

Picking up the same idea for the first weekday of this term 1 break, we spent Monday this week having ... "S" day. Monday coincided with my worst day with a heavy cold / throat infection and husband working at home to enable me to get to the doctors and (theoretically) rest, so it had the potential to be a fairly challenging day, and in many ways it was; but following our "S" day plan kept things mostly in the positive despite the challenges, and the girls really loved it.

My 7 and 5 year olds mostly wrote the following poem about our day. OK, so it won't win any awards for style - no budding Sylvia Plaths as yet! - but it captures the spirit of it all quite nicely ;-)

S is for sleepwear, in which we stayed all day;

S is for snakes and snails, fun craft games to play;

S is for soup and sushi, and smoked salmon too;

S is for our favourite TV show, that is Scooby Doo.

S is for sorting socks, a job we did for Mum;

S is for sick Mummy, with sore throat and head and tum;

S is for scooting, all along the street;

S is for stories with Daddy, that is very sweet.

This post is part of the weekly We Play meme at the wonderful Childhood 101. Check out the main page over there for lots of fantastic play ideas.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Cooking by the Book - Double-Shot Chocolate Cake

This is the first post in a new series that I'm going to be putting together on Fridays for a while. As the title says, this series is going to be about cooking things from books - not from recipe books, but from works of fiction!

Basically, my 7 year old has decided to get serious about learning some core cooking skills, and when we were thinking about a fun way to try different recipes and techniques, she hit upon the idea that we could make recipes and dishes that feature in books that we've read, either adult novels or childrens' books.

We're getting the ball rolling with an extremely rich cake, made for my husband's birthday brunch, but next week we're veering back to the nutritious with a recipe from Helen Cooper's wonderful picture book, Pumpkin Soup.

As I have mentioned a few times, I am a fan of mysteries. My favoured sub-genres within the broad church that is mystery fiction are cosies and puzzle / locked room stories, and I also have a fondness for a well-written police procedural. I dislike horror-mysteries and anything too blood-soaked, hence I rarely read modern hard-boiled stories (although, like every other self-respecting mystery fan, I've read my share of the classic pulp authors, and my shelf contains a respectable smattering of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Elmore Leonard).

A lot of series cosies - in fact, I'll go out on a limb and say most cosies - have a "hook" of some kind, a unifying theme that links the books other than the presence of the core protagonist/s. This isn't so true of the giants of the Golden Age; Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham, Agatha Christie, and to a lesser extent Ngaio Marsh didn't seen to need such a binding to compel devotion from their readers. Of course, each of these writers had very discernible areas of interest that reappear in their books - Marsh was a theatre person and the theatre motif appears again and again; Christie was married to an archeologist and a round dozen of her books deal with archeological themes. However, these writers didn't set out to write, say, mystery books featuring cats, or mystery books about mystery books, or mystery books threaded through with food.

Food is a very common binding theme in modern cosies. I can recall easily 10 popular series, without even trying, that rely on the fact that lots of people love to read about food and eating, and find it relaxing and pleasurable to do so (it's why cookbooks are called food porn, after all!) One of the most successful of all these food-based series, to my mind, is Diane Mott Davidson's series about Aspen Meadow caterer, Goldy Schultz. The 16th book in the Goldy Schultz series is coming out this year, and it'll certainly be on my list for Christmas.

Goldy Schultz, the narrator and main protagonist, of these stories, is a caterer in a smallish but affluent Colorado town. She's married to a food-loving, gentle and generous cop (Tom Schultz); mother to a teenage son from her first, abusive married (Arch Korman); divorced from the now-deceased cartoonishly-villainous and abusive doctor, John Richard Korman ("the Jerk"); and best friends with a wealthy and hot-tempered woman who was also once married to the Jerk (Marla Korman). Other recurring characters, such as Marla's nephew Julian, who's training to be a chef / caterer like Goldy, round out the series.

The things that I enjoy about this series are:

- The integral role that food plays in the stories. This is a family that is seriously in love with food and its preparation, and an author who knows her stuff in this regard in no uncertain terms. The love of food and the act of expressing loving bonds through food is intertwined throughout each of these books.

- The growth of Goldy's character over the series. Goldy started off as a little mousey and, to be honest, a little too much the V for Victim for my taste, but 15 books later, she's really developed into a well-rounded character. I still think she takes too much nonsense from the other characters, who, with the exception of Tom and Julian, all have the most astoundingly rude dialogue put into their mouths at times. But hey, maybe that's the reality of working in a service industry - having to tolerate the crapola.

- To a lesser extent, the puzzles themselves. They vary widely in terms of cleverness and guessability - some of them feature pretty obvious Xanatos gambits, with Goldy, always, in the role of manipulated pawn, while others are frankly cheats, relying on hidden information that the reader could not possibly decipher. However, the better ones are quite challenging and engaging as puzzles.

One of the better novels in the series, to my mind, is the one that *finally* killed off Goldy's nasty first husband, the Jerk. (He was always implausibly uniform in his bastardry, to my mind, and was getting boring). This book is 2004's Double Shot. And one of the things to love about this book is is extremely wonderful-sounding recipes in it. We decided to have a go at the magnificently described decadent Double-Shot Chocolate Cake.

The beauty of this cake, for me, is that it is gluten free by ingredient, being a flourless cake. It's called a double-shot cake because it has both a large quantity of dark bittersweet chocolate and also cocoa in it - a double hit of chocolatey goodness. As you can imagine, with an ingredient list of butter, chocolate, cocoa, sugar, vanilla and eggs, it is extremely dense and fudgy.

The first step was to melt the chocolate with the butter in a double-boiler (aka one saucepan on top of another, the bottom one filled with water).

My 7 year old broke up the chocolate and cut up the butter for the pan, then asked, "Why don't you just melt in a saucepan?"

"Because it burns, then it stinks," her father replied succinctly. The voice of experience talking there!

While the butter and chocolate were liquefying, the 7 year old greased the pan and cut a piece of baking paper for the base, and I put an inch of water in the bottom of a long roasting dish and put it in the oven. In common with many fudgey cakes, this one cooks in a water bath.

"Why?" asks Miss 7.

"Ummm ... to keep it from drying out?" I guessed. I later Googled it and corrected my mistake; it's because of the eggs, apparently.

"Water baths are often used for egg-based dishes. The proteins in the eggs are very heat sensitive and only need to be warmed to cook thoroughly. They will start to get firm at only 145 degrees. Cooking them with a slow, gentle heat keeps the eggs soft and smooth. "

Next we whisked together the caster sugar and cocoa,

then added the chocolate melted mixture to it. Last, we beat 8 whole eggs until they were foamy, combined with the chocolate stuff and the vanilla, and poured into the pan.

Into the oven inside the water bath for 40 minutes,

then out, cooled, and dusted with icing sugar.

We served it with chantilly cream, which was actually made by one of our brunch guests on the day as I was busying myself with cooking the brunch food.

It was a delicious and fairly straightforward cake, but incredibly dense and rich - a tiny sliver each, drowned in sweet cream, was enough.

All in all, though, a definite win for Diane Mott Davidson - and it has inspired me to try more of her recipes, given how well this one worked!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Daddy and daughter

Reading Notes - Toddler's Top 20 for March 2011

Following on from last month's stroll down picture-book lane, here are 20 titles that are capturing the imagination of my 25-month-old at the moment.

Of last month's list the only ones to drop out of regular reading are the toddler lift-the-flap books - C seems to feel herself a bit beyond them now, and enjoys listening to an actual narrative in her stories. All the rest are still in high rotation!

1. Owl Babies (Martin Waddell)

2. Can't You Sleep, Little Bear? (Martin Waddell)

3. Snow Bears (Martin Waddell)

All of my children have loved Martin Waddell's gentle, whimsical stories as toddlers. C, like her big sister E before her, is especially enchanted with Owl Babies, Waddell's endearing little tale about three baby owls waiting for their mother to come home from hunting. C always sighs at the end and, echoing the story, turns to me to say, "I love my Mummy!"

4. Where is the Green Sheep? (Mem Fox)

5. Koala Lou (Mem Fox)

I doubt there would be a single month in the past 7 years (since I first started reading picture books to my eldest child) that at least one Mem Fox book hasn't been in the 'favourites' pile.

C is currently close to obsessed with Where is Green Sheep - she likes to say all of the sheep activities herself, and is never content with less than three readings in a sitting of this book.

She is also very attached to Koala Lou, the story of a little koala who wants to be reassured of her mother's love, little knowing that her mother loves her all the time. (I would definitely list Koala Lou as among my own top 3 Mem Fox books, so reading it over and over is no chore to me ;-)

6. Down the Back of the Chair (Margaret Mahy)

This is an absolute hoot of a book. If you don't know this brilliant, classic children's poem, or haven't seen it with Polly Dunbar's terrific illustrations, I'd urge you to make its acquaintance.

This is one of the books on toddler's playlist, along with Fiona the Pig, the Little Miss books, and The Magic Beach, that inevitably draws the big kids in to listen, too - none of can resist its absurdity, powerful driving rhyme, and zest. (After all, we've all lost things in our time ... down the back of the chair!)

7. Little Miss Tiny (Roger Hargreaves)

8. Little Miss Sunshine (Roger Hargreaves)

9. Little Miss Bossy (Roger Hargreaves)

10. Little Miss Wise (Roger Hargreaves)

All three of my girls like the Mr Men and Little Miss books, although I'd say C has cottoned to them a bit younger than A and E did (probably a function of the fact that A, the 7.5 year old, enjoys these stories so she will happily read 3 or 4 of them in a row out to C!) I picked out these four titles fairly randomly, although Little Miss Tiny is undoubtedly her favourite ("MY Miss Tiny!" she exclaims, clutching it to her chest). In reality, she has enjoyed many more books in the series than this.

As an aside, while I think these books are mostly fun and visually appealing, I've never been able to set aside my faint crankiness that Hargreaves felt the need to call them LITTLE Miss books. Mr Men, so why LITTLE Miss? Why not just "Miss"? Why infantalise the female characters in the nomenclature, when they are not actually children any more than the male characters are? A minor quibble perhaps, but it does irritate me.

11. The Ravenous Beast (Niamh Sharkey)

Now THAT'S what I call hungry! Very amusing book.

12. Pumpkin Soup (Helen Cooper)

13. Delicious! (Helen Cooper)

We have long been fans of Helen Cooper in this household, and her wonderful Pumpkin Soup series are probably our favourites of all. C loves the gorgeous illustrations, and adores the Duck with a fervent, unshakeable devotion. I imagine she's going to enjoy helping when we road-test the soup recipe from this book soon!

14. Fiona the Pig (Leigh Hobbs)

15. Fiona the Pig's Big Day (Leigh Hobbs)

There are some pretty charming pigs in kids' fiction - Olivia and Wilbur (Charlotte's Web) spring immediately to mind, as does TV's rather oddly drawn Peppa Pig - but I think Fiona would have to one of the sweetest and funniest of all. C loves her blonde ringlets in particular!

16. Go, Dog, Go! (P D Eastman)

I have written before about our love of P D Eastman's works, and C has put the bright and cheery Go, Dog, Go! back on the frequent list this month.

17. Too Many Pears! (Jackie French)

I love this book to bits, partly for its artwork but mostly for its humour and ability to engage a toddler's brain.

C thinks Pamela the cow is just the funniest thing she ever saw, and she ooohs and ahhhhs every time at the amount of pears that Pamela eats. Often she exhorts her, "No, Pam'la! You will be SO SICK, Pam'la!"

18. The Magic Beach (Alison Lester)

My older kids still adore this wonderful book, and C is just in the last week coming to an appreciation of it. I think it is probably still a stretch for her but the lovely, evocative pictures help get her there.

19. Put Me in the Zoo (Robert Lopshire)

I remember having this book read to me as a child, and all of my girls have liked it. C enjoys pointing out the colour changes with the spots (having recently fully mastered her colours, she likes deploying her skills at every opportunity).

20. Sleepy Dog (Harriet Ziefert)

This one is much more linguistically simple that the narrative stories listed above, represented in short disconnected phrases ("Sleepy, sleepy, up to bed / Head on pillow. Nose under covers. Cat on bed") rather than full sentences or paragraphs. C likes it when she's feeling tired or when she's looking at books by herself, pointing at pictures and phrases and repeating them (from memory, one assumes - 2 is a little early for pre-reading!)

Anyone else have any thoughts on these books, or other toddler favourites?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

We Play - Easter bonnets

Back after a hiatus - during which we have been playing, but I have not been taking many photos! - here is this week's We Play from us. The big girls have been making Easter bonnets for the school Hat Parade this Wednesday coming.

They decided they wanted to decorate hats at home, so we trekked off to the $2 shop to buy some hard plastic hats for the base. Then the girls just had fun with our assortment of whatnots from the craft cupboard - cotton wool, glitter pens, textas, sparkles, stickers, and ribbons.

Great fun was had by all!

This post is part of the weekly We Play meme at the wonderful Childhood 101. Check out the main page over there for lots of fantastic play ideas.