Merry’s Perfect Prairie Muffin Moment.

A couple of weeks ago I got totally and utterly sick of packed lunches, specifically the fact that the girls have ended up hurriedly making sandwiches and grabbing a snack bar, snack bars that are expensive and neither healthy or particularly satisfying. I decided i would try baking, something I absolutely never do, and see if that improved things. Once the children recovered from the shock and inspected me carefully for implants, they risked tasting my wares – and it was pronounced a success.

First of all I canvased for help, and got some great recipes from Snafflesmummy, but then decided I was going to have to go even simpler first. I tried out this Apple and Sultana Muffin recipe, which has been a ‘go back to’ one since – they are lovely and really don’t feel unhealthy to eat.

I win, I win! I baked something and it isn't a disaster!

Hurrah. I didn’t have so much success with the flapjack, which fell apart too much despite several attempts, so I’m still on the look out for a better version of that.

But the girls liked my baking, they’ve asked for me to do them again and it has been so much cheaper that snack bars. I do rant and rail about the whole school ‘healthy eating’ policy – Josie is stick thin, does 16 hours of gym a week and needs calories but is bound by the same break time rules as an obese child. At least this way I feel like I’m doing something good for her, which can’t be questioned, makes them feel a bit more mothered and is cheaper too. No one can complain about a home cooked, butter free muffin but I can make sure it is big and has plenty of good calories.

So a couple of weeks into the experiment and I got brave – my very own ‘see what happens’ recipe. And here it is. Worked perfectly, so I hope it does again!

Banana & Sultana Muffins.

5 small squashy bananas, mashed

1 cup of sultanas

1 cup of brown sugar

3 tbsps of sunflower oil

3 tbsps milk

1/2 of cup brown flour

2 cups of self raising flour

1 stood baking powder

1 egg

1 pinch salt

1/2 cup of porridge oats

Chuck it in a bowl and mix briskly. divide into 12-15 muffin cases and bake at 190C for about 25 minutes.


I did a recipe. I don’t know what to tell you. It makes a cake-y but also quite banana bread-y, heavy but nice muffin. I’ve now added some baking powder and see if that lifts it (who knows, I’m not exactly a baker!) but I’d make them again to turn out the same anyway because they were yummy.

I’d really love you to leave links to healthy, fast, easy baking for using for breaks and packed lunches as I’ve got the bug for baking all of a sudden!



In a jam – again.

I really don’t cook. I’m terrible at it, with a total disinterest in food and all the things like it. But I do, it turns out, quite like making jam. I’ve made it before and enjoyed it so when Persil sent me a jam making kit, I thought I would try again.

Ok. I can do this #jam #cooking #persilchallenge

It did however take me rather a long time to  get round to it; time disappeared and we never did make it to the pick your own, so the COMPLETELY ENORMOUS blackberries got bought on our Tesco trip :lol:

I went for blackberry and apple this time because of the naturally occurring pectin in apples that saves buying special sugar or faffing with lemon juice and tricky setting points. I used FabFood4All’s recipe, a Tots100 blogger I hadn’t come across before – she was very friendly on Twitter.

Blackberries and apples courtesy of our #tescofuelsave shopping spree #jam #cooking @tescofood #persilchallenge

My top tips for am making:-

  • clean down everything first, make sure you have lots of space.
  • dishwasher EVERYTHING – pots, ladle, spoon, slotted spoon, lids, easy pourer, saucepan for minimum germs that could get into the jam.
  • Have a boiled kettle ready to reboil and use for sterilising the ladle if you drop it.
  • Stick a saucer in the freezer for the crinkle test.
  • Wear shoes.
  • Use a much bigger pot than you think you’ll need. It really comes up and you don’t want to be hanging around boiling it slowly to stop it boiling over on to your toes. (See point above).

Yum. #jam #cooking

Love the colours. This was before the sugar, it goes all shiny once that’s in.

Most gorgeous colour. #jam

And it worked! (That was exactly the number of jars I had ready; impressed? I was!

Ta Da!!! #jam

Respect due for the setting perfection I think.

That is a good jam :) hurrah!

The purpose, aside from making yummy jam, was to try out a new Persil Dual Action Laundry Capsule, that funny thing that looks like a dingy at the front. The Persil Dual Action capsules are just coming to the end of the box here as we’ve been using them through the summer. Aside from the funky shape (I keep imagine them rafting merrily inside the drum), they do seem to be rather good. I wash on 30 degrees as a rule and often use quick or low water quantity and haven’t had any issues with cleanliness. We always do use Persil anyway, everything else causes hives on various people here. I love things that aren’t powder and go straight in the drum, they save a lot of mess. I’d quite like it if Max started getting these. Admittedly at £10 for 28 washes, it is a bit more expensive than powder (I’ve done some calculations and I think £29 for 100 washes in powder is 29p a wash, £10 for 28 is 36p a wash) but for convenience or perhaps for going away and using laundrettes or for heavier stains that benefit from the stain remover granules included in the centre., it could be worthwhile.

The money shot.

I used my muslin to wipe up and strain lots of the jam and then washed it on my normal 30 degree, half filled cycle – the result was perfect, all blackberry stains gone.

Disclosure: Persil sent us the jam kit and the tablets – views and hard labour are our own. Additional weight gain due to jam consumption sadly also our own.

The one where Merry catches up using the photos on her phone to remember things

Argh! Weeks have gone by! Argh!

Right. Lots of big and important things. Masses. Huge.

Fran had an appointment with her surgeon at the hospital. The upshot of this was, as we suspected, they thing she needs more surgery to correct her cleft palate. It’s been obvious for a while that she is hoarse and croaky for a lot of the time and her speech is still affected by a nasal buzz, a common problem with children who have had cleft palate repair. It’s straining her voice, because she is trying to correct that and also trying to accommodate air escaping from throat and nose, which is squeezing past a gap that doesn’t close off. Basically we should all be able to make an airtight seal with our soft palate and throat and she can’t and her vocal chords are potentially becoming strained and may be collecting nodules on them.

So. She has an appointment coming along to have a moving x-ray of her palate while she is speaking to see what is going on and a referral to ENT to look at her voice (can you look at a voice?) and so on. The upshot is almost certain to be more surgery to lengthen her palate, hopefully for the final time. Braces are still out as she hasn’t got all her adult teeth and needs to grow more. She’s disappointed about this as she’s keen to get on with that side. She’s developed quite an anxiety about her smile recently :/ Still, the cleft team has grown a lot since she was born, when it was basically a surgeon and a speech therapist – and she spent some time with the psych chatting about this and she has a bit of work to do to build confidence. The psych was great actually, there is a difference already. Fran and I have talked lots about how teenagehood is fraught with image issues anyway and if it were not for her cleft, she would no doubt focus on something else instead. She’s great though, very sorted usually, so I hope she’ll move through it with some help. Once braces are done she will, hopefully, be into the cosmetic side of the surgery, which will probably mean finishing off with work on her nose till she is happy with it. Lucky girl; I loath my nose :lol: She can choose that side though, I won’t be telling her to have cosmetic surgery, it can be her choice what she wants.

We have a new hospital here and it had an exhibition in the foyer.

She and I looked at lots of bits of it – I loved the uniforms :) She liked the gruesome weaponry… I mean surgical implements. So that snuck some education in.

Our Race for Life numbers arrived. Less that 3 weeks to go now. I’m up to running for most of 30 minutes now so hope I can make it through the 5k. The girls, it would appear, plan to wing it :roll:

It was Max’s birthday so Fran and I cooked him a 3 course meal. I do no cooking here at all, so this is always stressful. Fran planned it, shopped for it and prepped it and we cooked it together.

The treacle tart was very easy (bought the bases!)

Baked Camenbert was gorgeous.

And the parma ham and sundried tomato wrapped cod was perfect!

Incredibly, everything worked perfectly, timings were perfect, everything was done just right. A minor miracle. :lol:

Maddy had a fantastic private TKD lesson.

And is now the thrilled owner of a BLUE BELT!

She’s been working really hard lately, definitely the most studious. She’s finished a maths and science book, been reading avidly and trying new things, working hard at overcoming anxieties, doing really well at music and trying very hard at art. She’s a joy. I never have to ask her to do anything, she just does it. Max has been teaching her various new computing skills and she’s learned to design and newsletter.

I ADORE her logo.

This needs it’s own post, but the girls have been doing some Maths SATS papers to see where they were at. That gave them a shock, I can tell you! But I was pleasantly surprised by the results.

We had a really good ArtEtc day which also needs it’s own post.

And also an excellent HistoryEtc day. Also needs own post.

We went to Wood Green and also to the Allotment (amazing how HE positive other allotment owners are there) and have been in the garden and had a music lesson and danced, cheerled, been to trampoline and TKD and the big girls are playing Summer rugby with the local team.

Amelie would like to say a big thank you to Alison and Buttercup for a clothing parcel :)

I discovered I have too much wool…

Read a lot of books..

And have completed my first ever cardigan back.

I have also decided to save sorting my Flickr account into sets until I am old, wearing purple and the girls have left home. :lol:

As well as all that, it has actually been a really productive set of days. The girls are getting through work in the morning from their books but there has been masses of spontaneous interest STUFF. There are piles of info books all over the place as the environment, different historical periods, fashion and animals come under intense scrutiny. As well as all the fiction reading they are in a huge question phase. Fran and I had done the Russian Revolution by 8am today, she composed and wrote down her own piece of music this weekend, complete with all the requisite bits of key signature, Josie is drawing all the time and making sense of words like it is going out of fashion and Amelie is… well. Amelie just is.

Domestic Servitude or Fit for Life?

About a year ago now there was a period of time where home educators were accused, as a pack, of keeping their children at home for domestic servitude and household chores, rather than for the fairly reasonable purpose of wanting them to have an different and meaningful education that would fit them for life. Apparently we home educators thought that if we kept kids at home all day, they could slave for us and we’d be able to put our feet up and do nothing. Apparently, we kept them at home to do housework.

There are a couple of obvious flaws in this, as anyone who has got children will tell you. Having your children at home all day is NOT the way to keep your house tidy. Having your children at home all day will NOT give you pristine carpets. Having children at home all day, or in your car all day, or running in and out of the garden all day, or painting, clay making, Lego playing, music making or heck in this house even reading a book, seems to be the fastest way I’ve ever found of trashing the house, ruining the carpets and making your brain fall out of your ears from sheer noise pollution.

Unless of course I am doing this all wrong and everyone else is sitting on their pretty backsides all day while the housework gets done, the floors get washed and an endless stream of cups of tea and daintily made biscuits are brought to their side? :lol: And even then, you struggle to get children to do things like that if you actually try to make them. So far as I can see, biscuit making in this house is the sole preserve of the person most capable of causing a kitchen white out and the only kids who want to make tea are the ones not yet tall enough to do it safely.

Photo Credit

The political shenanigans of last year made me question a little what exactly is the ‘right’ amount of house-workery-job-sharing in the house. I’m not likely ever to smile at the iron in the manner of the lady in the picture – and my children think irons are for melting Hama Beads anyway but presumably it is reasonable to ask children living as part of a community (as in a family) to take part in the jobs that keep it running, without worrying about being accused of using them as slaves? I’d like my girls to know not just what washing machines are for but also how to use them, thanks very much, by the time they reach adulthood. Besides, I can come up with masses of educational benefit in the dirty washing. There is colour sorting for a start, and all those labels with their textiles and washing codes and pictorial instructions. My goodness, I practically did a GCSE in stuff like that. It’s Montessori I tell you!

Fran can cook pretty well now; she probably makes a meal or two a week and Maddy has learned a mean set of bartering skills over tea making and cooking up biscuits. Amelie, if nothing else, can wield a hoover well enough to make sure the music teacher doesn’t stick to the floor on arrival. I can’t see how these skills can do anything other than benefit them really, though I’m quite sure none of them appreciate it.

When I went off to college, I had to ring my Nana on the first night to ask how to boil potatoes. I’ve never boiled an egg in my life and the idea of doing anything much more complicated than tuna and pasta fills me with dread. I’m utterly and completely domestically hopeless. I don’t even put the bins out and if Max made off, I can assure you a combination com-bin-ation, geddit?) of laziness and ineptitude would mean we used a carrier bag on a door handle forever onward. And I can tell you a story worse than that admission too; I know of someone who, a month into her marriage, finally asked her new husband why she hadn’t had any of his underwear to wash yet. It turned out (heaven help everyone) that up until he left home at 30 years old, a new pair of pants had arrived at the end of his bed every day but this had mysteriously ceased on moving into his marital home. :roll:

Given that I’ve been trying to teach tidiness (make, force, beat into them, read what you will into it) to my 4 girls for upwards of 12 years now, I’ve come to the conclusion that keeping them all home and making them sort out their own washing into lights and darks isn’t likely to do them any lasting damage. You never know, it might be useful.

Money can’t buy you love

I know they say that – and it’s true – but nothing beats a birthday where the people who love you go out of their way (and some way out of their pocket) to give you gifts that will bring masses of joy and pleasure.


Look at that; 1000’s of hours of reading, knitting, lovely smelly baths, candlelight relaxing and peace. I’m a very lucky girl.


Josie made me a family of fairies, Maddy a candle holder I have yet to photograph and all of them took great care in planning nice meals and lovely things today.

Fran made me a cake – yummy :)

It’s been one of my best ever birthdays (I didn’t even get older, we moved my birthday from later in the week to today for convenience!) and that is saying something. It might have been different, but since it wasn’t, they made it lovely.

I ADORE my Kindle; it’s definitely going to be a massive hit :)

Thank you all, my darlings. I’ve been well and truly spoiled.