Boolino Friends Review – Follow Me Around the House by Camille Garoche

As a Boolino friend, you’re never really sure what kind of books are going to be offered for review. As Oscar’s tastes change at the speed of light at the moment, it’s lovely to have a real mix of reading material to choose from. When we were offered Follow Me Around the House by Camille Garoche however, I wasn’t sure. It was described as a lift the flap, board book. Now I know Oscar still likes to revisit his old favourites occasionally (Dear Zoo anyone?), but really I thought we were over these kind of books. And we may well be. But Follow Me Around the House is nothing like the baby books of old.

Follow Me Round the House by Camille Garoche

The Book

Firstly the quality is far from the board books of our past. Matte finish and heavy, it’s extremely tactile. The story is cute but also very quirky in feel, (unsurprising when you consider Garoche is French. It definitely has that wonderful Gallic peculiarity about it). But all of this pales into insignificance when you come to the bones of the book; the illustration.

The Illustration

The book follows Luna, a Siamese cat, who leads her wards, three new puppies, round the house into which they have been born. Garoche has illustrated the most beautiful house and given an almost dream like quality to the amazing details.

Garoche’s illustrative background is clear to see in this whimsical tale

More than just a ‘lift the flap’ book

Lift the Flap

The ‘lift the flap’ elements are so well combined into the illustrations, that this feels like more of an immersive experience than a children’s book. Seriously, I spent ages just exploring and finding the well hidden secret artwork. It’s a joy to read, but it’s much more of a joy to be a part of.

The detail in this kitchen is beautiful

Just a cello?

Of course not! It’s a bunny bed!

Thoughts

I personally feel this is a book that would be more suited to older or more mature children who would enjoy the time this book demands. To be honest, I wouldn’t even be afraid to get this for an adult, particularly one who appreciates whimsy. Or cats.

Oscar has a bulging bookcase in his bedroom, with free access to hundreds of books. He also has a separate shelf, one he cannot reach alone, that holds a very special collection of books. Ones we feel he is too young for yet or ones that are too precious to risk him damaging. These are books we read together, or books we are saving for the future. Follow Me Around The House is such a gorgeous book, it deserves a bit more care than my boisterous four year old is ready to show just yet. And for that reason, it’ll be joining the others on the special shelf.

For now.

“Ooh, isn’t it delightful here”

Gluten and Dairy Free Recipe – Sweet Potato Brownies

A few months ago I started going to a local Cake Club, run by the friend of a friend. The idea is once a month we all get together to eat cake and natter. It’s that simple really. Everyone who comes must bring some form (any form) of cake and each month we have a loose theme to inspire us to try a new recipe. I love that part of it. I mean I love making cake, but how easy is it to just fall back on one or two tried and trusted recipes? Having a theme gently guides you to consider bakes you perhaps wouldn’t have done otherwise. This benefits not only the baker, but also the rest of the group. It’s made for some really interesting evenings, and even more delicious cakes to try!

This month’s theme was Vegetables (and Fruit), a cheeky nod to the healthy eating that tends to go on in January. We also welcomed, for the first time, a member who cannot eat gluten. As soon as I heard these two things I knew I had to make my friend Bethany’s Sweet Potato Brownies. Gluten and Dairy Free, I’ve made them once before, when Oscar was eating a GF diet. This time I have tinkered with the recipe ever so slightly and boy do they make the most moist and intensely chocolately morsels. I urge you to give them a go, whether you need a GF recipe or not.

On a side note, I have found these to bake much more evenly than traditional brownies, which I always manage to over or under cook. Always a plus!

Although you can microwave sweet potatoes (like you do jacket potatoes), I have found that baking them from raw, gives a much sweeter result. Prick the potato all over and bake on a foil covered tray at 230/ Gas Mark 8 for an hour, turning half way through. When done, peel, mash and cool before using.

Sweet Potato Brownies

Makes 16

Ingredients
  • 1 large baked sweet potato (approx 180g)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 55g coconut oil. Often bought in it’s solid state, I’ve found it’s easiest to melt in the microwave on short bursts.
  • 110g soft brown sugar
  • 45g cocoa powder
  • 60g ground almonds
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 50g good quality dark chocolate chopped into chucks (or chips)
Method
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C /Gas Mark 5 and line a square (9 x 9) cake tin with grease proof/baking paper
  2. Mix sweet potato, eggs, vanilla and coconut oil in a bowl
  3. Mix sugar, cocoa, ground almonds, baking powder and salt in another bowl
  4. Sieve dry mixture to wet ingredients a third at a time. Mix well after adding each third
  5. When the two mixtures are combined, add the chocolate chunks/chips and stir
  6. Pour batter into lined tin
  7. Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean from the middle
  8. Cool in tin for 10 minutes before removing, in greaseproof paper, to cooling rack.
  9. Let cool completely before cutting

These brownies are delicious with a cup of coffee and a sense of smug satisfaction that you’re practically eating one of your five a day.

Sort of 😉

Sweet Potato Brownies – practically a health food 😉

 

Thai Cookery Lessons with Thaikhun Guildford

January. Christmas is over and the weather is dull. And cold. So flipping cold. And what better way to warm up a cold, miserable day, than with some warm, soul comforting food. I’ve spoken on the blog before about the restaurant chain Thaikhun and when they asked me to come along and sample their new Thai cookery lesson at the Guildford branch I leapt at the chance. I couldn’t think of a nicer way to banish the winter blues.

We arrived to a delicious Mocktail and a bowl of spicy prawn crackers, while Map, our host, explained the structure of the evening. We would be watching the chef cook a two course menu, before having a go at preparing the same ourselves. All ingredients, equipment and aprons were provided and the chef was set up at a station away from the kitchen so we could all crowd round to watch.

This was fascinating, however I would mention that this course involved a lot of standing and watching. If you go, don’t do what I did and wear heels! Comfy shoes all the way!

Thai Vegetable Spring Rolls

The first course he, and then we, prepared was Thai Vegetable Spring Rolls. I love spring rolls and had no idea they were so simple to prepare! We shredded and cooked the filling, then wrapped the rolls and deep fried them. It was so obvious and the preparation so straightforward, but I would never have considered making them at home had someone not shown me how to do it!

Skills! Plus, I want a knife like this!

Watching the prep of the filling. Frenetic!

The cooking area was set up with four burners and prep stations. This was based on eight participants (the most the classes usually take), with two to a burner. This would make it a really fun activity for couples or a couple of friends to do. Unfortunately on the night I went I was the only lone participant in a group of nine. This was OK to begin with though as some other friendly bloggers let me muscle in on their rolls!

Then it was our turn!

Deep Fried!

Once the spring rolls were cooked, we sat to eat them, while the ingredients for the main course were prepared. It was lovely to sit and chat with the others in my group while we ate and it really broke the ice that we’d all just cooked the same thing for the first time!

I cooked those!!!

Thai Green Chicken Curry

The main course was Thai Green Chicken Curry, a real favourite of mine! The chef explained the preparation of a real curry paste. However, due to time constraints (making a real paste from scratch, with a pestle and mortar, can take hours apparently) he was choosing to use a bought one. I was a little disappointed at this. I mean the paste was wonderful and gave a fantastic flavour, but it would have been fabulous to see, and use, a real homemade paste. Even a ” here’s one I made earlier” one.

Chef explaining the process of producing green curry paste and prepping the vegetables.

When it came to cooking the curry, the head chef took over. It was so interesting and fun to watch him work!

Then it was our turn. However, I didn’t feel as comfortable muscling in on another couple’s curry so I just watched.

A green curry paste and coconut milk base

It was a shame I didn’t feel like I could get involved, However Thaikhun were most apologetic and have suggested I go back another time to get the full experience and I’d love that!

As I hadn’t helped cook anything I didn’t feel I could ask to eat it either. So, rather cleverly I thought, I asked if the bowl of curry the Head Chef’ had cooked was still around. And it was. I may not have got to cook it, but I did get to eat bowl of Head Chef prepared curry to make up for it. And boy did it! We all sat back down together and were given bowls of rice to go with our curry. Delicious!

Thai Green Chicken Curry

All gone!

At the end of the meal we were given the opportunity to ask any more questions and given, what I thought, was a really thoughtful gift bag, complete with a bottle of Fish Sauce, Palm Sugar and Coconut Milk, along with some vouchers for money off in the restaurant and printed recipes for the dishes we’d prepared. Lovely!

Thoughts

It really was a shame I wasn’t able to get involved in the cooking of the curry. Asking more than two to share a burner is never going to work, even if they were all friends. But as long as the numbers attending the course were kept low, this would be such a fun thing to do.

The restaurant have been these running cookery lessons for a while now. However, the Guildford branch is starting to host theirs from February 2017. They will be running them from 11am-1pm on the 2nd Sunday of every month. The cost is £50 per person and includes everything you could need, including ingredients, expertise and a full meal at the end of it. You can book the course on their website.

The course was so much fun and I learned a lot about Thai flavours. So much so in fact that I’ve been totally inspired and have cooked the spring rolls and curry at home already. The rolls were so good. I may have to knock some up tonight as it goes.

Anyone want to come to dinner?

 

 

Thank you to Mapp and everyone at Thaikhun for a lovely evening.

I was invited to the course as a guest, however I was not paid to write this review. As always opinions are my own.

 

 

 

Signed L J Willson

I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that I took to blogging. That I’ve been able to record both events and emotions with such clarity for three and half years. You see I’ve had plenty of experience. As a teen I was a diary writer. Or a journal keeper, which ever you prefer. And I don’t just mean”5.30pm, drs appt“, or “17th May – Great day“. I’m talking pages and pages and pages of detailed (although thank god it’s not as detailed as it could be. Some details are best left in my mind!!!) accounts of the day, coupled with the emotional turmoil of this girl’s (and her buddies) teenage years! And I know I wrote like that because I still have the diaries. Every one of them.

I have read and reread them over the years. It’s fun. It reminds me of times when things were very different (many of the entries involve missed phone calls to the landline. Ahhh the days before mobiles!). My favourites books are the ones from 1995-1996. I was 17. I was single. I assume school was going OK, it tends to only get a cursory mention! I tend to talk about my friends, my relationships with them and what we got up to. Oh and boys. Or should I say men. As a 17 year old, I didn’t date anyone from school. I had some very close male friends in school, but really, my romantic sights were firmly set on those older than myself.

For years I would never have dreamt of sharing these diaries with anyone from school, but recently I’m feeling old enough and strong enough and far enough away to no longer give a shit. Is that maturity? Holy crap does that mean I’ve grown up? Possibly. Now instead of reading them with wistful rose tinted specs on, they make me giggle. That young girl, I know she’s me, but really some of the things she says!! Instead of dying at the thought of anyone reading them now, I can imagine getting my crew from school round and reading them aloud, while drinking wine and having a good old remember and a good old giggle.

Except for one bit. One story line. For the first time ever, in all the times I’ve read it, I’m only just seeing it for what it was. And it’s making me furious.

There is a very clear theme in my journals. I was pretty desperate for a boyfriend. I don’t think that’s unusual at 17. And I never thought there was any more to it until reading the diary recently, and realising, what I was desperate for was actually someone to care about me. Someone to take care of me. To love me. And I was convinced this wouldn’t happen for me. Actually, I think I was petrified this wouldn’t happen for me. And yes before you ask, my parents are divorced. Sheesh my therapist would be having a field day with this!

Anyway that makes me sad. Sad in a “ahhh honey, hang on in there, you are worthy”. And in a “girl you are so much more than you realise, a boy isn’t going make you the person you think you should be” way. But it doesn’t make me angry. No, the thing that makes me furious, for the first time ever, is my 17 year old self’s relationship with…. lets call him Nathan. Because that’s his name.

I met Nathan in a local pub. He was nearly 10 years older than me and over the course of a few weeks I became obsessed. Yeah he was pretty, he had his own car and he was much older than me (and therefore exotic), but I’d had other crushes like that. No, this was more than a crush, Nathan blew my mind. And I never really knew why. Until I re read my diary recently. Nathan was very charming. And an accomplished liar. And very good at keeping people exactly where he wanted them. He was in Sales after all. He knew how to manipulate me. And it’s taken a much more mature pair of eyes to look back on that and realise what was going on. I was head over heels for him and he knew I was. He said things and did things that gave me hope. Hope for something real. He gave me his carphone (remember this was 1996 people!) number and insisted I call whenever I wanted to. He would call me at home and sometimes come over “after squash”. We had numerous serious conversations about how nothing could come of the relationship, then he’d kiss me and insist we still saw each other.

You see, as I later found out he was married, something he very conveniently (purposely) forgot to tell me when we met (I only actually found out months into the madness when a friend saw his cheque book). I knew there was someone in his life, because he’d told me he was living with someone and they were breaking up. And that to me was hope. There’s that hope again. Not quite, but not not.

It was all bullshit, from the start. I see that now. But the thing that makes me angry is not that I fell for it, or that I let him manipulate me. It’s not even that no one stopped it, I probably wouldn’t have listened anyway. It’s that he did it at all. I was fucking 17, you prick. What the hell were you thinking? Every entry I read about things you did or said make me want to slap you. How dare you take advantage of this beautiful girl whose only mistake was to be so desperate for love, that she let you dangle her like cat toy. That and taking 20 years to realise what the fuck went on.

I’m not sure why he did it. I’m guessing the adoration of a beautiful young girl is a huuuuuge ego boost. Maybe he was so lacking in self confidence that having a plaything like me was the way to make him feel like a big man. Who knows. I do know I was used. I also know, through the local grapevine, that his marriage didn’t last. And that doesn’t surprise me.

I still have hope. Hope that he didn’t do the same, or worse, to anyone else.

And hope that he’s ashamed of what he did.

Are you ashamed Nathan?

Because you should be.

 

Home

The other day the hubster and I had a… let’s call it a disagreement, about the use of the term home.

HOME

It’s a fairly inoucuous term in itself. A small word, meaning “the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household”.

Home.

The disagreement came about because I referred going to Plymouth as going ‘Home’. He was upset by this as, in his opinion, where we live now, leafy Surrey, is home. Plymouth isn’t and therefore should not be referred to as such. It makes technical sense I guess. It is factually correct. We do live here. We haven’t lived there since the late 90s. So, yes, in that way, Plymouth is not Home.

But this really bothered me. This black and white thinking. This ‘this is this, that isn’t’ mentality. What really was the issue here? I mean I’ve just always called wherever I feel comfortable home. Hell, I’ve called wherever I’m living or even staying at the time, Home. For as long as I can remember. So like, if I was to go on holiday (😂👏🏻) and we were to go out for the day, I wanted to ask if we should head back to the hotel, I’d refer to the hotel as Home. I just would. I wouldn’t mean anything by it.

I thought other people did this, but it turns out not. At least not my husband and it also explains why my mum was so angry at me for referring to university halls as Home, when I first moved to London.

To me it’s a word, a shorthand to communicate ‘the place you’re living’. It would seem I don’t place the same deep  meaning on the word that other people do. That other people do enough to be offended when I don’t.

But why don’t I? Well, I guess I’ve moved about a bit in my life. Not as much as some I guess, but thirteen different places to call Home feels like a lot to me and posssibly offers up some explaination as to why the word has somehow lost its deep meaning to me that it hasn’t to others.

Thinking about it I’ve also technically (if we want to get technical about this) been homeless three times in my life. I’ve never needed to sleep on the streets thank god, but I have, at three times in my life, fallen into the category that the charity Crisis call the Hidden Homeless. I don’t think I realised at the time(s), partly because I was with people I loved, but I look back now and understand. This coupled with moving around so much, is it a wonder I have lost the connection some people have with the term they hold so dear?

And while we’re on the subject, I also really struggle when people, and they do, ask me where I’m “from”. It’s a perfectly innocent question after all. And I’ve never lived in another country (unless you count moving to Wales as emigrating 😉). But I have moved around so much, from such a young age and with such regularity, that no one answer feels authentic anymore.

And it wasn’t until having Oscar that I realised how much this has impacted me and my sense of identity. My sense of belonging, my sense of home.

I remember everywhere I’ve lived in. I carry them with me, no matter how little I realised that until recently. The first two homes I had were in the same county and until we left that county when I was twelve, that is where I was ‘from’. Then part of my fractured family moved to the other end of the country and suddenly this place, where I knew no one and nothing was now my home. What had come before was packed away and I stopped referring to it. The new place was now called Home. And despite moving many times since, because the majority of my strong ties are still there, I guess I still do. Even though in truth it doesn’t feel like it is. Or perhaps even ever did.

So the question might be, what is going to change that? If buying a house and having a baby all in one place isn’t enough to give you a deeper sense of what Home means, isn’t enough to make you give up calling everything else Home, then what the hell is?

But in reality does that matter? In today’s global society do we have to pin our colours to one home, to one house, to one town, to one…. place, just for the neatness of explaining yourself to someone when they ask so where are you from? After all where you live and where you’re from are two completely different things for a lot of people these days. Why should the answer have to be neat?

Maybe it’d just be enough to have those who love you, know and accept that you are going to call many places Home. And that’s unlikely to change.

For now.