Archives for October 2013

Silent Sunday

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Cheat’s chicken pie

Now that the weather is starting to turn Mushroom and I are starting to make more winter recipes. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not great at measuring out ingredients for cooking but things still seem to turn out alright so if, like me, you’re no contender for Masterchef but wouldn’t mind spending a bit more time with your little ones in the kitchen, here’s a bit of a cheat’s recipe for chicken pie.

You will need:

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A tin of chicken in white sauce (or you could use leftover chicken and make your own white sauce if you’re a little less lazy than I am!), ready-to-roll puff pastry (it’s a cheat’s pie, remember!) and some vegetables. We used mushrooms and asparagus but feel free to use your preferred veg, or use up any leftovers!

You’ll also need: A pie tin and a pastry brush


Chop the veg and place in an unbreakable bowl/container (we’re working with toddlers here!):

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We threw in a leftover carrot too.

Add the chicken and get your little chef to stir:

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Roll out the pasty and cut round a pie tin. Place the pasty in the tin and press down. Little hands are good for this. Add the chicken and veg mix.




Roll out the remaining pasty and place over the top of the pie. Cut holes in it.

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Melt some butter or margarine in a microwavable pot and once it’s cooled down a little, let you little chef ‘paint’ the pie with the pastry brush.

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Put in the oven for around 30 minutes (follow the instructions on the pastry)…

Et voila! Serve hot with gravy and mashed potatoes. If you like. Yum!

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Nature in the city 3: A manmade ‘natural’ park

I’ve mentioned Leyton’s ‘Jubilee Park’ once or twice on this blog before. The first time was back in May, when Mushroom and I met the recycled kite maker (we’ve not seen him again since! Glad I took photos or I may have wondered whether he was real!). I mentioned him again more recently in an earlier Nature in the City post about picking blackberries.

This park used to simply be a large green space, with a tiny ‘typical’ children’s park in the corner. You know, swings, a slide etc… This year, along with several of the parks across the borough of Waltham Forest, it has been redesigned to encourage children to interact more with their natural surroundings. So, as well as a large area that remains as it was for the children to run around in, there are also ‘fallen’ trees to negotiate, wooden trampolines to jump on, ropes to help them swing across crocodile infested waters (well they are in our imagination!), rope snakes to ride on and hills of varying sizes to roll down (It’s possible that I like this even more than Mushroom does!)

Here are a few pictures of Mushroom making the most of this manmade ‘nature.’

I like this park and the others that are beginning to follow. It may be manmade, but Mushroom has always been quite cautious and before this was here, he needed a lot of encouragement to climb a tree, or roll down a big hill. The little trees and small hills here allowed him to build his confidence and he now does both without hesitation. His new found climbing confidence means I need to watch him a lot more closely these days!

What do you think? Is it a good idea to create more parks like this or should the council simply have left the space as it was before and let the children use their imaginations..? Please comment below, I’d love to hear your views, especially if you have similar parks in your area!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

I’m linking up with Coombe Mill‘s Country Kids blog linky with this series. To find out more and/or add your own, click on the image above.


Letter learning fun

Have you started teaching letters to your toddler yet? If so, how do you go about it? Do you use books, flash cards, toys, or something else? What age did you start?

If you haven’t started yet, don’t panic! There is plenty of time. Even if your child has just started school and you haven’t done anything with them at home, it’s ok. You’ll be surprised how much they’ve picked up anyway, and their brains are little sponges at this age so they won’t take long to catch up.

If you’ve been thinking about teaching letters now but don’t know where to start, first of all… Relax. It doesn’t need to feel like work – for either of you! I’m over at Wriggly Rascals this week, talking about ways to make letter learning fun. Head over to the blog now, to find out what my three (yep, just three!) top tips are. While you’re there and your mind is on the subject, why not spend an extra minute or two answering this short survey to share your own top tips with mum Lynne, who wants start teaching three-year old Molly her letters but isn’t sure where to start.

If you’re still at the babyhood stage and not ready to think about letters yet but wondering what toys might help with your child’s development, you might also want to have a read of this post, which lists some great suggestions.

Wriggly Rascals was set up by Shona Motherwell, a frustrated mum of twins Mhairi and Archie, to get mums together to share pregnancy, baby and toddler advice via quick surveys to get the facts about what other mums do. If you would like read or share some advice, click on the image above.

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Nature in the city 2: Touching tree sap

This post is part of a series in which I share how Mushroom and I make the most of the opportunities we find to interact with nature in the city. The first post in this series was all about Blackberry picking, which was an intentional nature mission of mine, being an activity I loved as a child.

This little nature adventure, however, was never meant to be! We were just popping to the corner shop to buy something and I thought I’d make a bit of a walk of it, telling Mushroom to bring his balance bike so he could practice riding as we walked the long way round (it’s only a couple of streets away).

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He rode the bike to the corner of the road and stopped. “Mummy! Fella” (feather). He handed this to me then got back on his bike. About 10 seconds later he stopped again “Flower!” He handed me a leaf. He still doesn’t quite get the difference between flowers and leaves.

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Of course I kept the feathers and the ‘flower.’

When we reached the corner he stopped and became very excited. “Mummy look Mummy look!” I looked.

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“Yes, it’s a tree.” He frowned at me. “No. High! Pretty! Sweetie?” I looked again.

“What is it Mushroom? Show me.” He practically rolled his eyes and threw his bike down at the base of the tree.

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“Up Mummy.” I lifted him up and he pointed.

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“Ah… It’s sap.”

“Sap. More?” And he started looking for sap on every tree we passed. Fascinated by it, he asked for some to take home so I broke a little off for him and he stared at it, fascinated. “Smooth. Nice.”

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So our trip to the corner shop ended up being a lovely little nature trail looking for tree sap. I have lived here with Mr B for years but it’s only through Mushroom’s eyes that I noticed this, which must have always been there. It’s amazing what we miss when we’re not looking.

I’m linking up with Coombe Mill‘s Country Kids blog linky with this series. To find out more and/or add your own, click on the image below:

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall


Parmjit – A Daddy Plus interview

Earlier this year, I revived my Mummy Plus series of interviews. I interviewed Owner/Manager of Tatty Bumpkin South East Oxfordshire Louise Steele, followed by award winning textiles designer Genevieve Bennet. I do have more Mummy Plus interviews coming up but I thought it was about time I redressed the balance and did at least one Daddy Plus interview. So, this month I interviewed friend and Daddy Plus Parmjit Singh, a professional filmmaker and photographer who set up his company peanut photography following the birth of his daughter two-year old Peanut*, in 2011 (see what he did there, Awwww….) so that he could spend more time at home with her. Parmjit has over 10 years professional experience but has been taking photos for much longer than that, having first picked up a camera when he was just five years old, when he was caught playing with his uncle’s cameras. Parmjit and his wife share equal care of peanut, with Parmjit staying at home with her while his wife works part-time. Parmjit also enjoys cooking (he’s pretty good at that too) and watching movies.

I can personally vouch for peanut photography, as Parmjit has been Mushroom’s (un!)official photographer since we met in 2011 (through the children, as you do). Need proof? Well, here’s a photo he took of Mushroom (taken at c.18 months):

Mushroom by Peanut PhotographyThis is the only photo of Mushroom that exists online!

You set up peanut photography after your daughter’s birth. Tell us a bit about what you were doing before.
I ran a not-for-profit film production company called Black Chilli Productions. I worked with a wide range of individuals and groups in the community including young people, disadvantaged groups and the older generation. We made films and I also taught filmmaking out of a production office in Stratford (East London). I ran, and still run, an independent film company, agitateFilms, for more commercial projects and to develop my own films.

What was it like starting out on your own with a newborn at home?Unfortunately by the end of 2010 the recession really started to effect Black Chilli and funding was becoming scarce and harder to secure. It was a scary time. I decided to give up the production office and put Black Chilli on hold so I moved my work into a spare room in the house. When my daughter was about three months one of our lovely aunts came around. I was proudly showing shots of Peanut on our TV. She kindly complemented my photography, which gave me the idea to set up Peanut Photography. It was very tough at first – adjusting to working from home, juggling work, Peanut, my partner and personal stuff. It still tough but it’s worth it.

You do weddings and events, fashion and portrait photography. What’s your favourite?
I don’t really have a favourite. They all have positives and occasional negatives. For me, the best thing about being a photographer is meeting and working with people – whether they are brides/grooms, children, actors, models and others in the creative industry. I’ve met some great people and made new friends as a result, including you Rachael!

What is it that you enjoy most about photography?
It’s all about photographing people for me. I always have a good time even if I’m stressed and tired. I enjoy the interaction with lots of different people. Photographing children – babies, toddlers and older children, is a lot of fun as it gives me a great excuse to behave like a big kid!

Who or what inspires your work?
Initially it was my uncle Steve, who was a keen photographer. Later on, seeing my father struggle and work hard inspired me to be the best I could be. In terms of the industries I work in, I don’t really have any specific photographers or filmmakers that have inspired me. There are just too many of them to mention as I admire so many. Ever since I was a kid I was always surrounded by art whether it was film, photography or music. I just always wanted to be an artist.

How do you and your wife manage the childcare between you?
I sometimes forget how fortunate I am. My wife is very supportive. She works hard. We both work hard to manage childcare and work. As a freelancer, my work fluctuates so there are periods I’m working at home, processing photographs or doing marketing stuff. It’s flexible so I make time to spend with Peanut and take care of her. It just made sense that I do it. Also, I wanted to do it. I didn’t just want to be a father who came home from work everyday and saw his kids for an hour, then ate and collapsed on the sofa and the cycle begins again the next day. We both wanted to be Peanut’s main carers for at least the first two years so we worked around that to make it happen.

What’s your biggest challenge at work and how is this different to what you were doing before?
The biggest challenge is getting paid work. Today, a lot of people call themselves photographers but doing it as a profession is very different to doing it as a hobby.  Often, people assume that it’s something you’ll just do for free but it is hard work just like any other job. The kit is also expensive and it takes years of dedication to learn the craft, however, it’s also great fun and I love it.  Making films was more difficult in some ways, as it involved getting larger teams together and a lot of organising logistics ((actors, crew, location, props etc.).  The great thing about photography is that most of the time I can do it on my own although it does sometimes require small teams, particularly when it’s a fashion assignment. It is possible to make films on your own as well but it’s so much more involved as you have to take on all the roles.  At the moment, I’m taking a break from film production. I’m writing a micro budget feature and focusing on the photography side of things!

If money was no object, what would you do with your time?
I would spend more time with my daughter, cook more, travel, help my mum, dad and sisters more. Generally take care of myself and my family. I would carry on doing photography and film-making but wouldn’t have the pressure of having to make money.

If you had to describe Peanut in just three words, what would you say?
Confident, beautiful and intelligent.

Complete the sentence: ‘I’m a Daddy Plus because…’ in no more than 40 words.
I’m a Daddy Plus because I love my daughter. I love being with her. She’s great company, full of energy, funny, entertaining and teaches me about the fundamental things in life.

peanut photography has a range of special offers and packages for portraits, weddings and events. If you would like to work with Parmjit, email him to book a free no obligation consultation. Or, If you’re on twitter, follow him and send a DM. If you mention Mothering Mushroom when booking you will receive 10% off  the usual fee. Parmjit is excellent with children!

If you would like to take part in a Mummy/Daddy Plus interview, either leave a comment below, email me or DM me on twitter. If you’re a bit shy but know of someone else you feel is a Mummy/Daddy Plus, let me know why you think they should be interviewed and pass on their contact details so that I can get in touch.

*Peanut is not her real name. I just seem to gravitate towards people whose kids’ nicknames involve food!

Disclosure: I have not received any compensation for recommending Peanut photography and will not receive any commission should you make a booking. Read my full PR and disclosure policy for more info.

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