French yogurt cake

Here’s the scene. Day one of the half term holidays. Two kids and one dad. All a bit tired after a mega fun bank holiday weekend. I need to go grocery shopping and tidy the house, so we can’t go too far. What’s a guy to do?

Two things, actually. One: water balloon fight. Two: bake a French yogurt cake.


What you’ll need

The cake was a bribe an incentive for the kids to be helpful when we went around the supermarket, and it worked pretty well. They were particularly helpful at adding things that I didn’t want to the trolley.

But we made sure to pick up the ingredients we needed for the French yogurt cake. Chief among them is a 150g pot of yogurt. But can’t I just weigh out 150g of yogurt from my big family-sized pot? you’re thinking. Why are you so wasteful, Adam? you cry.

Well the 150g pot of yogurt has a dual purpose. You’re going to need it to measure out all of the other ingredients, so you don’t need scales. Which is great because kids.


The recipe

I can’t pretend this is my recipe. It is from a brilliant blog (and now online boutique!) called Croque Maman. Sarah met Helene from the site at BritMums Live last year. She is a geniune French woman, so this cake must be authentic.

What I love most about the recipe is that the kids and I actually enjoy the process of making it. Rather than me just getting stressed at them for 30 minutes, cleaning up for another 30 minutes and hoping to get one Instagram-worthy picture out of the whole thing. This one has no scales, no whisks, no whipping or blowtorching or sterilising or emulsifying. Just a bowl, a spoon and a yogurt pot.

Here’s Helene’s recipe. Which we followed to the letter. And then threw in two bags of chocolate chips.



The Chap approves. He is in pyjamas at dinner time because we had just returned from the library, where he had urinated all over me. (Sigh.)


The Lost Carnival, Crewe

May bank holiday weekend is one of the best of the year. Firstly, it’s my birthday. Secondly, there’s always good stuff going on. Last year we went to Geronimo festival. And this year the super team at Wild Rumpus invited us along to the second ever Lost Carnival*, which this year was in Crewe.


Even before you get to the carnival, there are stories, podcasts and videos on their website to get you into the story of two rival carnival troupes, descending on Crewe to fight for survival — but is all as it seems? There was even a Charleston-style dance routine to learn, if you so wished.


We rocked up at 5pm, still enjoying the remnants of a glorious sunny spring day. From the start, the vibe was quirky, Victorian, a little creepy. We were surprised by people’s commitment to dressing up, adults and kids. Crewe’s steampunk scene is thriving!

Before we got there we were worried that the whole thing would be too creepy for the kids, but it was just right. We chose to side with the bright, energetic Ingenue carnival, rather than the mysterious Birds — though two of us had defected by the end of the evening.


The grounds were lovely and green, and nicely enclosed by trees. The whole thing was split into Ingenue and Bird sides. There were two craft big tops, little circus tents housing, among other things, a levitating wonder, a tattooed lady, and a temporary tattoo parlour.

Every hour we were beckoned to the main stage for a showdown between representatives of the two troupes. 5pm saw a standoff between two jugglers, which incorporated a hair-raising ‘walk of death’ with daggers. 6pm was an acrobatic clash. 7pm was time for the dance off, and 8pm a contest between the Ingenues’ Clare V’oyant (get it?) and the Birds’ magician, Max Mager.


The Bookworm getting a dance lesson from two Ingenues and a Bird.

In between there were periodic performances all over the grounds. My favourite was Max Calaf Seve, from Spain, whose trampoline act was theatrical, physically impressive and genuinely funny.


Max Calaf Seve losing his trousers…


…and finding them again.

Sarah and the kids loved Pif-Paf, an acrobatic trio making exceptional use of a rotating 15-foot rotating metal wheel.


Both of the children were transfixed for the whole half hour (which is no small thing for a six- and two-year-old). The Bookworm has been trying out her own acrobatic routine ever since, including some hair-raising stunts on a climbing frame.

We all loved Voodoo Love Orchestra, who roamed the whole site performing joyous latin-inspired brass music, before playing a set from the stage. The Chap got a shout out for his truly individual dance moves.


As well as being mega-talented, all of the performers — each commissioned individually by Wild Rumpus — did a great job of staying in role throughout the evening, making the magic and rivalry all the more real for the kids.

In her review, the wonderful Geekmummy wrote about how safe, comfortable and relaxed the whole event felt, and she’s spot on. It was a really chilled evening. Sitting in the evening sun, watching our kids snuggle up and enjoy Pif-Paf, bellies full of pizza, chips and brisket — it was a beautiful thing.


Can’t wait to see what they do next year.

And you can catch Wild Rumpus at Macclesfield’s Barnaby Festival this June (17th–26th) and the Just So Festival at Rode Hall (19th–21st August).

* we got free tickets — all views are our own, natch.

What did you get up to on your bank holiday weekend? Did anyone else head to The Lost Carnival? Let us know in the comments.


Quesadillas and carnival!

Hello there. It’s been a while, and a few things have happened.

For example, I got a year older yesterday.

Our actually amazing friends picked up our kids from school and nursery, and had them all night. So Sarah and I got to spend a lush day in Manchester — complete with great Mexican food (and tequila) at Wahaca.


Then we got back to Chester to hang out together like those adults without kids — you’ve heard about those guys, right? — playing ping pong and board games in nice bars.

Kids now retrieved, and we’re getting revved up to head to the Lost Carnival tonight.

lost carnival

It looks mega stylish and Victorian, and a little dark. The Bookworm is super excited.

The guys at Wild Rumpus were kind enough to hook us up with some free tickets. As well as the carnival itself, there’s a load of images, videos and background to help you get into the story. There’s even a dance routine to learn — though Sarah and I are struggling to get the hang of it, even with our years weeks of Charleston lessons.

More to come!




The Real Junk Food Project – Chester invites you to its first pop-up event

Great things happening in Chester #hatefoodwaste

Ellie and Galina will be cooking with food that they have procured from major Chester supermarkets. This food would otherwise have gone to waste. Thanks to the young entrepreneurs’ kitchen savviness, it will instead be given a chance to make its debut on your plate.

So come to Wesley Methodist Church’s Cafe at 8 St.John Street, CH1 1DA in Chester city centre on Friday. Doors open at 4:30 PM and close at 6:30 PM.

Meet Ellie, Galina and their families. Tell Andrew Herbert and the Reverend Neil Stacey how thankful you are to have a hot meal and good company on the first evening of the Easter holiday. Have a chat with Councillor Alex Black and Lady Janet Black, who will be gracing the event. Last but not least, donor stores’ representatives will be there to taste the fruit of their good deed of the day, so make…

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On work, quad biking and tonsillitis

I’m writing from a soft play, in the midst of a six-year-old’s birthday party. I have positioned myself far from the other adults, looking as unapproachable as possible. I have severe tonsillitis, for which I’m taking antibiotics.

The Bookworm is somewhere on the soft play, and I’m sure she’s perfectly fine.

So 2016, how’s it going for you?

Christmas was long ago. Ours was ace. We didn’t do the whole travelling up and down the country thing this time. Being based in Chester our travel time to in-laws and my parents has increased. We have to trek to Northumberland and Norfolk to get to see these lovely folk. Instead, we caught up with my parents during December at the Center Parcs in Cumbria. Again, fairly controversial but we took the Bookworm out of school the week before the Christmas break up. The price for a four day midweek break almost triples as soon as it hits the school holidays, so with all considered we felt it was worth it. On average the kids get to see my parents two or three times a year, so every occasion counts.

We had an ace time. The Chap loved the pool for a few reasons:

  1. There were buckets and watering cans
  2. It was super warm
  3. He got to eat chips by the pool in his swimwear

Adam and I went quad biking. I surprised myself with the speed junkie performance I gave. The track was fast, dirty and bumpy. The girl in front of me rolled her bike on top of her, thankfully she was okay.

Adam and I had our annual Aqua Sauna experience. The Twilight Spa package. You get five hours exploring the 11 different experiences. Outdoor swimming in December is always a highlight. We vow after every visit to eat cleaner, exercise more and take better care of ourselves. Hmm…

Adam went with the kids from Center Parcs across the country to Northumberland, to his hometown. The kids love visiting grandma and grandad. There are treats galore and a beach within view of the house,  which they insist on going to despite the weather. I had work for the rest of the week up until Christmas Eve.

Oh and that’s a thing, work. I’ve said farewell to my four-day-a-week pattern and hello to the standard five days and week 9-5. I’m 28 and have avoided the full time pattern thus far so I should be incredibly grateful. I feel like I now understand that whole living-for-the-weekend attitude.

A week is so long and I miss the Chap. He is loving his increased time with Daddy though. The Chap gets three days a week with Daddy and two days in lovely (but expensive) nursery. This is half of the reason for the decline in blogging of late.

After sitting at a screen all day, my desire to come home and do the same has understandably diminished. I’m hoping once Adam’s business (Penfold Content) is more established that I may have the delight of a part time setup again.

But back to Christmas – my favourite Christmas present were an awesome jumper from RAD, my FitBit and a Lumie lamp.

The lamp really works for me. You set it to create a sunrise. Over the course of half and hour, the lamp gradually illuminates, dragging you gently into consciousness.


No ghastly sounding alarms here anymore. Though it doesn’t seem to have had the same rousing effect on Adam so far.

It also has a 30 minute sunset mode which is good for Bookworm to try and wind down to.

My Fitbit made me fully realise how many few steps I do each day. Since January 10th I have been walking the 35 minute journey from my office to my house. This is the only way I’m anywhere near the reconmmended 10,000 steps a day. I haven’t jogged since I did the 5K back in the summer. As the weather fell into autumnal rains, I decided to use that as fitting excuse to put the jogging gear to the back of the wardrobe for a while.

If I were to pick it up again, I’d be back to square one (and back to week one of the couch to 5K podcast), but in a slightly better mental place as I know have already achieved this fitness once before, so it is entirely possible.

It’s been to good to catch up. But if you’ll excuse me, there’s a random toddler poking me, and our particular gaggle of children is being called in to their nuggets and chips.

Have a good week.

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A day out at Paradise Island Adventure Golf

It’s that weird time between Christmas and New Year, and the weather is a bit rubbish. We braved the beach in gale force winds on boxing day (a Kirkup family tradition). We’ve taken a long walk up a hill, made a LEGO Rapunzel tower and even attempted tidying.

Golf 1

So when Paradise Island Adventure Golf asked if we wanted to come and check out their new venue – for free! – we jumped at the chance. And we brought some friends along for the fun.

Their new course – two courses, in fact – are based at the Coliseum in Ellesmere Port, right next to Cheshire Oaks retail park. Apparently the building used to be a nightclub, but now it’s full of huge model monkeys, sharks and scuba divers.

We did 18 holes on their Lazy Lagoon course which starts, or so they tell us, in a Moroccan bazaar and continues on through an Indian jungle and culminates on a desert island. There are plenty of decorative elements around the place which added a bit of interest for the kiddos.

Golf 2

Most of the holes are pretty straightforward, though Daddy still managed to lose in spectacular fashion. Luckily our good friends Rosie and Dave were on hand to show the kids how to actually hit a golf ball.

Some of the more interesting holes had tunnels to shoot the ball through, with sensors and noises. The Chap got a special, hockey-stick-like club which would probably have made things a lot easier for him if he hadn’t have insisted on using his sister’s.

It definitely wasn’t the most taxing mini golf course we’ve done, though it was good for The Bookworm, who bagged a couple of hole-in-ones.

For four adults and two kids (one under five and one over) it would have cost us £36, which seems a little steep. As it was, we had a fun time with our friends and managed to avoid the weather for a while.

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