Monday 29 April 2013

Win £100-worth of toys with Make Time To Play

The months ahead offer the chance to (finally) get the children outdoors. The people behind Make Time To Play, a free app which gives active play ideas for kids of all ages, are encouraging parents to get their children outdoors with a £100 competition. 

Make Time To Play is looking for suggestions on the best play ideas for the garden or the local park. What activities do the kids get up to on their very own green, green grass of home? Trees can be hiding posts or outdoor houses, flowers add a wonderful splash of colour and the lawn acts as a lush green stage just waiting to play host to a wide range of fun filled activities!

Tell Make Time To Play what your children's most inventive garden play activity is at and be in with the chance of winning £100 worth of toys, thanks to Bandai, Hornby and Golden Bear. Closing date is Friday 10 May and the competition is only open to UK residents - full competition details here.

The Make Time To Play app is well worth a look for any parent who dreads the question, "But what can I do now?" Their web page is at and they're also on Facebook.

Thursday 18 April 2013

Rhubarb - better late than never

Is this a record? Possibly the slowest forcing rhubarb in the country?

The buckets went over the rhubarb, to exclude all light and to force the nascent stalks into early growth, way back in January. Today, after weeks of obsessive checking, the stems were finally long enough to cut and eat. In The Independent, Lily Vanilli says "the first lovely pink crop of forced rhubarb has been and gone". Not on my allotment it hasn't.

As well as the darkness, which makes the stems grow long and slim in search of light, covering the rhubarb and packing it with straw also makes it warmer inside its insulated bucket, aiding early growth. In most years, anyway.

This year, the prolonged cold has evidently stopped any growth, just as the suddenly warmer weather this week has set the stalks off. I certainly hadn't imagined it would take three months to harvest any forced rhubarb - usually by mid-April we've started on the 'normally' raised main stems.

It was worth the wait though. Rather than go the whole hog with a crumble or fool, I poached the stems in a light syrup infused with half a vanilla pod and a couple of cardamoms, and served with creme fraiche (vanilla ice cream for the nipper).