Happy Halloween From the Gruffalo Gang

img_0705.jpg
I didn’t know how much I liked the American version of Halloween (i.e. more fun than scary) until I moved to England and convinced other mums to get into it. And with how excited E and her friends got last year—more than Christmas, seriously—I felt like I needed to live up to last year and put on a great pre-trick-or-treating party to hype everyone up and show them how Americans celebrate a fun night of playing dress-up and begging for free candy.

I wore this tiny witch hat clip in my hair to school drop-off this morning, and got multiple comments on how very American I am, to be all ready for Halloween in the morning. (I also put a pumpkin hat on R and Halloween fingernail stickers on E.)

img_0684

Witch please. This is nothing. My brother sent me this picture of his neighbor’s house in Portland:

img_0727

Now THAT’S American.

A lot of houses here have gone all out, too, but it’s primarily spiderwebs and caution tape. Not much room for inflatables in the tiny front gardens.

img_0700
I did not take E trick-or-treating to this one. Yikes.

It still baffles M and me that children dress up in “fancy dress,” aka costumes, for so many different things here–birthday parties, world book day, Christmas parties, last day of school–but then not for school on Halloween. Growing up in America, how much fun was it to go to school on Halloween and see everyone’s costumes, especially the teachers? The more creative, the better. I don’t subscribe to the British way of Halloween costumes being strictly scary–witches, skeletons, vampires, zombies, ghosts, monsters. It’s just too disturbing to see a toddler with fake blood on his face. And excuse me, miss, what are you… a fairy that was recently murdered? Why? There was even a young Donald Trump… shudder.

One woman showed up to school pickup with a knife in her head. But no, I’m the Halloween nut.

We did go more British this year with our kids’ costumes, in another way: my friend Amelia and I dressed our children as all the characters from the beloved English children’s book The Gruffalo. E was the Gruffalo and Baby R was the mouse (her first Halloween!), and Amelia’s children were the fox and the owl.

And who was the lucky one who got to be the snake?

IMG_0760
The indignity.

Poor Wren. She hates Halloween the most. WHY ARE ALL THESE STRANGERS COMING TO OUR DOOR ALL NIGHT THEY ARE TRYING TO MURDER MY FAMILY SEE THEY HAVE BLOOD ON THEM THEY ARE SERIAL KILLERS BARK BARK BARK WHY DOES NO ONE SEEM CONCERNED BARK BARK BARK ALSO CHOCOLATE IS POISON BARK BARK IF IT WERE TRICK OR MEAT I’D BE SO IN BARK BARK BARK

She’s the best dog. There’ll be some Gruffalo crumble in your dish later, Wren.

I knew the excitement level would be over the top, and there’d be plenty of sweets, so I made some healthy-ish snacks for the kids before trick-or-treating (we gave them pizza too, I’m not trying to win any mum-of-the-year awards here).

Recipes:

And with Halloween, R’s first birthday, and Guy Fawkes Day/Bonfire Night (which means fireworks; again, poor Wren) all in the space of one week, it’s just about the most exciting week for E, full of party party party and sugar sugar sugar. Then next week we’ve got my in-laws here, M’s birthday, my best friend Jess and her family coming to visit, and Jess’ birthday, so I’d say we are ushering in the holiday season of weight gain full throttle in just the first two weeks of November. Now bring us some figgy pudding…

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, EVERYONE!

Advertisements

Family Fun on the Farms Near London

As I mentioned last year, Americans LOVE the season of fall. And American families spend their October weekends doing Fun Family Fall Activities outside, the main one being a trip to a farm for hay rides, pumpkin patches, and apple picking. I missed getting to do this last year, so this year I suggested we rent a car for a weekend and find a farm near London. We got lucky with a beautiful October Saturday.

IMG_9860

We headed first to Crockford Bridge Farm.

It was crawling with Americans just like us, family-fun-on-the-farm-ready in our plaid button-down shirts with rolled-up sleeves and Hunter wellies. I’m telling you, this is an annual rite of passage for American families, much more so than British families.


There was a nice selection of pumpkins for sale, but the actual field where they’re grown was closed, so we weren’t able to tread into the pumpkin patch. We were also disappointed to learn they were no longer doing pick-your-own fruit or veg; that was all done for the year.

There was some children’s play equipment, though, and a zipline and a nice big tree swing, and a pile of hay bales for kids to climb on, so our kids played for a while, and E enjoyed helping me pick out our pumpkins. Plus they had a shack selling ice cream, so E ate the lunch we’d packed her at a picnic table and then we got ice cream cones.

IMG_9914Just across the car park, there’s a garden centre store, Christmas shop, and farm shop, plus café and small child’s soft play area (£2 per child to play). I also saw a list of activities they had planned for half-term, so that’s probably a better time to take the kids.

A friend of mine had recommended Garson’s Farm, and it wasn’t too far away, so we decided to head there next and see how that experience measured up.


Garson’s PYO crops were still going strong, so we plodded into the autumn raspberry field and filled our baskets with the juicy ruby jewels. E had a total blast doing this. I thought she’d tire of it quickly, or complain about the bushes poking her, but she loved picking raspberries, and checking everyone’s basket to see who had the most so far. She had so much fun we told her she could choose a couple more crops to pick, too.

Garson’s does have a pumpkin patch you can walk into, but since we’d already bought several pumpkins at the previous farm, we skipped that and picked carrots and butternut squash instead. Unfortunately, apple picking wasn’t an option.

After we’d paid just £11 for all our produce, we went into the farm shop. Garson’s has a large farm shop with loads of delicious-looking food. Next year I’m bringing a cooler.

It also had some, er, interesting Halloween treats.

There’s also a restaurant, large garden centre store (be warned: lots of toys in there), and, I was told later, a playground somewhere, but we didn’t know about it and didn’t see it.

It was late afternoon by the time we left, and M and I still hadn’t had lunch, so we headed to a pub we’d been wanting to try. It was perfect.

The Anglers is in Teddington and has a playground in the pub garden, a kids’ menu, and a nice spot right on the Thames. It’s harder to find pubs with play areas in London proper, because many places just don’t have enough space.


When we got home that evening, I asked E what we should make with our raspberries, and she said, “raspberry tart.”

I decided British raspberries deserved a proper British recipe, so I made my first “Bakewell Tart.” But somehow I managed to forget to put the self-raising flour in. Whoops. I didn’t even admit my mistake to M; when he reads this is the first he’ll know about it. But you know what? It didn’t matter. It was actually delicious even without the flour. Just more dense. And hey, now it’s gluten-free, if that’s your thing. I made it a second time to use up the rest of the raspberries, and included the flour this time. It’s delicious both ways.

Here’s the recipe: Raspberry Bakewell Cake*

(Note: I’m no food blogger/photographer. Cakes don’t last long enough in our house to do a photo shoot of them. If you want really beautiful photos to go with a recipe, check out my friend Ryan’s blog, Husbands That Cook.)

*Can be made gluten-free if you simply leave out the flour. Which was totally on purpose because I was just trying to make it healthier. Yeah.