This could be my last post before I go to jail. A solemn occasion, therefore, because once I enter the local Correctional Facility I doubt I will emerge the same person. It is Harry who has introduced these Draconian threats and warnings, as he passes through a very literal phase where life is governed by rules, warnings and consequences. Thus it is he who will exclaim loudly in shocked tones in a restaurant; ‘Mummy!! Are you talking with food in your mouth?? We don’t do THAT in our family!’. He’s right of course, and I hasten to add that I don’t make a habit of it – but still, I am ashamed. My latest misdemeanour was to switch off the television and refuse to say sorry for doing so. ’If you don’t say sorry’, Harry announced, staunchly and a little regretfully, ‘you will go to prison with lots of naughty men’. Now, naughty men may occasionally be appealing, but jail is less so, so I am attempting to distract from my shortcomings with a new family game; Pick An Apple.
12 small paper bags hang from this eye-catching board, each with a different mystery seasonal activity and the equipment we need to do it. On weekends or days when Harry and I are free from work and nursery, Harry gets to choose an apple bag at random and that’s what we’ll do for the day. I’ve picked a number of age-appropriate and interesting things – mostly outdoors but with a few bad-weather alternatives – which include collecting leaves, choosing and carving pumpkins, apple-bobbing and helping Daddy to make a big bonfire. The content of each bag varies accordingly; for our pumpkin picking there are just enough coins for Harry to buy the right size pumpkin, and a list of tips I found online about how to choose a good one, which will require us to squeeze, juggle and weigh our way around the field as we discard lesser pumpkins in pursuit of the most magnificent. For our toffee-apple making activity (below), the bag holds lollipop sticks for Harry to push into each apple, wipes for sticky fingers and the recipe itself.
I bought the brown paper bags cheaply at a local stationery store, then cut out apple and leaf shapes and glued together with a small piece of twig to form each apple. Tiny wooden pegs hold these on the bags and keep each bag closed to avoid peeping. The bags I hung from pushpins on an old cork pinboard which I painted black and stencilled. If you don’t have a convenient pinboard or canvas, the bags would look equally good strung along a wall or fireplace like bunting, pegged to a piece of ribbon.
And here’s the result of our first activity; making windfall toffee apples. No danger of talking with your mouth full with these beauties; our industrial-strength caramel effectively seals your jaws together and prevents conversation for several minutes after consumption…genius! Perhaps I should market these as a budget-conscious and appealing alternative to the gastric band. We’ll work through our activities between now and Halloween as the days grow shorter and the seasons change in technicolour. I’d love to hear what your favourite activities are at this time of year, and anything we should add to our list…