Wednesday, 10 September 2008
This week we are having:
Monday: Slow cooked Venison with chilli & chocolate casserole with rice
Tuesday: Spanish frittata and flatbread (made with leftover pizza dough)
Wednesday: Smoked haddock kedgeree
Thursday:Lemon & garlic roast chicken pieces, pasta & pesto & salad
Friday: Gammon steaks with red eye gravy, mashed sweet potato & black bean/tomato salad
Saturday: Whatever they want
Sunday: Roast Chicken dinner
Wednesday, 3 September 2008
Well, what can I say it was a successful endeavour. It got all the responses I hoped it would achieve. This really was the most gorgeous dinner and I couldn't help smiling as I served it because it smelt so good and it tasted even better. Anyway if you want to impress without much effort, this is the dish for you.
Sicilian Seafood Stew
1 onion finely chopped
3 garlic cloves finely chopped
1 tsp crushed mixed spices ( I have a spice mix with coriander, cumin & fennel seeds)
3 bay leaves
3 thyme sprigs
1 x 500g jar of tomato sauce
1 whole scotch bonnet chilli
300ml chicken or fish stock (I used a chicken stock cube because I forgot to get some fish bones to make stock)
2 glasses of red wine
1 tsp crushed mixed spices (I have a spice mix with coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds)1 piece of salmon (£3 - £4 in money) skinned & diced
1 piece of smoked haddock (£3 - 4) in money skinned & diced
6 king prawns heads & shells on
6 green lipped mussel half shells
3 crab claws
Fry the onion and garlic in olive oil for a few minutes until soft. Add the crushed spices, bay leaves, thyme sprigs, tomato sauce & scotch bonnet chilli (just add this whole and then fish!! it out at the end). Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the stock & the wine. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 more minutes. Add the salmon & haddock and allow to cook fot about 10 minutes. Add the shellfish and leave to simmer for about 10 - 15 more minutes. Serve in a rustic bowl with toasted ciabatta drizzled with olive oil and chopped garden mint. Don't forget a bowl to put the shells in and a nut cracker for the crab claws.
Tuesday, 2 September 2008
Monday, 1 September 2008
I've been feeling particularly frumpish of late and since the birth of my son my hair has not behaved itself. It is as dry as a bone, frizzy rather than curly and no amount of conditioner was doing it's job. I decided the thing I needed was a complete change of style - do the celebrity thing, get a new haircut and a new me!!!
I have always had the same hairstyle for years. My hair is v. thick, long and naturally curly. So whenever I've gone to the hairdressers and suggested a change they've persuaded me not to do it (your hair looks nice, this style really suits you, why change, just straighten it for a change..). I have tried a few things over the years: v. short (really awful), long layers (awful).... I've always hated it and gone back to my old faithful style.
I went to stay with a v. chic friend of mine in London and she said she knew a fantastic hairdresser who would do a brilliant job and so I went. The hairdresser suggested a fringe, lots of layers to thin and give bounce and to move the parting from the middle to the side. I was that disenamoured with myself that day I agreed and off she went. Hacking here and hacking there until I was completely surrounded by my own curly locks. I felt the panic rising up inside me... oh god what have I done... but she blew dry it straight and it did look good. I swished out of the salon and felt good. Unfortunately as soon as it started raining (about five minutes after we left the salon) my curls came back and the hairstyle looked awful... the fringe no longer nicely framing my face but halfway up my forehead. All too much like a kevin keegan perm from the 80's....
So now I'm forced to use a thousand hairclips to stick all the layers back as I try and put my hair up each day. Nightmare. The moral of the story - be grateful for what you've got and the grass is not always greener.
Thursday, 28 August 2008
I cannot believe I've only just discovered menu planning, it's like a revelation. I seem to have spent the last year (since having a baby) running round like a headless chicken at 4.30pm wondering what the hell I'm going to cook for tea. Oh there's been the odd day where I've got it together and put the slow cooker on but this has only been the odd day. Then because I'm not organised, dinner is thrown together last minute and I have to admit not all that appetising. Now I consider myself to be a good cook and I was beginning to wonder what had happened to me and my apparent lost skill in the kitchen. Also, I seemed to be going to the supermarket at least 3 or 4 times a week, spending a fortune on what I don't know and still not having anything in to cook. So in order to rectify the situation and gain back my culinary flair, I've been doing some research on the web on menu planning and was actually surprised to find whole websites dedicated to inspiring and helping with the "What's for dinner" question. I decided that before I start planning allsorts of lovely dishes and going shopping for the stuff, I must make use of what I've got. I wrote a list of all the things I've got in my fridge, freezer and cupboard and wrote a weeks worth of dinners based on this. I was literally amazed that just by sitting down and doing this easy little exercise making the tea this week has been a doddle. I've known exactly what to get out the freezer every day, what little bits of prep I need to do and what odd bits of shopping I need to get while I'm out and about. Be prepared I am going to go menu planning mad..
List of stuff in freezer:
List of stuff in cupboard (this is just the main stuff obviously I have loads of staple ingredients):
List of stuff in fridge (again just the main stuff listed I have loads of jars, veg, beers in there):
So here's what I came up with for this weeks tea:
Tuesday: Falafels with salad in pitta bread with flavoured yoghurt(garlic, coriander, tabasco, lime juice)
Wednesday: Chicken in a pesto sauce with rice and vegetables
Thursday: Moroccan lamb cutlets with jewelled couscous(spring onions, sweetcorn, peppers & pomegranate seeds) & salad
Friday: Homemade pizza dough (made with beer) with chicken & sweetcorn topping for kids & chicken & gorgonzola topping for us.
Saturday: I've designated this fun tea night. They can have what they want within reason. Party food, frozen kids food. Whatever.. it's the one night I chill out about them eating a proper dinner.
Sunday: Chicken Pot pie, roast potatoes, veg & gravy. We usually have a roast dinner but as I say I'm determined to use up what I've got so I can get serious with the menu planning and being frugal with the food shopping (thus saving precious pennies for other things like books, nice lunches out & make up!!)
First day at school
It is my godson and nephew's first day at school in 2 weeks time. He has never been to nursery (neither have mine) but as his mum & grandparents were all teachers he couldn't have had a better preschool education. I can't believe it's here already, where have those five years gone... His mum is finding the letting go very hard indeed and I am crying right alongside her. Luckily I have another year before my little girl has to go to school however we do have to start applying in a few weeks time. I am not looking forward to that whole business I can tell you. Getting your kids into the good schools here is a real cut throat business, with every man and his dog volunteering to mop the church floors in order to secure a place. But I digress... I'll cover that when I get to it myself. On the subject of my nephew... I have been trying to think of a nice way to mark this important event. I've spent that last few months picking up bit and bobs for him
- a first picture dictionary
- a lovely collection of playground games such as hopscotch, scullies, sidewalk salom and grand prix complete with chalk
- some magnetic reception year words (all the words they are expected to recognise by the end of the first year) to put on his fridge at home
- a book called the "The Incredible Book Eating Boy" by Oliver Jeffers which is just gorgeous. It's all about this boy who ate books, got smart, ended up being unable to digest all the input he was taking in but in the end discovering that the best thing to do with books is to read them. I love the last page which says "Now Henry reads all the time although every now and then" and there's a big bite mark cut out of the last page.
- 3 ready to read books of bible stories: The Good Samaritan, Noah & Jonah the moaner which combine reading with fun activities and lots of lovely stickers.
I plan to make him a fantastic pencil cake which I saw on the family fun website which looks just perfect and I'll present it to him the night before. I also think I'll write him a letter " To my godson on your first day at school" and just talk about the past five years, how privileged I feel to have been an active part up to this point, the fun we've had together and what my hopes are for him for the future: enjoyment from learning, good friends etc.
Wednesday, 27 August 2008
My husband plays rugby so is out on a Tuesday night training, he plays all day Saturday & drinks with the boys in the club on a Saturday night and he meets with his school mates for drinks on a wednesday night. For ages, I didn't have a weekly night out at all. Then I thought what the hell am I doing... I need a night out too. Nothing too crazy as I am still breastfeeding so I know I'm going to have to get up in the night. However, a few hours to myself away from home is sorely needed. So Mum's movie night was born. I go every Thursday to the movies with my sister in law. She is also a stay at home mum with 2 kids so totally understands the need for a weekly activity that is cheap (we're both surviving off one wage after having had two for a long time!!) and guarantees a good time is had by all (those few hours are too precious to waste). It is brilliant. We take turns picking each other up, go via the drive thru to get a nice latte to take in and go to see all the cheesy girlie movies that you'd never get to see if you went with your husband or of course the ones with really nice lookin fellas that you can swoon over for a few hours. Last week we went to see Mamma Mia for the second time. I loved it. It's such a feel good movie. The whole cinema actually started clapping and cheering when it finished. I spend the whole film crying ( I don't know why really because I felt good watching it... I think it was all the stuff about friendship and mums & daughters). I'd recommend movie night to anyone. It's perfect for losing yourself for a few hours. However, you will be put striaght back in charge the moment you walk through that door. The only way for a complete break is to have a night away in a B & B. This is something else that I occasionally do for myself. Not very often because it takes so much organising (expressing and freezing breast milk etc). But every now and then I book myself in a little luxury B & B in the country somewhere and take off for the night. Sometimes I take a friend, sometimes I go on my own. I have a lovely dinner somewhere, take a walk in the country, read without interruption, have a long hot bubble bath and dry with fluffy white towels, sleep in crisp white cotton sheets, wake refreshed for a breakfast cooked for me and go home totally missing them like mad. Anyway, the point of this post is to remind myself that when it all gets too much, when I'm feeling totally stressed, unappreciated and lost - I must take a break. A break is good for the soul and helps to remind you to be grateful for what you have. As soon as you're away.. you miss them.
We recently went on a camping trip to North Wales. We try to go at least once a year with my sister in law, her husband and their 2 kids. It's always difficult to match up a free weekend with them and the weather has not been great. However, we managed to set a date and agreed we'd go whatever the weather. I always try to make the camping trip as special as possible and it was my husbands birthday so I had to double my efforts. I spent the weeks before surfing the web for camping ideas. Here's what I came up with:
For the kids:
- Campfire wishing powder (a mix of salt & sugar which when thrown onto the fire at the same time as making a wish gives off coloured sparks) - we've had this for the last few years and the kids love it.
- Coke can lanterns: Coke cans were split using a penknife to create a sort of chinese lantern in which you place a tealight, attach to a scavenged stick with a little screw in hook (brought from home for this very purpose) and then the kids can hold them whilst sitting round the fire or for going on night time adventures.
- Toasted marshmallows - another must have
For the grown ups:
- I made a massive pot of chilli which I had to carry for 3 hours on my knee as the car was so jam packed with our kit there was no room anywhere else for it. I also took my bargain find old fashioned jam preseving pan (a gigantic pan with a cauldron style handle) which was suspended by rope (my brother in law is our very own Ray Mears and always come prepared with numerous knifes, ropes, tarpaulin etc) over the campfire. The chilli warmed on the fire perfectly and we all ate like kings (why is it food tastes so good outdoors?).
- I bought my husband a hammock for his birthday which we attached between 2 trees next to the river near where we pitched our camp. We spent some lovely lazy hours just swinging watching the wildlife & boats. The kids also had great fun all getting in it together and playing magic carpets (they have great imaginations).
We had a lovely time playing about in boats, swimming in the freezing cold river, playing tug of war (my brother in law brought a rope especially for this purpose, learning to tie survival knots and singing round the campfire (my husband plays guitar). The only downside was we got told off by the camp warden for laughing too loudly ( can you even believe that!!!!!)
It's been a week for immunisations. My little boy had to have one. He is a brave little soldier. His bottom lip came out but he didn't cry. This time I didn't cry either. All the other immunisations I've welled up myself. My daughter has to have her preschool booster anytime soon. I haven't told her yet. I'm still trying to decide whether to tell her and prepare her or just turn up at the doctors and then spring it on her. I'm thinking the former but then again I don't want her to worry unnecessarily and she is a worrier. On the other hand she is so intelligent and I feel maybe I should tell her what is happening so she can deal with it in her own way. I've got to work that one out in the next few weeks.
She's been back to the dentist and had her filling and she was a star.....
Friday, 22 August 2008
Friday, 15 August 2008
A few weeks ago I took my daughter to see Lazy Town Live for a special treat and bonding activity for us. I was always so close to my little girl. But since my son was born I just haven't been able to do all the things we used to do because he's so demanding at this stage with the breastfeeding etc. Things we had always done fell by the wayside such as playing tea parties under the covers in the morning. I know she feels resentful about it but she has never showed it to her brother she is always so loving towards him. I do feel guilty about it but I guess it's just life. I have to tell myself that at least she had those years alone with me.
Anyway, she is mad about Stephanie, the main girl character from Lazy Town and loves the songs from the show so when I heard they were coming to town I thought it would be something really special she and I could do together. If you don't know, Stephanie has pink hair and wears pink clothes. As always I like to go the whole hog whenever I do something so I went out and bought us a pink wig each to wear. I searched in the depths of my wardobe for my best pink outfit. This was more difficult than it sounds as I tend to wear black and brown these days to cover up the baby flab (can it still be called that a year on?). Eventually, I managed to find an very old pink T-shirt and a 'tiny bit too short than I was really comfortable with' skirt with pinkish stripes. However, all in the name of good fun I was prepared to don these items and risk the fashion police!! All my daughters clothes are pink so we had no problem finding her something adorable. She was delighted "we can pretend to be two Stephanies together" she said. So off we went. My husband dropped us off outside the theatre, we grabbed hands and went inside. As you might imagine I was the only grown up dressed like Stephanie but I didn't care. We skipped past as people stared at us, we bought lemonade to drink out of the bottle with a straw, we messed about on the tippy up seats and we ooohed and aaahed in all the right places. It was just a beautiful, magical day. She couldn't stop smiling and looked at me with that ' I'm so glad you're my mummy' look. I was just so glad I'd made the effort.
Pumpkin growing competition
I have a niece and nephew who live very close to me and are a similar age to my kids. So I decided to suggest a pumpkin growing competition. I bought giant pumpkin seeds and got the kids round to plant them up. I wrote their names on the plant pots and said you'll have to take good care of them and see who can grow the biggest pumpkin. My sister in law who obviously didn't fancy scruffy pumpkin plants growing in her porch said we'll leave them here.... so I was left in charge. I am sorry to say I forgot to water them and they desperately need re-potting and I just haven't got round to it. I am now having to do a super duper rescue job to try and save them and I don't know that I'll achieve it. They are looking in a very bad 'scorched brown leaves and droopy stems' way. One of them even had a flower on it so I hope I can save them. I'm just hoping the kids have forgotten about it......
The Human Dummy
I am having a very hard time at the moment sleepwise. I am being woken at least 5 times a night by my gorgeous little boy who is still breastfeeding and won't have a dummy. He is weaned and so is not really having the boob for milk except morning and bedtime. The rest of the time he uses me like a human dummy. So when others would wake in the night for a dummy he wants me. Believe me I have tried to get him to have a dummy. My daughter always had one till she was 3.5. However, this little boy refuses. I give him the dummy and he looks at it as if to say " What do you want me to do with that?" I've tried different shaped teats, different materials of dummy (latex or silicone), different brands of dummy, dipping it in sugar (what would my dentist say!!)... he won't have any of it. I've tried not letting him have the boob and he gets beside himself. I just can't do that to him plus it wakes my daughter and then we have both of them in with us. We're both walking round like a couple of zombies with the lack of sleep and I've got no idea what to do about it.
Thursday, 12 June 2008
I seem to spend my time these days drinking cold tea. It's actually quite a thirst quenching drink which is necessary with all the breastfeeding. However, I would like to drink a nice hot cup of tea at least once a day. The problem is I keep getting sidetracked. The kettle has just boiled. The tea bag is waiting patiently in the mug alongside the milk (my grandmother would flip). I pour the water and am just about to fish out the teabag when suddenly there's a "Mummy I need you". So there's a trip upstairs to the toilet with someone too scared to go alone, a horrendous nappy changed which is so bad it requires a complete strip off and dunk in the bath, a tiny toy rescued from behind the sofa, a story read, 15 questions answered about where does paper come from, the front door answered, the post collected, a spilt drink wiped up and a fresh one given... then I finally return to my tea and guess what, it's an hour later, the tea stewed beyond edibility and stone cold. This little scenario goes on all day. It used to be that I couldn't do a thing in the morning until I'd had a brew. Now, I've changed nappies, made breakfast for my daughter (usually a full blown dippy egg not just a bowl of cereal!) and fed my 10 month old son, done a load of washing and hung it out before I even get round to filling the kettle. I remember someone telling me once they get up at 6.30am every morning before anyone else wakes up so they can have a nice cup of tea in peace. I thought she was mad at the time, now I see why.
Once when my daughter had fallen and hurt her knee she got very upset about the fact that she had a bruise on it. Crying inconsolably she said " How will it ever go Mummy?" I started to tell her all about these special cells inside her body called immune cells. I said it's their job to fight the germs if she gets poorly (a big demonstration accompanied this with me shaking my fist at pretend germs saying Get away germs!) and they work hard to take away bruises and cuts. So a few days later she said to me "Look Mummy, my bruise has gone. It was my Moon cells wasn't it? They've done a good job haven't they?" Since then anytime she has a cut or a bruise, she tells everyone how it'll be OK because her Moon cells will fix it. Cute.
I have been making playdough for a good few years now. I got my recipe from one of the first parent & toddler groups I went to which was run by an old lady. She had made playdough for the children and I was so impressed she'd made it herself. I asked for the recipe and she wrote it down on a piece of paper using a big red crayon! The good thing about making your own playdough is you can make unusual colours. Pink is always requested, black is groovy and good for making spiders (singing Incy Wincy of course!!) but my own personal favourite is purple. I could spend hours, and sometimes do, kneading, rolling out and cutting shapes out of purple playdough. It's very therapeutic.
Here's the recipe I use:
2 tbsp cream of tartar
2 tbsp veg oil
8 floz water
a few drops of food colouring
Put everything in a saucepan and stir over a medium heat until it comes together.
Leave to cool. Knead and then store in an airtight container.
Monday, 9 June 2008
Blue skies, sunshine on your face, the smell of suncream & cut grass, buzzy bees & butterflies, strawberries & cream, going on bear hunts through long wavy grass, sticky drippy homemade ice lollies, humming lawnmowers, making daisy chains & blowing dandelion clocks, getting wrinkly-toed in the paddling pool, running through the sprinklers & slipping on the lawn, picking home grown pea pods and eating them striaght away, picnics in the park, going to the beach loaded up with deckchairs & windbreakers & buckets & spades, tea in the garden, light mornings & evenings, BBQ's & bouncy castles, camping trips with campfires, drinking homemade lemonade with a mini umbrella in it, trying to get to the mirage and watching baby birds learning to fly.
A trip to the dentist
It was time for my 3 year old daughter to go to the dentist for the first time recently. We spent the two weeks before:
- reading books about going to the dentist
- watching the episode of Peppa Pig where she goes to the dentist
- playing dentists (I was the frightened little girl who didn't want to open her mouth, she was the dentist complete with two chopstick tools trying to persuade me)
- talking about the great things about going to the dentist such as the special seat that goes up and down when he/she presses the button, the pink drink that you swish & spit but don't swallow and the fact that you might get a balloon or a sticker if you let the dentist count your teeth.
I felt she was prepared for the day. We arrived at the dentist (the smell knocked me sick but no sign of this was shown) and she was as good as gold, only concerned about whether the balloon would be pink or not because pink is her favourite colour. She sat in the chair nicely, let the dentist count her teeth and was duely rewarded with a pink balloon, her very own toothpaste and a sticker. It was big smiles all round.
I on the other hand was not prepared to be told that she is going to need a filling in the front. I felt I had failed as her mother. I was completely floored as the dentist went on to ask me if I ever read food labels and monitored the amount of sugar she had. He informed me that the decay was most likely due to holding & swishing her watered down apple juice in her mouth, asked me if I knew that childrens cereals & yoghurts contain whole bags of sugar and told me that food after 6pm at night was an absolute no no. Well, I could hardly speak. I wanted to tell him that I've spent the last three years worrying about what she eats (is she eating enough?, has she had a balanced meal with all the food groups covered?, is she getting her five a day). I wanted to say that there is no such thing as a quick trip to the supermarket because I carefully read all the food labels trying to make sure they don't contain artifical additives. I wanted to say that she's never been allowed to have coke or fizzy drinks except for a really special treat maybe for a birthday party, that her teeth have been brushed morning and night since they came through and that I thought giving her watered down apple juice was a nice healthy drink. I didn't say anything though, I doubt he cared about the constant worry a mother goes through and I feel lucky we even have an NHS dentist. Just when you start to feel like you know what you're doing and you've got this mothering lark sussed. Bam, something like this happens and you feel like you're just tredding water to keep afloat. The first few days after that I only gave her water to drink, gave her weetabix (low in sugar but becomes thick sludge if played with and not eaten immediately) for breakfast and brushed her teeth after every meal. Since then I've chilled out a bit. I went to the supermarket and checked out all the childrens cereals. I managed to find one that is still appealing to her -Chocolate hoops but that contains a respectable amount of sugar. I still give her watered down apple juice with her breakfast and her tea but only water the rest of the day. I gave myself a good talking to. I said you have done your best and that some people just have more susceptible teeth than others. Now, I just have to get through actually going for the filling. I can feel the worry building up in the pit of my stomach already. How will I explain it to her? How can I make it as stress free as possible and make sure she's doesn't develop a phobia about dentists? I'll have to cross that bridge when we come to it. Another day, another mum dilemma!!
Making orange juice lollies
It was a beautiful summers day today - cracking the flags! So our special activity was to make our own orange juice lollies. I already had some organic sicilian red blood oranges in, perfect for the occasion. We squeezed out the juice, made funny talking mouths with the orange skin halves, picked out the pips with a spoon, licked our fingers and watched in amazement as the spilt juice soaked up through a piece of kitchen towel until the whole thing was red. Then we washed the plastic ice lolly makers in the sink ending up with more soap suds than is needed for a weeks worth of washing up and water sloshed all over the floor (good for doing skids). My daughter carefully poured the orange juice into the lolly maker making me smile at the way she points her lips when she's concentrating so hard and was holding one arm with her other hand to keep it steady. We topped them up with water, stuck the top bit with the stick in and then had to re-arrange the contents of the freezer so that they could be placed in upright and the drawer still be shut. We waited and waited and waited for the lollies to freeze with at least ten checks in between just to see if they were ready yet. Finally, our sticky drippy lollies were ready to suck sitting in the sunshine. They tasted so good we had two. I gave myself a pat on the back for that one!