Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Gallery - Hands

The theme of The Gallery this week is 'Hands' and I could only really go with this photo as I LOVE it so much. It's obvious, i know, I haven't tried to think outside the box, it is just two hands, but to me they aren't any old hands they are the hands of two people that I love very much. My Dad and my Son. Grandfather and Grandson. With Dad going through his second lot of chemotherapy in 3 years at the moment and Noah nearly one years old, these two hands represent everything that is most important to me - family. There is one aged hand, that has all the experience that comes with being 60 years old and there is the youthful hand that has all the expectation of what life has to offer and hopefully soaking up some of the life experience that his Grandfather has notched up......

Check out the other Gallery Entries by clicking on the badge below.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Summer Salad Recipe 6

Now it's summer time I've swapped the stodge for eating a lot of salad. But I'm not massively imaginative when it comes to salad and I think I'm being different if I so much as scatter a bit of sweetcorn or beetroot over the top of my usual lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes! When I was challenged to come up with a salad recipe with the theme of BBQ Bonanza using Apetina cheese , I slightly freaked out as (a) I'm not creative enough when it comes to salad and (b) ummm, there's no sun! BBQ's require sunshine! Well I'm pretty proud of the  Apetina recipe 
that I came up with and to be honest, we didn't cook the lamb that went with this on the BBQ, it was raining that day but it would be delicious as part of any summer BBQ menu. Here goes.......

Apetina, Pomegranate & Cous Cous Salad with A Yoghurt, Lemon and Mint Salad dressing
Ingredients For the Salad - throw all this together iin your salad bowl
Half a tub of Apetina Classic
Jewels from one Pomegranate
Half a bag of Rocket
100g Cous Cous - cook as per packet and stir in a 2 teaspoons of Harissa Paste

Ingredients for the Dressing - drizzle this all over the salad and toss together with salad servers
2 tablespoons of Natural Yoghurt
1 tablespoon of Olive Oil
A handful of chopped mint
Juice from half a Lemon
1 squished garlic clove
Seasoning to taste

We served this with Harissa Lamb - it was absolutely delicious, so light and tasty!

If you like the sound of this recipe then I'd love you to go to the Apetina Facebook page, take a look at the competition and if you still like the sound of my recipe then give it your vote! And if you fancy livening up your summer salads go to the Apetina website and turn your limp lettuce into a summer salad sensation!

Apetina   cheese is a semi hard cheese, with a delicious creamy and mild flavour. It's such a convenient and versatile product, with the small pots of cubed cheese ready to sprinkle over your meals. Give it a try, and perhaps invent your own recipes using it! I've definitely improved my creativity this week having taken this challenge!

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Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Friday, 22 June 2012

I ♥ Isla's Nightie!

Recently Isla decided that she didn't like wearing pyjama bottoms to bed. We'd have a regular bedtime ruckus about keeping the trousers on - that is was too cold, especially when the covers fall off her every night. We ended up putting her to bed, waiting till she fell asleep and then putting them on her. Complete waste of time because during the night she'd realise and then take them off again! It struck me after a few weeks that what this girl needed was a nightie! She is quite a girly girl, so I figured that she was going off wearing trousers and I was right. I got her this nightie and she loved it!

Morning milk time with her bro!

It's from H&M and really inexpensive. I love it, she loves it, so we're all happy and since that purchase she now has another 3 nighties. Lord knows what we're going to do with all the pyjama sets we now have.....

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Noah at 11 months

It feels like in the last month Noah has really changed from baby to almost toddler. Traces of babyhood remain but he's growing up so fast! He also seems to be doing things a lot quicker than Isla did and I guess that must be the influence of having an older sibling and wanting to do everything that she does.

In the past few weeks he has been practising his standing up on his own skills. He stands up hands free and looks around for appreciation, which of course he gets. Yesterday he was even standing up lifting a ride on toy up in the air, I'm wondering if it's too late to enter him into Olympic weight lifting?

He's also understanding so much of what we say to him now. If you ask him to clap he'll do it. He'll also give kisses too! The one development that I'm not so keen on is the shaking his head 'no'. I seem to remember 'no' becoming Isla's favourite word so I'm not looking forward to that phase starting again. He also whistles, it started with him blowing and then it became a whistle, so funny because I can't even whistle, neither can Isla and reminds me of an episode of Peppa Pig where she desparately wants to whistle and can't but even George can do it. He's also a pro at playing the harmonica....

He is a climber in a way that Isla never was, he wants to climb on chairs, Isla's bed and if we accidentally leave the downstairs stair gate open he's up like a shot. Needless to say it's staying shut a lot now, even though this then proves tricky when Isla wants to make a dash for the loo - why do kids always wait till the last minute?!

What else is he up to? Well he eats really well, doesn't refuse very much (yet), his sleep has improved slightly, there are fewer 5am starts than say 2 months ago but still more than I'd like! He has recently started to like some characters on TV - In the Night Garden has become a favourite since we went to see the show - when it comes on TV he points to the photo that we had taken with Iggle Piggle! He also loves Thomas the Tank Engine. Gets really excited when he hears the music for it. Bedtime reading is also one of his favourite times and he loves books with sounds, but his favourite one is the same as Isla's was at his age - a book called Peepo Sun. He's also got a favourite toy/comforter called Doggy the Bob. I swore after Big Sheepy that we wouldn't go down that route again but I find myself in a similar situation again where he loves this toy and gets upset when either someone else has taken it or he's not ready to give it up when he's woken up. He sleeps cuddling it - it really is too bloody cute!

Oh and he's also very nearly got 6 teeth and its so obvious that he finds them a bit strange as he pulls all kinds of faces and is constantly rolling his tongue over them, I guess it must be weird all of a sudden these sharp little things spring up in your gummy mouth.

He's still totally devoted to me and cries blue murder if I have to walk away from him for anything. He's settled at nursery though now and is comfortable with the girls there and recognises where he's going when we show up there.

So he's almost 1 years old and I can't quite believe it, it has to be the fastest year of my life. I'm so enjoying watching him grow and become the most gorgeous little boy. MY little boy.

Lollibop 2012

I'm really looking forward to going to Lollibop this year - last year we went the day where there was torrential rain and also we had a 3 week old baby - it wasn't a great combo if I'm honest. This year we're feeling like things are loads easier and if it rains then we'll just jump in muddy puddles and dance in the rain!

Things we're hoping to see are:

The Gruffalo on stage

The Lollibop Kitchen where Lolliboppers will have the chance to learn new skills from Live demonstrations and interactive workshops, featuring popular blogger My Daddy Cooks.

I'm also looking forward to The Disco Shed - where we can all have a boogie together to some summery tunes! Also the Imagination Stations sound fab, where the kids can make and design their own tiaras and crowns, or make their own fairy or wizard wands.

We're also just looking forward to just absorbing the atmosphere, getting faces painted and having masses of fun!

For Lollibop tickets click here

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Managing Your Energy Online

I don't know about you but I find life as a working mum of 2 pretty hectic and I find myself cramming so much into each 24 hours. There just isn't enough time and if someone could wave a magic wand and give me another 2 hours a day then I think that might help (a bit!). My days right now look a bit like this:

Get woken up by kids, get kids ready for nursery, make myself look reasonably presentable for work, get kids to nursery, commute to work, WORK, commute home, get the family meal cooked, bathtime, kids bedtime, tidy up, collapse in a heap. 

The thing is though that amongst all that there is time to do things - like when I'm commuting for instance, I use my phone to do a lot of admin bits to do with daily life, like replying to emails, shopping, organising the family diary and paying bills. I'm not the only mum who maximises her time like this, British Gas research shows that mums are the most efficient multi-taskers. They are saving up to an hour a day by going online for routine daily tasks, such as, managing finances and paying energy bills at the same time as doing the housework (39%), whilst on the toilet (22%), pushing a buggy (10%) and seeing their children off at the school gates (7%). I'm going to stick my neck out and say that I have been known to be surfing the net whilst sitting on the loo.....wn to mhave k kk k  

I LOVE that so many companies nowadays are really thinking about us busy mums and making it so easy for us to complete tasks that would previously be a hassle. One such thing that really helps me and rewards me at the same time is the British Gas app I have on my phone. Every quarter I get an email reminding me to submit my meter readings. British Gas have made it so easy by having an app where you literally just log into the app and submit your readings. And even better you also earn 2000 Nectar points when you initially sign up and further points everytime you provide meter readings! Tim Copper, Digital Director, British Gas said: “We’re helping our customers save time and hassle by giving them the tools they need to manage their energy online – freeing them up to spend time doing other things. From submitting meter readings to checking their balance really easily at the touch of a button, online or via our app, we’re making it easier customers to stay in control of their energy every day.” 

The picture above shows how the app looks - it's so clear and simple. You can also log in to your account online if you don't have a smart phone and it is really just as easy. 

Key benefits of managing your energy online with British Gas:
1. View your balance
2. Print your bill
3. Enter meter readings
4. Monitor your energy consumption
5. Book and track an engineer 

You’ll also receive 2000 Nectar Points for registering for an online account with British Gas, as well as receiving additional rewards for submitting meter readings and utilising the online dashboard. 

British Gas recent research found that more than half of mums (54%) admit that without the technology, they wouldn’t be able to cope with the demands of their increasingly hectic lives and I thought it was only me that felt like this but apparently 30% of mums even claim a lack of internet action for an extended period of time makes them feel anxious. Busy mums are increasingly turning to the internet to save a lot of their precious time and as the saying goes, "Time is Money" and if you think about your time in that way then you'll probably use it better. By paying energy bills with British Gas by direct debit you'll make an average annual saving of £67.
If you want to find out more about how you can maximise your time and pay your energy bills online then Register now

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Sunday, 17 June 2012

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The Ultimate 90's Flashback - The Clubbing Years

So many many years ago I was a clubber. Long long time ago before husbands, children, mortgages, grey hair and my boobs going south. I loved it. I loved the whole ritual of buying the outfits, spending hours getting ready (so much glitter/ feather boas/ sequinned boob tubes), making the plans, taking the journey to the club and then actually being there. Sometimes it would go to plan and it would be the best night of my life (AGAIN) and other times like the time when I turned up to Club UK for a night and it seemed to be cancelled - but only us and 5 others didn't know this! Also the night at Peach when someone got the tear gas out - that was a good one, one of my mates loved his asthma attack.....and then there was the one where I puked all over myself and the whole dancefloor at The Gardening Club....NICE. But on the whole they were amazing times! I travelled for my love of clubbing -north to Gatecrasher, south to The Zap, west to Escape - only place I didn't go was East - couldn't have been the hubub of clubbing over there.

I had a proper music ADDICTION. I was obsessed with Radio 1 and tape recording the Essential Mix every Saturday night from 2 - 4am (the day I got a stereo where I could set a timer for this was brilliant) - I didn't have to be awake for it - although I probably was awake just elsewhere! My only clubbing regret is that I only went to Ibiza twice and I only really count the first time as that was with a mass group of clubbers who all worshipped House music. I loved the nights, El Divino, Pacha, Cafe Del Mar....they were great and the days sleeping on the beach. It's a holiday I will never ever forget.

So where's this going? Claire at Bad Fiction has started a linky asking for our top 10 90's clubbing anthems. I've loved thinking about this and looking up tunes, but I also discovered that my brain seems a bit addled and my memory isn't as good as it are a few of mine but I could definitely tell you about another 100 that I loved and danced to in my teens/ early twenties. I loved piano house as you'll see but since I just did this small amount of reliving my youth I realised that The Prodigy's album Music for a Jilted Generation really is the nuts!

Barbara Tucker - I Get Lifted

Raze - Break for Love (this breaks the rules as I think is more late 80's...but is a tune!)

The Prodigy - One Love

Yosh - It's What's Up Front that Counts

Everybody Wants to be Somebody

Alex Whitcombe and Big C - Ice Rain

Nalin And Cane - Beach Ball

Sneaker Pimps - Spin Spin Sugar

De'Lacey - Hideaway

Gat Decor - Passion

I have loved doing this - thanks to Sophie for drawing my attention to this linky - a post I've loved writing!!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Muddy Puddle Cakes!

On Monday I fell foul to 'Pester Power' in the Sainsburys and I ended up with this box of cake mix in the trolley:

You can see why, Isla's love of Peppa Pig has no limits and actually it's so inexpensive and easy to do that I would buy it again.

She had fun doing the small amount of mixing that it required (just add 1 egg and 3 tablespoons of water to the mix), spooning it in the cases and finally icing them. Throughout she asked when she could lick the spoon and bowl, I'm not sure why she bothered asking me as whenever she thought I wasn't looking she had her her tongue attached to the spoon and it was a bit obvious what with the icing being chocolate!

I took a few photos of her enjoying baking:

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Jubilee Weekend!

Another fun weekend has just passed and boy was it a lovely long one!! We had the most fun. Housework still suffering but I reckon the Queen would excuse me for wanting to enjoy the extended bank holiday!

Firstly we went to a lovely friend's for a BBQ on Saturday. The weather forecast predicted dire weather but that held off till the evening and we had a lovely sunny afternoon - the kids playing together and the adults enjoying leisure time. It was wonderful and so nice to get together with old friends.

On Sunday we chilled out at home all together, watched the Flotilla on the TV and then the OH took the kids round to his mums for a couple of hours to give me a chance to relax a bit. Again, another great day.

And then I think I can safely say that Monday was my favourite day of the weekend. What the Diamond Jubilee is ALL ABOUT! A STREET PARTY! Unfortunately not our street, but my sister's, the second weekend in a row where we're we've spent quality time with her and her partner and my niece. Isla LOVES playing with Cousin M. We arrived about 3pm and it was obvious that that street really had come together to make an occasion of things. There were marquees in the street with tables laden with food and cakes. Bunting hung from every lamppost and house - one poor man had all his shirts cut up by his wife to provide this red/ white and blue spectacular! Another lady spent 7 hours baking and decorating delicious cakes. Music played from one of the residents houses and for the kids there was a crown competition! There were two winners and everyone got a Jubilee certificate. Such lovely touches. My sister did face painting for the kids too. Then in the evening the BBQ's were fired up. It was a brilliant afternoon.

Yesterday I took Isla to see The Tiger Who Came to Tea with my NCT friends and their kids. It was excellent. Isla loved it and so did I actually. It's not a particularly long book so it was great the way there were songs in it. Audience participation was encouraged and the kids were all shouting out. Anyone looking for a first theatre trip for their little ones I'd recommend.

Thank you Ma'am and keep the good weekends rolling that's what I say!

Friday, 1 June 2012

Plum Cookery School and Weaning

How many mums find weaning a real headache I wonder? I know first time round I found it quite hard to follow all the different advice that was flying at me from all directions. Obviously I managed as Isla is now chomping her way through lots of different food (although fish fingers remain her favourite!!) and we eat the same meals together as a family. She is a bit of a fuss pot though, and from one day to the next she changes her mind about liking things. One day she likes pasta, the next she doesn't. I *know* that this is all about her having control but it's still frustrating. We've actually come a long way since I wrote this post about her eating habits - as you can see the list of food she ate back then was quite limited and I worried a lot. I think we all put too much emphasis on how quickly children should be eating what we eat, they will get there in their own time.

We're now weaning Noah, who is 10 months old and I was really happy to hear that the people behind Plum Baby have set up a cookery school specifically to help mums, offering exciting recipe development classes and the opportunity to talk to child food experts.

One of my favourite TV chefs Rachel Allen is working in conjunction with Plum Baby to create some tasty new recipes. Isla and I recently baked some biscuits together following a recipe from Bake and I personally think as soon as children are old enough they should get involved in the preparing and cooking of food. It gives them more of an interest in the food they eat and stimulates their curiosity about how things taste. I can't think of anyone better for Plum to partner up with as Rachel is a mum and her food is top notch - not too complicated but oh so tasty!
I haven't got an obsession with Rachel's cookbooks....honest!
I would say from my experience first time mums are a lot more nervous - I was! Second time round I'm so much more relaxed. My biggest tip to anyone starting weaning is to keep the mantra "food before 1 is just for fun" in mind and try not to get too uptight. Before 1 a baby's main source of nutrition is milk so don't get too down hearted if they're not eating roast dinners and chilli con carne. Food is strange and exciting at the same time for them, they are mini explorers getting to know different tastes and textures! They can refuse food many times before they finally find it acceptable.

My other top tip is to try and relax about the mess and this means the mess your baby will get into, the mess you will get into and the mess on the floor! If you own a dog, he's going to LOVE weaning!
This muckiness used to annoy me a lot (even though Isla looks cute!)
Now I just embrace the muckiness with Noah - it's all part of the fun! (this was extreme I have to add!)

I would also say don't beat yourself up if you can't make your own fresh food all the time. Buying pre made baby food isn't a failure, it's a real saviour! I actually don't know where I'd be if there wasn't Plum Minted Pea and Lamb on the shelves! It was Noah's absolute favourite meal over anything I make (hmmm perhaps I should feel cross about this!?).

So weaning may feel a bit mind blowing at times but if you keep calm about it then so will your baby. Here's us having a bit of fun at dinner time - food must be fun....

This post is an entry into the Tots100 competition to win a super dooper all expenses paid two day cooking experience with Rachel Allen at the Plum Cookery School - I would love this prize as I think I definitely need to get my cooking mojo back and my husband can vouch for that! It also includes a stay in a swish hotel, a video camera and £500. It's worth saying that I LOVE Rachel Allen and the OH can also vouch for the fact that I drove him mad watching her on UK Food the whole time I was pregnant - I love her food!