31 March 2012

The dreaded C word!

On Thursday we found out that a close friend of my mum and dad, who had already had cancer three times and fought it, has it again but this time it is terminal.

The doctors have given him six months to live, how cruel that he has gone through so much already and it is still going to beat him.

He has had a brain tumour, stomach cancer and oesophagus cancer and each time has beat it, but now it is in his bones and nothing can stop it from ravaging his body!

Too many friends and family have died from this awful disease and I am now debating whether to run do the race for life this year.

I have done it a few times before but then didn't last year because I felt it was a little to much money to enter, what with then getting my husband to sponsor me too.

I was looking forward to taking my daughter too but at another £10 that is taking the total up to £25 before my own family have even sponsored me!

Although I wish to support the charity we don't have a great deal of spare cash and I would prefer to give the registration fee straight to the charity and then ask friends and family to donate also.

Mmmm not sure what to do, I want to support the work done by the charity but just that, not pay for a medal I don't need and postage for my entry pack etc.

In the meantime I will think of other ways to raise money for these charities...bake off anyone!



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30 March 2012

Favourite Recipe Friday - Chocolate Easter Cake

So the recipe for this cake is by the fabulous Nigella Lawson, since I saw this cake in a magazine about 5 years ago I have been making it every Easter since.

It is sweet but sooo yummy, the sour cream is a nice addition to the cake and for me the icing is one of the best I have ever made! Not only is the icing easy to make but very easy to spread too!

Other than what I adorn it with nothing has changed from this recipe which you can find here http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/old-fashioned-chocolate-cake-119

It really is a super tasty cake and if you are looking for something to bring to the table this Easter then I can highly recommend giving it a try.



It also makes a great birthday cake and is my go to cake when I need something special, I have even taken this to a pudding party and it went down a storm!


Favourite Recipe Friday
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29 March 2012

Ssshhh, but I actually like cleaning!

OK so I don't necessarily 'like cleaning' but I really like the end result.

I love seeing a nice clean worktop with everything in it's place and no clutter.

I like a clean and vacuumed carpet and a dust free mantle piece, a nice clean toilet, free from...well you know!

Here are just a few useful insights from my time as an 'amateur' cleaner:

Do not have anyone else around, OK it does mean you have to do it all yourself. Although I usually end up going back over what the helpers have done anyway! As much as I love them pitching in, at 4, 1 and 31 they spend most of the time getting in the way.

If it is raining or there is no way of getting rid of the family helpers, the 4 year old likes cleaning the windows, the 1 year old is usually quite content to watch mummy clean, whilst the 31 year old has become quite skilled at glueing broken toys back together and can sometimes be trusted with cleaning out the shed - beware this can create more mess!

Although I am grateful for the assistance, a prime example of why I don't let my husband help is a story I was told about when he was younger. Left alone for a week whilst his parents were on holiday he attempted to clean the house ready for their return, he vacuumed the entire house without realising that the belt had come off the vacuum cleaner and it wasn't sucking anything up! More recently, whilst in a helpful mood, he put a yellow duster in with a load of light washing, giving our children's clothes a slight yellow hue. I sometimes think he is deliberately inept to get out of doing more chores ;)

I would definitely advise cleaning to music, it is without a doubt the one thing that gets me through cleaning, my current cleaning soundtrack contains mostly dubstep, although anything you can dance to is fine. Never be tempted by the telly though, you are liable to start watching it! Never has homes under the hammer seemed more appealing than when you are trying to clean!!!!

Next I would thoroughly advise that you invest in a steam mop, they are really great for cleaning all types of flooring and takes less time to dry than a traditional mop. I have also used ours to get rid of stains from carpets, food burnt onto the cooker and that random orange scum on bathroom tiles. All without too much elbow grease, something I always seem to be running low on.

To prevent mountains of washing up, try and plan your meals so you cook food that uses only one tray or pan. However, if you are like me on a Sunday when using every pot seems inevitable, it helps to try and clean up as you go, this isn't always possible so try and stack pots to make the mess look smaller ;)

Although I do vacuum throughout the day (treading on bits of bread stick or cheerio really grinds my gears) I tend to leave the tidying until the children have gone to bed, it means it stays tidy for more than five minutes!

Finally, I like to think of my home as clean even if it is not tidy, with two children constantly emptying toys on the floor and dropping crumbs everywhere, it is simply not possible to be spotless is it? I like to think of it as 'lived in', if it needs to be tidied it can be but the rest of the time it's just as it is.

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28 March 2012

John Lewis Fashion Advice Review

I was looking for some new clothes for work and also for the #sbs event I am going to on Friday so decided to book myself in at John Lewis (Nottingham) for a free Fashion Advice session.

I was fortunate enough to be booked in with Lucy, she was an absolute star and made me feel at ease from the word go (if anyone at John Lewis reads this, she deserves a medal).

We spoke about what I was looking for and what sort of thing I was into and off she went to find a rail of clothes for me.

I sat waiting in the changing rooms with my sparkling water reading a magazine, it was so much better than searching through all of the clothes myself!

I don't particularly enjoy going clothes shopping and always opt for things that are the same, what Lucy came back with was a rail of things I would never have chosen in a million years. In fact it is safe to say I was a little disappointed that what she bought back wasn't what I would have picked

However, I loved everything I tried on! When she handed me this orange top from Reiss I thought 'mmmm, not sure' but when paired with a pair of gorgeous L.K Bennett or Reiss trousers it looked amazing.


It took me out of my comfort zone and I loved it, what she said was 'does it feel wrong because it doesn't look right or because it's different'.

I tried on a few other outfits that I wouldn't normally have picked and I came away feeling positive about everything, I got home and gave the family a little fashion show which they all enjoyed and loved everything too.

I certainly feel like I will look the part when I go on Friday, just have to hope everything else comes together.

Here are some of the actual outfits on me, excuse the headlessness of these shots but I look gormless in them all and also like the anonymity of my blog ;)

Below we have a gorgeous L.K Bennett top and Reiss Trousers with John Lewis pumps


I loved this gorgeous Whistles top and L.K Bennett high waisted trousers paired with a John Lewis heal (not heals as I could only get one shoe on...stupid size 8 feet or small shoes)


Another L.K Bennett shirt with L.K Bennett high waisted trousers again...sans shoe this time.


I really love this outfit, the jacket, trousers and shoes are John Lewis and the vest top is Oasis.


Overall I am in love with all the looks and if money was no object I would be buying myself everything, sadly though that is not the case and I have just had to buy a few bits for now. The quality does show though and the items looked and fitted amazing and I will definitely be going back next time I need a few outfits.

NB: I have not been paid for this review. I booked the session and have chosen to write this because the service and staff were brilliant.
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26 March 2012

Meal Planning Monday

We went to Gonalston Farm Shop on Saturday, so we are now fully stocked up on meat.

We got some bargains and although people tell me they can't afford meat from a butchers it is normally more expensive for some things and less for others so it works out about even.

On offer this week was brisket, beef mince, chicken and sausages. However I'm pretty sure we bought something of everything.

Sorry to any veggies reading this, but my husband is a proper carnivore!

Anyway I digress, onto Meal planning Monday hosted by At Home with Mrs M.

Monday - BBQ (sausages, beef bavette with home made teriyaki sauce, sweetcorn & potatoes)
Tuesday - BBQ style slow roasted Beef Brisket.
Wednesday - Rosemary & Herb Chicken & Potatoes
Thursday - Bacon & Mushroom Pasta Bake
Friday - I am at the Small Business Sunday organised by Theo Paphitis this day so not sure what we are having for tea. Maybe a chip shop tea?
Saturday -  Pork & Mushroom Stroganoff or Fajitas (depends what the tribe want)

I love to buy local and I love how tasty and varied the meat from our farm shops is, I will right a separate post on this maybe later in the week :)

Might have to include one of these as my Favourite Recipe Friday this week :)
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23 March 2012

Favourite Recipe Friday - Super Easy Flapjacks

I love baking with my son and after a total fail of a flapjack recipe several months back I happened upon this one, it is super easy and the result is a scrummy flapjack. It has fast become a favourite with both my children wolfing it down as an afternoon snack.

Ingredients:

300g Porridge Oats
6 tablespoons Golden Syrup
200g Unsalted Butter

Method:

1. Grease a rectangular tin (about 20cm x 25cm) and line the base with baking parchment.

2. Place the golden syrup and butter into a saucepan and heat gently until all the butter has melted into the syrup. It is better to use heaped tablespoons of the syrup and have a little too much, they are better gooey than crumbly.

3. Tip the oats into a large mixing bowl with a pinch of salt, pour over the syrup/butter mixture and stir until all of the ingredients are combined and the oats are evenly coated.


4. Once you have mixed the oats and syrup/butter mixture together tip into the greased baking tray and flatten out with a spatula so it as evenly spread as possible.



5. Place in the oven at about 180c/Gas 4 for 25 minutes or until it is a nice golden brown colour (you can remove from the oven whilst it is still slightly soft as it will harden when it cools).

6. Take out of the oven and place on a cooling rack, cut into squares whilst they are still warm as they will be difficult to cut once cooled and they have gone hard.  Once cool remove from the tin.


7. I drizzle some melted chocolate on top but you don't have too, there are so many things you can add to flapjacks. A few ideas are dessicated coconut, raisins, mixed seeds or even cherries.


Once the chocolate has hardened you can serve with a nice cup of tea.

Favourite Recipe Friday

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22 March 2012

Sign of the times, does anyone care any more?

I love technology don't get me wrong, but I cant help feel that with it has come a lack of caring, or maybe it is just the people who send me these texts in particular.

I know text messages can cost money and sometimes they are more convenient but why can't people put, 'Hi hope your ok....'

Recently I have been sent messages that consist of:

'Hey, What are you wearing tonight?' This from someone I haven't seen in several weeks and whilst being really ill! Do you care that little that you can't ask how I am?

Another was: 'Is X going to be 4 this year?' No hello, hope your all OK!

What the hell is wrong with these people, how difficult is it to ask how I am? You can shorten it to how r u if it's space you are worried about!

Unless it's to someone I see every day I always start it off with a 'Hey hun, how are you' it's just politeness and I can't help feel saddened by it. Even if you don't care, just ask it might be the difference between someone having a crap day or not!

It's kind of like smiling at strangers, sometimes it can make your day if someone smiles at you instead of heads down as if you don't exist!

Ok, ok so I sound like an old person, but don't you just think it would be nice if we could all just show a little courtesy to others like in the olden days!?!

Rant over, as you were!
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21 March 2012

Life's Little Pleasures

Whilst out in the garden showing my son the flowers I spotted this, whilst I don't normally look at smelly rotting apples this one made me stop and smile.

I love how this rotting old apple from last year is sprouting a new apple tree, if I had planted some apple seeds I bet I couldn't have got this!



And then there is this, I was going through some china I had bought and it included this gorgeous tulip shaped cup and saucer.

It is so delicate and I wonder about the person who designed it, crafted it and thought about the ladies that would use them.


Sometimes it is the little things in life that make you smile that warm the cockles of your heart.
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20 March 2012

Funny things grandparents say and do!



I am probably the only grandchild to go and see my grandparents every week, in fact compared to some of the grandchildren (there are only 4 of us) I am the only one to have visited this year!

I do it for many reasons, it makes them happy, it makes me happy to see them happy, the kids love them and I do enjoy seeing them even if they come out with some daft things.

They still call it the wireless, they moan about letters coming through the door yet I know for a fact my grandad has answered them on occasion, once sending money for a "digital camera" he'd won!

Today for instance we were talking about my mum having a cold 'well its probably due to all that decorating she's been doing, you know the paint getting on her chest'!

If my top comes above my trousers in the winter my gran will say ' oooh cover up, you'll have problems with your kidneys'

I have always bitten my nails, disgusting habit I know but I can't stop, it's my smoking. Anyway my gran always says 'elbows' when I do it, only reason I can think is because one day I might actually make it to my elbows??!

I love them dearly but they do come out with some rubbish, bless em!

Image: Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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19 March 2012

Meal Planning Monday

 
Oooh am late today but I enjoyed it so much I thought I would do it again although the cupboards are looking a bit bare!

Anyway here we go:

Monday - Chicken & Mushroom Pie with leftover chicken from dinner yesterday
Tuesday - Spicy Root and Lentil Casserole providing we have lentils (pretty sure we do)
Wednesday - Stew
Thursday - Bacon & Egg Pie
Friday - Chicken Pasta Bake
Saturday - Ummmm maybe a take away or Marks & Spencer Meal Deal

I have some frozen summer fruits in the freezer so will probably do a crumble one night and will probably make some cupcakes too as I have some left over icing from yesterdays mothers day cupcakes.

I love baking and am a cakeoholic, I really must find something other than cupcakes though!
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16 March 2012

Favourite Recipe Friday - Merguez with Halloumi and Flame Roasted Peppers

This recipe is one of my all time favourite and super simple dishes, I first saw it on an episode of Nigella and then when I got the book I was even more determined to make it.

Super simple ingredients that be in your store cupboard

It was the one meal I had all prepared for after my son was born as it could all be kept in the fridge or freezer for weeks and it was simple enough that my husband could put it in the oven.

The tastes are amazing and I had never heard of Merguez let alone had them before this recipe, now it is one of our staple sausages for pasta dishes, BBQs and this dish.

I don't feel I need to write the recipe up as I haven't changed it from Nigella's and the whole point of  Favourite Recipe Friday is sharing recipes you have tried and tested not necessary that you created.

Merguez sausgaes are very tasty but chorizo style would do also.
You can find the recipe here http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/nigella-express/merguez-with-halloumi-and-flame-roasted-peppers-recipe/index.html




Please feel free to add your favourite recipe below and if you want to use our badge above then you can find the details on our Favourite Recipe Friday page.

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14 March 2012

Toddler activities - growing cress

My son has been planting bulbs and seeds at nursery and I wanted to carry it on at home so we decided to plant some cress.

We had some left over from when we did it last year and it is so much fun to see his little face once it has grown.

When we took it out of the cupboard it went from being white in the morning to green when it had been out in the sun for a few hours, it was brilliant!

You will need:
1 x empty butter/margarine tub or something similar
1 x packet of cress
Some cotton wool

1.  Get your bits ready to assemble


2. Put the cotton wool into the container


3. Add some water to the cotton wool so it is completely soaked
 


4. Sprinkle the seeds over as evenly as possible (please note this probably won't happen when a child is helping but it's OK)


6. Put the container in a warm dark place, leave for a week and they should have sprouted. Take out and then leave on a window sill.

7. Once it has turned green and is nice and tall, trim and have in egg sandwiches for lunch :)


This is such a simple and cheap thing do do and it really gives children a sense of how things grow, they get to try what they have grown because it is so quick see it happening!

Happy growing!
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13 March 2012

Recipes to Hand Down

I have decided that I am going to hand write my recipes into a book to pass onto my children, my husband says it's a silly idea what with the technology we have these days.

But I think that it would be lovely to be able to pass down something that can be added too, scribbled in and amended no matter what technology we have.

I now just need to find some nice notebooks to hint at for our anniversary or my *coughs* 30th birthday.

I have found a couple which I am in love with, this one from Hope House Press is just gorgeous. I can imagine it ageing really well and looking great passed down through the generations, getting really well thumbed.

Next is this one from Oh So Cherished, I love the hot pink colour and the wrap around cover, I can just imagine unwrapping it and bits of paper falling out. I have a few recipes my gran gave me on scraps of paper that I would love to stick in it.


Finally this gorgeous little book from Scaramanga is just so gorgeous, this would be perfect for carrying around for those moments where you see a recipe or dish that you think 'ooh I could try that'!

Although I love technology and what it brings the world sometimes I just want something that is real, that can be touched, that if you lived in the middle of nowhere would still function!
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12 March 2012

Meal Planning Monday

Today I am having a go at Meal Planning Monday, a fab idea from At Home with Mrs M.

I am just trying to use up what meat and veg we have in the house so we don't spend any money this week.

Monday - Beef Stew (already in the slow cooker)
Tuesday - Chicken and Mushroom Pie
Wednesday - Merguez Sausage with Pasta (in a sauce obviously)
Thursday - Whatever my mum feeds me as hubby isn't back till late!
Friday - Home-made Chicken Nuggets and Wedges
Saturday - Marmalade & Sage Pork with Sautéed Potatoes

Sunday - Mmm Mothers Day, not sure what we are doing yet!

Well that wasn't too bad in fact I think this might save me a lot of hassle with what I need to get out of the freezer every night ;)

It's a great idea and hopefully will get me thinking about what we are having in the week!

The recipe for the Marmalade & Sage Pork is as follows:

Ingredients: Serves 4
4 x 200g pork steaks
2 teaspoons olive/vegetable oil
salt & pepper
1 tablespoon whole sage leaves
3 heaped tablespoons of orange marmalade

Method:
Heat a frying pan over high heat. Brush pork with oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Add the pork and sage to the pan and cook for a few minutes each side or until well browned. Add the marmalade to the pan and cook for a further 2-3 minutes or until cooked. We have with asparagus & green beans and spoon over the marmalade glaze.



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9 March 2012

Favourite Recipe Friday - Meringues

We often have a spaghetti carbonara and with the left over egg whites I always make meringues.

I remember my mum trying to make them when I was younger but she never quite seemed to get them right and home made ones are just so much yummier than the overly white ones you get in a supermarket.

I always use golden caster sugar as they turn out a gorgeous golden colour and super sticky in the middle, they are then perfect for making into Eton Mess.

Ingredients:

I use one egg white to 2oz of sugar so in this recipe I used:
2 medium egg whites
4oz golden caster sugar

Method:

1. If you have kept the egg whites in the fridge then take out and leave to warm to room temperature, they always fluff up more if they are warm.

If you are keeping them in the fridge then take out to warm to room temp

2. Whisk the egg whites with a hand whisk until they are fluffy like cotton wool.


3. Add the sugar a bit at a time and keep whisking until the mixture forms stiff peaks.

When you lift the whisks up it should form stiff peaks
4. I always add a little meringue to the baking tray before placing the paper on top as it stops the paper from lifting up.

Dab a little meringue on the tray before placing the paper on
5. Spoon the meringue mix onto the tray and pop in the oven on 110c for 2 hours


6. Once cooked remove from the oven and leave to cool and voila, gorgeous sticky in the middle meringues.


Like I said before you can serve as part of an eton mess or my favourite just with cream!


Favourite Recipe Friday
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8 March 2012

International Women's Day

Today is international women's day and this got me thinking about a woman in my life that is my inspiration.

We may not see eye to eye on everything, her views are not always the same as mine.

But she loves her family, she would drop anything to help them out and does.

Her holidays are sometimes taken to look after someone else, she is always there if you need a hug or shoulder to cry on.

She used to spend all day looking after her children, cook everyone tea before going to work for hours. She would get home just after midnight and then start it all again at 6am the next day.

When my husband was ill shortly after my son was born she helped look after my son, postponed her holiday till he came home.

She is my best friend, she is my mum.

I hope my daughter feels the same about me when she's older :)

Love you mum xx
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7 March 2012

Fab crafty finds - bunting!

When I was looking for ideas for bunting for my daughters birthday (we had a huge empty room I needed to fill) I found a couple of great ideas.

The first one which I already knew about and had tried was this brilliant no sew bunting, at the time I didn't have a sewing machine and couldn't sew so this was perfect for me.

The results are brilliant and everyone I showed it to was impressed, I bought the material in a fat quarter bundle from Hobbycraft ages ago and it was just the perfect amount for the job at hand.



You can find the tutorial over on Red Ted Art's blog, if I can do it then anyone can ;)

The next was printable bunting, I found a couple of great sites which have printable bunting.

The first is Ruffled Blog, the prints are gorgeous and if I end up having a 30th Birthday party I will be printing some more of these out.


And then this gorgeous bunting and cake toppers from Creature Comforts Blog, they really are beautiful and perfect for a little boys bedroom or summer party in the garden.


Best of all these are recyclable both in terms of using again and being just paper you can always pop them in the recycling bin when you've finished with them.

There are lots of others so do have a little google to see if there is something you like for a birthday or celebration this year, it has also given me ideas on how to make my own for my sons 4th birthday this year.

He wants an octonauts themed birthday and I have an idea for printing some out to make so watch this space :)
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