Monday, 30 May 2011

Meal Planning Monday

Wow, another Monday is here already. Where is time going? Last week's plan was a relative success, with 5 out of 7 meals getting cooked. The other 2 weren't Slimming World friendly, nor was the chocolate cake I made on Friday (which lasted less than 48 hours, though I'm not the only glutton in the house so it wasn't all due to me). The new recipes I tried were quite nice. I ended up substituting cauliflower for chicken in the curry, so it was vegetarian. The sticky 5 spice gammon ended up being sticky 5 spice chicken as I didn't have the gammon I thought I had in the freezer. It was a little salty, but otherwise quite tasty. I served it with steamed bok choi and rice noodles.

This week is half term which, in theory, shouldn't make any difference to meals, but always does.
Monday: Chicken fried rice (this didn't get made last week and I still have the ingredients to use up)
Tuesday: meatloaf and wedges with wilted spinach (I love spinach)
Wednesday: frittata with salad
Thursday: Quorn sausages, baked beans, and cheesy cauliflower mash (a nice low-carb alternative to potato)
Friday: cauliflower and butternut squash curry & brown rice (left over from last week)
Saturday: angel hair pasta with spinach pesto
Sunday: freezer surprise

I tend to cook frittata every week. It's a great way of using up left over things languishing in the fridge, and it's perfect for lunch over the next few days. 
Freezer surprise will be interesting. I'm going to try and do this at least once a week for a while. It's not so good for a Meal Planning Monday blog, but it's good for my pocket as my freezer is pretty full at the moment and I am trying to spend less on our weekly shop. 

Have a look at At Home with Mrs M's blog for more Meal Planning Monday inspiration.

What does your menu look like?

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Sunday Soundtrack

Regular Tweeters may have heard about Silent Sunday, started by Mocha Beanie Mummy. It's a great idea and I love seeing some of the contributions to #silentsunday.

I've never been a contributor, mainly as what goes on in front of me on a Sunday is not very interesting and I don't have the ability to make boring look amazing, as some contributors do. What goes on in my ears, however, is another story. Music can make the mundane more bearable, and Sunday sometimes needs a bit of mellifluity.

My Sunday Soundtrack today has been soul, dominated by Aretha Franklin and Tom Jones. If you don't own any Aretha or Tom, I strongly urge you to get some. There are loads of Aretha compliation albums around cheaply. Your life will be better for listening to one.

As much as I love Tom Jones' voice, I'm not a fan of everything he's done, particularly some of the cheesier songs like Release Me, Delilah and Green, Green Grass of home. However, his duet album, Reload, is one of my favourites; and I also like the 2010 Praise and Blame.

If I had to choose one favourite track today, it's been Ain't No Way, by Aretha Franklin

Friday, 27 May 2011

New music from old favourites

This has been a good music week for me (barring the fact that I lost my iTunes when my PC crashed...but I'm not going to dwell on that today).  I'm a creature of habit when it comes to music. I hit my peak sometime in the early 1990s, with the guitar heavy grunge rock, and haven't moved much beyond that. I still favour riffs over rhymes, though I do make an exception for the Beastie Boys. 2 of my favourite singers  have got new stuff out and I'm loving it.

First up is Casino. Lead singer Adam Zindani may be better known to some of you as the guitarist in The Stereophonics (I have BIG LOVE for the Stereophonics) but he's also the lead singer and songwriter in Casino. They've been working on some new stuff and they released a teaser this week, in the form of Save Me. Adam's got a great voice. I can really picture him as a bit of a camp glam rocker in the 70s. If you listen to some of the tracks off The Spider Simpson Incident, like Heavy Metal Machine, you'll know what I mean.

The other release that got me excited this week was from Eddie Vedder. I love Pearl Jam, but this is very different to what I was expecting. It's Vedder's 2nd solo album and it's worth a listen. It's more of a grower than a grabber, but I like it. You can listen to part or all of Ukelele songs here.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Meal Planning Monday

Here we go for this week:
Monday: Chicken fajitas(but with cous cous not tortilla for me)
Tuesday: Quorn stir fry with egg noodles
Wednesday: Sticky Five Spice Gammon *
Thursday: Frittata and salad
Friday: Chicken and butternut squash curry*
Sat: Chicken and vegetable fried rice
Sunday: Quorn sausage, Slimming World Chips, egg, tomatoes and spinach
* are recipes I've never cooked before. They're from the Slimming World Meals in Minutes Cookbook. 

It's a pretty chicken heavy menu this week, but I've gone right off red meat lately, and I never eat fish. 

I made 5 out of 7 meals on the plan last week. I missed the creamy mushroom chicken but the ingredients could be frozen so that's not a problem; and Sunday's pasta and spinach pesto ended up being pasta with a courgette and tomato sauce I had in the freezer. I'd be lost without my freezer. It's a 6ft upright one that was in the house when we bought it. What it lacks in ineffeciency it more than makes up for in the ability to bulk buy and freeze.

This week is pretty busy, so the meals either have to be ones I can make quickly (like the stir fry), or make in advance and freeze (like the curry and fajitas, which are ready and waiting).

Last week I tried herbed pork mince and cous cous for the first time. I wasn't wild about it and probably won't do it again. Unfortunately it made loads, so I've got another 2-3 meals worth of it in the freezer to be eaten.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Kids Movies For Adults

Having 2 children, I've spent my fair share of time at early cinema sessions. More often than not I'm being bored out of my skull watching some asinine rubbish, cursing the fact that I've spent actual money to be in such a situation. I almost look forward to the 3 year old's need to go to the toilet 3 times in 90 minutes (though he manages perfectly well to go 2 hours without a wee at home). At least it's a break from the crap on the screen.

All praise St Pixar. BP (Before Pixar) children's films were all crap. Monsters Inc is the first children's film I can remember seeing as an adult, and actually enjoying. (I didn't even have kids when I saw it, but it was a hot day and the cinema was air conditioned.) The Incredibles was also funny. Cars was very clever and I'm actually looking forward to the sequel this summer. Wall-E... well, the less said about that, the better. But one of the boys I took to see it actually fell asleep. Up was just lovely on so many levels. Pixar raised the bar, and Dreamworks and other studios have followed.

Today I saw Diary Of A Wimpy Kid 2: Roderick Rules with my 8 year old. It was really funny! I think I enjoyed it as much as my son, though I don't think he was as touched by the elder son/younger son relationship changes as I was. I'm so glad we're moving into this 'tweenie' type of film. I don't mind quite as much shelling out £20 for a couple of hours for one of them. I quite liked Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, and The Sorcerer's Apprentice as well.

Films I would rather poke my eyes out than sit through again include:
Shrek 3
Animals United
Toy Story 1, 2, or 3. I just want to slap Woody's smug face hard.
Yogi Bear
Last Airbender
Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakual.

Our local cinema is a Vue and their Kids AM sessions are really good value, especially if you spend so much time taking someone to the toilet that you can't follow the plot anyway. £1 for a ticket, and £1.50 for a popcorn and drink. Bargain.

I am looking forward to this summer when I think my oldest will be old enough to go into the cinema on his own, while I sit in the cafe with the paper and a quiet coffee.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Fete Season

Fete season is here and I, for one, am excited. I love fetes. Smaller than a fair and bigger than a bazaar, they're a great way to spend an hour or 2 entertaining the kids whilst donating a bit of money to a good cause. Where else can you get 3 tomato plants, a balloon sword, and a sausage cooked to within an inch of its life, all for £3. If there's a bouncy castle - so much the better.

Today was the turn of the local scouts. I arrived with 2 boys and £7, and left an hour later with: 3 boys, one with a face painted like Captain Jack Sparrow; 6 books I am almost sure I haven't read; a bag of plastic tat that hasn't been looked at since I paid for it; a half eaten cup cake; 3 balloon swords and 3 balloon mice that all became balloon snakes by the time we got back to the car (says more about the boys than the balloon maker's skills, they were well constructed); and a compact mirror with a light won on the tombola.

I've done my fair share of working at fetes and can confirm they're one of the more labour intensive ways of fund raising, so am always happy to support them where I can. You might get better tat at a car boot sale (another great way of amusing the kids on a Sunday) but you don't get that sense of worthiness for having supported your community.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

I had a little splurge in Boots the other day, and ended up with 2 free Barry M nail varnishes as part of their current 3 for 2 promotion on cosmetics. I love a bargain and I love new nail varnish, so I was very happy.

I've only recently discovered Barry M makeup. I mean, I knew it existed, but am pretty set in my make up habits, sticking mainly to browns and greys for eye makeup, and beige and red for nails. Their displays are bursting with colour and I discounted them as too young for me. However, after trying one of their chunky crayon eyeliners (in brown, natch) I was impressed with how nice it was, especially for the price.

For some reason I was feeling a little braver this week, so I bought Bright Purple and Red Glitter. I've got the purple on at the moment and I love it. Though it's inexpensive (£2.99 or 2 for £5 at Boots) it's good. It takes 3 strokes with the brush and 2 coats gives a proper coverage. I've got a topcoat on and have had no chips after 2 days. Glitter nail polish is usually a bitch to remove, but this one is not as tricky as getting off OPI. I think I'll stick to toes for now, but who knows - maybe I'll feel daring one night and glam up with sparkly fingernails!


I also bought a Lip Laquer Crayon in Cherry Red. I love vibrant lipsticks, especially red, but at 37 still haven't managed the art of putting it on without it looking like I'm a 3 year old raiding my mother's make up bag. These little crayons are so easy to use - it's really just like colouring in. They're slightly sparkly but it just looks glossy once it's gone on, so they're good for daytime too. It's not the longest lasting lipstick in the world, but a coat of lipstick fixer sorts that out. It's quite soft, so it won't be one for my handbag in the summer.

If you've always bypassed their displays in Boots or Superdrug, give them a try. Their Nail Paint is £2.99 and the Lip Laquer Crayons are £4.99.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Watcha want?

I've had a yearning for a new watch lately. I've been wearing a stainless steel Tag for the last 13 years, which I bought when the only thing I had to spend my disposable income on was myself, and duty free shopping was a regular occurrance. I love it. It's reliable, takes the bashes of daily wear admirably, and still looks good.

I recently saw a lustworthy rose gold Rolex which led me to Michael Kors' more affordable alternative:
I also fancy the Chanel J12 ceramic model, either in white or mother of pearl:
Fossil does a cheaper version, but it's nowhere near as nice:

Maybe it's time to start my Christmas wish list?

Monday, 16 May 2011

Meal Planning Monday

I know I said this wouldn't be a foodie blog, and it's not, but I have a family and we all eat, therefore I meal plan. I don't always follow through but it's nice to start the week with good intentions. I follow Slimming World so my menu is SW friendly.

Mon - Frittata of sorts: new potatoes, diced onion, chopped Quorn sausages, cherry tomatoes, fresh spinach pan fried. Pour over eggs beaten with some Quark, season and bake until firm
Tues - Fried Rice
Wed - herb minced pork and vegetable cous cous
Thurs - gammon, egg, SW chips, spinach, cherry tomatoes
Fri - chicken with creamy mushroom sauce
Sat - meatloaf with mashed potato and vegetables
Sun - spaghetti and spinach pesto

Lunch is usually left overs from the night before. My favourite breakfast at the moment is berries (frozen from the supermarket) with a Muller light mixed with either rice or rolled oats.

Daydream Believer

I’ve always been a big fan of daydreaming. I’d even go so far as to list it as one of my hobbies. Ever since I was a young child I’ve relished the opportunity to recline in the hammock in my head and enjoy a parallel reality for a few minutes. Encouraged in children, daydreaming is too frequently dismissed in adults as being a example of weakness or an inability to cope in the Real World. Tosh! I say. Daydreaming is amazing.
Just to clarify, I’m not talking about the positive visualisation life coaches prescribe as a goal setting tool. Sometimes a daydream can become a reality, but that’s not the reason I do it. I’m talking about honest-to-goodness-holiday-for-your-mind daydreaming. You know: your phone rings and it’s Prince William saying he’s made a terrible mistake and please will you reconsider. Or the feeling of the hot sun on your size 8 arse as you lie sunning it on your private Caribbean beach (in a cancer free world, naturally). One of my current favourites is that I’m not driving a family car with a strange smell and an identifiable noise. I’m actually driving a booster seat and crumb free shiny black Porsche, which is just about to overtake the old man driving the Chrysler in front without even breaking a sweat. Vroom! Eat my dust, lane clogging grandpa.
If ever I’m feeling frustrated or tired, I like to look online at luxury hotels around the world. A few minutes of this and I almost feel as if I’ve had a restful night’s sleep on 5 million count white cotton sheets, coffee and pastry breakfast on my terrace with a view of the Eiffel Tower, and taken a shower so powerful it’s like standing under Niagara Falls. It’s invigorating and allows me the chance to catch my mental breath before diving back into the real world again. Window shopping evening dresses on sites like Net-A-Porter is also good. I don’t want a dress like that, or even a reality that demands a dress like that, but it’s nice to imagine what I would choose if I did.
In my imagination I’m high maintenance. In reality I’m far too lazy (hiding the gray hair excepted). In my imagination I live in a stylish clutter free house devoid of colourful plastic. In reality I live in a comfortable but small family home with too much stuff and not enough toilets. The one constant between reality and daydreams is my family. My husband and kids exist happily in both worlds (though they are sometimes muted in my daydreams).I don’t daydream to escape my reality. I do it to liven up what can sometimes be banal occurrences, and because I can. Pity the person who has no imagination.

ETA: I've come back to update this as I stumbled upon a gorgeous site whilst looking for something else entirely (honestly!)
Lime Wood House in Lyndhurst 

These are ones I've bookmarked as I love them so much
Paris apartment
Marina Bay Sands, Singarpore

Sunday, 15 May 2011

I'm Gonna Wash That Grey Right Out of My Hair

Up until recently I thought my natural hair colour was a dark mousey blonde. It's hard to be sure as, for the last 19 years, it's been every colour from platinum to chocolate. I haven't succumbed to the candy colours of hair dye because I just don't have the confidence to carry it off. When I was young enough to get away with it, the only options we had were old lady rinses. Now I'm older and there's a rainbow of beautiful hair dyes out there, I would look like... well, an old lady with a rinse.

To illustrate:
Jamie Winston - Yes

 Mrs Slocombe - No

For the past few years I've smugly thought that, under the peroxide, my hair was silver free. Cautious checking around my hairline in the harsh morning sunlight (an east facing bathroom window is effective if not flattering) upheld my belief. Until recently. With roots needing to be tended to, but no opportunity for another week, I put in a Shaders temporary colour. It doesn't colour over grey but hey - that's no problem for me. While the rest of my hair blended beautifully, a clump of white near the crown of my head was revealed. I started plucking, but given the length and the number of them, they'd obviously been there hiding for some time, disguising themselves chameleon like amongst the blonde. Bastards.

I am sure that given time I will become more sanguine about their existence. My first reaction was to bleach the suckers into oblivion. I don't shy away from doing my own hair colour. I've learned (though trial and error, unfortunately) about bleach baths and choosing the right shade to avoid orange or khaki hair. It took 2 days but the result was worth it. I just hope I can replicate it in a few weeks when it will need redoing.

I admire women like Kristen McMenamy for their ability to embrace their silver hair. It's possible that one day I'll be the same. For now though, I'll stick with my box of dye.

Inaugural post - ooh the pressure!

Wow, my first post of a new blog. I've had a personal blog for the last 5 years, but it's more of a diary and a letter home than a blog that's of interest to a wider audience, which is what I'm aiming for with this one.

It's not a 'Mommy' blog (not least because I'm not American), it's not a foodie blog (though I love to cook and eat). It's a blog about things that have caught my interest and which I feel like investigating further, but which my husband (1) or kids (2) have absolutely no interest in. You, dear reader, therefore become my partner in crime of probably what will be quite trivial topics, but which I hope you'll share my interest in.