Monday, 31 October 2011

Meal Planning Monday - 31 October

Wow, will someone please tell me how it's November already? I am so happy I discovered Pinterest and Mrs M's linky. I get so much inspiration from both and cooking is once again (mostly) an organised pleasure.

This week's menu is:
fridge fried rice 
orange chicken
chicken pie 

It should be an easy week cooking wise, as I had a burst of kitchen mojo on Thurs and prepared most of these after doing the shopping. The sausage casserole is cooked and frozen, as is the stroganoff. The chicken pie filling is alredy in the freezer from last week, and the pineapple chicken has been prepared, bagged and frozen, ready to tip into the slow cooker 4-6 hours before dinner. (I know. I am impressed with myself as well). I also have enough pineapple chicken, sausage casserole and stroganoff to freeze for meals for another week, so don't be surprised to see these on the menu again. 

Last week's menu was a success. Only the spinach stuffed chicken breasts didn't get made, because I didn't have the chicken I thought I had. I also only made the plum cake (basically chopped up plums topped with sponge cake mixture and baked) as things just aren't getting eaten as quickly in my house lately. I am sure it's nothing at all to do with me back on my diet wagon.

The lemon burst biscuits were not a success. I did a bit of research and found that whipped cream can be used as a substitute for Cool Whip, but not when heated as it just turned into a puddle. The biscuits, though tasty, were flat. I guess Cool Whip has lots more stabilers in it.

For more menu's check out the linky at Mrs M's place.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

DIY LEGO Advent calendar

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was planning on making my boys my own version of a LEGO Advent calendar this year. They would love a Star Wars one, but at £25 each x 2 (because I suspected the youngest would come off worse in that deal) it was out of the question. Instead I've made my own version and I think they will like it better.

It contains:
3 x Christmas DVDs to go in on Fridays (Home Alone, National Lampoon, Muppet Christmas Carol)
Chocolate money
A LEGO minifigure
Random LEGO bits bought from
  • choose a family outing (cost restrictions and distance apply)
  • Stay up an extra half an hour on ANY night
  • Choose whatever you want for breakfast on Saturday or Sunday
  • A day with Mum and A day with Dad
  • Choose whatever you want for dinner
  • Boss Mum around for 1 hour and Boss Dad around for 1 hour
  • A game rental of your choice (age appropriate)
  • A DVD rental and snacks of your choice for family movie night (age appropriate)

    I just need a suitable box now. I'll put an item in at night after the kids have gone to bed.

    Friday, 28 October 2011

    Top Christmas toys for boys

    Forget the lists that are being hyped by the media. This is what is on the list in my house.

    The Hogwarts Castle would be particularly well received, as would any pick and mix building blocks and this series 4 hockey player Minifigure.

     The bigger the better as far as my boys are concerned. Keep dreaming kids... it's never gonna happen

    Music vouchers

     Like Amazon, to download such classics as Sexy and I Know It and Make You Sweat

    A family outing to somewhere is on the cards for Christmas but where is still being debated.


    Sports equipment
    Mine got hockey sticks last year but if they need equipment then now is a good time. Footballs are always received well here as the level of accuracy doesn't always match the level of enthusiasm.

    Power Rangers
    I honestly thought I'd seen the back of Power Rangers when my eldest grew out of them 3 or 4 years ago. Apparently I haven't. I've been told these are different but I can't see it.

    Thursday, 27 October 2011

    SlimPod diary - Week 1

    On Thurs I bought a SlimPod from Thinking Slimmer. (You can read more about them here). I chose the Drop 2 Jeans Sizes (or more). I lost 18lbs in about 3 months this year but plateaued and have stayed the same weight for several months. I have definitely lost my motivation, partially as I am quite happy with the size I am now. I know that I could stand to lose more weight to get back into a healthy weight range and that even though I feel alright now, I will feel even better for losing more.

    I don't know why SlimPod. I saw a tweet on Thurs that caught my eye and investigated from there. I'm quite receptive to hypnotherapy anyway, having used it to give up smoking, so thought I'd give it a go. For my own record, here is my SlimPod diary.

    Current size: 12-14
    First Goal: lose 10lbs by Christmas. Be in size 12 properly (I've got a snug pair of jeans that are my yardstick)
    Second goal: lose a further 10-14lbs by end Feb, then be able to maintain it.

    Thurs: Bought SlimPod. Despite basic instructions it took me 30mins to get it on my iPod. That's due to my own ineptitude than anything to do with the product. Listened before going to sleep. It's less than 9 mins long and I found it really relaxing.
    Biscuits eaten: none.
    Fizzy drinks: none

    Fri: Really hungry today. I tweeted this in passing and got a fairly quick reply from @ThinkingSlimmer, which was nice. I ate when I felt hungry but still ate less than usual and also ate well. Listened to SlimPod twice again . Not sure it will help, but certain it can't do any harm.
    Biscuits eaten: 1 chocolate digestive and 1 jaffa cake in the evening. Very impressed I stopped at 1 Jaffa cake. Normally I eat 3, then go back for 2 or 3 more.
    Fizzy drinks: none

    I also haven't felt like having any fizzy drinks or Coke since first listening on Thurs. Normally I have several glasses a day but am drinking more water instead. Tea & coffee intake has also halved. Unexpected.

    Sat: A good day. Scales showing 2lbs lighter since Slimming World weigh in on Tues but I know that can fluctuate so I will see what scales say on Tues. No snacking. Listened to SlimPod twice. Spontaneous Pizza Express dinner whilst out with the kids. I normally have a pizza and doughballs. Instead I ordered from the kid's menu and ate 2 doughballs with salad for entree, half a child's size pizza, and 2 doughballs with Nutella for dessert. And a large glass of red wine. Lovely. I felt nice and satisfied but not stuffed.

    Biscuits: 2 small nibbles of a chocolate digestive then I put it down and ate a banana instead.
    Fizzy drinks: none

    Sun: If Trevor Silvester were my husband I think I would never have sex. As soon as he starts off in that gentle voice of his I'm half way to the land of Nod. Very relaxing. Started to make a bowl of pasta for lunch then decided to have half, and come back for the other half if I am hungry afterwards. Nicely full after initial serving which goes to show how excessive my portion sizes normally are.

    I am enjoying the lack of guilt that goes along with this. Not that Slimming World made me feel guilty, but I feel more in control than I have in a long time. I'm not feeling the desire for sweet things as much as normal, so I don't feel like I have to resist anything.
    I left about 1/3 of my dinner, even though I served myself less than normal, and 1/3 of Muller Rice. There's still a part of my head questioning stopping eating when I feel full. I see food in front of me and it wants to eat it, but I don't find it hard to say no as I am satisfied.

    Mon  stepped on scales again this morning. I should avoid that as I know I can get a bit obsessive. Once a week at Slimming World is enough. Disappointed to see only 1lb loss since Thurs. I know that's stupid as 1-2lb a week is perfectly reasonable and I've only been doing this for 4 days. I guess I have been seduced by all the sponsored bloggers posts of massive weight losses. I need to forget about them and just concentrate on myself. Slimming World eating 80% of the time and listen to SlimPod once or twice a day. Getting active will also help. Got 2 sessions at the gym planned this week. Could do with fitting 1-2 more things in there.
    Biscuits eaten: 0
    Fizzy drinks: 0

    Tues 2lb off at home and at Slimming World this morning. Really pleased as that's just since Fri. My first weight loss for ages and definitely my easiest as I didn't feel any emotional struggle or need to resist at all.
    Ate more than I should have at dinner as it was really delicious. Also made a plum sponge cake which I had with some ice cream. Kept eating even though I started to feel full and felt bloated afterwards. Disappointed with myself, but it's early days. I will move on.
    Biscuits eaten: 0
    Fizzy drinks: 0

    Wed a pretty good day. I had a coffee out but wasn't tempted by any cakes, and wasn't remotely tempted when I took the kids to McDonalds. I had a dessert but easily chose the healthiest option and felt satisfied. I had 2 glasses of wine (normally 1 is my limit, but it's school holidays!) which was about half a bottle, but that's fine as I only drink wine once every week or 2. Normally a glass of wine is followed by a craving for crisps or junk eating, but not tonight.
    Biscuits: 2 jaffa cakes
    Fizzy drink: 0

    Thurs Day 7. Scales showing just over 3lbs loss since I started and I'm very pleased with that. The biggest changes for me this week have been the lack of cravings and guilt, and the reduction  size of my portions, and the lack of snacking and fizzy drinks. I haven't been able to the exercise I had planned, but have started getting 10 mins here and there on the trampoline when I can. It's easier than trying to carve out 30-60 mins somedays, especially school holidays.

    End of week 1. Roll on week 2!

    Tuesday, 25 October 2011

    Not Waving but Drowning

    I have 2 children, both of whom cannot swim and both with a strong aversion to putting their head under water. The eldest has quite a legitimate fear (not based on past trauma) and the youngest just likes copying his older brother. We've tried a few times over the years, both in the pool with me, but it's always been met with very strong resistance once it gets to a point where they need to put their face in the water. I decided in summer that enough was enough and that it was my duty as a parent to ensure they could swim, if only in a basic form. They've now had around 12 weeks of lessons and progress is painfully slow. If you're the parent of a child whizzing up and down the pool I will allow you to feel smug as long as you spare a little sympathy for the parent of the (overly dramatic) child clinging to the side crying and shouting NO I CAN'T DO IT I WILL DIE!!!

    Eldest son and I reached an impasse on Sat, culminating in both of us sitting in the pool for 20 mins while he refused to move and I refused to go. I thought we had reached a turning point a fortnight ago, but a bad swimming lesson on Fri has knocked any confidence in his ability that he had, and taken us back about 6 weeks. With the odd exception, Fridays have become the worst day in the week and it's getting progressively worse. I hate seeing him come home full of excitement for the weekend, only to watch him deflate and shrink into the corner of the couch as it gets closer to swimming time.

    After speaking with my husband, who doesn't swim at all and hates water, we've agreed to stop the lessons on the understanding that eldest NEVER goes near water. If we're at the beach, he can't paddle. He can't go on the flumes with his friends...nothing.

    I'm going to perservere with youngest, but on my own on the weekends. He's less scared than eldest but still has a strong aversion to putting his face in the water. Hopefully if I take him to the pool to play he'll associate water with fun and become more confident. It might even help get eldest back in the pool (in which he can stand - it's a good learner's pool) and we can move beyond it.

    Of course, I am totally wracked with guilt that I have failed in helping my child learn to swim. When I grew up everyone could swim. I am not a natural swimmer but I had fun playing in the pool and at the beach. I was absolutely determined that both my children would at least have rudimentary swimming skills, but the situation with eldest has saddened me. I have managed to find some compromise or solution to every other parenting situation so far, but not this time.

    Monday, 24 October 2011

    Meal Planning Monday - 24 October

    Here we are again: Monday. Last week I was unwell and couldn't be bothered was far too sick to manage to post a meal plan. I regretted it as it definitely makes life easier having a plan. I've also changed my supermarket shopping routine, which is usually online from Asda, to instore at Lidl and Aldi and since I'm not 100% sure what they stock it's not as easy to plan. It's definitely cheaper though. I've saved £45-50 over 2 weeks.

    This week's plan is:
     I am not sure what I will substitute for the canned biscuits. Maybe shortcrust pastry, or maybe a type of wholemeal muffin/cobbler type mix?
    Garlic lamb chops
    Spinach stuffed chicken breasts 
    Cottage pie
    Chicken Curry
    Fridge Frittata

    I'll be baking:
     Plum cobbler or crumble (nice and seasonal)
    These use cake mix, which I don't normally use. I'll have to substitute heavy cream for the Cool Whip. They just look so tasty.

    Go to At Home with Mrs M for more menu plans

    Thursday, 20 October 2011

    Love Bomb Letter to Kate

    This post is part of a Love Bomb Mission to send love to Kate, who is suffering from depression. Remind Kate that she is loved and join the mission:

    Dear Kate,

    I read about the horrible time you're having on Drop A Love Bomb. Kaleigh loves you a lot, as does your sister. You are valuable to them and, doubtless, to many other people. Life can be a real struggle sometimes, and it can be hard to know if it's worth the effort. It is. There is so much wonder and beauty still to come in your life. Hold on to the knowledge that you are you, and that's just perfect.

    Some people close to you may not treat you with the love and respect you deserve, but hopefully your love bomb will show you that there is a world of people who will.


    Tuesday, 18 October 2011

    The Making of Harry Potter tour at Warner Bros Studios

    This has definitely caught my eye this week, and is something I will be investigating further!

    I am an avid Harry Potter fan. I've loved it ever since the first book and remember watching the first film in a
    cinema packed with enthralled viewers, transfixed by how everything on the screen exactly matched the images JK Rowling created in my head. Every detail is just amazing and I rate the Philosopher's Stone as my favourite of the films. I love that it's such good escapism but contains enough real life detail to make it feel to a little bit of my brain that it's possible that maybe it might be true. The day I stop liking to let my imagination free is the day I die.

    My eldest son is also a Harry Potter fan. Back in the days when he still wanted bedtime stories, I read him the entire series. Some nights we had to start bedtime an hour early just to fit 2 chapters in before he went to sleep. He's currently fixated with Harry Potter LEGO, partially due to the amazing models we saw at the Great Western LEGO show and has built some of his best models recently. 

    To me the films are magic (no pun intended) and I was really excited to hear about the Warner Bros studio tour that's opening in spring 2012. Just hearing the music on the website gives me a thrill of excitement. It's certainly not cheap, at £83 for a family ticket. It costs less than a day at Legoland, but then it only lasts around 3 hours. I'm also not sure how suitable it will be for my 4 year old. I would hate to miss parts because he's bored and whingy and needs taking out.

    We were planning a joint outing for the boy's birthday next year and this could be ideal. I just wish I lived closer and could sneak off and see it on my own while they are at school.

    Tuesday, 11 October 2011

    Desiderata v Sunscreen

    I have never seen this poem before, but today it caught my eye. It reminded me of Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen), by Baz Luhrmann, but for a much earlier generation. Max Ehrmann wrote it in 1927. (I've just realised, typing that out, that they also have similar surnames. Spooky...)

    Desiderata (Max Ehrmann)

    Go placidly amid the nosie and the haste,
    and remember what peace there may be in silence.
    As far as possible, without surrender,
    be on good terms with all persons.
    Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
    and listen to others,
    even to the dull and the ignorant;
    they too have their story.
    Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
    they are vexatious to the spirit.
    If you compare yourself with others,
    you may become vain or bitter,
    for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
    Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
    Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
    it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
    Exercise caution in your business affairs,
    for the world is full of trickery.
    But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
    many persons strive for high ideals,
    and everywhere life is full of heroism.
    Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
    Neither be cynical about love,
    for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
    it is as perennial as the grass.
    Take kindly the counsel of the years,
    gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
    Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
    But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
    Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
    Beyond a wholesome discipline,
    be gentle with yourself.
    You are a child of the universe
    no less than the trees and the stars;
    you have a right to be here.
    And whether or not it is clear to you,
    no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
    Therefore be at peace with God,
    whatever you conceive Him to be.
    And whatever your labors and aspirations,
    in the noisy confusion of life,
    keep peace in your soul.
    With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
    it is still a beautiful world.
    Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

    Monday, 10 October 2011

    Meal Planning Monday - 9 October

    Happy Monday peeps. I just had a read back through last week's menu and I didn't cook either the meatlhoaf or the chicken pancakes. We had left overs one night, and I can't remember what else on the other.

    I've been through the Food board on Pinterest for inspiration this week and have decided on:

    Slow cooker Italian Meatloaf
    Roast Chicken
    Chicken and garlic mushroom pie
    Frittata with spinach and butternut squash
    Slow cooker ginger and sesame chicken

    and baking:
    Easy Chocolate Cake
    Caramel Apple Crisp

    There's lots of chicken in there, but I have a lot of chicken in the freezer that needs using.

    If you're looking for more inspiration check out the linky at At Home With Mrs M

    Friday, 7 October 2011

    Review - Great Western LEGO Show

    Last weekend was the annual Great Western LEGO Show. It's where members of the Brickish Association can display their models, and is the largest event of its kind in the UK. I found out about it when randomly searching for LEGO events earlier in the year. Having 2 LEGO mad children made it seem like the perfect outing. I stored the details away in the rusty old filing cabinet that is my memory and thankfully remembered a few days beforehand.

    The venue is the STEAM Museum of the Great Western Railway in Swindon. I've never been there before, having no interest in steam trains and (thankfully) having children who are not fussed about them either. I was really  impressed with the size and layout of the museum. It's definitely a place you want to go if you like old trains. It's right next to a designer shopping outlet so there's something for everyone... well, everyone who likes old trains or shopping. Oh, and parking is plentiful, nearby and just £1 - bargain.

    The show itself was really good. I went with a friend and our 3 children, aged 9, 9 and 4. I have not seen my 9 year son as excited as that since we took him to Legoland for his birthday when he was 8. The first group of models we saw were mostly of Harry Potter scenes and they were just incredible. One woman told us her model took a year to build and I can well believe it. The attention to detail the builders gave their models, and their imagination and innovation when building them was impressive. It impressed me, and I don't 'do' LEGO, so you can imagine what the kids were like. The builders were very friendly and happy to talk to us about how and why they had built things they way they had. The boys got some great ideas.

    The main hall had a huge array of all sorts of different types of models and they were all fantastic. There was also the chance for the children to make a mosaic panel and do a bit of building of their own. My favourite model was the Yoda with the light sabre that lit up, but the robot that moved and the massive cathedral at the front (sorry, can't remember which one it was a model of) also stand out. The introduction of LEGO minifigures adds a good dimension. Where else will you see a cowboy, a clown, and a cheerleader in church with an alien, a detective and an explorer?

    Lego mosaic. Our panel is up in the top left somewhere.


    The last part of the show was, of course, the shop. It's not your usual LEGO shop, but independent retailers selling LEGO. There's a good mix of used and new LEGO and the kids were incredibly happy with their purchases. I was happy as both of mine spent less than £10 each and got a lot of different bricks and pieces they put to use straight away.

    If you're planning on going next year (it's on 6-7 Oct in 2012):
    • Book your tickets in advance if you plan on getting there when it opens. We arrived about 10 minutes after the doors opened and walked past a queue of over 100 people. Well worth the £4 booking fee.
    • take a camera
    • don't expect to sit down for a few hours. There's no real seating as you go around. My 4 year old got a bit overwhelmed with all the people, colours and noise in the main hall, so we had to sit on the floor in the corner for a while with a restorative Mars bar. I don't mind sitting on floors, but you might.
    • Talk to the people who built the models. They are justifiably proud of their creations and happy to share building tips and details with visitors. 
    • Visit the shop first. It was uncomfortably full by the time we got there at around 12pm, and there were places where it was impossible to move.
    • Watch out for the tables and cloths in the main hall area. The tables were not always sturdy, particularly with hoardes of enthusiastic children trying to get as to the models as possible without touching. They were also covered in cloths that were too long and puddled on the floor. It was easy for children to tread on them, pulling the cloth towards them and threatening the models.
    • Be prepared to watch younger children like a hawk. Consider recording the phrases "Don't Touch!!" and "Stand BACK!" to replay at frequent intervals
    The only drawback (apart from the hovering and watch the tablecloth-ing) was that we couldn't find any of the advertised building workshops and expert talks. The boys would have loved those.