Monday, 29 October 2012

Meal Planning Monday - 29 October 2012

Here we are at the end of October and if the date didn't tell us we were in autumn, the weather definitely would!

I made everything I planned to last week with the exception of the frittata. That's more a way of using up leftovers and I just had enough to choose from without cooking. I cooked quinoa for the first time. The look of it kind of puts me off but it tastes find and I am sure I'll incorporate it into meals in the future as a healthy way of cutting back on empty carbs. The split pea and ham soup was lovely and made LOADS, as were the bread rolls. I froze about two thirds of what I made, so last week's recipe makes a good 8 portions of soup.

This week's meal plan is:
Chunky Veg Soup
Meatballs and Pasta
Roast Chicken, Veg & Yorkies
Creamy Chicken Gratin
Sausage and Ratatouille Bake
Quorn Lasagne Spud Jackets
The bottom three recipes are from the November issue of Ideal Home Magazine. 

Let me know if you have any suggestions and remember to check out Mrs M's linky for more Meal Planning Monday inspiration. Have a great week.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Karren Brady for BHS

Has anyone seen any of these items in real life? I like the look of them but, since I work from my dining room table in jeans and a variety of interchangeable slobby tops, I'm unlikely to actually get any of them. I like Karren Brady and this collection made me nostalgic for my previous life in an office.

They're only £38 - maybe I'll splash out on one and wear it around the house pretending to be very busy and important.

In an update to this post, I bought a hat! It's a red wool cloche and cost me a bargainous £8 from Matalan. (I don't know where my pupils have gone, but I don't really have freaky eyes).

Thursday, 25 October 2012

2012 Great Western LEGO Show Review

6-7 October saw the 2012 Great Western LEGO Show at STEAM in Swindon. You can read my review of the 2011 show here. This year was no less awesome than 2011, with plenty to see and do and tonnes of fab LEGO inspiration that left our boys buzzing with enthusiasm that had them heading straight to their rooms to build as soon as we got in.

The layout was the same as last year so we knew what to expect and, as planned, we hit the shops first to avoid the crush of last year. The boys (10, 10 and 5) had pretty specific ideas about what they wanted to buy and I think they found it. I picked up a few stocking fillers (shh!) Interestingly, my 5 year old had gone off LEGO about 6 months previously and hadn't intended to buy anything (saving his pennies for an iPad... dream on kid) but he was infected by the surge of mania in the room, with children and adults alike shoppng with Purpose, whether it was to buy the one Minifigure from a series they needed to complete their collection, or just stock up on rare items. There was also an official LEGO store stand this year, which had a great selection.

Enjoy about the shopping and onto the models. Where as 2011 was all about Harry Potter, 2012 was about the Olympics. Personally I preferred last year's models but no one could fail to be impressed by the spectacular Olympic Stadium which had something like 4,000 Minifigures in the stands, and the city was pretty cool as well. It was a relief to see some tables with velvet ropes around them to prevent children from getting too close, and the tablecloths which were such a hazard last year were mostly shorter or missing altogether which made it much less stressful and more enjoyable for me.We spent around four hours in there and all of us left happy (via the outlet stores opposite - the adults reward)

Here is a video STEAM have up on their site that was filmed on Sunday and gives a good overview of the models, the atmosphere and the *ahem* exceptionally good looking visitors


Barring flood or famine I can't see a reason why we wouldn't go again next year. From someone who hasn't touched LEGO to play with for ages, my 5 year old spent an hour building with the bricks at the back of the hall, before getting stuck into rebuilding his own city when he got home. It's a fantastic event and if you like trains, STEAM is a brilliant location with so much to see and experience hands on. If you have any interest in LEGO then put it in your calendar for 2013, when it will be on 5-6 October.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Random Likings - the Welsh edition

1. Shop Cwtch

Shop Cwtch* is what looks like a fab shop in Anglesey which sells a gorgeous range of local produce. I found their site when I was looking at Halen Mon salt (a delicious addition to your seasoning - you'll be amazed at the difference. It's so soft and gentle and nothing at all like harsh abrasive table salt). They don't sell online yet but hopefully will soon, but if you're in the area then check them out and let me know if the shop is as lovely as it looks.
*Cwtch is an awesome Welsh word that has no direct English translation but means to wrap someone up in a big enveloping hug and make them feel all safe and warm. It's better than a hug and more than a cuddle.

2. Cardiff Half Marathon
I did this last weekend. I am not going to pretend I ran it, because I walked about three quarters of it but even though it was a long hard slog, the atmosphere was fantastic. Crowds lined the streets the whole way around and were so friendly. Even though I was at the tail end of the 18,500 odd starters they didn't seem to flag, always offering support, high fives, chocolates, and plenty of encouragement. From students hanging out of their windows to families and children in random dress-up cheering the participants on it was really fantastic and Cardiff locals should feel proud. Big up all the volunteers, especially the St John's Ambulance brigade who were (reassuringly) everywhere, the charity volunteers manning the water stations and all the participants who were really friendly. I suspect it was more heads down and get on with it at the front, but at the back there was a real spirit of camaraderie and it was awesome.

3. Bara Brith

Bara Brith is on my to bake list at the moment. I love it. It's a lovely light fruit cake that is deliciously moist because the fruit is soaked in tea overnight. I'm going to try this BBC Food recipe as I can't find the one I used last time. Some recipes use yeast, marmalade and a lot more ingredients but this one is simple, which is just the way I like it.It's really easy and delicious and perfect for autumn.

4. Stereophonics - Violins and Tambourines

Finally the 'Phonics have got a new album coming out. Their last two albums have been pretty rubbish but they're now on their own record label and have been able to take more time over this one. I am a bit on the fence - an own label can either mean great things or total self-indulgent tosh. The first video has been released and it's a grower for me. Started slow but builds well and has a fab dramatic cinematic quality. I hope the rest of the album has more of the same.

5. Show Me Wales App

A new mobile site and App was launched earlier this month to help people make the most of their time in Wales, whether they're visiting or live here. It shows things to do, places to go, events and places to stay. The website is and you can download more information there. It looks pretty comprehensive but there is a contact link so you can feed back to the Mid Wales Tourist Board (who developed it).

Monday, 22 October 2012

Meal Planning Monday - 22 October 2012

Oh my goodness, another Monday already. I can't believe I'm staring down the barrel of half term as we speak.Apparently we're supposed to have an Indian Summer this week which, going by the BBC weather forecast, now means 14C and foggy. Ho hum. Here is the plan for this week. I have only planned 5 meals because I am out one night (seeing the Hairy Bikers!) and the other is leftovers.

Mexican Chicken Stew and Quinoa (am leaving out the beans)
Honey Soy grilled chicken, wild rice/rice, and veg (inspired by Stina)
Home made pizzas
Fridge Frittata

So there you have it. Cheap, but a bit fiddly with two lots of dough this week (I got rid of my bread maker ages ago because I wasn't using it and it just took up space on the bench) but nothing difficult.

Let me know what you're eating and, as usual, check out more Meal Planning Monday posts on Mrs M's linky.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Meal Planning Monday - 15 October 2012

Happy Monday Peeps. Busy week this week so plenty of easy meals on the meal plan. Hah, who am I kidding! I only ever cook easy meals. Cordon Bleu has no place in my house.

This week we're having:

I'm out for dinner on Friday as well as out for lunch on Sunday so one of these might not get made depending on what the left overs are like.

Remember to check out Mrs M's linky for more Meal Planning Monday inspiration, and let me know if you've got a recipe you reckon I should try.


Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Random Likings

1. Ideogram Box Maker
I can't take the credit for finding this. My friend posted a link and I just think it's cool. The Ideogram Box Maker is a free template maker for bespoke boxes. If you've got an awkward shaped pressie to wrap, this could be your solution. You can find 100+ box templates and tutorials at Mel Stampz.

2. Malcolm the 4 year old mountainbiker
I love this video. My husband showed it to me and though it's 10 minutes long you just have to watch the first 15 seconds or so to get that warm fuzzy feeling. He's so cool and with bike riding pretty big on the agenda in our house, I'd love if our kids were as gung-ho about the trails as Malcolm is.

3. Lemon Curd

I bought a jar of M&M's lemon curd I was at Abergavenny Farmer's Market the other week and, and the risk of sounding a bit Nigella, it's divine! It's just lemon, eggs, sugar and butter and I'm going to make some of my own when this jar runs out. It's better than any processed lurid yellow jam you can buy in the supermarket. Here is Delia's lemon curd recipe if you're inspired to make some yourself. I also bought some orange and lemon jam which is just as delicious.

4. Stacee Jaxx
Rock of Ages is now on DVD and, while I'm not going to pretend it's the best movie ever, it has its moments (and yes Paramount, I'm giving you this plug for nothing since you didn't even send me a copy of the DVD to review so big fat raspberries to you)

5. Cardiff Arcades Project
The Cardiff Arcades Project website is well worth a look even if you've never been to Cardiff (and if you haven't you definitely should if you get the chance).  It's a photographic project by Amy Davies with stunning pictures of Cardiff's historic Victorian and Edwardian shopping arcades. The photographs so rich in colour and light I want to dive right in to the screen and lick everything in sight. Well, not quite, but it has given me inspiration to explore more than just the St David's Centre when I'm next there.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Meal Planning Monday - 8 October 2012

Hello and welcome to a new week. I cooked pretty much everything I had planned to last week, with the exception of the Stacked Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas because I couldn't be bothered. Or something. I blogged about the Creamy Gammon Pie. It was delicious. Actually, it was a great week meal wise and everything was a success. I was a bit late getting organised with the bacon wrapped BBQ chicken so I did it in the oven and it was really delicious.

Mini Naan Thai chicken pizzas, bacon wrapped apple BBQ chicken, find of the year in Asda's freezer section

This week's menu is:
Pulled Pork 
Pulled Pork Enchiladas
Uptown Meatloaf (last week's recipe made 2)

Have a great week and let me know what you're cooking, or link up at Mrs M's blog with more Meal Planning Monday bloggers.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Creamy Gammon and Vegetable Pie

I am determined to populate my recipe pages with more than just sweet things. I do cook proper meals, honest, it's just that I usually forget to photograph them in the whole cooking-eating thing. This is a new recipe for me and it comes from the Waitrose Weekend Paper from 20 September 2012.

Recipe (my notes)

Serves 4 (or 3 hungry adults), Ready in 25 mins, Cost (if you shop at Waitrose and buy everything, £5.04. I shop at Asda and already some ingredients so have no idea what it cost).

800g potatoes cut into chunks
1tbspn vegetable oil
250g smoked gammon steak cut into 1cm dice
500g frozen mixed veg, defrosted
350g cheese sauce (I made my own - butter and flour to make a roux, milk, stir while thickening, handful of grated cheddar and a teaspoon of English or Dijon mustard)
1 tsp English mustard (mine was already in the sauce, I used Dijon because this is what I had)
25g butter
50ml milk
50g grated mild cheddar

1. Cook potatoes and make mash with butter and milk, or however you normally make them.
2. Meanwhile, heat oil in frying pan and cook gammon 4-5 mins. Add mixed veg and fry for further 4-5 mins. Stir in cheese cause and mustard and heat further 2-3 mins. Put in ovenproof dish.
3. Spoon mashed potato on top (a chef taught me you get much better mash if you do it while the potatoes are still hot). Sprinkle with cheese and put under grill for 5 mins or until golden.


And there you have it. It was really tasty and quite nice for a horribly wet and windy October night. I might try it as a pot pie next time, with a pastry top, because DH is not the biggest mashed potato fan in the world and it would be a little bit lighter. 

I can't find a picture from Waitrose to show you, but here is mine and it looks just as nice even if the presentation is not as good. 


Friday, 5 October 2012


I've decided to get a proper hat this winter. I love hats and love the way the look when other people wear them but mainly stick to knitted beanie style ones for myself because it's safer. This AW is the year I keep my head warm in style. It's got to be fairly casual because I have two coats: a padded parka style one that I mainly wear, and a black one that's a bit more structured but still fairly swishy with 3/4 bell sleeves that looks nice but isn't very practical in a Welsh winter.

I can't see myself sporting a Marc Jacobs number (either for the price tag or because I'd look like a toadstool)

This trilby is fab, but I'd probably start talking like some 1940s detective in New York

Um... no

Is it possible to wear a cloche without looking like an old lady, because I quite like them

This one looks a bit Miss Marple
Or maybe a beret?
I think I'm going to have to bite the bullet and go shopping in a real store to try some on. 

Do you wear a hat?

Thursday, 4 October 2012

7 Pinterest Boards You Need To Follow Right Now

It's no secret I love Pinterest. It's not just responsible for reviving my cooking mojo when I get bored of trying to think of new and interesting things to make for dinner, it's a top resource for just about everything, brilliant inspiration, and a great way to procrastinate while simultaneously being productive (I mean, all those Pins are going to be used at some point, right?)

Here is my top pick of boards I think you should be following right now

1. For Family Meals
Six Sisters' Stuff - Recipes
I lurve Six Sisters and pin a lot of their stuff. I don't always make it and sometimes I just pin because the pictures look nice, but they're my go-to for inspiration when I'm totally stuck with meal planning. Some recipes I follow faithfully and others I adapt to suit, but I never walk away empty handed.

Honouable Mention:
Picky Palate - Dinner Time. I could eat just about everything on here, and her blog is good too.

2. For Sweet Stuff and Baking
Geraldine Frahm - Cupcakes!
485 pins (at the time of writing) and everyone of them a cupcake gem. It's a treasure trove that I salivate over even though I haven't a hope of making at least half of them, or making the other half look half as good.

Honourable Mention:
Carolyn Mann - Sweets plenty of easy looking sweet treats for occasions and everyday. 

3. For Homes
Bridget ( - Houses I Love
Pictures of gorgeous houses that make me want to click through and daydream. Bridget has plenty of amazing boards which are well worth following as well as this one, but this is probably my favourite at the moment.

Honourable Mention:
Renae Dudley - home sweet home lots of lovely home interiors with gorgeous colour and things

4. For Fashion
Laura Lowery - My Style
I probably like this board so much because a lot of it is to my taste, but it's worth following for the variety of sources her pins come from. I've found some great sites and fashion bloggers I would never have known about if I hadn't clicked through from some of these pins.

Honourable Mention
Nicole Román - Oh You Fancy, huh!? not so much for the clothes, but more for the variety and the sites they come from.

5. For Crafts you don't need a PhD in craftyness to do
Rowena Jongejan - DIY
Ro's style is faultless and she's got a great range of projects here, both fashion and home related.

Honourable Mention
Kirsty Colquhoun - General Crafts only an honourable mention because I couldn't decide which crafty board I liked the most to make it my favourite. She's a pinner I love to follow, especially her 365 Pinterest Challenge board and blog.

6. For Kids
Nicole Clikeman - The future teacher in me! 
Fun and educational activities and a great range of originating websites so you can dig even further.

Honourable Mention
Sally WeWantApps! - Lego well, because it's LEGO... duh!

7. For Everything Else
So many fab pictures of awesome places, both natural and man made. I especially love the buildings she pins. 

Honourable Mention
Teresa Osborne - Hiiiilllllarrrioussss! honestly, it could have been one of a number of boards but this one has made me chuckle recently. 

So there you have it, my favourite 7 (ok, 14) Pinterest boards to follow at the moment. If you like what you've seen here then follow me on Pinterest and you'll see more of what I am pinning.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Random Likings

  1. I'm Not Right In The Head
It's not a statement about my state of mind, but it is one of those time wasting sites I am so good at finding when I am supposed to be working. Since it's always something legitimately work-related that leads me to them I feel no guilt for having a good look and chuckle.

2. Zara's plaited shopper
I know I pinned this yesterday, but I'm putting it here with the hope my husband sees it and gets the hint. Seeing Kate's blog post about her tan one made up my mind

3. melin tregwynt
I have my eye on one of these gorgeous woolen blankets, but I am tossing up between these and trying to find an recycled Welsh wool one. Or maybe both? It depends how cold it gets. I have seen these in real life and they are stunning. Soft, warm, durable and should last a life time. It's around £80 for a blanket, I think, so not unreasonable for great quality. See more here:

4. November Lifestyle Magazines
This is where Christmas starts for me, tucked up with Good Housekeeping, Woman & Home and all the lovely Christmas brochures looking at lovely gift ideas and usually buying none of it.

 5. Lance Armstrong winning the SuperFrog Triathlon in budgie smugglers (and it looks like he's naked at the finish line). Why can't Olympic swimmers follow his fashion lead? I'm all about the sport, me.
Cracked me up, sorry.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Meal Planning Monday - 1 October 2012

Happy Monday and welcome to October. Mmm... October. You know what that means. Extra layers, cosy food and plenty of root veg in season. Eat the Season is great if you want to meal plan by what is fresh and good at the moment. 

This week I'm making

Waitrose Creamy Gammon and Veg Pie (will blog this later in the week)
Frittata (I think my eggs are multiplying)

I've also got to bake some biccies for the kids lunchboxes. Last week's digestives destined for the s'mores cookies got eaten before I could use them for their intended purpose, so I might do some rocky-road style ones with the marshmallows and choc-chips I have left over.

Remember to check out Mrs M's linky for more Meal Planning Monday posts and let me know if you've had any successes or failures recently.