Monday, 25 March 2013

Meal Planning Monday - 25 March 2013

Welcome to another Monday. I actually have my shit together this week, doubly impressive since it is school holidays here and we've started with one stomach bug (5 year old) and a packed schedule that hasn't allowed sufficient time for sleep (10 year old). Let's hope things calm down soon!

This week we are eating:
roasted chicken breast with garlic mushrooms
beef casserole and dumplings
pork schnitzel and ratatouille
brekkie for dinner (or brinner, as I've seen it called)
baked fajitas

I have no plans to bake this week. In preparation for Sunday's choc-fest and next week's visit to Cadbury's World I aim to fill the kids with as much fruit and veg as I can. 

If you're looking for more inspiration check out Mrs M's linky and don't forget the Shared Family Favourites Pinterest board. Just leave me a message if you want to be able to contribute.

Have a sensational week everyone, and Happy Easter!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Fab Blog Giveaways and Competitions you Will Not Want to Miss!

I have seen some fab competitions and giveaways on my favourite blogs recently offering everything from Foresty Explorer passes (Coombe Mill and Mummy Mummy Mum) to birdie bedding (At Home With Mrs M!) Here is a list of what I know to be going on in case you want to try your luck.

Did you know you can search for open Rafflecopter competitons and other giveaways at There may be some among you who already knew about this cool site but I only discovered it this morning when looking for a comp I had seen and wanted to enter. Just put "rafflecopter" in the search box and voila, today there are 5 pages of them.Since Rafflecopter is a popular way for bloggers to run giveaways it is a very handy tool to have in your arsenal of luck because, as everyone knows, you've got to be in it to win it! Prizefinder is also great for Twitter and Facebook competitions.

Other giveaways you might want to enter are
Palmer's Lip and Hand Goodies at Purple Mum  - closes 30 March
Imperial Leather Shower Gels at The Sunday Girl - closes 31 March
A banger boosting Wonderbra at HiFashion - closes 27 March
£50 gift voucher for Caseable at Phyrra - closes midnight 27 March
£20 voucher for Stuck on You at Modern Mummy - closes midnight 23 March
A heap of goodies at Sweet Monday - closes 25 March
The cutest baby boy's clothes at Mama UK - closes 25 March
An amazing Easter hamper at Gone Digging  - closes midnight Fri 29 March
Mike the Knight DVD at Boo, Roo and Tigger Too - closes 1 April
A whopping £400 to spend at Stork Up - ends 14 April
An Angel Delights Bracelet at My Little 3 and Me - ends midnight 2 April
Little Dinos board book series at Supernanny Jo Frost - ends 1 April

ETA - am updating with a few more I have found
Win Sooty Magic Show DVDs at One Dad Three Girls
Room on the Broom DVD at Mummy Alarm
Jolly Wobbles goodies at ET Speaks from Home
A Flexi-fit & Pourty Potty at Bernice Baby
Set Of Four Ohyo Water Bottles at Mummy Be Beautiful 
£30 Amazon voucher at Attachment Mummy
Microscooter Rucksack at Attachment Mummy
Personalised Wall Art at Love Chic Living

If you know of, or are running, a blog competition or giveaway that isn't listed here put the in the comments so everyone can see.

Good luck!

Disclaimer: I have already entered these so if you win something and I do not, I may have a little stroppy tantrum because I'm immature like that. Just kidding... kind of.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Oui Oui, Paris!

I apologise to friends on Facebook and Instagram who have already seen this pics, but I am still in love with my weekend away in Paris and I want to relive it for a little longer. I am not sure if it's because it was my first weekend away without my for well over a decade, or if it's because I saw new bits of Paris I hadn't seen before, or a combination of both. Either way, it was amazingly fantastically incredible and I am putting my favourite photos here so I can see them and daydream whenever I want.

Eiffel Tower
Kitchen Kitsch and Runway-ready Umbrellas

Sacre Coeur

Rooftop Balcony

Macaron Utopia

River Seine at Night

Pont des Arts Love Padlocks

Monday, 18 March 2013

(Not a) Meal Planning Monday - 18 March 2013

I don't have a meal planning Monday post this week because it's pretty much going to be leftovers. The recipes I have been cooking have been quite large so I have several portions of roast beef (slice it and freeze it in gravy to keep it lovely and moist*), pea and ham soup, and pulled pork sitting smugly in my freezer. 

What I am going to share with you is the perfect Yorkshire pudding recipe. I the past I either used Margaret Fulton's Yorkshire puff recipe or just chucked the ingredients in a bowl until it looked the like the right consistency. Both were ok, but sometimes they cooked a little too unevenly or quickly in my current oven, leading to occasional disappointing results. Well, not any more! I have found THE best Yorkshire pudding recipe. Try this and you'll never go back, I promise** It's from BBC's Good Food and is simply
140g plain flour
200ml milk
2 eggs
pinch salt

Mix and leave to stand for at least 30 mins. You should always let your pudding or pancake batter stand. I don't know the ins and outs, but it always cooks better. Do the normal bit about getting your fat sizzling, smoking hot before pouring the batter in and cook at 210C / Gas Mark 8 for about 20 minutes for little puds, or 25-30 minutes for a large one. It comes out all golden and puffy before sinking into an dense, squidgy delight so good you might not even both with the meat. 

I've made this twice now and it's turned out perfectly both times. See for yourself

Another recipe I tried this week came from The Girl Who Ate Everything and it's her Chocolate Eclair Cake It's one I posted on a thread last week when I was trying to decide on my birthday cake. I don't have a picture (it didn't look as nice as hers) but you can take my word that it was gorgeous! It does require you making the base the night before (or in the morning of) as it needs to be completely cold. Her recipe calls for vanilla pudding mix. I couldn't find this so I used Asda's Creme Brulee mix and it was ideal. I am ashamed to say it only lasted a day and a half and that I ate a sizable part of it.

If you want some actual Meal Planning Monday inspiration remember to check out Mrs M's linky. I'll do better next week, I promise.

*top tip - take that Delia!
** clearly, if it turns out badly I am not responsible, but if it's great I take full credit.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

It's a Birthday Cake Bonanza!

I know, I know... yesterday's post was all about eating healthily because I'd had loads of cake over the weekend but today's post is about cake. Well, since it's cake related I know there is no need to excuse myself.

It's my birthday at the end of next week and I am debating what cake I want to make. Last year it was Boston Cream Pie which was tasty, but not spectacular as I was hoping. I have been perusing my Pinterest board for inspiration but I can't make up my mind. Please help! I want it to be pretty special - more dessert than mere cake.

This is what I have narrowed it down to:

Caramel Fudge Brownie Cheesecake
Add caption

Candy Apple Pie
Chocolate Midnight Pie
Caramel Brownie Trifle
Coconut Caramel Drizzle Pie
Better than Sex Cake 
I was considering profiteroles, but this looks even better!
What do you think I should choose, and do you have any other suggestions? Man, why do birthdays only happen once a year?

Monday, 11 March 2013

Meal Planning Monday - 11 March 2013

Whoops, I missed a week there, didn't I? I didn't feel like meal planning last week, but I can be rebellious like that sometimes. Rock 'n' roll. This week's plan is full of cheap healthy food because I spent the weekend in Paris eating mainly meat, cream and cakes. It was an amazing few days that involved things like this...

...and this
... and a little bit of this

This week we're having:
Slow cooker soft tacos with Quorn mince and quinoa (nicer than it sounds)
Pea and ham soup
Pot roast beef with all the trimmings
Quorn and crunchy veg stir fry
Quorn mince cottage pie with cauliflower and butternut mash
Spinach soup or risotto, depending on how I feel

The avoidance of meat and fatty foods is a deliberated attempt to give my digestive system a break. 

For more meal planning posts click on the picture at the top and go to Mrs M's linky.

Have a great week. 

Friday, 1 March 2013

Will Life End Without Screens? Telly Addicts going Cold Turkey

I've probably moaned on here before about how reliant my children - especially my 5 year old - are on screens for entertainment. Telly, computer, iPod, DS, Wii - you name it, they love it. I suspect the youngest would actually watch an advert on repeat rather than live a life without screens. I know that I am to blame. I work from home and all too often use the square (rectangle) baby sitter as distraction so I can finish what I need to. The amount of time both boys spend in front of screens has gradually crept up and is now at a level I think is completely and shamefully unacceptable - around 4 hours a day for the oldest and possibly more for the youngest as he wakes earlier.

We (husband and I) know it has an impact on their behaviour. The more they watch/play/stare the more they bicker and the cheekier they get towards us and it's reached a point where we're thoroughly fed up with having to tell them 3 or more times to do something (get dressed/unload the dishwasher/go to bed).We've done screen-bans in the past and this week I've decided to go from Sunday night until Friday after school with no screens for them. The only exception is the youngest gets 2 x 15 minute bursts of his school's online literacy games resource, but I am sitting with him.

I was interested to see if this had any impact on their behaviour and youngest's ability to play on his own. He's really bad at this - doesn't like spending time in his own company, prefers to be around others even if it involves watching his older brother on his iPod (not getting a turn, just being allowed to watch!)

Morning good. Kids gravitated to my laptop where I was working. Youngest wanted to go to breakfast club now there's no morning telly to distract him at home. Afternoon not bad. Youngest had 15 minutes on literacy games, wandered around for 15 minutes aimlessly then complained of boredom. Then he found some cardboard and started using it to make a lion's mane. Wow - he has an imagination after all! Oldest occupied playing LEGO and reading. Raucous game involving Nerf guns and lots of thumping ensued but no blood so I assumed all was well.At dinner at the table as a family - first time we have done this for ages (with the exception of when we go out to eat).

Another good morning. Request for telly from youngest but no problems when it was denied, even though I was working off and on. No breakfast club this morning but no issues occupying themselves until school time. Afternoon was fine. Youngest asked to go on literacy games again but I said no. Played a few card games as a family before kids went to bed. Husband and I had telly on while they were downstairs (we only have one TV) but they definitely didn't get their own shows.

Youngest seems to be sleeping later. Not sure if this has anything to do with lack of screens. Certainly the lack of arguing, pleading, cajoling and threatening to get them ready for school is! Youngest had 15 minutes of literacy games in afternoon but no pouting/tears/pleading when it was time to get off. Visitors distracted them for a bit and oldest went to park to play footy with a friend, then played footy in backyard with youngest before dinner. Loving these lighter evenings!

Surprisingly, it is the oldest who is missing screens the most. He gets bored at around 6.30-7pm, with lots of time to kill before his 8.30pm bedtime. He's been filling his time reading and drawing, but is itching to play games on his iPod or watch TV for some variety.

Morning fine. No hassles getting ready for school and out the door. Afternoon: asked boys if they wanted to go to the park and they um-ed and ah-ed for a bit and by the time they decided they wanted to, it was too late. I let them have an hour of screens tonight. They've been so good and they were really getting bored after nearly 4 days without any. There was a strict warning that any bickering over shows or whining when it was time to turn it off would result in no telly until Monday (yeah right, like I could get through a weekend without them having ANY screen time!) but the threat did the trick and they were fine.

Back to normal this morning. Youngest awake at 7am but got dressed as soon as he got up so I was happy to let him watch his shows until 8am. Again, no arguments and they were both out the door on time and without shouting. I have warned them not to expect the same levels of screens as they were enjoying before but with warmer weather and lighter evenings they won't want to watch as much anyway.

I was worried that the youngest's imagination wasn't very well developed but he's shown me this week he's got a cracking imagination when he chooses to use it. I thought I would get less work done in the afternoons/evenings if the boys were around wanting attention but actually it was about the same, which shows how unproductive that time of day is for me anyway (I am probably too busy on Pinterest and Twitter). There has been infinitely less shouting and arguing amongst the boys. It seems most of their arguing is the youngest wanting to watch what the oldest is doing online or his iPod, or the oldest getting impatient with the youngest when they play together on the Wii, so taking them out of the equation has led to a much calmer house this week.

So that's how our screen detox went. Have you ever done something similar? If so, what were the results?