Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Random Likings

It's been a while since I posted any of these. So much so that when I went back through the list of bookmarks, some of them were a bit out of date (Easter LEGO, anyone?)

1. Neatorama (www.neatorama.com)
My new favourite time wasting site. Looking for etiquette tips from the 1950s? Or what about a little medieval trivia for the next quiz night at Ye Olde Fighting Cocke? (or whatever medieval pubs were called). Or maybe you're just looking for a replacement Bob Marley magnet and finger puppet. It's all here.

2. Steve Backshall
Deadly 60 is my new favourite Sunday night programme. Not only does it afford me quality time with the kids, it's informative and entertaining. Apparently Steve is also smoking hot very fit, not that I tend to notice that sort of thing. But I've noticed been told you can see his six pack through a wetsuit. Apart from the frequency with which he removes his shirt, I enjoy his show because he's so darn enthusiastic about pretty much everything. I spend half my time thinking that he's nuts (he wades through alligator infested marshes, swims with sharks, and generally puts himself in a position I would run a mile from).

3. Florence china from Whittard
How gorgeous is this china? (Answer: very, obviously). I want it all and then some. I love, love, love Whittard's clipper style mugs because they are the perfect size and really stylish. They're nice enough to use for guests without being so precious that you worry if they get broken (£6 for the mug, but keep an eye out for sales). I adore the polka-dots and the colours of the Florence Range, which includes mugs, cups and saucers, tea pots, plates, and pasta bowls. Check it out at www.whittard.co.uk

4. Vibe Watches 
I am seriously debating treating myself to one of these build-your-own Vibe Watches, as seen here at Funky Watch (www.funkywatch.co.uk). Choose the colour face, band, case and bezel you want to create a completely unique and fairly robust looking watch. Parts cost from £2.50, with faces costing £19.50.

5. That's Nerdalicious
This is another timewasting informative website (www.thatsnerdalicious.com) I have bookmarked, but I can't remember when I did it, or what post prompted it.
Maybe it was this Japanese McDonald's French Fry holder for your car?

More than likely it was something to do with LEGO, like this customisable LEGO mug...

... or this incredible Ninjago cake (how clever!)

Anyway, if you have nerd tendencies or small boys to amuse, this site is a handy bookmark

Disclaimer: I have not been paid for, or asked to promote any of this stuff. It's purely things I have seen and liked in the course of my expert procrastinating very important work. I'm not saying I'd be adverse to a little something, and if Steve Backshall arrived on my doorstep bearing cake, coffee and a six pack I wouldn't turn him away, because turning someone with cake away is both a) rude and b) insane unless it looks like this, in which case slamming the door in their face is the only rational option


Monday, 22 April 2013

Meal Planning Monday - 22 April 2013

Hello and Happy Monday!

Surprise, surprise, I have no meal plan this week. In my defense it's because I have been given a new eating plan to follow and am yet to work out what meals I'll be making. Time, or lack of it, is driving me bonkers at the moment and I feel like a blue-arsed fly. I've taken the plunge and signed up for some personal training sessions which involve me eating 4-5 times a day. That is a LOT of meals to get my head around, never mind wrap my stomach around, and it's taking a little bit of effort.

A typical day now looks something like this: omelet with peppers & spinach; smoothie with strawberries, porridge oats, low fat yoghurt & skimmed milk; chicken stir fry with veg & noodles; meatloaf (added courgette) and veg. This day also included a bowl of chocolate yoghurt made with natural yoghurt, cocoa and a bit of honey but I ate that before I could photograph it. No calorie counting, but portion control and avoiding processed food and white carbs. I now need to go through the list of what sort of foods I should be trying to eat at specific meals and find recipes that fit. Once I have done that meal planning should be easy (she says, hopefully)

 If you have any protein breakfasts that don't include eggs please could you share them with me? I think that's going to be the trickiest meal to sort.

You'll find more Meal Planning Monday posts on Mrs M's linky

Sunday, 21 April 2013

My Feelgood Post

After my earlier whinge and moan I was determined to sort my rubbish mood out and get back into my happy, appreciative groove again. I read the other #R2BC posts from this week's blog hop and started looking for nice stories. Do you know what, it's so heartwarming that I didn't have to look far at all.

How about this London Marathon Proposal?
She said "yes" Congratulations!
And speaking of the London Marathon, there have been reports that the turnout this year was one of the largest ever, with runners and spectators showing support for those killed and injured in Boston last week.

John and Shoep

Do you remember this picture of John and his dog, Shoep? It showed John supporting his old friend in the water as it was the only way to ease the dog's arthritis enough for him to sleep. I found their official Facebook page that shows Shoep is doing well. There is also an official website that gives more information. So much money was donated as a result of this photo and the sentiment behind it that Shoep is pretty much guaranteed the best doggy healthcare for the rest of his life. A non-profit foundation (Schoep’s Legacy Foundation) has also been set up to improve animal and human welfare. Nice!

Dogs are so loving, as this touching story from the Huffington Post shows. These ones have been showing people affected by the Boston Marathon bombings their own brand of doggy comfort.

Finally, nothing fails to warm me right down to my toes like laughing babies.



I have lost my weekend mojo. I used to enjoy doing stuff with the kids as a family, or even just me and one or both of them, on the weekend but I just can't be bothered lately. I try and organise something they'll like, but they drag their feet and moan so much about getting dressed and ready that it just doesn't feel worth the effort. Sorry for the whinge, but it's got me down. I had planned to visit a National Trust place but they were all "we don't want to gooooooo!" I know if I'd taken them they would have enjoyed it, but some days I simply don't have the energy to wade through the moaning, whining, and UN-worthy negotiations to get them out of the house. It is the same for almost anywhere I suggest.

It's not like weekdays are particularly manic and they need the weekend to recover. Some weeks I barely leave the house so to be tied to it on the weekend is particularly depressing. Sundays have become a big work and chore filled drudge and, to be perfectly honest, my least favourite day of the week. DH is almost always out doing his own thing on Sunday, my eldest is almost always at a friend's place so it's just me and the little one. I should embrace it as an opportunity to spend quality time with him but it almost seems like something else to tick off my ever-increasing "to-do" list, which, at 7pm on Sunday, stands as:
  • iron school uniforms - at least for tomorrow
  • pull apart cooked chicken and bag it in meal portions
  • skim and freeze chicken stock
  • put sheets on kids beds
  • wash 5 year old's hair  
  • finish work (about 1-2 hours still to do)
Things also on my list I wanted to do today
  • vacuum
  • steam clean floors
  • go for a run
  • do all the washing (currently 3+ loads still do to)
  • meal plan for next week

Am I alone in feeling this way? I really need to bust out of my rut and find my happy weekend place.
I know this post seems weird coming hot on the heels of Friday's #R2BG post, but this weekend has really got me down, and I even had a few hours with friends yesterday!

What can I do next weekend to shake my Sunday blahs?

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Reasons to be Cheerful #R2BC

This week I am joining a newly discovered blog-hop started by Mummy From the Heart. It's not new - she's been running it for a few years now, but I've only just seen it (via Crazy with Twins ) and I love it. Listing good things makes me happy, and who doesn't want to start the day that way?

  1. I have plenty of freelance work for the foreseeable future. Better still, I seem to have cracked the whole scheduling of it and getting the home/work balance right (this week, anyway!)
  2. My youngest and I are having a day out together at Tredegar House on Sunday for free
  3. I have been eating well and exercising regularly and I feel so much better
  4. I am seeing a personal trainer today and really feel like I'm doing something positive for myself
  5. I have a new home magazine to browse through
  6. My husband recently got some medical results back and they were good :)
  7. We're all healthy
  8. I have some fab days and weekends planned over the next few months
  9. If I ignore the blustery rain going on this morning, it finally looks like spring has arrived! 
  10. The new Iron Man 3 film is out next week - hooray! 
  11. I have lots of new recipes I am looking forward to trying out over the following few weeks. My cooking mojo had been flagging but it's raring to go again.
None of these are massive but all of them make me glad and when I list them like that I'm a whole lotta happy for a Thursday morning. Why don't you join in with the #R2BC link too?

Monday, 15 April 2013

Meal Planning Monday - 15 April 2013

Welcome to another Monday. I'm just going to gloss over the fact that my Meal Planning posts are a little sporadic lately. You can rest assured I am eating, it's just that blogging is taking a bit of a back seat to everything else that is going on lately. I spend so many hours looking at a PC writing for other people's sites that there are occasions when writing for my own is simply not fun.

Here is what I have on the menu
Slow cooker beef and veg stew with cauliflower mustard mash
Chicken and mushroom pasta with roasted vegetable sauce (Ok, I confess... Asda fresh pasta and sauce!)
Chicken breast roasted with tomatoes & served with wilted spinach
Quorn stir fry with egg noodles
Brown soda bread, egg white omelet, ham and spinach
Crumpets, Quorn sausages, baked beans, crumpets, 2 x egg whites
Quorn shepherd's pie with butternut mash

If you haven't guessed by the omission of egg yolks and significant quantities of Quorn, I am trying to shift a few kilos (plus I had a lot of Quorn in the freezer from when it was 3 for £5 last month) 

I have to tell you about my favourite new food find this week: Rankin's Brown Soda Bread. Man, this stuff is delicious. All nutty and substantial, and really delicious with savoury or sweet toppings.

My other favourite foodie find this week is A Tasty Love Story.  It's written by a Danish woman and I like it as much for the photographs and styling as I do for the recipes. This recipe for Baked Breakfast Bars is on my list of new things to bake

Baked breakfast bars with muesli and raspberries

Have a great week! Remember to hook up with Mrs M's linky and check out more Meal Planning Monday posts. 

Friday, 5 April 2013

Two Days in the West Midlands: a review of Cadbury World and Stratford-upon-Avon

Let me guess - you read the title of this blog post and had to click through straight away because, let's face it, it's on-the-edge-of-your-seat-exciting!  We just got back from two days in the West Midlands and while the kids are still playing nicely (I know! Amazing, right?) I am taking the opportunity to upload some pics and get down my thoughts about our break. We have decided not to take a long holiday this year*. Instead we have scheduled a few days here and there to fit in around work. The plan was to go to Cadbury World and spend the night and the following day in Stratford-upon-Avon before moseying home down the M5 late on Friday afternoon.

Let's start with a review of Cadbury World. In short: don't bother. Seriously, next time I feel like spending £70+ (£48.something for the family ticket plus petrol, plus lunch on the way) I'm going to save myself the hassle and just set fire to a couple of twenties or something. What an overpriced pile of pants Cadbury World is; crowded, boring, and slightly stressful for someone who suffers from claustrophobia when in crowds (you're herded through various theatres in groups of 50 or so, and with groups going in every ten minutes it's kind of a rushed funnel to get in and out). I'm not saying we didn't learn a little about chocolate making, but no way did we get fifty smackers' worth of entertainment from it. Seriously, just let your kids loose in the chockie aisle of the supermarket with a tenner and you'll all have a better time. It's pretty rare I'll slate something so heartily but this is in no way a good value family outing. In fact, I think it's a pretty healthy rip-off. The only thing I was impressed with (apart from the 3 bars of free chocolate we were given each) was the friendliness and professionalism of the staff. Oh, and the eyebrow ad at the end. The kids liked the bubble catching game at the end, and the chocolate, and that was it.

We stayed at the Premier Inn Waterways in Stratford-upon-Avon. I definitely recommend it. It's pretty new, very clean, and in a great location on the canal. It takes about 10 minutes to walk into the town and parking costs £1 overnight so you can leave your car there and do the rest on foot. The staff are lovely and the family room was a pretty generous size. That's not to say we got a great night's sleep but I don't think their guarantee extends to sharing the room with a child who talks almost as much in their sleep as they do when they are awake. The room was only £35 and I thought it was great value. We ate at Pizza Express and had a walk around town and down along the river by the RSC before heading back to the hotel.

Premier Inn brekkies are not the best value, and after wasting so much money on Cadbury World the day before I was keen not to chuck anymore away. We decided to head into the local Wetherspoon pub (The Golden Bee on Sheep Street where we were stuffed on about £12) before having a look around. I haven't been to Stratford-upon-Avon for over ten years, but given that it takes its fame from something that hasn't changed in over five centuries, I wasn't expecting to have missed much. It's a nice market down with the usual range of shops (White Company, Costa, Laura Ashley) and if I had been without the boys I would have enjoyed a mooch.

The kids were cold and not fussed about visiting Shakespeare's House so we bypassed that and headed a few miles out of town to the Stratford Armouries Museum. This is a great private collection of guns, armour, weapons and heaps of military memorabilia. The staff (volunteers) were so friendly and knowledgeable. We were lucky to be there on a day when the resident armourer was there, so we were able to get a close up look and hold at (decommissioned) guns and learned a lot. It was £20 for the four of us and we got more than double the entertainment that Cadbury World gave us - go figure! There is also a good indoor/outdoor playbarn (Henry's Castle), cafe and restaurant. It was too chilly to play outside and we had to head back, but it's certainly a place we'll go back to when next in the area.

I was really disappointed that Cadbury World didn't live up to my expectations. I don't know exactly what I expected, but certainly that it would be a lot more fun than it was. It seems to try and cater for everyone but, for our family, ended up pleasing no one. It's one off my Family Things to do in 2013 list, anyway.

If you've been to Cadbury World, what did you think? Are we in the minority with not liking it? It certainly seems so, given the number of visitors they get!

*unless summer is dire then I reserve the right to book a holiday somewhere warm in October if we can find one without having to mortgage our souls