Sunday, 30 September 2012

Bobchat - safari

At the safari park - driving through the monkey enclosure at great risk to the car - purely for the Bob's viewing pleasure on his second birthday.

H - Mummy, look!
M - Yes, darling! Look at the monkeys!
H - No, mummy, Ford Focus!
D - sarcastically Yes, Harry how exciting a wild Ford Focus!
H - WILD Ford Focus, mummy!

Guess what he told everyone about what he saw at the safari park. *sigh*.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Chicken Korma and Peshwari Naan

When I made curry, I was rather pleased with my culinary efforts and so was the husband, so I thought I'd note it down for posterity.

As I have previously stated, I am in no way, shape or form any kind of domestic goddess. I tend rather towards the 'lazy', particularly in my less liked tasks. One of which is definitely cooking. I will never quite understand why I can so heartily detest the art of cooking when I find baking therapeutic. Some might say that they are closely related, but I can tell you now, cooking practically brings me out in hives, and baking calms me right down so...

This is one of the reasons, perhaps, why I don't mind this meal as much. Like the ubiquitous homemade pizzas, this meal retains a little of the baking goodness - I guess anything that uses the KitchenAid is a good thing (of course I am going to have to state here that you can also knead the dough by hand, but I'm also going to try to subconsciously ignore that fact, as doing all this stuff by hand kind of suggests I don't need the KitchenAid, when I quite obviously do!)

First I made the naan bread dough - a few hours before the meal as that was when I had a spare moment. I turned to the BBC recipe pages, which I generally find quite good (and usually pop up quite early on Google, haha). I used this recipe, although I only used half and didn't really measure the liquids - just chucked in some milk and oil until I could scooch my dough hook around in the bowl to make some recognisable dough. I left it to knead itself and played with my son in the garden. (Thank you KitchenAid, what a much better mother you make me! Let's ignore the fact I fed him 'breakfast' for dinner last night, shall we...)

After proving I decided I wanted to concoct them into peshwari naan. To do this, I got out my block of Creamed Coconut - this is a store cupboard essential as it also features in the curry sauce. I heard a little rumour that coconut fats are really quite healthy, so that makes it much healthier than the 'cream' option suggested on the curry jar. I'm not going to research it just in case I am proven wrong - but feel free to do so yourself if that floats your boat. You will also need raisins and I put in some ground almonds because I had some.

Mix together the coconut, about half an inch of the block, a handful of raisins and a sprinkling of ground almonds. When your dough has proved, split it into 2 (remember, I halved the attached recipe). It should stretch quite satisfyingly and be quite fun to work with. Flatten/stretch it out - I didn't roll, I just used my hands - into a roughly circular shape and place your filling in the centre, folding over like some kind of exotic pasty. I did this a good couple of hours before cooking and it didn't seem to have any adverse effects. I followed the recipe for the cooking part. Do remember to heat up the baking tray, as that is how the bottom gets cooked. I didn't 'serve with butter' - too much faff for me!

I use a little jar of Korma Curry Paste to make my curry. I basically follow the instructions on the jar to start with - soften the onions, add the paste, brown the chicken (I usually use thighs rather than breast), add some water. However, I don't add cream, as it isn't something we keep in and using a third of a pot in a curry sauce just means we scoff the rest - or, as we aren't great pudding eaters, it goes off. Instead, just crumble in about an inch of creamed coconut to add the creamy-ness. It suits us anyway, and it's a great tip I picked up from my mum who is the queen of store cupboard cooking. What I like about this meal is I have everything in to make it, and just have to pick up the chicken (or keep some in the freezer) so it makes it super easy.

And here is where I wish I'd taken a photo to add to the post... sorry guys. My naans looked like naans though, which is quite a triumph I think!

Happy Eating!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful

This is going to have to be a super quick one this week, as I am very busy!

1. I am starting breastfeeding peer support training this morning - I wanted to do this after having Harry, but unfortunately the actual training sessions took place after I returned to work on a day I was working which was a realy shame. I am really hoping that this time round I am going to be able to complete the training and get the qualification, I'm sure it will be an eye opener!

2. I am starting to fit back into some of my 'fat' clothes! It makes such a change to be able to thrown on a pair of jeans or trousers instead of wearing leggings and tunics all day everyday. I'm not overly fussed about my weight - I'm more interested in staying fit, but it's horrible when you have a wardrobe full of nice clothes that you can't wear. I'm still a little way off fitting in some things - yesterday I was going into work, and couldn't quite get away with the trousers I wanted to wear (I could fit them on but they were a little bit figure hugging!) but I am getting there.

3. I finished another 'week' of Couch to 5k. I'm not getting through them quite on a weekly basis but there are only two weeks of the programme left. It's getting hard, but I am determined to complete it. Then I can join my local Park Run - exciting! I only hope I can make it 5k without collapsing!

Lookin forward to reading everyone else's R2BC!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Couch to 5k - Week 7

I completed week 7 today in monsoon conditions - it was literally like running through a waterfall. I have run for 25 minutes three times this week and I am quite proud of myself. It's hard though, and I'm worried about kicking it up a notch next week and again the following week. I've managed each step so far, I haven't had to repeat any podcasts but running for 30 minutes seems like a looooong time. Can I do it? Only time will tell!

On Friday I have a hospital appointment stemming from some knee pain I experienced in about week 3. It was bad enough to cause me to go to the doctor, who agreed that it was likely to be caused by my flat feet. I'm supposed to be getting some kind of inserts for my shoes on Friday. However, I haven't experienced any joint pain at all since, so I am a bit worried I might be wasting their time. At least I finally get an opinion on my feet though I guess - I had treatment for them as a child/teen but nothing since. I'm a little worried that my running will suffer because I am trying to change the alignment of my joints - it would be such a shame after coming so far - but I suppose I just have to wait and see what they say.

I think the main reason why C25k has worked for me so far is that it is such a small portion of your day. Most people could probably squeeze in 30 minutes for themselves 3 times a week. It is hard with a toddler and a breastfeeding baby (not on a routine), but I manage with the support of daddy. I think it helps that I have experienced no muscle pain/soreness at all, so it's easy to go out for the run, get it over and done with and feel good about yourself, then forget that you have done anything! I think the main thing I've had to work on is my aerobic fitness, which is why I started running - to be able to play better with my two gorgeous boys - so that's a good thing. It is so so hard when the podcast tells you you are *only* halfway through and every breath feels like an effort but worth it I hope! And I keep telling myself that once I get to the magical 30 minutes I will stick just to that for a few weeks, and it will hopefully just feel easier each time. I hope.

Bobchat - Fast awake

H - It's morning time, it's not dark hennymore! I am fast awake!

Makes more sense than fast asleep when you think about it!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Bobchat - Es

Whilst listening to 90s Number Ones
H- E's are good, E's are good...

Hmm -perhaps not the best song to be repeating!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Bobchat - 'mage

After dinner

M - Harry, would you like a fromage frais?
H - Yes PLEASE mummy! 'Mage PLEASE!
M - What flavour would you like?
H - Brocolli!
M - Brocolli?
H - Yes mummy, brocolli 'mage PLEASE!
M - Do you mean apricot?
H - Apreecock. Apreecock 'mage please mummy.

Glad we got to the bottom of that one - brocolli fromage frais sounds rank!

Monday Meal Planning

This week my parents are staying with us, so I will be cooking for 4 adults and one Bob - this requires a little more thinking ahead for exactly what we will eat just to make sure that I get enough stuff in for everyone.

Monday 24th September - Homemade Pizzas and Dough Balls (my first try at dough balls last week was very successful :-) proud face). Fruit and ice cream for pudding.

Tuesday 25th September - Spaghetti Bolognese with foccacia if I can find a KitchenAid recipe!
Cheesecake for pudding (not my own... I don't think - maybe I will try! Anyone have an easy recipe?).

Wednesday 26th September - Chicken Curry with Naan bread (dare I make my own?!) Vienetta for pudding (ice cream cake, Harry's favourite)

Thursday 27th September - Chicken Caesar Salad. Banana Splits for pudding.

Friday 28th September - Fish and Chips. Fruit and ice cream for pudding.

Saturday 29th September - Burgers and Chips. Cakes for pudding (if I have time to make them!)

Sunday 30th September - Roast dinner of some variety (OH's domain!)

Sunday, 23 September 2012


Another of our favourite activities is to make cakes - this is a dual purpose activity - we can make them AND eat them! Harry particularly likes using the new 'cement mixer' - KitchenAid. Let's hope he doesn't try to make actual cement in it :-/

First there is the measuring. I like to use recipes in cups because I think it's a little easier to understand. Harry can read all of his numbers up to 12 so he can help to read the recipe now which is lovely. He's not that dextrous at getting things into the bowl though, as you can see from the picture...

I did have a picture here of Harry licking the paddle (another key part of cake baking, I'm sure you all agree) but being the camera novice I am I couldn't figure out how to rotate it!

Once the cakes are in the oven, it's time to do some washing up...

...and to clean down the side. I'll be honest, I had to do it again after he'd finished, but he did a good job for a 2 year old and it kept him busy for the 10 minutes they were cooking!

Finally time to scoff a cake (and gloat at the baby who isn't allowed one...)

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Bobchat - Playing Cows

Whilst playing with the Brio train set
H - Mummy you play cow
M - OK, what is the cow doing?
H - Looks up incredulously Cow say moo!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Bobchat - The Dark

H - Look, it's dark!
M - looking up at the cloudy sky Well, it's not dark, but it's a bit gloomy.
H - No, it's DARK!
M - Well, it's just the clouds over the sun.
H - looks at me in disgust at my stupidity Mummy, it's DARK!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful

I have a surfeit of things to be cheerful about, but what I really like about Thursdays is that I am forced to sit down and take stock of these things and think really carefully about them. I think it really helps to do this, and focus on a few specific things that really make you happy -  it helps me to stay focused.

1. I nearly named my blog 'Charmed', because I really do feel so blessed and feel like I live a charmed life - I have so much everyday to be thankful for. I have a lovely home (albeit in the process of being transformed), a wonderful husband and two gorgeous boys who make me smile every single day. We are all healthy and happy. I'm sure I've used this one before, but what better reason is there to be happy?

2. Last night Archie laughed his first real 'sense of humour' laugh. Sadly, it does seem like his sense of humour tends towards the silly *sigh* - what's new in a household of boys (I am sadly outnumbered!). Daddy was making silly faces over the table at him (during our romantic dinner after the toddler had gone to bed, haha) and he was chuckling away in a manner I've only seen him do when being tickled up to now. It was super cute - he is nearly 4 months now and getting to an age when he can really 'play'.

3. I have had a fairly productive week of 'sorting' - I've sorted the EHIC cards for an upcoming holiday, which was more complicated than it seems as we have changed address and all sorts since we last had them. I've been calling nurseries and childminders, trying to arrange visits for next week when my parents are here to help, and as much as it pains me, I do think I am making some progress. So I'm quite happy with myself about these things. I really do struggle with talking on the phone and taking those initial steps to 'sort things out'. I've also been doing my best to clear what will eventually become Harry's room and quite a lot of the 'stuff' which has been hanging around since we moved is now in more sensible places. The room needs a complete overhaul so next step will be sanding down all the gloss work and getting some paint up. I'd love to see anyone's ideas for a little boy's room, as we keep going around and around in circles at the moment.

Thanks for reading - can't wait to read everyone else's reasons to be cheerful this week!

Bacon Pasta Recipe

OK, so this is probably all second nature to some people but I am always envious of my friend Sarah (a.k.a. the true Domestic Goddess) who can whip up a tasty sauce for pasta in no time. Luckily Harry, Archie and I get over there once every couple of weeks and are always provided with a yummy lunch (and some inspiration on the side).

Recently I've been thinking about 'pairs' of meals to avoid food wastage. We are only a family of 3 meal-eaters (Archie, sorry, you  are too little for food!) and that means that I can sometimes have food left over, so I try to figure out tasty ways to use it up. For instance, when we have Roast Chicken, we will usually have home made Chicken Pizzas the following week (thanks, KitchenAid!) I find that meal planning each week is a great way to figure this out. Before I planned out meals I used to find we had a lot more wastage because I'd forget all about using that last bit up.

When Club Sandwiches are on the menu I only use half a pack of bacon so Wednesday's meal this week is Bacon and Tomato Pasta and this is how I do it:

3-4 rashers of bacon (I like streaky and smoked, which also works well in our Club Sandwiches)
1 onion
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Tomato Puree

I literally just fry off the bacon and onions and chuck in the tomatoes, but the real key to this recipe is to leave it simmering for a good 20 minutes or half an hour if you have time. I find it really needs this time to sweeten up and when it has had that time it is a really sweet, tasty sauce. While it's simmering, cook up whatever pasta is your favourite, and serve either stirred together or with sauce on top. Oh, and don't forget the grated cheese ;-)

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Bob's Top 5 - Non Fiction Books

Any non-fiction book with even a tenuous link to vehicles is a good book in Bob's world. In fact these are the books we turn to time and time again, he loves to learn about exactly how things work and what the world around us does.

Busy Day at the Airport (Busy Books...)
1. 'Busy Airport: A lift-the-flap learning book' - This book has so much detail on every page that there will always be something to talk about. Harry has always particularly liked one man with a grey beard who he calls 'Ho ho'! You can follow the passengers through the airport and see them each step of the way so little ones can be well prepared for a plane journey. My only problem is that the copy we have is pretty large for fitting in hand luggage as I'd like to take it to the airport with us. I have seen other books in the same series in a smaller size though so you could probably get it smaller.

2. This is My Tractor (Mega Machine Drivers) - This is a pretty old book, I picked it up in the library book sale for 20p! It's definitely paid for itself many times over though. The book has lots of interesting facts about Charlie and his tractor (a John Deere, no less!) and it has a really appropriate amount of detail for Harry's age right now, pointing out all the different parts of the tractor and what they are used for.

3. The Usborne Big Book of Big Trucks - We bought this for Harry as a birthday present as it s quite expensive. It's a massive book though, with loads and loads of interesting facts and features of each truck and massive fold out pages. We've actually bought him a similar book for Christmas (shh, don't tell him) as we were so impressed with this one. It will definitely last for years, as there are lots of 'Guiness Book of World Records' style facts in it to keep him engrossed.

4. 'Cars' (Michelin I spy book) - This book has been a godsend for us, although it may not appeal to other toddlers Harry's age. It's nice and small and often gets thrown in my bag with a couple of toy cars if we are going out and about somewhere we might need distractions. Harry is absolutely obsessed with cars, and before his 2nd birthday could name lots of car brands from their logo or even just the shape of the car. We got this book so we could learn even more car brands with him, and we also use it to compare to his little toy cars to see which models he has. He can now name every single brand in this book when he sees them out on the road as well as some more unusual brands that aren't even included! He knows lots of specific car models too. Now he is keen on road signs, so we are looking out for a similar book!


5. Thomas the Tank Engine Haynes Manual - We don't actually own this book, but I'd really recommend it for any Thomas lovers out there. We got a copy out from my mum and dad's local library whilst we were on holiday there and I have learned so much! Like the difference between a tank engine and a tender engine, why Percy is chubbier around the middle (he didn't eat all the pies, he's a saddle tank engine, doncha know!). It's full of interesting facts and I have recently seen it in our local library too, so I'm sure we will borrow it again!

Bobchat - toes

M - Right, we'd better get dressed to go out.
H - My not dressed. My got toes on (pointing to feet with no socks) my got feet on.

The Land of Why

I was tagged in this post by Mama Owl in 'The Land of Why' which started over at Mummy Central.

As a mum of a toddler I am always dreading those 'whys' that are so difficult to answer - 'Why is the sky blue?' (or not, as is usually the case in my place of the world), 'Why is the sea salty?', 'Why can't I... (insert banned activity here)'

Harry's not really got to this stage quite yet, but I've no doubt it will come and although it's just a sign of their wonderful development, I'm sure all parents feel like snapping 'Just because!' when it becomes particularly wearing.

Here are a few of my whys:

Why does one of my children wake at 5.30am - then go back to sleep at 7.30am only for the other to wake at 7.45?

Why does my husband find it so easy to drop off to sleep at night even though I'm the one exhausted from night feeds?

Why do you hate the idea of going out, but love it when we are there? (And why, when I am too tired to fight you and agree to stay in, why are you a complete pain?)

Why do I have to go back to work, and why is it so so hard to find the childcare I want to suit my children?

Why do people always think Bob is a girl just because he has long hair?

Why do I feel the need to buckle to parenting peer pressure - why can't I just do things at my own pace?

Why is it that I never have enough room for everything even though I try so hard to fit to the mantra 'a place for everything and everything in its place?'

And the biggest one...
Why do you have to grow up so quickly and why, oh why does time go so fast?

The Rules
  1. Post your whys – as few or as many as you like
  2. Link up your post with Mummy Central and post a comment if you can
  3. Tag 5 bloggers to keep this going
  4. If you’re not a blogger, leave your whys as a comment below. We’d love to read them
  5. Show your support by reading a few others and commenting on them.

Who I'm tagging

Mutterings of a Fool
Bare Naked Mummy
The Mini Mes and Me
Lakes Single Mum
My Darlings and Me

Monday, 17 September 2012

Meal Plan Monday

Monday 17th September - Home made pizza and dough balls

Tuesday 18th September - Chicken Curry

Wednesday 19th September - Bacon and Tomato Pasta Sauce

Thursday 20th September - Club Sandwiches

Friday 21st September - Fish and Chips

Saturday 22nd September - Spaghetti Bolognese and Garlic Bread

Sunday 23rd September - Roast Chicken and all the trimmings (courtesy of OH :-) )

Sunday, 16 September 2012

C25K - Week 6

Well, I finally completed week 6! Only 3 weeks to go now, and I will have graduated the programme. Today I had to run 25 minutes - the goal is 30 so I am nearly there. The most I had done so far was a 20 minute run at the end of week 5 so I was pretty nervous. However, the plan works!! I didn't find it as hard as last week's long run - I was even able to speed up a little at the end. I'm proud I paced myself well (although I do run very slowly).

I've had a couple of barriers on the way. The first was a nasty fall nearly 3 weeks ago now. My arm has still not quite healed, although a couple of days ago was the first time I could leave it without a dressing. It was really horrible and I did have to take a good few days break from the programme both to recover physically and to psyche myself up mentally. However, C25K is obviously suited to those of us who are bloody-minded and determined! I got myself up and carried on, only to be hit by the first cold of the season (always the worst!) I didn't let it stop me too much, although I have taken slightly longer breaks between runs whilst suffering. I'm really hoping to get back to running evey other day now, although that's also tricky now it is getting dark earlier.

In other C25K news, I got my first cheer this week! I wear shorts similar to these - they are called 'Cheer on the Rear' shorts and obviously date back to my cheerleading days. This week was the first time that someone took the instruction literally and cheered as I went past! Always good to get a bit of support, haha!

Painting Rainbow Footprints

Harry asked to paint the other day, so I got out our washable Crayola paints. we use a bun tin as a paint palette so we can get all the colours out and I recently found a pack of all different types of paintbrushes at Home Bargains. Our favourites are 'footprints' - little sponge 'stampers' on the end of a wooden stick. We have two sizes - the one used here is the larger one.

We dipped the stamper into different colours of paint to make a 'rainbow' effect. Rainbows are one of Harry's favourite things ever so this was very popular!

We talked a little bit about how mixed colours make different colours - not sure he quite 'got' it, but never mind!

Then he got down to some serious painting!


I love watching Harryenjoy messy activities because for a loong while he really hated getting dirty and didn't find it fun. Now it seems like he takes a real pride in his 'work'!

We also found some time to do some handprints.

The chubby little handprint closest to you is Archie's! The others are all Harry's - he pretty soon covered the whole paper so I had to do another Archie-print to save. Archie's first go at painting!!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Vehicles and Sticky Faces

I thought I'd try to get down on the blog some of the things we regularly do to entertain ourselves - I love getting new ideas of thngs to do from other peoples' blogs, and I also think if I keep a record of things we do I can look back and glean some inspiration from my own blog on those days when it just seems impossible to think of anything!

As usual, you'll have to forgive the poor quality of the pictures as a) I am not the photographer of the family (you'll want Ian for that) and b) I was using my BlackBerry.

As is probably obvious from most of my posts, my boy is a little vehicle obsessed so our craft attempts are usually heavily vehicle based. I do try to introduce other elements into our play though - today was emotions. I picked up these great foamy face stickers from the pound shop one day. They are very tactile and also easy for toddlers to use - although Harry can't yet peel off the backing by himself.

First, I drew the outline of some vehicles with circular windows: a car, a bus, a rocket and a plane. Harry stuck the faces into the windows. As we stuck them in we talked about the different emotions depicted on the faces. He is very precise about where he sticks things, although as you can see his motor control with drawing and colouring is not quite there yet.


We usually use crayons to colour, but as a special treat today we got out his (extra washable) felt tip pens. They are much easier to make marks with than crayons, so he does find them quite satisfying! Here is his completed bus - he was very pleased with it!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful

It's Linky time! I'm excited to share this week's reasons to be cheerful... I just have to think of them first!!

1. I'm still getting that hopeful and happy autumn feeling, which is fabulous. This is no doubt helped by the fact we have had a fair bit of sunshine, despite a bit of a chill in the air so I have been out and about with the Bob and the Bear, manfully still having picnics in the park (even in the rain yesterday!) I kept getting reminded of an autumn holiday I took with my husband (then fiance) to the East coast of America the year I was pregnant with the Bob and feeling all nostalgic and wistful about the beautiful trees and the lovely time we had, so we have decided to embrace Hallow'een the American way and host a little get together for some of Bob's buds :-D

2. I realise he doesn't get featured much at the moment, but I just wanted to share what a little ray of sunshine the Bear is. This week he had his second jabs and didn't even cry, despite 2 days later featuring a bruise that covers nearly all of one of his (rather substantial I must admit) thighs. Poor little sausage. I love to have baby chats, baby snuggles and baby kisses. In all the excitement of toddlerhood I think I some times to forget to mention just how squishable and adorable he is.

3. And finally - this week's cold - the first of the season (oh, how I wish it would also be the last!) is just beginning to dissipate. I'm hoping to go out for  run when I gets in from work and also hope we will all be feeling normal again by the weekend when we have a cake photo shoot planned for a good friend who is starting a business as well as a bat walk on Friday. If feeling better isn't a reason to be cheerful, I don't know what is!

Brio Disaster!

Don't you just hate it when this happens to your Brio track? Must be some kind of metaphor for life going nowhere or something!
(Luckily I've ordered some magic double ended pieces that should be arriving tomorrow!)

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Bobchat - Favourites

M - What's your favourite animal, H?
H - Um... Tigers. And... Rhinos.... And Horses.
M - Oh, wow, you have lots of favourites! Anything else?
H - Dump Trucks!

Bob's Top 5 - Fiction Books

Books (in no particular order):

1. Bizzy Bear books - these super-sturdy books have a variety of moving parts that have stood up to the most vigorous toddler action! The text flows well, and there are lots of things to spot in the pictures and talk about. We have two - 'Off We Go!' and 'Let's Get to Work!'. I'm not planning on getting any more or I might never get to read any other books again!

2. Meg and Mog books - these books have great bright pictures and interesting adventures that Meg, Mog and Owl get up to. The stories are very short and simple and thus appeal to little ones. I can see Bob really enjoying reading these to himself when he gets a bit bigger as they are quite comic-like with sounds and actions a key part of the illustrations.

3. Aliens Love Underpants - I pretty much know this book off by heart now from reading it many many times as Bob sits on the potty (please don't ask about potty training, that's a whole post of its own!) It has just the right amount of 'silly' and 'ridiculous' to appeal to little boys. I have a feeling this book is just the start of that sort of thing - anticipating Bob diving into the 'Wimpy Kid' favouries when he gets older.

4. The Gruffalo - Finally we are at the stage where Harry enjoys 'proper' stories, and not just books about tractors with a few words on each page! The Gruffalo is a big favourite with both Harry and Daddy - nothing at all to do with my silly voices, I'm sure! They particularly like it when I say 'Gruffalo Crumble' - although Harry seems to think that is his name - First name 'Gruffalo', second name 'Crumble'. We regularly have Gruffalo searches both in the woods and the supermarket (no, I don't know why either). We're meeting him for real this week at our new library!

5. Peace at Last - OK, so this is *my* favourite. I think this story is just the right length - not too many things happen - and it has noises as well as an easily understanable story with a nice ending. I think Harry kind of likes that there is a Harry bear but no Archie bear, ha ha.

Neopolitan Cake

Firstly, I'd like to apologise because I got my inspiration for this cake from a blog I read the other day, but I can't for the life of me remember which blog it was! So if it was yours, or you know whose it was, please comment and I will edit this post.

Edited: The blog I was looking for was  The Organised Penguin - also looks like this is where I first saw Lakeland's Duo Piping Bags I link to below - so thanks on both counts :-)

So, I read this amazing blog post about neopolitan cupcakes and I thought YUM! Off I went to the shop to buy pink colouring and strawberry flavouring - I had everything else I needed. I really *should* have visited the local cake decorating shop to buy my colour as I usually buy the gel colouring from there when I want to colour cakes. I find that the liquid colour you can usually pick up in supermarkets is OK for icing but you can never get a vibrant cake colour with it. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I nipped into Tesco to find Silver Spoon 'Colour Creator' in pink (and lilac, which I might well be going back for - another step in getting all my rainbow colours!) for just 79p. That's a lot cheaper than the gel stuff I usually buy.

Making this cake was a great excuse to use the magnificent KitchenAid, which whizzes up cake batter in a matter of seconds, enabling you to grease trays, lay out cupcake cases and begin tidying up whilst your cake mix is getting beaten. I chucked in all the ingredients - I'm a bit lazy and tend to use a VERY easy recipe from Baking Magic by Kate Shirazi - I even use the 'cups' version as it's even easier - I have these amazing russian doll cup measurers from Fred I got for a present once. That company is a great one to turn to for funky kitchen gadgets if you ever need a present for someone who likes baking/cooking!

After whizzing up the mix (as I said I am a lazy baker and figure extra whizzing makes up for things like sieving the flour - I don't think I am GBBO material just yet ;-) ) I separated it out into 3 parts, adding a spoonful of cocoa powder to one, vanilla essence to another and both strawberry flavouring and pink colour to the third.

I decided that instead of cupcakes I would make the cake in a loaf tin to add to the 'neopolitan' style. I carefully spooned the mix into the tin in stripes. I added the cocoa first as the mix was firmest due to the added cocoa (this recipe does give quite a firm cake batter, which helped), then the vanilla, then the strawberry. GBBO-ers would no doubt have fished out the piping bag to make this step a little smoother. As you can see, in typical lazy baker style I am using a silicone liner to save me from having to grease the tin.

My only problem was timing the bake. I find that loaf cakes take so much longer than you expect to cook - and this usually makes me turn bake to my trusting cup cakes or tray bakes which cook in about 12 minutes. I seemed to be waiting forever for this one.

It turned out looking quite good, although as you can see from the picture I clearly didn't split my mix quite evenly. The cake itself was also a little dense, although I think that was my fault for not beating it enough. This was my first time using the KitchenAid to make cakes, so that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

I think it would look great with nice tidy piped rows of buttercream icing on top, but decorating is not my forte really. Especially as this was just an experiment to be eaten at home - not sure we really need the extra sugar to be honest! Later I made cupcakes which turned out much lighter and still had a really good effect but what I really need to get my decorating on is one of the Lakeland Duo Piping Bags - or ideally for this bake one that does 3 colours - how cool would that look!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Bobchat - 'noman

M - What do you want to do today, Harry?
H - Make a 'noman.
M - A snowman?!
H - Yes, with a carrot nose.

Bit tricky in September :-/

Monday, 10 September 2012

Meal Plan Monday

A little short on time right now, but as we have just eaten our first meal of the week I thought I'd better get the rest of our meal plan up!

Monday - Chicken Caesar Salad
Tuesday - Hot dogs
Wednesday - Fish and Chips
Thursday -  Spaghetti Bolognese
Friday  - Chicken Curry
Saturday  - Chilli Wraps (using left over bolognese sauce)
Sunday - Roast Pork

Bobchat - Feeting

At the beach with Gran and Grandad

M- Look, Gran is paddling, she's putting her feet in the sea!
H - Looks up briefly. Returns to sandcastle.
M- Come on, Harry, let's go! Let's put our feet in!
H - Another cursory look towards the sea.
M- Right, I'm going to put my feet in, coming?

Paddling will now forever be known as 'feeting'!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Bobchat - John Deere

At the zoo
M - Wow, Harry, look over there! Reindeer!
H - John Deere!
M - No, darling those are called reindeer, look at their antlers!
H - No! Over dere! John Deere!
M - Realising he his pointing to a green and yellow tractor in the distance - I assume a John Deere one. Oh, yes. John Deere, well done darling.

Knew we should have just gone for a walk in the countryside - who needs exotic animals, eh?

C25k - Week 5

I did it! I wrote about my Couch to 5k journey before - the programme builds you up very slowly to start with - but now things are getting serious (am I the only one who always sings that phrase? ...are you thinking about you - or us? probably showing my age there ;-) ).

 I've never been a runner in my life - the only time I've been fit in the past is when working towards a cheerleading competition - and, to be honest, I used to watch runners and comment on how boring it looked, and wonder why on earth they would choose to do something so horrible. Then my 30th birthday was looming, and a holiday was coming and I realised I didn't want to just resort to saying 'Oh, I'm getting older' any more. I wanted to be up and running around with my boys, enjoying life. I know full well I will look back at photos of this time of my life and think Look, I was so young! I don't want to waste it! So I looked around for exercise that was free, easy to start and wouldn't take me away from my baby for too long. C25k was the winner!

Last night I ran (very slowly... well, jogged) for a full 20 minutes. Now, I'm not sure if any of you have tried running recently (aside from those people who are already super-fit reading), but I haven't done much for my fitness in years - since I was cheerleading at university. The first day of couch to 5k nearly killed me, I came home muscles aching and completely puffed out. I was also engergised from the exercise, but also a little demoralised - I'd only run for 8 minutes a minute at a time. I began to doubt that I would ever manage the programme. I know exactly what day that was - it was super Saturday of the olympics, and Jessica Ennis was just bringing home the heptathlon gold - what an inspiration our British athletes are to us all. I wasn't about to give up at the first hurdle.

Anyway, now the programme is really cranking up. the last run was two 8 minute jogs, and now I've done 2 minutes. From now I just have to run more and more each time until I am running the full 30 minutes. Then it will just be working on my speed and fitness and it will be time to keep it up through the weekend by particpating in my local Park Run. And you know what, I'm looking forward to it! To hark back to my cheerleading days - Bring It On!

Friday, 7 September 2012

The Unbearable Braveness of Toddlers

I am forever grateful that Harry is cautious little soul - he didn't walk until he *knew* he could, he never climbed the stairs when little (or, on that note, the sofas, tables or bookcases). I could always leave him to nip upstairs or to the loo without too much worry of the mischief he would get up to.

There were times when I worried a little about this (I mean, it's the mother's prerogative to worry about even the good things, right?)- what if he grew up to be over-cautious, what if he never wanted to do anything exciting - what if he was a wimp?! But most of the time I recognised his caution for the blessing it was, and thanked my lucky stars.

Now he is a little older and getting a little braver - this has its pay offs - he is no longer permanently attached to my side when out and about, and his new found experimentation has seen him even trying new foods he would never have touched before. But, oh my god, I have never felt so terrified in all my life! I never wanted to be a 'helicopter parent', and always felt quite smug that I'd avoided that particular parenting sin - making sure I never rushed over when he fell over and bumped, so proud of my big boy bouncing straight back up. However, I fear that I have recently recognised that as much as I tried to disguise it, helicopter is probably my default.

I first started to realise my failings when out and about with Harry's little buddy from the childminder, P. Now, P is a few months older than Harry and a bit bigger so he ran over to the big slide and up the ladder. The ladder that is way too big for Harry (which I am kind of glad of because it leads to a platform 6ft up in the air with two sheer drops). Of course, Harry comes over whinging for help - unfotunately for him me and P's mum both have a feeding baby attached. This happens 3 or 4 times 'Mummy, HELP me!' and then all goes quiet. I assume he has gone to play on something else. Until my heart skips a veat (well, probably several) as I look up and see him on the ruddy platform! Waving! With a great big smile on his face! The first thing he does after whizzing down the slide is rush over saying 'Yay, did it Mummy!' and of course I feel so proud of his determination, but also a little wrench in my heart every time I see him up there willing him to be careful. Meanwhile P's mum calmly chats, seemingly unperturbed by the peril they are putting themselves in.

Since then, I've tried really hard to relax a bit and let him get on with the dangerous life of being a toddler, but I nearly reached my limit the other day at the park. We go to this park because there is a great climbing frame with fast slides that is perfectly suited to little ones his age. Apart from this one terrifying bridge thing that last time he went on I literally only managed to avoid a head-meets-floor incident by grabbing his ankles (in my defence I was heavily pregnant!) One of his little friends happens to be there - great I thought - time to sit back and enjoy a mummy chat. Oh no, no, no. How wrong was I - the next minute we look up and... no they are not on the scary bridge thing. They are at the other end of the bloody park on the big kids climbing frame! Climbing up a ladder that goes vertically and then horizontally up to a platform at least 8 ft high! Each of gaps between the rungs would easily fit one of our little cherubs and send them hurtling to their doom. Hearts in our mouths we race over, between us managing one mum at the top and one at the bottom, ready to catch. You know what? Neither of them so much as slipped! They climbed up there at least 10 times each without so much as a shake. I tried it just once and was nearly rendered incapable of movement halfway up.

I was really proud, no doubt about it - my heli-blades were whirring at the speed of light, but I was proud. Needless to say we soon ushered them back to the other play area - and for some reason, that terrifying bridge didn't seem so bad any more. I let him get on with it whilst standing at least an arm's reach away!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Bobchat - Scones

At the meadow looking for ducks to feed

H - Oh look, a scone! A white one!
M - No, darling, you mean swan.

(You can guess which pronunciation of 'scone' we use in our house!)

Reasons to be Cheerful

This is my first R2BC post - thanks to Julie at Mama OWL for helping me out with this one!

There are always lots of reasons to be cheerful, but sometimes it is hard to remember and recognise them all, so I am really looking forward to doing a bit of reflection each week on what I am grateful for.

1. This week I have really realised what fantastic friends I have. To be honest, when I first moved away after university I felt pretty lonely and like I would never build up a friendship group again. Then I met some good friends through work, then I became pregnant with H and had H and met more friends that way, through Babycentre, NCT classes and baby groups, now I have made even more friends through work, and although I'm not the sort of person who is the centre of a big group of friends, I can honestly say that I have built some true friendships over the past few years. For the first time in a long time I have people I can call when I am down, and people who came out (despite difficult times of their own) to celebrate my birthday with myself and Harry. I'm so happy to have good, positive people around me who will support me through thick and thin.

2.  Being 30 - now, I've been pretty sensitive about this one. I'm not keen on getting older to be honest. I regularly find myself sighing over my grey hairs and trying to figure out just how much that wrinkle has deepened in recent years, but... Actually, when I look at everything I have: wonderful husband; beautiful home (thanks to that wonderful husband);  my two gorgeous boys, of course -  and finally, my career (albeit on hold at the moment) I realise that I've not done too badly in those 30 years. Bring on the next 30!

3. The autumn is here! I feel this might be a bit cheaty, as my inaugural blog post was all about my excitement about autumn and new starts, but hello! Chilly days! Nights drawing in! Cozy cuddles on the sofa! Wellies and muddy puddles! Spicy baking! Hallow'een and... the build up to the big C! Who couldn't be cheerful about all that :-)

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Bobchat - I wuv toys!

M - Right, time to get our shoes on - time to go to the Children's Centre.
H - (not looking too sure) There might be toys there.
M - Yes, yes, there will be toys there, I'm sure.
H - (jumping up) Good! I wuv toys!

One Day - Book Review

One Day is one of those books you just can't put down. I was gripped from the start, although it's not the sort of book I might have thought I would find so addictive, as I normally find books that focus on 'relationships' a little boring.

The characters aren't that inspiring - Dexter is particularly irritating - I guess he comes under the 'loveable rogue' type of character, and you do find yourself wanting to shake Emma (who gets reduced to 'Em' by Dexter) at times for being a bit pathetic. However, they are very 'real' and this really adds to their charm. I certainly found I could relate to the move in Emma from university 'lefty idealist' to someone who seems to get a bit stuck as your average middle class thirty-something.

Nicholls' style of writing is amazing; as I was reading I was thinking 'I wish I could write like this!' - his attention to the minutiae of every day life was so gripping and meant that you felt like you were experiencing the lives of the characters alongside them.

The idea of visiting the characters on a certain day was a stroke of genius - I paticularly liked the way it jumped over some 'key' events in the characters' lives (deaths, births etc) and therefore focused more on the impact of these events rather than dramatising them for their own sake. It was a great tool to use to demonstrate the development of the characters.

Another great literary tool was the use of letters and correspondence between the two characters. The way Nicholls manages to shift the narrative between them is very clever, and he manages it ina seamless fashion, even when the characters were on different continents.

However, on a personal note I do feel that novels that follow the lives of the characters in this way really can only ever have one direction. I felt so happy when the characters achieved goals and made progress - however, I felt the inevitable was always just around the corner and during Emma's bike ride I felt like I knew exactly what was going to happen. (I'm trying not to give away too much here!) I was sat there wishing for a different ending, hoping that Nicholls wasn't going to take the predictable route, but I was disappointed.

So a great, readable book - recommended. I think lots of people would love it. Although personally I wish some things ended up differently, I'm sure that's the bittersweet effect Nicholls was after.

Diaries of a Domestic Goddess...

Yesterday I was a domestic goddess - well, as close as I am ever likely to get anyway, ha ha! Of coure, first priority was having fun so we spent the morning at the Children's Centre playing, then came home for lunch and nap when I IRONED my BEDLINEN! I can't remember the last time I used the iron, but I suddenly had the urge to do it, as it was very crumpled after the wash. It looked nice and felt nice, but I fear the crispness will have worn off tonight. Oh well, once in a blue moon makes it all the more special, yes?

On the meal plan was homemade pizzas. It was time to face the KitchenAid - the most extravangent and wonderful birthday present from my gorgeouss husband (you may have seen them featured on the Great British Bake Off last night - first step pizza dough, second step miraculous piles of meringue... maybe).

Luckily with my powerful Google-Fu I was able to find a recipe here as my trusty-baking-friend is currently away on holiday (how selfish! Just when I need her most!) Equally luckily the recipe mostly consisted of 'Chuck all ingredients in and leave to prove' - this is my favourite type of recipe (hmm, on reflection maybe not yet ready for miraculous meringue concoctions a la GBBO).

After proving for an hour it was time to drag Harry out of the garden to construct the pizzas. The dough was super-cool to play with. I pretended I was a Pizza Express Chef by chucking it in the air and spinning it around between my fingers. Fun! Then we spread on the tomato and chose our toppings - we had a choice of mozzarella, cheddar, ham and chicken. Yum yum! Harry really enoyed this part, although he was a little stingy with the cheese so I had to help him out there.

Just in case you were wondering, the hand washing after we came in from the garden was rather, um... enthusiastic. Hence no t shirt.

I popped them in the over and they came out looking like golden pizza-y piles of yum. Which was the look I was going for, so hooray! I had forgotten to put salt in the dough though so it was a little bland but it was miles better than the non-yeast types of base I've made in the past and I am SO looking forward to making dough balls next time. I is buying garlic butter in bulk from work so we will be able to have the full pizzeria experience in our own home. Harry's looked like this - you'll have to excuse the quality of the photos, they are just quick snaps from my phone.


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Oh My Days!

I thought it would be interesting to get down on paper our daily routine... When Harry was a little baby we didn't have a routine, but I am a bit of a convert now. I try not to be too defined by it and let it spoil our day, but he does still need a nap at some point so we always try to squeeze it in. I think Harry is a little happier when he has an idea of the 'shape' of his days - he is the sort of person who loves order in his life (wonder where he got that from ;-) ) so it suits us to follow a similar pattern each day.

Archie can pretty much wake up/sleep at any time at the moment, so we just drag him along with us - he seems happy, lol!

7.30/8.00 - Harry wakes up - or, should I say he gets up, I'm pretty sure he lies awake in his cot considering the day before he asks to be got up. It's usually me who goes into him, but if Daddy is about sometimes he will get him up. We head downstairs for breakfast - for Harry a banana followed by a bowl of cereal.

8.30 until 9.30 ish - This is play time, get dressed time and get mummy an injection of tea time. Mostly all this happens in the lounge, I bring down all the clothes and nappies for the boys and get them dressed, then I sneak upstairs to get dressed myself and chuck on foundation, blusher and mascara. This is the half hour in which we are most likely to have the TV on - it's usually something like Alphablocks, Numtums and the dreaded Rhyme Rocket (which Harry loves and I hate).

9.30-11.30 ish - We try to get out every morning. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays there are groups that we go to at the local children's centres - a real god send. Otherwise we visit the local Animal Park, go to the park, go to town, go supermarket shopping or meet friends. If we don't go out in the morning or have friends over Harry goes stir crazy and I get stressed! He definitely needs that interaction. A snack gets slotted in somewhere along the way. Luckily Harry is a great walker, he holds onto the pram while I hold his reins and he just walks everywhere no matter how far really.

11.30-12 - Play time in the lounge whilst mummy gets lunch sorted

12-12.30 ish - Lunch time - we have some variety of toast/bread and cheese and ham most days - sometimes I bake up some scones, sometimes we grab something at the shop. If there is even the slightest bit of sun we usually picnic/eat in the garden - saves sweeping up!

12.30-1 - Nap time. I can delay Harry's nap time until 2/2.30 ish if we re busy/out for the day, but the day runs smoothest when he naps from 1-3/4. This is Archie time as he doesn't usually sleep the whole time. Otherwise it is housework time or reading time for mummy, depending on how much there is to do/how tired I am. I try to give myself some down time during nap time if I can. This is also when I try to prepare for dinner if there is any prep to be done.

3.30ish until 5.30 ish - Sometimes we make it out again - today we need to nip to the shop for stamps and to post my thank you letters. It's usually only little errands at this time rather than a big trip out. Harry will play with cars/trains usually at this time or we do craft activities, reading or puzzles together.

5.30-6 - Sometimes a bit of TV again if we have had a busy day. This is dinner cooking time. Anything that takes longer than 1/2 an hour to cook doesn't get cooked during the week!

6pm - Daddy gets in and dinner is on the table.

7-7.30 ish - Daddy and Harry play, mummy cleans the kitchen.

7.30 -Tidy up time (Harry does most of it - he is very particular about which box each toy goes in) followed by story time followed by racing Daddy upstairs followed by bed time. We try to complete as much of this without Archie screaming the house down! LOL!

8.30 ish - Mummy gets to sit on the sofa for an hour or so until Archie deems it bed time and we head up to bed!

Monday, 3 September 2012

Couch to 5k

Couch to 5k is an NHS programme that can be found here:

The basic idea is that you download aa sequence of free podcasts and they bring you up gradually from running 1 minute at a time to running for a full 30 minutes - in which time they estimate you can run about 5 kilometres.

Having recently had a baby, with a holiday on the horizon and as I was coming up to a big birthday I decided that now was the time to make a concerted effort to 'get fit'. I'm not going to lie, I was hoping to lose a bit of weight too, but mainly I want my 30s to be running around playing with the boys - not sitting on a park bench puffed out watching from the sidelines.

I found the first week a killer - crazy as it was only a light jog for a minute at a time, up to a total of 8 minutes. I felt pathetic and almost lost the faith. However, I got through week 2 and then week 3 (albeit with some pesky joint pain which I had to see the doctor about). I've just finished week 4 where you run for 3 minutes, walk for 90 seconds then run for 5 minutes, walk for 2 and a half, and I have to admit I feel fantastic!

Or... I FELT fantastic - that is until I stacked it 3 times in a row tripping over my shoe lace (I know, I know - the 2 year old is supposed to do that, not me!) resulting in some nasty grazes on various parts of me. I've taken a break for a few days to heal up but I'm hoping to jump straight in with week 5, run one. I think this is where things really start to go up a notch. I'm determined though. I really enjoyed racing around the park playing with Harry today, it's so refreshing after recently being heavily pregnant! I fully intend to commit to this one!

Meal Plan Monday

One of the best tips for running a smooth household with small children, and keeping the budget under control is to have a meal plan. I don't tend to plan out our lunches - we have some variety of bread, toast and cheese/ham most days, but I do like to plan our dinners, especially as I really hate cooking! (Baking is another matter, I love it - but cooking? Nope).

Monday 3rd September - Bacon and Tomato Pasta Bake

Tuesday 4th September - Homemade Chicken Pizzas (with the leftover chicken from our roast)

Wednesday 5th September - Fish and Chips (from the freezer - this is Daddy's late day, so need something really simple I can just  chuck in the oven)

Thursday 6th September - Chicken Caesar Salad

Friday 7th September - Steak and Chips (at I's request - this is his early finish, so he can cook!)

Saturday 8th September - Chicken Satay (again at I's request - he's cooking!)

Sunday 9th September - Roast of some description - we'll buy for this together at the weekend.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Noah's Ark Zoo Farm

Today we visited Noah's Ark Zoo Farm for my birthday treat. We were lucky enough to be given tickets by Ian's work colleague who got them from an internet deal so it was a cheap day out for us! If we'd been paying, Ian and I would have been £12.50 each and Harry £9.50, which I do think is a little steep for a 2 year old.

The farm is run by creationists, which has always put me off going in the past (and I did consider buying Harry one of those 'evolution' t shirts for the occasion!) but seeing as we had the tickets as a gift I thought we'd give it a go. They have a huge variety of animals at the farm from the largest - the rhinos, to the liveliest - the gibbons and the smallest - tiny little chicks. The farm covers a vast area which is equally great for the animals and a little tiring for small legs.

When we arrived we headed straight to one of the main draws, the big cats. They have Bengal Tigers and also some lions. They were fast asleep both times we visited, but you were certainly able to get up close and personal with them - the paws of the tiger seemed massive just a few feet away separated only by a pane of glass. It was good for Harry to be able to get so close, as there was no need to try to point out the animals from miles off. Their enclosure is pretty large though so I guess if you went at a more active time you might not be able to get quite so close.

Another major draw was the giraffes, and once again we got nice and close to them - they truly are very beautiful and graceful creatures! If they are inside you can go into the giraffe house and walk around a walkway level with their heads - they were out enjoying the sun today, but I thought this was a great idea. Harry loved the giraffes - although he was a bit concerned. The mummy and daddy had a 'baby' giraffe like Archie, but he couldn't see a 'Harry' giraffe!

When it was nearing time for lunch, and Archie was asking for a feed (or should I say demanding), we camped down by one of the play areas. There was a 'termite mound' play area with tunnels and slides and also a combine harvester climbing frame which was a big hit with our vehicle mad toddler! Unfortunately, under the termite mound in a little house Harry had a rather unfortunate accident with a muddy puddle and came out completely covered - and rather distraught as he had been studiously trying to avoid mess the whole time he was playing. Luckily, I had read on the website that they have a splash zone so had a clean change of clothes in the car to solve the problem.

Although full of 'zoo' animals, there is a definite 'farm' feel. The location is in the midst of rural fields (when we were trying to point our the reindeer to Harry, he spotted a distant John Deere tractor in a field *sigh*) and there are regular tractor rides throughout the day for an additional cost. This was a big hit with Harry who tells me his favourite part of the day was the tractor he climbed on on the way out!

All in all we had a great time, although the price would have been a bit steep for us for half a day (we are a little constricted by nap time as Harry got tired in the early afternoon - and it doesn't open until 10.30). For older kids there is a lot more to do though, a massive play area inside and out - with zipwires, deathslides and so on - as well as a barn where you can swing on ropes hung from the rafters and have a soft landing in piles of straw. We also found that the walk twice around the animals (to see if the big cats had woken up) was a little far for Harry's legs, so he was certainly tired by the end of the day. I think, therefore, it's more an attraction for those with older ones who can use more of the facilities - it would be a good idea for the attraction to either not charge for under 5s or at least have two different price points for kids that reflects the amount they can participate.