Monday, 16 June 2014

Another Monday Meal Plan

A  quick post today as I'm still trying to get back into the meal planning habit. 'Officially' I am on my pre-Florida holiday diet which means healthier meals - although today hasn't worked out exactly how I would have hoped in diet terms. I'm blaming the fact I'm still tired from a busy hen weekend.

So, here goes...

Tonight (and lunch tomorrow) - Quiche lorraine frittata and salad 
Tomorrow - Lemon chicken stew (from freezer), jacket potato and lots of green veg
Wednesday - Creamy prawn risotto
Thursday - Tapas style food and beer in front of the football (not diet friendly but England's involvement in the World Cup might not last long)
Friday - Green chilli tacos with salsa and sour cream
Saturday - Out with the husband for a delayed anniversary meal, we're trying out the Hotel Chocolat restaurant, Rabot 1745, in Borough Market
Sunday - Thinking BBQ but all depends on the weather

Thanks to Mrs M for the link and inspiration.

Monday, 9 June 2014

A Campsite by the Sea

After much checking of the weather forecast, we headed off to the South Coast for the second weekend of half-term. The drive down was fairly uneventful - both children fell asleep before we'd gone more than a few, very slow, miles through the London traffic - but then were both awake again well before we'd cleared the M25. This dual power-nap meant a lot of noise, over-excitement and bashing each other over the head with the pillows which we'd had to stack between them on the back seat due to the fact the car boot was stuffed full to bursting with camping gear. Not the best of driving conditions then, but four hours after setting off, we pulled into the campsite. And, once the tent was up, we could settle down with a glass of wine, fire up the camping stove and enjoy the view.

Over the next three days we had a great time. We spent a day on the beach in Weymouth enjoying traditional 'seaside' activities such as donkey rides, fun fairs and eating fish and chips by the sea. We spent a day in Lyme Regis enjoying the beach (and, in the case of my very hardy 7 year old, the freezing cold sea) and then hunting for fossils at Charmouth. And, on the way back to London, we made the Little Princess' dreams come true with a long-awaited trip to meet her beloved Peppa Pig at Peppa Pig World (another post to come on that).

This was our first camping trip on our own. We camped last year with friends who have a bit more 'experience' of camping than we do, so it was a bit of a learning curve. We all thoroughly enjoyed the three nights we spent at East Fleet Farm, just outside Weymouth, and would definitely go back again in future.

The best bits: The sunshine, being so close to the beach, the fantastic playground where the kids could hang out and make friends, sitting outside with a glass of wine watching the sun go down. And, despite the fact I'm addicted to the internet, not having the unlimited access to technology that we're used to was great... I could use my phone, but having to conserve the battery life was a positive as it meant we switched off and talked instead.

What we learned...
A camping stove takes a long time to bring a big pan of potatoes to the boil, which is annoying when you have two hungry children waiting for their dinner.
And, even if the forecast doesn't include rain, it would be a good idea to take wellies - the area outside our tent was really boggy for the first couple of days. Luckily most of the mud on our (not very sensible) shoes came out in the wash!

Monday, 26 May 2014

Half Term Meal Planning

For once, I have actually got round to meal planning on a Bank Holiday Monday. This is partly because the fact that we have spent a small fortune on camping gear this weekend makes me feel like being sensible but, also, because it is a short week as we're heading off for three nights in the new tent on Friday.

So, here is our plan - very simple (as it is likely to be a busy week at work) and all things that I have cooked before.

Tonight - BBQ-style chilli from Nigella Kitchen, served over jacket potatoes and topped with cheese
Tuesday - Dinner at my parents
Wednesday - Thai Red Prawn Curry with jasmine rice (think it is a BBC Good Food recipe)
Thursday - Chicken stir-fry with noodles (quick M&S option as we're both working and then will be sorting out the camping stuff)
Friday - Pasta bolognese (assuming the camping stove works!). I am cooking the bolognese tonight, freezing it and re-heating it when we get there 
Saturday/Sunday - Sausage and mash (on the camp stove), fish and chips, pub food.... TBC depending on the weather.

For more meal planning, head over to Mrs M's

Any sunshine vibes for the weekend would be appreciated - we've promised the kids and they are already bouncing up and down with excitement, so no backing out now...

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

It's the Little Things

As September approaches, I've been thinking more and more about 'making the most' of the time I have left where it's just me and the Little Princess. I don't want her to start school with me regretting all the things we didn't do - we've had two days a week all to ourselves for almost three years now (since her big brother started school) and it has been great. Occasionally we go for proper days out but a lot of the time we just potter around locally picking up bits of shopping, having coffee (we are such regulars in our local Costa that one of the barista's asked Little Princess how she'd enjoyed her first swimming lesson the other week), hanging out in the local park, library visits, meeting friends at soft play etc. And then at home we bake, do crafts, read books or simply play.

But.... this awareness of 'time running out' has made me want to do 'more' with her. We've got the whole of London pretty much on our door-step (25 minutes train ride away) and there are loads of child-friendly places in the surrounding areas too. So, I offer the Little Princess a few 'exciting' options of what we can do with our day - the farm park, a trip to the Southbank, the Olympic Park and shopping at Westfield Stratford... and she says "swimming" or "the park". Or "let's go to Costa (again)"...

And, thinking about it, if what she wants to do is go to the park, and stop somewhere for a cake / ice-cream, does that really matter? It's still quality time and spending time together is what is really important. It's the 'time together' that is coming to an end, those 'places' will all still be there in the holidays and we can go as a family, it doesn't just have to be me and her.

So, today we went to the park...

We explored the woods and found a basket swing hidden away, which we had all to ourselves. We balanced along fallen tree trunks, saw the cygnets swimming on the lake, played in the playground and had ice lollies. And, all the time, the Little Princess smiled, laughed and chattered away. There was no rushing around, no panicking about missing the train back and being late for the school run - it was just us, together, having fun.

And so, from now on, it's not about the 'big days out' - if she wants to go somewhere special then that's great, but I've realised that we need to spend time appreciating the little things too.

Monday, 12 May 2014

The Trouble with Cookie Dough...

Is that it is simply too addictive...

Today I have been baking with the Little Princess. Originally, we were planning a trip to the Natural History Museum to "see if she is still scared of the T-Rex", but four year old argumentativeness meant that we ended up postponing that until another day. Instead, we have been having a chill-out day - craft activities, games and, perhaps inevitably, baking.

I'm not a natural cookie baker. I'm pretty good at cakes, brownies and whoopie pies, but it's usually 50/50 whether my cookies come out ok. Due to this, we normally avoid baking cookies, but the Little Princess was insistent that she wanted to bake chocolate chip cookies and I was fairly keen to avoid another argument. So, cookies it was...

We measured, sieved, mixed, rolled and cut into heart shapes. And then, with the cookies safely in the oven, we indulged in my favourite bit of cookie-baking, consumption of the leftover cookie dough. The cookie dough was delicious but, the big question was, would the cookies taste as good.

The answer was yes. These are very good cookies - seriously chocolatey, indulgent, slightly soft in the middle - in fact, they even beat the cookie dough itself in the taste test. Definitely a recipe to make again in the future.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

We're Going on a Bear Hunt

As a child, Bank Holiday Mondays meant walks in the countryside and, fairly often, picnics in the car while we attempted to shelter from the incessant rain (our walks were never dependent on the weather). Now that I've got children of my own, we still often go out for a walk on a Bank Holiday, but only if the sun is shining.

This Monday was a beautiful day, with sunshine and blue skies. We started off with a pub lunch sat on the terrace of one of our favourite local pubs and then headed for Trent Park for an afternoon stroll. And that is where the fun started...

According to my children, North London parkland is inhabited by scary, child-eating bears which meant that they needed to be armed with giant sticks and ready to fend off any potential attacks.

The giant sticks were a slight hindrance to their ability to walk anywhere at any speed, and I felt in constant danger of having my eyes poked out as they waved them around, but it's good to encourage imagination, right? Eventually, we came to the edge of the woodland and persuaded them that 'bears' don't tend to wander round grassy meadows full of picnickers, and we were able to leave the sticks behind. It was then a leisurely wander with multiple pauses to climb trees, jump over streams, play in a ready-made den we discovered in the woods and, in the case of Jedi Boy, crawl up the hill on his hands and knees complaining he was 'too tired' to walk any further. After all, what's a day out without a little bit of dramatism!

I think sometimes in these technology-filled days we're all a little bit guilty of ignoring the simpler pleasures in life like just being outside and appreciating our surroundings. Just wandering through the park with the children, not needing to be anywhere at a specified time, was lovely... even if we never did find that bear.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Tales of a Mini Shopaholic

A couple of weeks ago now, a email pinged into my inbox offering the Little Princess a place at our chosen school where, come September, she will be putting on her little purple uniform and joining her big brother. The overwhelming emotion at receiving the email was relief - we've had a bit of a saga with school places due to moving two months into Jedi Boy's Reception year (he'd been to three different schools before his sixth birthday) - but the relief was tinged with sadness at the thought of 'losing' my baby girl. As a bright, independent (and somewhat feisty) four year old, she is more than ready to start school but I'm not so sure I'm ready...

Since Jedi Boy started school almost three years ago, we've spent every Monday and Wednesday together having our 'Mummy and Daughter' days. We have a lot of fun together - we bake, we play games, we read stories, we do a host of craft activities, we hang out in the park, we have picnics in the garden with various soft toys when the sun shines - and most of all, we go shopping and have 'coffee and cake' together. The Little Princess has been a big fan of shopping from a very tender age - as a baby, she spent many happy hours being pushed around Westfield London in her buggy (well, I had to do 'something' to keep out of the rain and it was a shortish bus ride away) - and now, given a free choice of activity, she'll often plump for a trip on the train to the 'Big Shops' (now Westfield Stratford due to our house move). She loves to browse the shops and is developing a real sense of her own style - she loves everything sparkly, any type of stripes and has a bit of a penchant for leopard print (today she is accessorising a leopard-print H&M tutu-style skirt with leopard-print sunglasses, also from H&M). Accessories are a big deal, she adores handbags, shoes and sparkly hair-clips and a trip to our local shops isn't complete these days without a significant time spent browsing in Claire's Accessories and a trip to the independent shoe shop to 'visit' her ultimate fashion wish-list item, a pair of Lelli Kelly shoes.

Of course, Mummy's accessories are always better....

The Little Princess is great fun to be with. She chatters constantly, has opinions on everything and is a fabulous shopping companion. Of course, there are the occasional downsides - the constant demands for me to buy her a new 'lipstick', the occasional stand-off in the middle of the shop, the insistence that she 'really loves' a certain food, followed by the refusal to eat it when I buy it for her - but overall, we do have plenty of fun. I'm really going to miss these girlie days come September...

Monday, 28 April 2014

Back to the Meal Planning

Recently I've been slacking off with the meal-planning,as well as the blogging, but I'm planning to make a concerted effort to get back on track over the next few weeks. Today I sat down with the iPad (and a couple of cook books) and planned out this week's meals.

I've already got a Lamb and Potato Balti simmering away in the slow cooker for tonight, which will be served with some basmati rice. Monday night is always a bit manic as both children now have swimming lessons at 6pm, so I often slow-cook on a Monday to minimise preparation time. The kids tend to just have a cold tea before swimming - they take an eternity to eat anything hot so it is just easier that way. Plus, it's really nice to come home after swimming to the aroma of something tasty!

The rest of the week is looking like this...

Tuesday - Beef in black bean with stir-fried veg and noodles (quick after work dinner for the Husband and I)
Wednesday - Tuna pasta bake topped with crisps (a big favourite with the children)
Thursday - Pesto topped salmon fillets with green beans and new potatoes
Friday - Greek chicken, herby couscous and tzatziki

Not a particularly 'exciting' week but they are all tried and tested recipes which we enjoy, and hopefully next week a bit more inspiration will strike. I haven't planned the weekend as we probably won't be home much so there doesn't seem much point at this stage.

Thanks to Mrs M for the link

Monday, 14 April 2014

Tales from the Olympic Park

Last week the children and I had a day out at the newly-opened Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, along with what seemed like half of London! It was a beautiful day - relatively warm sunshine and cloudless blue skies and we had great fun exploring. Undoubtedly the 'best bit' for my two was the water play area in what is known as Tumbling Bay. Shoes and socks were quickly discarded, jeans rolled up as they got stuck into a complicated game of building / destroying dams and pumping water.  What was really lovely was the way in which so many children who'd never met before just joined forces to play - it seemed like there were two teams, one trying to control the flow of the water and the other trying to stop it by building dams.

Once dried off (stupidly I'd forgotten to take a towel so we had to improvise with the clothes that the Little Princess had discarded... we did have spare clothes for her), it was on to the amazing treehouse inspired climbing nets and rope bridges. Jedi Boy was immediately climbing across the nets and making his way up a fairly tricky rope ladder to the top of the tree... I had my heart in my mouth as he slid down the very high fireman's pole, but sometimes you just have to let them get on with it. This is a great playspace for children - it is designed to blend in with the environment without sacrificing any of the fun - and it isn't as 'safe' as some playgrounds seem to be these days. It even has a properly slippery slide!

We had a fabulous day out at the Olympic Park and will definitely be going back there in the future - there was another playground over by the Olympic Stadium which was too busy to explore properly, fountains which will be brilliant fun to splash in on hot summer days, a climbing wall (for over 11s) and plenty of quiet footpaths to explore. I'm looking forward to our next visit already!

Monday, 7 April 2014

Musings on my failure to blog...

I really want to give this blogging thing a proper go but, as you can probably see, blogging regularly isn't something I've managed to do so far. I need to get my head round the idea of blogging from the iPad so this is a bit of a test post. So far, so good - am stretched out on the comfy sofa, iPad on knees, big cup of tea beside me on the coffee table and typing doesn't seem too hard.

It's the first day of the Easter holidays. Both Jedi Boy and the Little Princess are in the other room, monopolising both the PC and the other iPad with their current obsession, Minecraft. I've stripped the beds, washing machine is spinning (loudly) and dishwasher rumbling away in the kitchen and now taking some time out before I drag the kids away from Minecraft and attempt to do something more constructive with our day, i.e take the library books back before they fine me again... Or, maybe I should just appreciate the fact that for once they are playing together, there is no bickering / telling tales and chill out for just a bit longer.

It is one of those holiday periods where, actually, we don't have much planned - a trip to see what the new bits of the Olympic Park that opened last week are like, maybe Kew Gardens if the sun shines, a Wembley trip for Jedi Boy and his Dad and our family's traditional Easter Sunday visit to the funfair on Hampstead Heath. Hopefully it will be fun!