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.