Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Things you find on your iPad when you have kids

I have an iPad, which the children often snaffle and use when they are allowed and they have been behaving. Over Christmas, when they were busy playing with their new toys, I was clearing out the photos when I found a set of photographs that made me smile. I've put them into a slideshow for you so that you can see them in the way I first did. I just love watching Missy Woo as she realises what is going on and that it's taking photos of her. In reality, this is over a few seconds but I've slowed it down so that you can enjoy all the expressions on her face.

Enjoy.

     

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Is this the quiet period of childhood?

Butter wouldn't melt, eh?
Not *actually* quiet, you know. My children are still as noisy as anything given the chance.

It just feels that there is not a massive amount happening. The children are growing. They have done the learning to walk, talk, read and count. I'm not bragging when I say they are doing well at school; it's simple fact as they are both ahead of where is expected of them where they are in school. I am lucky in that they don't seem to have any major issues at school.

Behaviourwise, we don't have major issues. We still struggle with them to understand that in the morning they have certain jobs that must be done because although they do them most days, some days they do not seem to realise they are meant to get dressed. I don't think they are that different to other children their own age. Monkey is still prone to the odd meltdown which mostly seems associated with tiredness. If he would only sleep in later, especially at weekends!

When he was first in school, Monkey was much much worse than this. He's definitely calmed down in recent months. No, he is not perfect, but on the whole, he's very good and loving towards us - well, at least, at home. In public, he doesn't want to be seen hugging me in the way that boys of his age only can but almost the first thing he does when he comes home from school is come and give me a hug. If they are looked after by anyone else, I always get good reports back.

All this, however, makes me feel like I'm being lulled into a false sense of security. Looking ahead, I fear the teens and what it will do to them, especially Missy Woo who is the sweetest thing ever. I know that things will change, I just wonder how far away that might be.

This feels like the quiet period of childhood - am I right? Is that how it is for this age group? When might things change?

Or am I just lucky and should just count my blessings more?

What say you?


Monday, 28 January 2013

Meal Planning Monday - the moving into February away from snow edition!

Meal Planning Monday So, as we established, blogging to say we had no snow backfired on me in a big way, with two lots of snowfall, the second a significant amount that arrived in the space of a few hours and took everyone by surprise (hence the M6 being closed nearby and several people got stuck there overnight).

The snow's gone in a flash though and we're now looking forward to some warmer, but wetter, weather. And it's February - hoorah. It may be my birthday, but January is not my favourite month so I'm always glad to see the back of it. I can feel the days getting longer and the warmer temperatures will help me feel that little bit closer to spring.

What's going on this week? Well, husband is off work for two days as I have got some governor training on Tuesday night so he needed to take the evening off and decided to add Monday to that too. He will however be working the weekend so it's swings and roundabouts.

The recipes are a mix. Monkey chose two dishes from his recentish favourites, I've had some things on my list that I wanted to try making, and there's one carried over from last week because I couldn't be bothered going out to the garage to the freezer. And to complete the week, I fancied a lamb recipe cooked in the slow cooker so a search threw up a nice curry.

Here is the coming week told in our meals.

Monday - Cheesy chicken pot pie
Tuesday -  Slow cooker lamb and sweet potato curry
Wednesday  - Mini meatloaves and jackets with broccoli
Thursday  - Fish chowder
Friday -  Slow cooker veg tamale pie with cornmeal crust
Saturday-  Boerenkool Stamppot (Kale Hash)
Sunday - Cheese and ham toasties (just because my kids ask for them for tea, heathens!)

So that's us. What's on your menu? When you've finished here, mosey on over to Mrs M's for more lovely entries in this week's linky.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Remember I said we had no snow?

Well, today, we got this.



All in about 6 hours. Most of the snow from earlier in the week had all but melted on the front of the house and it only started sticking around 4pm.

Not sure we're going anywhere on Saturday, although rain is forecast.

Have I mentioned I hate winter?

Monday, 21 January 2013

Meal Planning Monday - the no snow edition!

Meal Planning Monday
(OK, so the weather forecast decided to make a fool of me. I wrote this late last night and overnight, we unexpectedly got 2-3 ins of snow and it's kept snowing today. Still, school is open so it is not a snow day officially here, just snow-y. )

Yes, what seems like everyone is going on about snow. We, on the other hand, have very little. It snowed on Friday, true, but not a massive amount. Where we live, we seemed to have more than the rest of the local area because we are that bit higher up and exposed but down at school there was much less so that remained open, and as you head to Preston, the snow all but dies out. I really don't mind - the children had enough snow to play in for a while, but everything continued to function. And it's been cold but not too bad - really, Friday was the worst day and on Saturday, I didn't even have to turn the heating up or back on.

It's a bit odd, really. I know it's going to continue to be cold this week so I have tried to keep warming stuff on the menu. I've just realised that I'm meant to be going out for lunch on Thursday so have done a quick last minute reshuffle so I'm not cooking lots in the afternoon and this now means a full week of meals. We have nothing special this week - no parties, events or anything. Sounds boring but it's nice to have a quietish week from time to time. A couple of these recipes, I have snaffled from reading other people's meal plans last week. If that's you, then thanks for the idea. I have a few more lined up for future weeks as I couldn't fit it all in.

Our week looks very much like this.

Monday -  Carrot sesame and chickpea burgers
Tuesday - Lamb meatball and pea pilaf
Wednesday -  One pot prawn pilau
Thursday - Potato and parmesan soup
Friday - Root veg and pancetta toad in the hole with gravy
Saturday - Cheesy chicken pot pie
Sunday - Sausage cassoulet

What about yours? Mrs M is the place to go if you want more Meal Planning Monday magic. 


Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Blocked.

I just tried writing a post to explain whilst I'm not blogging much.

It turned into a rant, a passive aggressive one at people who would probably never read this post, and to publish it would probably not  be all that helpful. So I hit delete and started again. 

This is it. Things aren't really going to plan at the moment and things I've been hoping to happen have been put off. And in the meantime, I'm in limbo. Blocked, if you like. 

It's very very frustrating. I want to write about good things, nice things, a flying start to the year. And I can't. I'm waiting, waiting, waiting. Hopes held, hopes dashed. Frustration, anger, sadness. More waiting. 

Blocked. 

Bear with me. My blogging mojo has taken a huge hit because of it. I like to blog about positive, nice things. I don't avoid less happy posts but I can't blog about this stuff at the moment. 

All I have to do for now is grit my teeth, carry on and maybe fight my corner. 

And maybe soon, I'll be unblocked. 

Then normal service can resume. 

Catch you soon. 

Monday, 14 January 2013

Meal Planning Monday - the keeping warm January edition!



Gosh, tomorrow is pretty much the middle of January but I'm feeling the chill. This is partly a good thing, because it's been so warm recently, I've been boiling in bed at night, but I dislike the cold, I'm not great with ice or snow. We're still trying to eat as healthily as possible and the dishes I've chosen reflect that. I've left one day free, because husband's niece is 21 on Sunday and has invited all of us to her party on Sunday but as she lives in Cumbria, down a twisting, hilly road from the M6, we might be taking a rain check on that one if the weather gets really grotty. Other than that, it's stuff that warms - pilaf, bakes, soup and two stews. Oh, and burgers.

The good thing about it being the middle of January is I'm feeling the days lengthen already - we got back from school later than normal on Friday and it was really noticeable that we didn't have to have the lights on straight away. Soon be summer, won't it? (Please?!)

Our week in meals looks like this.


Monday - Spiced vegetable pilaf
Tuesday - Lemon and thyme turkey burgers with vegetable chips
Wednesday - Gnocchi and tomato bake
Thursday - Fresh and light chowder with crusty bread
Friday - Chicken and veg stew with couscous
Saturday - Keeping free
Sunday - Hearty lamb and barley stew

How does your week look foodwise? And have you been to see what other people are doing over at Mrs M's?

See you next week!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

My birthday hazelnut meringue cake!

If you saw my birthday post, you'll know I made my own birthday cake. I promised a few people I would blog the recipe.



Part of the reason I wanted to make my own cake was that my joint Christmas and birthday present, which I got very early, was a stand mixer. A red K-Mix. I love it. I've made a few things in it in the meantime but so far, not meringue. I therefore developed the idea of making a meringue cake - especially as we had tons of eggs in the house, as we didn't seem to get through many over Christmas. I also had some hazelnuts in the cupboard so I looked around for hazelnut meringue cake recipes. I have one that is years old in my folder but that used blackberries. I decided I would add some soft fruit and cream to the cake filling and then also add some chocolate ganache.  The final cake is a mix of recipes from different sources so I think I can claim it as my own!

I popped to the shop and found that not only was there some cream reduced, there were also some milk chocolate santas reduced to 19p each! The ganache is good made with dark or milk chocolate but obviously, the darker the chocolate, the darker and less sweet the ganache. I decided to give my ganache a hazelnut flavouring which you could do by adding ground hazelnuts or praline paste. I however, had some hazelnut coffee syrup so used that instead. The ganache was a little firm so I have added more cream here to soften the ganache. If it's too runny, you can whip slightly until it firms up. Don't be scared by the term ganache - it's deceptively easy to make!

We chose strawberries as we decided that they travelled the least distance (Monkey was shocked that the blackberries had come from Mexico, but the strawberries had come from Egypt); it would be good with other soft fruit, like blueberries, raspberries, blackberries etc.

You can make the meringue layers in advance but store them in an airtight container to keep them crisp. This is best assembled on the day you're going to eat it, but if you have to assemble the night before, it will not be the end of the world. It might just be a little softer around the edges.

The one thing to remember when making meringues is that fat is not your friend. Ensure the beaters or whisk and the bowl in which you mix the egg whites is very clean or the whites will not whisk properly.

This is NOT a low calorie cake, but it was my birthday, right?!

Kate's birthday hazelnut meringue cake with strawberries, ganache and cream
Cuts into about 10 pieces

Ingredients

For the cake layers:
50g/2oz roasted chopped hazelnuts (Waitrose do them or roast your own)
5 large eggs
280g / 10oz caster sugar
1 tbsp white vinegar
 A little flavourless oil

For the hazelnut ganache:
200-250g / 7-9oz dark or milk chocolate
125ml  / 4.5 fl oz double cream
2 - 3 tbsp hazelnut syrup (don't fret if you can't get it)

For the filling:
375ml / 13 fl oz double cream
400g strawberries, hulled and halved (or 300g smaller soft fruits, like raspberries)

1. First, prepare two 18-20cm springform or loose bottomed tins. Line them both with foil, and brush the foil with a little oil. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Whizz the hazelnuts in a food processor until finely ground.

2. Separate your eggs. I do them one at a time into a small bowl, ensure no egg yolk has got into the bowl, and then tip it into my mixing bowl. Better that than the fifth egg yolk breaking and you having to start all over again!

3. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, dry peaks form. Add the sugar one spoonful at a time whilst continuing to whisk until you get a shiny but stiff meringue. Stir the remaining sugar into the nuts then fold them into the meringue carefully with the vinegar. Use a metal spoon to do the folding and do it slowly and carefully.

4. Divide the mixture between the two tins and level out the tops. Bake for about 35 mins then turn the oven off and leave the meringues to cool in the oven. Once cool, remove from the tins, peel off the foil and store in an airtight tin until you need the cake.

5. Make the ganache at least a few hours before you assemble the cake as it will need to cool. Break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a bowl. Place the cream in a pan and heat until nearly boiling. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Leave to stand for a few minutes, then whisk until the chocolate is fully melted and the texture is smooth and uniform. Add the hazelnut syrup and stir until fully combined. Leave to cool - refrigerate if you like. If the ganache is too firm when you need it for the cake, heat it in 10-20 second blasts until it reaches the desired consistency. If it's too runny, whisk it gently with a hand whisk until it firms up.

6. When you are ready to assemble your cake, whip the remaining cream until it reaches soft peaks (don't overwhip, so do keep an eye on it). Place one of the meringues on a plate and spread with the ganache. Top  with some of the strawberries and about a third of the whipped cream. Place the other cake layer on top, spread the rest of the cream on top and finish with the rest of the strawberries, which are best placed neatly cut side down so they form a pattern.

Enjoy - although beware, once you start cutting into the cake, it may not be particularly structurally sound!

Monday, 7 January 2013

Meal Planning Monday - the back to normal January edition!



Today - or sometime this week at least - marks the return of the normal routine for most people, with children returning to school and the lucky ones with long Christmas holidays going back to work. In our case, the children go back to school today, and my birthday always marks the end of Christmas and New Year celebrations. And much as I love my children, I need to get back into a routine and do some proper work! My husband has been working slightly different shifts over the holidays and so, although he's been working, he goes back to his normal evening shifts tonight too. We do have our friend staying for a day or two more, and the only other thing that is different is that I am going to London for a meeting on Saturday and am going to be out for 12 hours. Luckily, when I made crispy cheddar pie on Saturday, the quantities were vast so I made a separate one and froze it so that can be done without anyone doing any cooking.

I've got a booklet from BBC Good Food this month (actually, the February edition, it works very strangely!)  on healthy meals which is where most of the meals come from. I actually sat down last week and put this plan together and I've already planned next week too, as there was so much to choose from. It certainly makes shopping easier when you know what you're having. We're trying to get back into the healthy eating thing again now all the excesses of Christmas feasting is done.

Eyes down, look in, here is our meal plan for the week.

Monday - Veggie packed shepherd's pie (recipe pretty much identical)
Tuesday - Pork goulash and rice
Wednesday - Mexican chicken stew with flatbreads
Thursday - Indian chickpea and vegetable soup
Friday - Easy eggs with ratatouille
Saturday - Crispy cheddar pie from the freezer
Sunday - Lamb meatball and pea pilaf with cucumber yogurt

And that is that. More meal planning love can be found over at Mrs M's.

What does your meal plan look like? Is it healthy eating all the way or comfort food (or both!). Do let me know.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Another birthday.

Yes, it's my birthday today. When you get to my age, you kind of stop thinking about the numbers.

As I lay in bed last night, trying to fall asleep at the start of yet another birthday, I started reflecting. On things I've done - trying to stay positive rather than dwell on the inevitable mistakes I've made in my life.

Of all the things I've done, I decided that what I'm most proud of are my children. Yes, they drive me nuts sometimes - Monkey is particularly challenging and hard work quite a bit although he decided off his own back to make "be nice" his New Year's resolution. They are however gorgeous, funny, intelligent and loving. I've had oodles of birthday cuddles today and they count for way more than any present ever would.

In other matters, do you like my cake? Made it myself. It's a bit of a monster - hazelnut meringue cake with hazelnut ganache, strawberries and cream.


Happy birthday to me!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Oh yes, 2013 then. Looking forward, not back.

Photo credit - Joseph Hart


I am not big on New Year's resolutions so there will be none of that from me. I have goals I've set myself which I've already started on a while back. I set them when I'm ready to and I don't need the start of the year to do that for me. (In any case, having a birthday on the 6th precludes starting a strict diet on the 2nd!)

Things are in the pipeline and 2013 looks like it could be good. Equally, it could turn out not quite so great. At the moment, I have to stay positive, be optimistic and do what is within my control to ensure that the good  things happen rather than the bad. It's all a bit cryptic right now but hopefully, I will be able to let you know what I'm rambling on about fairly soon.

A New Year gives you the chance to look back and look forward. 2012 was a pretty good year and we had some amazing experiences. Now is the time to look forward to 2013 and make the year as good as the last one.

I've said it before but Happy New Year all.
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