Friday, 30 September 2011

Gino says "Hello" and solves your lunchbox problems

Do you remember, back in the halcyon days of Spring, when I was invited to London to interview the one and only Gino D'Acampo? You don't? I'm going to have to point you at my interview with him here and here, aren't I? Tut.

Anyhoo, Gino made a little video for this very blog to introduce his Good Food Fight which he launched with Cheestrings back in May. It's supposed to be attached to another video but I've been so swamped with things since our holiday, there's not been time for that. So, here's Gino saying hello to you all. Say hello back.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Life Circle - The Wheel of Life

Life CircleAre you ready? Off we go. It's going to be one hell of a ride! I hope this week's task was thought-provoking and useful to you. What you have probably found is that one area you're particularly unhappy with can have knock-on effects on other areas of your life, and also, that this exercise provides a focus for your thinking about what you want to change. You already know these things about yourself but they are there in the background. Most of the time, this exercise brings those issues into the foreground and they give a clearer indication of what it is that needs to change first that will have a huge effect on other areas of your life - what they call a quick win, although some solutions are not so quick, I'll admit.

Anyway, here's my Wheel of Life and some comments about the scores I want to talk about. One of my self-imposed rules on this blog is not to talk about my relationship, so I will skip talking about that on here. As I have said before, only share with your blog readers and other Life Circlers what you feel comfortable sharing. Excuse the hamfisted drawing but I wanted to use the same image! The exact scores I've given are below.

Fun and Recreation - 6. I'm generally happy with this area of my life; blogging events seem to provide plenty of opportunities to do things for me. What limits us as a family is money, so I'm sure I'd be happier if we had more disposable income and felt we could treat ourselves every now and then. When your "treat" is a coffee out, you know that you're limited in cash.

Career - 6. I started a business doing VA and business support work about 6 months ago and I've been building up working with one particular client. These last few months have taught me two things: 1) that I love doing it and want to do more but 2) I need to earn more money for the sake of our finances. I need to do more work for my existing client and find some new ones as well. I'd like to use some of the skills I learned in my 22 years in the IT sector, partly because I know that will pay more than the VA work but also to keep my knowledge current. For most of my working life, I loved working in IT - it just became quite family unfriendly when I had the children and with my husband working shifts, childcare would be quite complicated to arrange unless it was fully flexible.

Health - 7. Good but room for improvement. I'm much fitter than I was this time last year, thanks to regular exercise classes. But my goal is to fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes (which are size 12) and I'm still a size 14.  I don't know how to attack this - I seem stuck but I excuse it by saying I'm having a life and not doing faddy crash diets.

Personal Development - 9. I'm actually happy with this area of my life, mainly because I feel like I learn something new every day, whether it be about my work, blogging, or parenting. I don't feel the need to go and get any more qualifications (and anyway, I couldn't afford to take on a course) and I just feel that I have a learning mentality so I will always be looking to learn new things.

Friends and Family - 7.5 I have a good set of friends. I sometimes wish I had a few more friends locally that I could meet up with more regularly for coffee and I feel I am in transition from one set of friends to another with the move to school. I have the odd issue with family that I wouldn't dream of discussing here but they are mostly outside of my control so there is no point working on it.

Environment - 6. I love our home, I've lived here for 12 years and have good neighbours. It needs a few things doing to it, but once again we are back to putting it off for lack of money. Over the next few years, we'll need to decide what we want to do about secondary schools which may involve moving. I'm not saying we will - but most of the children's schoolmates live within the catchment of a different secondary school to us. But I'm well aware things can change in the 4 years before we have to decide what to do. And I would just like the house to be less cluttered and tidier, we're overrun with toys.

Money - 4. For me, this is the key area. I've managed to spin my redundancy money out from 2009 but it's fast running out. I'm good with money so I try to budget but I know our outgoings are bigger than our income. I have everything compared to down to the cheapest going - it's not that we are excessively spending, it's just that it all adds up. I know that we cannot live on my husband's salary alone and the money has given us a breathing space until now. We still have a bit but I have one eye on it and watching my balance drop alarmingly is terrifying, for me anyway. Apart from the mortgage, I have no major debts but that could easily change if I don't start earning more money. I don't ask for much - I don't want to be a millionaire, but I feel much more comfortable when I don't have to think about every single purchase I make, which is what I'm having to do now. I'd like us to be able to go on holiday yearly, but I can't see that happening next year at the moment. And as you can see from the other scores, it's impacting on  Environment, Career (which are interchangeable really - to resolve the money issue, I need to do more work), and Fun & Recreation.

It's obvious that there's lots of things I'd like to improve but they are all in balance and I'm reasonably happy with them, but the money situation is impacting some of them and that area is what I need to focus on first and foremost to see the biggest improvements in in the short to medium term, in conjunction with developing my career and business.

So, now it's your turn. If you haven't done already, then complete your Wheel of Life, write what you've learned from the exercise, include the badge so others can find the rest of the posts in the Life Circle, publish your post then link it up below so others can have a read and offer their support. I'm hoping the Linky will stay open as long as possible so please feel free to come back to join in at any time. Don't feel obliged to leave a comment after linking up but obviously, I would welcome feedback from the rest of the Life Circle. (By the way, where it says your name, feel free to use your blog title rather than your actual name!)

If you are joining in with Life Circle, please do read some of the other posts if you can. It doesn't have to be all of them - 2 or 3 will do - but you might want to visit more for this week, in order to introduce yourself to other people joining in with the Life Circle and to get to know them. Life Circle isn't about getting traffic, it's about mutual support, so please try not to just visit the bloggers linking up first. I will endeavour to read as many posts and comment on them as possible but I may be restricted for time. The badge code, by the way, is here, but I'm hoping to place it on a page on this blog soon.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Child labour? Help me out!

Photo credit - lusi
Monkey is a child that is never satisfied. You give him toys, he wants another. He thinks he should have a new one every day. If it is not that, he wants some Match Attax or thinks he deserves a treat. This has to stop if he's to get a Christmas present.

The other day, I had to take the children to Asda to do a weekly shop and whilst they were good and helpful, they wanted to know whether they could visit the toy aisle (no), get some Match Attax (no) or buy a game or DVD (no again but useful diversion when I'm going through the checkout as the DVD section is just beyond the tills).

When we got back in the car, Monkey asked when he could have a treat. Once again, for what felt like the thousandth time, I explained about money, things costing and having money to spend. And then the light bulb went on in my head. Having remembered that the children have helped with chores from time to time, I suggested that perhaps they'd like to earn money from doing some chores which they'd get as a kind of pocket money at the weekend and they can spend as they choose.

When we got home that day, they were keen to help and despite having a house that was upside down, they helped me to get it fairly clean and tidy. Unfortunately, Missy Woo blotted her copybook by "testing" a felt tip pen all over one of the internal doors which I had to spend 15 mins scrubbing to remove.

But anyway, they have slacked off somewhat since Sunday (quelle surprise). They do know, howver, that keeping their rooms and their playroom tidy all week will earn them a pound. I said I would work out prices for different jobs. I've made a few up, but was wondering what other parents do?  At the moment, they are only old enough to do things like tidying up and dusting, although they did a bit of hoovering with supervision.

So, parents, tell me if you pay your children to do chores and if so, how much for which tasks? I'd really love to know whatever their age and capabilities. If you've older children and can remember what you did when the children were a similar age to my two (6 and 5), that would be useful too.

Do leave your answers in the comments below.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Meal Planning Monday

It's Monday so it must be meal planning time!  This week's is kind of rushed - I'd started putting together a plan on Saturday, and then on Sunday morning, I realised I would need to do the food shopping as I'm out most of the day. So, this week is slightly cobbled together as I only had written what sort of dish eg "fish" for some of the days so I had to do a hasty extra spot of planning in my head. Never good but never mind. 

So, here we go: 

Sunday, 25 September 2011

On a mission for healthy mouths

You may remember that a few months ago, I told you about the Healthy Mouth Challenge which Colgate had challenged me to take. Now it's Oral Health month, they've asked me to be a "Healthy Mouth Ambassador" for their Healthy Mouth Mission . Now that Monkey is losing teeth, especially the more prominent ones (one of his front ones fell out - for which read he pulled out when it was slightly wobbly when he was bored going to sleep one night - during our holiday) it's becoming even more important to ensure that the children are looking after their teeth. Thankfully, we got the thumbs up from the dentist when I took the children in August. The dentist has got a bit of a thing about what toothpaste we're using for them to brush their teeth because I use one for 3-6 year olds but I have checked it and the fluoride content is very close to adult toothpaste. Still, it doesn't harm to try to get them onto adult toothpaste, especially as we end up with tubes of different toothpaste everywhere! 

Saturday, 24 September 2011

My son, the perfect house guest

Yes, it's really true. Since the children have been back to school, Monkey has been a child in demand. He's been out to tea twice after school and to his first ever sleepover, admittedly to one of the friends who invited him back for tea. That's not bad, considering the school term is only three weeks old.

Butter wouldn't melt, eh?
It has become apparent that he is very popular with his friend's parents. I went to collect him from the first friend and the mum said "He's the quietest child we have had round to play." To which I slightly snorted, "He can come back anytime". After I collected him from the same house a few days later after his sleepover, I asked how much sleep he had got and the mum admitted to me that he'd wanted to go to sleep first but had been kept awake by some of the louder ones.

Then a day or so later, he got invited to another friend's house that he has visited a few times. He even got to choose what they ate - heaven for a boy who loves his food. Not that he is picky, because once again, when I went to pick him up, the mum said how much she loves how well he eats everything given to him. Then, the next morning, the mum came up to me and said, "I just love how laid back Monkey is". I snorted again and said that I thought that he and her son are a good combination as he and another friend can squabble like an old married couple, because they are just so similar.

Still, I'm wondering who is this child they're describing. I recognise the child that eats everything put in front of him because he's always been a brilliant eater, for which I have always been very thankful. But laid back? Quiet? Is this really Monkey or does a replicant take his form and go in his place? The Monkey I know after school normally has a very set idea of EXACTLY what he wants and tries to argue to get it until he melts down, my patience runs out, or both.

I am not however complaining. I think he's a pragmatist (not that he knows what one of those is). He knows if he is an angel, he'll get to go back and he enjoys the novelty of playing with someone else's toys, eating someone else's food and playing in someone else's bedroom. So, he becomes the perfect house guest. Parents think he's wonderful, children think he's a good friend (which he is generally). Not a word out of place, not a morsel of food refused. It's like he swallowed an etiquette guide. He might eat all your food though.

 I'd just love it if he could be as angelic for me. I'd do a vlog of his after school behaviour but I'd be afraid to publish it in case the other mums saw the real Monkey and his social life dried up! And I'd rather he be good for them and bad at home than the other way around. I just have a lot of invites to reciprocate now!

Is your child the perfect house guest? Do they morph into an angel as they step into a friend's house or are they just the same? Is Monkey a typical child for his age? Do tell me, I'd love to know. 

Thursday, 22 September 2011

A word about My Fitness Story...

With the start of the Life Circle, I have decided to retire My Fitness Story... as a weekly blog series. I have struggled to get contributions lately and I feel that it's no longer sustainable, at least as a weekly series. Life Circle posts are going to publish on Thursdays so there is no room for it on that day.

I don't want it to die completely as I've put a lot of effort into it so I am still happy to accept contributions and to run it as an occasional series, as and when posts become available. I feel that people value a space where they can share their stories and celebrate their achievements or bare their souls about their disappointments. All the posts published so far are linked under the My Fitness Story... tab above so they will remain there for people to read at their leisure.

I'd just like to end by thanking all the fabulous contributors who took time to write posts for the series for me. You all rock. I've been in awe of all of you, and you've made me laugh and cry. I really couldn't have envisaged that I would get such a broad variety of posts when I started the series in January. And to all those who took the time to read the posts and comment on them, thank you too. Your support has kept this series far longer than I thought it would.

Life Circle - Week 1

Life Circle

So, here we go. If you don't know what this is all about, have a read of this post first. I was overwhelmed by the number of people that read and commented on it so I know there is a real appetite for something like this. That also adds to the pressure I feel to deliver something of use to you all, not just me!

I know that quite a few people were a bit hesitant about getting involved in case it's too much of a commitment. Well, I promise to ensure that it's not too onerous to get involved - it will only take a lot of time if you want to put that time in.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Watch this space...

There are no photos with this post because it's a secret. Well, kind of. On Monday, I experienced that is the preserve of the A list celebrities who appear on the red carpet. Someone dressed me for an awards ceremony. Get me.

As you probably know and can see from the badge in the sidebar, I am a finalist in the MAD Blog Awards. The awards ceremony is on Friday 30th and I'm going down to London, whilst practising my loser's face. The organisers got in touch a few weeks ago and said that various brands had offered to dress some of the finalists for the ceremony. As soon as I saw the list of brands, one name leapt out at me. John Lewis.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Toyologist Competition - Win a Dyson (toy!) Vacuum Cleaner

This month's prize is a Dyson DC14 Vacuum Cleaner worth £22.99. It's suitable from age 3, and it can really pick up bits off your carpet. Perfect for little helpers. We reviewed the Dyson Ball last month which is similar but hopefully doesn't suffer from the same issue with falling over all the time. 

If you would like a chance to win the playset, just leave a comment below and tell me what househould chore you wish your child could do for you (imaginary children allowed if you're not already a parent!). If you're not already following my blog in any way, pick your favourite above by clicking one of the jellybeans in the top right - there's one for subscribing via RSS, one via email, one for liking my Facebook page and one for following me on Twitter. All or any of those will keep you up to date with the latest events on the blog.

Please, please, PLEASE ensure you leave a valid and regularly used form of contact. I've had people lose out on prizes because they have not left an email address or twitter account that I can contact or they haven't checked their email regularly enough.

Leave your comment (one per person, subsequent ones will be ignored) by Sunday 25th September at 8pm.

Don't forget to like the Toys R Us UK Facebook page (not a condition of entry) - it will keep you up to date with new reviews and competitions.

Terms and conditions

To enter, leave a comment below stating what household chore you wish your child could do for you, along with a valid contact email address or Twitter ID, which will be used to contact you if you win and follow this blog via RSS, email, Facebook or Twitter.
One entry per person - multiple entries will be discarded.
The prize is a Dyson DC14 toy vacuum cleaner.
The competition closes on Sunday 25th September 2011 at 8pm.
The winner will be drawn at random from all valid entries.
The winner will be contacted that evening and asked to provide a postal address and contact telephone number within 48 hours or the winner will be re-drawn. The prize will be sent out by Toys R Us after 1st October. UK entrants only.
There is no cash alternative.
Good luck everyone! 

Monday, 19 September 2011

Meal Planning Monday

So it's time for another week of meals. The weeks fly, don't they? (I feel like I say that every week, so you're probably, quite rightly, rolling your eyes right now.) Last week went OK but I had a "sod it" moment on Saturday afternoon as we had been out and Monkey was at his first ever sleepover so I decided we'd have pizza. The cheesy veg hotpot got shoved to Sunday and the barley risotto has gone on hold for another day.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Introducing the Life Circle - who's joining me?

Image: Gregory Szarkiewicz /
What with September being the start of the new school year, parents everywhere start making plans for what they are going to do this year now that their children are back in a daily routine. Personally, I'm taking a long hard look at myself. Why? Because this time last year, I wrote this post. And you know what? I feel pretty ashamed as a lot of those things I haven't really achieved. It's like I've been drifting, for months.

That's not entirely true, as things HAVE changed. I have a client for my business, who is very happy with the work I've been doing and has been gradually giving me more tasks to do. I've also potentially got another client or two who need help which I'm excited about, because I now believe I can make it work for us and it's work that is flexible, allowing me to work from home without needing childcare. I've been able to do lots of things where I'm not just someone's mummy - but then, that's mostly what this blog is about, even if I do blog about my family.

But the rest? I've let it slip. And it has to stop.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Can a book deliver a mood?

I love a good mystery. I raced through all the Agatha Christie books from the age of 18, I am quite fond of Ian Rankin's Rebus novels and I'm working my way through the Inspector Wallander novels by Henning Mankell. I love the way they make me think about the plot, looking for signs to spot the perpetrator, waiting for the twist that makes me draw a sharp intake of breath.

Crime thrillers are also my favourite type of television programme too (apart from sport), so Waking the Dead was a favourite of ours and I discovered the Wallander books through the television adaptations of the novels - although I have to say, I prefer Swedish series to the one made for the UK.

If you've been following me on Twitter recently, you'll notice I have a new obsession. It's called The Killing (or Forbrydelsen to give its original title). It's a Danish crime thriller in 20 episodes about the investigation into the murder of a young woman. It's been showing 5 nights a week on BBC Four over the last month, in preparation for a new series showing soon. It was shown earlier in the year (which I missed) and it became a huge hit in the UK, gaining around 500,000 viewers per episode - which is a lot for BBC Four. It is brilliant - some of it is gut-wrenching, it's heartbreaking at times and it's really dark, with twist and turns aplenty. It seems like half of Copenhagen have been suspects in the previous 19 hours. I love it for the same reason I love reading mysteries - not only has it been playing with my emotions, I become an amateur detective and try to look for signs and work out before they do whodunnit.

Alongside this in the last few weeks, I've been reading a book to review for the Tesco Books blog. They contacted me with a novel idea - instead of grouping books by basic genres, they have chosen to group books by the mood it creates. The list they sent were grouped into three categories and I chose the "books to make you think and talk" as my favoured category because that is what I like to get out of a book. All I then had to do was choose a book.

Almost without thinking about it, I chose The Suspect by Michael Robotham as it seemed like it was a popular book. Instinctively, I had chosen another mystery. I probably should have guessed by the title but I swear I didn't really think about what type of book it was.

The story is narrated by Joseph O'Loughlin, a clinical psychologist with a private practice and a comfortable lifestyle. Joe gets involved in the investigation of a murder when the police ask him for help. The victim turns out to be a former colleague of his. Then, he starts to become concerned about one of his patients who suggests he may have been involved in the murder. Before he knows it, he's drawn into the centre of the investigation when the spotlight turns on him and he becomes a suspect. In order to prove himself innocent, Joe needs to discover the truth about his patient whilst keeping ahead of the police. Not easy when you've recently been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

I loved this book. The case was very complex; even though you were fairly sure whodunnit throughout, you were kept thinking as you are never totally sure, and there are twists and turns  aplenty to keep you reading. The pace of the book started slowly and then built up, such that the third and final part is conducted at a breathless pace. I couldn't put it down so all other plans got put on ho whilst I finished it and read over 100 pages in one afternoon. And the final twist, I didn't spot in advance and yes, it drew the sharp intake of breath from me when it was revealed. So, yes, it made me think - and talk, as I spent a while explaining it to my husband.

I noticed various similarities between The Killing and The Suspect. In both cases, the central character is wrongfully accused of a serious crime and puts themselves at serious risk of becoming the next victim of the respective killers. Both are quite dark and bleak, making for uncomfortable reading or viewing, tackling difficult subjects, not just murder. Both plots reveal themselves slowly, like scales falling away gradually to reveal the truth. In that respect, they were a good fit to be experiencing at the same time, even though neither of them are particularly cheerful. I finished the book on Tuesday night, just hours before I watched episode 18 which was especially shocking and upsetting that day. Already drained from both those events, I watched United 93 before bed to round off my perfect. I figured I was already depressed, so I may as well watch a difficult film that day, rather than depress myself again another time.

The book definitely delivered the mood. The Suspect made me do nothing but think and talk. Yes, it's uncomfortable to keep reading sometimes but it's like a rollercoaster ride - the adrenaline keeps you going going through the peaks and troughs. As I don't do real rollercoasters, this is MY adrenaline rush.

That's probably why I loved this book.

What books make you think and talk?

(I was sent a copy of this book to read and review. Tesco also sent me a bar of chocolate and a bookmark. I have not received any further compensation and all opinions and words are my own.)

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Just call me Two Vacs

This is a sponsored post, but stick around - it's not all bad. 

It's all Dirt Devil's fault. For years, I have been faithful to my upright cleaner. Although my mother has always owned a cylinder cleaner, I've always bought uprights. Recently however, I've realised how difficult it is to vacuum our stairs with it. And it's fairly bulky so carrying it up and downstairs is a nuisance. But it does the job and the one I have currently didn't cost me as much as some brands. Bonus.

So, when I was asked if I'd like to try out a Dirt Devil cylinder cleaner, I thought I'd test my allegiance to my upright and see if I can be converted to the ways of the cylinder cleaner. After all, a cylinder cleaner is lighter, and this one seemed to have an extra long hose (no sniggering at the back, will you?) so it seemed perfect for the stairs. And boy, did my stairs need it.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Meal Planning Monday

I hope you're all back in a routine now that everyone seems to have gone back to school, preschool or work. I'm loving it - and having a meal plan is so useful. Not having had one for a couple of weeks really showed me the benefits - I was constantly trying to work out what we were going to eat and if we needed to buy anything. A little effort with the meal plan and I know what we are eating when, I can base my shopping list on it and there are fewer trips to the supermarket. I am a total convert! 

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Finlake Holiday Park

We've been back from our holiday a week now and I still haven't told you about where we actually stayed!

Finlake Holiday Park is in Devon, very close to the A38 so very accessible for most people. Its location made it very easy to travel around; we were close to Dartmoor, Torbay (although that has its own issues with traffic), and also to the Eden Project in Cornwall, which I blogged about last week.

We discovered Finlake purely by chance. My sister got married last year and was meant to have her wedding reception at their sister holiday park on the edge of Paignton. However, three weeks before her wedding, the roof fell in during refurbishment there meaning the venue was not going to be ready in time so the company moved everything to Finlake. I really had no idea what it would be like, but having stayed in holiday parks as a child, I didn't really expect much.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Back to school

This is the week that most parents across the country (barring Scotland, who went back two weeks ago) have been praying for. The kids have finally gone back to school. At the start of the holiday, I was counting down the hours, but do you know what? It wasn't so bad after all.  Having lots of trips away really helped break up the long period that stretched ahead of us. When they went back on Tuesday, I actually quite missed them. I never thought I'd say that.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

125 years of Anchor

We always have butter in this house. Yes, we really do. I may do healthy eating but I don't really like low fat spread - it tastes all wrong, you can't use it for baking and if you use butter sparingly, it's not that injurious to a healthy lifestyle. Butter is a great choice and I only ever buy margarine to make one particular cake that calls for it as the recipe is designed around having a softer fat.

Anchor sent me some memorabilia to commemorate their 125th birthday. They sent a rather fancy cake stand (surely too posh and fancy for this house!), some oven gloves, a mug, a hessian bag, and two eggcups. Unfortunately, Monkey was so excited about receiving "presents" in the post, he dropped one of the eggcups on the floor and broke it, even though it was wrapped in bubble wrap. Hey ho. Here they are anyway:

I love the cow! I believe that's Doreen the Anchor cow looking very regal there. You can win these and other items of birthday memorabilia - I've got my eye on the cake tin and the butter dish to complete the set - over at Anchor's facebook page where there are 125 prizes on offer over 125 days - which is a lot of prizes! You need to enter codes from packs of Anchor butter, Anchor Spreadable or Lighter Spreadable to take part in that day's draw. They're currently about halfway through so you have a couple of months left to have a go if you want. There is also a huge prize of £50,000 and 75 prizes of £1,000 to be won so it's worth having a go.

If you don't fancy trying your luck, you can also buy your favourite items of memorabilia from the same place. So, I might just be forking out for the cake tin.

Thanks to Anchor for sending me all this lovely stuff - and happy 125th birthday!

(I was sent the items above to try out for free. I have not been paid to write this post and all opinions are my own.)

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Gallery: Shoes

I don't have pretty feet. I know some people think that all feet are ugly but mine are small (for my height) and stubby, as they are wide. Wide feet are a curse as new shoes are nearly always painful for a while.

And then, at age 11, I had an operation to straighten a bent toe. This appears to have been an inherited trait as both my dad and my granddad had the same thing. In straightening my little toe on my left foot, they broke the bone and sewed it to the toe next to it. My toe doesn't look "normal" at all and I don't like the nail. So, wearing flipflops and open sandals can be a trial as said toe doesn't look very pretty. As a result, I'm not really much of a shoe person. Even winter shoes are problematic because my little toe makes my foot even wider and it can make wearing new shoes even more uncomfortable.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Meal Planning Monday

I'm back! Returned from our holiday this evening and the unpacking is done. Time to plan a week of meals for getting back into the routine. My BBC Good Food arrived and I managed to get a read of it whilst I was away on holiday and there were lots of things I wanted to try so there are a few recipes from there that I'd like to try.

Monday - Baked eggs with spinach tomato and chorizo
Tuesday - Wild mushroom and chestnut cottage pie
Wednesday - Honey mustard pork, mash and broccoli
Thursday - Pea pesto and prawn spaghetti
Friday - Sausage and bean casserole
Saturday - Onion pie
Sunday - keeping free

Seems like a reasonable mix. Two complete veggie dishes in a week and some seafood back on the menu. Sorry there are no links - either Good Food haven't added them to their database yet or they are likely to be copyrighted and not placed there, which is a shame.

Have you planned your week's meals? What are you eating next week? Why not pop to Mrs M's blog to see what other people are eating?

Thursday, 1 September 2011

House of Marbles

We decided today to go on a short trip out to fill a couple of hours as Monkey has discovered the golf course here and has been round it twice today. Various options presented themselves but in the end, we settled on House of Marbles on the edge of Bovey Tracey. One of the reasons was that it was free, another that it would probably interest the children and thirdly, because in the folder of information we have in our lodge, they mention they did a cracking cream tea that they defied you to finish. Monkey, being Monkey, can't resist such a challenge!

We found the place quite easily and there was plenty of parking. The buildings are listed as they include kilns of the old pottery We went into the shop first and the children were, as expected, fascinated by the marbles. Some of the things were a little expensive but there were some nice things on offer. On the staircase was a massive marble run, apparently called Snooki. My photography doesn't do it real justice (partly because it was on my phone) but here it is.

We had a quick look at the pottery museum but the children weren't all that interested beyond the ceramic model of the Old Pottery buildings from way back and the fire pump machine that protected the factory for years. We wandered into the marble museum area where there were more marble runs and these.

Next were the glass workshops, which have always fascinated me but Monkey didn't seem all that bothered. This may have been because by this point, he had spotted the cafe where aforementioned cream tea could be served so we headed there next. This is what we got.

Monkey and I shared this one. And no, we didn't finish it. He didn't even finish his scone. This may have been something to do with the size of the chocolate milks the children had.

(That's a pint glass, by the way - not quite filled to the level, but not far off!)

The children then discovered the outdoor games area, which contained Britain's largest marble floating on water.

The children were captivated by the marble run - where you run marbles around a large copper funnel. We had a great time playing with it until some unruly children marched up and started spoiling our game so we walked away and returned to the shop, where we purchased some marbles for the children to take home. Funnily enough, they are now utterly fascinated by marbles and can't get enough of them.

It was a lovely afternoon out - free entry but cost us for afternoon tea (£15) and a purchase in the shop (£7.50). It just goes to show that the simple toys are often the best as they can be used in so many different ways. However, developing a serious marble habit could prove expensive as they had so many different types, colours and sizes.
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