Saturday, 31 March 2012

What we're watching over the Easter holidays

With two weeks and three weekends to fill, the Easter holidays can be a little daunting. Last year was fantastic, as the weather was gorgeous the whole time but it seems this year that we've had our nice spell just before the holidays start.

It's always good to have something on standby for when the weather is not good enough for the children to play outside. Handily, a few nice people have sent us some things that will very handily fill a wet afternoon or be used on the children's movie nights - when they draw the curtains, even if it's light outside, settle down with a DVD, eat popcorn and any other unhealthy snack they can wangle out of us, and watch "movies". This generates far more excitement than them just sitting down to watch a DVD. It must be the curtains.

Especially for them, and perhaps the grown ups too, Warner Brothers sent us a Happy Feet 2 parcel as it came out on DVD this week. Great timing. In the package was also Happy Feet and March of the Penguins, some stickers for the kids and a hat. Monkey told me excitedly that he's seen March of the Penguins at school - as penguins were the subject of their topic in class for half a term and the teacher showed it to them. He can't wait to watch it again, as he really enjoyed it and also to show it to Missy Woo, who will get to learn about penguins next year.

Back to Happy Feet 2. The kids love the Happy Feet films  - they're simple stories but it holds their attention. It feels magical and looks beautiful - and the baby penguins are cute! The films celebrate everyone's differences - in this story, Mumble's son Erik doesn't like dancing so runs away from the flock, only to meet a penguin who can fly! Erik respects this new father figure in his life. Mumble brings everyone together to save everyone from disaster and in doing so, earns the respect of his son once more. It's voiced by some big stars - Robin Williams,  Hank Azaria, Pink, Brad Pitt, Maaaaaaaaaatttt Daaaaaaaammoooon, (sorry) and Elijah Wood, to name but a few. Warner Brothers also sent me a video clip featuring some action and interviews with some of the stars but it was fouling up the rest of the post, so you'll have to make do with the trailer from Youtube instead.

When the kids have gone to bed, I'll be settling down to another DVD that I've been sent. It's the complete first series of Two Greedy Italians that comes out on Monday, ahead of the second series starting on the BBC this April. The series, if you haven't seen it, features TV chefs Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo travelling round Italy, looking at the food in different regions and how it's changing in some places yet has remained largely unaltered for years elsewhere. The episodes are thus part travelogue, part cookery show as the two chefs - who left Italy over 40 years ago and spent most of that time living in the UK - cook dishes they have created as well as some of their traditional favourites.

The dishes are quite typical of their cooking styles - generally fairly simple, often using foods foraged from the countryside around them. You can see easily how Jamie Oliver's rustic style developed - Gennaro Contaldo became his mentor when he went to work at Carluccio's restaurant in Covent Garden in the 1990s. This double disc features all four episodes of the first series and includes 4 recipe cards, allegedly so that you can cook along; not that I could cook and watch at the same time! I will not be telling my husband that one of the cards is for Chocolate and Amaretto pudding, as he loves both (whereas Amaretto is not my favourite thing at all).

Despite being old friends, they squabble like an old married couple at times which adds an extra dimension to the chemistry on screen between them. If you like to cook Italian food beyond the standard spag bol, carbonara and pizza and also like to learn about food in its original context, you'll definitely enjoy this DVD.

(I was sent a Happy Feet 2 package containing 3 DVDs, stickers and other memorabilia and the Two Greedy Italians double DVD to review. I have not been told to write but requested to include relevant links. All words and opinions are my own.)

Friday, 30 March 2012

LifeCircle 2012: Stepping forward

Life Circle
OK, OK, I am more than a little bit late with this. Between setting the task and the day that the linky should have been published, I found out that a project I thought I'd have a couple of weeks to complete had to be done and dusted by Friday and I had to put in double my usual hours and everything went out of the window. As much as we can make plans, life sometimes throws a curveball and destroyed all our carefully laid plans. I've had a couple of days out since and I'm trying to catch up with the lack of blogging I did last week.

Many apologies if you have been waiting to link up. The linky will be here today but there will be no new task tomorrow. Instead, I'll post a new task on 7th April over the Easter weekend but this will be a longer task and you will get more than a week to do it as I have the perfect task to fill that time plus it can be our Easter break.
So, how have I been doing with my Life Plan? At the moment, I'm kind of stuck. I am making progress with work but I am waiting to find out how much work I will have over the coming months, so I'm waiting on other people. I am trying to be slightly more proactive at it as I need to be earning money so I'm trying to do more to secure the work I need to move me onwards.My task for the next week is to clarify this but it's not always easy when relying on others for answers.

My main frustration is with my health / fitness. I seem to be stagnant with my diet - I do well for a few weeks an then it goes to pot. Well, not actually to pot; it's just I'm not tracking my intake and I know that means I eat more as a result. I really really need to get a grip and yet I'm facing two weeks of Easter holidays. Recording my intake is what works best for me and I know I have to do it.

The other things I had on my lifeplan largely depend on my earnings and how I do workwise. As ever, all things lead back to money so I really need to sort that out before I can make other spending plans, especially on the car front. I have to do something about that before my tax runs out this year in August.

So, how are you doing? What have you identified as going well or going badly? What do you really need to sort out now to keep your progress going? I'm sure you all have lovely posts for me to read and again, I'm really sorry this is so late.

You have plenty of time to link up. This will stay open until 20th April (to allow people to catch up if they miss this post publishing.

Looking forward to reading your posts, and see you again on Saturday 7th for the next task.

A birthday party at home? I must be mad!

I haven't had a party at home for the children for years. I just didn't feel we had the space, particularly when trying to amuse a lot of boys who want to throw themselves around. But then, we got a chance to try out a home-based party.

You might remember we reviewed some Sand Art kits earlier this year. We were also offered the chance to review one of their parties. With Monkey's birthday coming up, I asked him if he was interested in holding one for his birthday this year. To my surprise, he said yes - I think it's testament how much the children enjoyed the kits.

So we set a date with Alistair, who is the owner of Kids Bee Happy. And then I thought - I must be mad; what am I doing? Have I lost my marbles? I let Monkey choose who to invite but ensured he didn't invite too many friends. We settled on 5 school friends and 2 neighbours, all boys. In other words, 8 boys aged between 5 and 8 and Missy Woo. I kept my fingers tightly crossed that they would enjoy it - keeping that many boys contained and entertained for 2 hours can be a tall order.

On the day, Alistair arrived bright and early. I didn't realise Alistair himself was coming as he is based in Scotland, but it turns out that he'd been down South working with some of his franchisees and had stopped over on the way back. The equipment took very little time to set up  - two tables, each with 6 metal bowls  filled with the different coloured sands. And that's it, apart from a laminator which we set up out of the children's way in the kitchen.

Making one of his pictures
The children were desperate to start making and were already making their pictures by the time the first guest arrived, as they already knew what to do. The other children couldn't wait to get started as they arrived and dived in. I was amazed how interested and thrilled the boys were. One of Monkey's friends said to me excitedly, "This is much better than I thought it was going to be!" as he dashed between bowls. Boys being boys meant it was slightly random - some colour mixing was definitely going on. But for the first 45 minutes at least, you would not have realised how many children were in the house, meaning I didn't need to worry about sloping off to cook pizza. After that, the boys gradually wandered off to play outside in the garden (thank God it wasn't raining!) whilst Alistair started to laminate their pictures. Most made two pictures to take home - Alistair even mentioned that some parents don't bother with party bags, even though we did.

The two hours of the party flew by - it was a good balance of activity time, letting off steam, food and cake, of course! All the children really enjoyed themselves and were totally absorbed by the sand art. Alistair was brilliant with the children, and I'm sure his franchisees will be too. They don't just do parties as they will also do sand art for school fairs, festivals, and weddings. It's so easy to do and the children get it really quickly.

What I loved most of all was how little mess there was - the mum of one of the boys stopped for a cup of tea after the party so we had a quick sit down whilst the boys played on the Wii, yet everything was cleared up well before 3pm, less than an hour after the party had finished.

I had 8 boys in my house for 2 hours and survived. It was quite relaxing actually - I never thought I'd say that.

Where do I get my medal?

(Kids Bee Happy kindly arranged for a free sand art party to be held at our house. I have not been paid further for writing this post. I have not been told what to write and all words and opinions are my own.)

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Slow cooker risotto - a recipe for success

I love my slow cooker. Regular readers of my ramblings will not be surprised by this revelation as I might have mentioned this before. They are so useful if you want to save money and time, once you learn a different way of cooking - it's not massively different but you do have to adapt recipes for the slow cooker, generally needing less liquid as less evaporates during cooking.

Until recently, I have never considered cooking risotto in a slow cooker. In theory, it should be a prime candidate for slow cooking to save time as risotto does require a lot of attention - constant stirring means you're stood at the hob from the moment you start cooking. After all, I make very passable rice pudding in a slow cooker and the basic ingredients are the same - rice and some liquid. However, I couldn't get over the thought that risotto does need so much attention for a reason - because that attention is what makes it so nice. I'd always steered clear of oven baked risotto recipes for the same reason but people do rave about them.

Putting my prejudices to one side, I decided to give it a go and trawled around some recipes. The first thing that struck me was how many used brown rice, not risotto rice. Maybe I'm a food snob ("Yes!" I hear you shouting at your screen) but I want my risotto to be as authentic as possible and I couldn't see how brown rice could give a risotto that lovely creaminess. Eventually, I found a recipe using risotto. The cooking time  was 2 hours - rice pudding often takes 2 to 3 hours so it sounded right. I put it on one day just before the school run, and checked it after one hour. There was very little liquid that hadn't been absorbed and rice was already well cooked. Overcooked, in fact. By the time it was actually tea time, it was very overcooked. It tasted nice though but the rice needed some work.

I decided to give it another go but keep a closer eye on it to see just how long it needed to make rice that wasn't overcooked (or undercooked, for that matter) because it was obvious to me that it needed much less time. The result I got was pretty much near perfect for my tastes. Husband said it was still slightly different to conventional risotto but the children both loved it and asked for it again!

I use the high setting on my slow cooker. If you want to leave the risotto longer, then do cook it on a lower setting but it can take anything up to twice as long to cook. It might be a case of knowing your own slow cooker to get it right.

I'm making my risotto with leek and mushrooms because that's what we had in. Raw meat should be cooked before you add the onions or leeks.This serves 2 adults and 2 children - if you have 4 adults to feed, or very very hungry children, increase the rice to 300g and stock to about 800ml. The stock doesn't need to be boiling - it will cook quicker that way so only use boiling stock if you really are in a hurry.

Slow cooker leek and mushroom risotto
Serves 4

knob of butter
1 tsp olive oil
3 leeks, thinly sliced (or 1 onion, finely chopped)
200g mushrooms, sliced
250g risotto rice
650ml hot chicken or vegetable stock
50g parmesan, grated

1. Melt the butter in a large pan and add a splash of olive oil so it doesn't burn. Add the leeks or onion and the mushrooms and cook over a medium low heat until the leeks or onions are soft but not coloured, which takes about 3 -5 minutes.

2. Add the rice and stir until it starts becoming translucent, about another 3 minutes. Tip everything in to the slow cooker.

3. Pour in all but 50ml of the hot stock and give everything a quick stir, cover and cook on high.

4. Give it a quick stir if you can after about 20 minutes. After 40 minutes, check the rice to see if it's done  - much like pasta, risotto is best slightly al dente, with a little bite to it. If it's not cooked, test it again after another 5 minutes. When the rice is done, turn off the slow cooker, and quickly stir in remaining stock and most of the parmesan, reserving some for a garnish. Put the lid back on and leave it for 2 or 3 minutes.

5. Spoon into bowls and top with a little parmesan before serving immediately.Buon appetito!

Easter eggs will never be the same again

I've mentioned this before on many occasion, but I am not a huge chocolate fan. Yes, I eat it but I don't have to have it. That said, if someone is going to offer me free chocolate, I am not going to turn them down, because the rest of the household would frankly lynch me.

Hotel Chocolat offered to send me one of their Easter eggs and I wasn't about to say no. We've tried their products before and they are always welcome. We picked out one of their Extra Thick Easter eggs to try - the Rocky Road to Caramel one to be precise. Now, Easter Eggs usually leave me cold - they promise so much but deliver so little - thin chocolate eggs and a few extra sweets with a lot of packaging. It was going to have to be amazing to change my opinion and at £26, it is not cheap.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Getting the golfing bug

This is a sponsored guest post. Stick with it though as it makes some interesting points about getting children into golf. Monkey is just getting into golf, is now the proud owner of two golf clubs and wants to go to lessons.

Photo credit - jhonnyt
Nowadays it is getting harder and harder to entice your children into the outside world and away from all the suffocating technology of the house. With more and more children suffering from obesity in the United Kingdom, there has never been a better time to strap golf equipment onto their backs and introduce them to the amazing world of golf.

Quite often people are put off golf, as the overall consensus is that golf is a sport for the well off or retired. However, with golf equipment becoming cheaper as the days pass and community golf courses springing up across the country, this could not be further from the truth.

Besides this, most people find it best to start teaching children about golf within their very own back garden, or if this isn’t an option, in the local park. Here you are given an unlimited amount of time to teach putting and really making sure that your children are getting a grip of the club. Of course, once the putting is sorted, it is time to move onto the most exciting part – the swing.

Throughout the United Kingdom and often attached to golf courses, there are golfing ranges where you are able to practice and teach your child how to well and truly hit a ball. Here, like the park there are usually no time restrictions, as you pay by the ball, meaning that you have all the time in the world to teach your young one the ways of the golf club.

Of course, once you are confident that your youngling is ready to set foot on the golf course itself, there are golf courses all around the country that are happy to accept new people, young and old. Most communities also have the afore mentioned community golf courses. This means that instead of paying annual fees (although this can be an option), you can instead pay by the round, as this is a great way of introducing your child into golf; once you have both decided that golf is the sport for you, it is then time to consider monthly, or even yearly membership fees.

For just about anyone in the golfing world, a full 18 holes can be quite daunting. That is why it is often best to start playing in halves, either by playing the front nine, or back nine.

A front nine consists of the first nine holes of a golf course and is often the way to start as a full 18 holes can be very tiring for a beginner. If the mood suits, you can quite often play what is known as the ‘back nine’ although this is less popular than playing holes 1-9.

The benefits of introducing your children to the sport can be huge. Not only is it a healthy and productive sport but golf also teaches children about patience and respect to other people. Whereas most sport revolves around disadvantaging your opponents, golf revolves around deducting yourself and being truthful to others. What better ethos could you teach your children than this? With lessons that can be used for a lifetime, golf is a sport that can carry a person throughout their entire life and is often a popular sport at work.

But of course, that is years away, what you need to focus on now is the fun and enjoyment of the sport. Why not try by taking your son or daughter out on a day at the nearest crazy golf course? This could be a great introduction into golf in general and a place where you can plant the idea of the sport into their minds. You never know, the person currently trying to whack the ball under the scary clown could just well be the next Tiger Woods.

(I have been paid a fee to publish this post). 

Why I will no longer apologise for being proud of my children

Photo credit - msegura

Last week was Parents Evening, and I'm pleased to report it was all good for both children. Very good, in fact. I mentioned it on Twitter but I held back from blogging about it, until now.

I put it on my Facebook status and then I saw someone tweeting about how they hate all the smug updates about how everyone's little darlings are doing so well at such times, and that not all the children can't ALL be nice and polite. It niggled. First, because it intimated that teachers issue platitudes they don't really believe, and secondly, it suggested that it was wrong to be proud of our children.

The main reason I put it on Facebook is that it is the main way we keep up to date with family. We have family spread from Cumbria to Devon, plus another that spends half his time abroad. We have friends around the world who know my kids and like to hear how they are getting on. I'm sorry if that's wrong but if I didn't put it on my status, I'd have to type it out several times over.

I know the teachers were genuine in their praise when we went. It rather astonishes me that Monkey's teacher cannot say a bad word about him. She gave him As for effort rather than A*s because she wants him to keep trying and told us "Really, he's excellent (but don't tell him I said that!)". I knew he had done well in his reading test because she told me a month ago that he had come top of the class in a very hard reading test, having only got one question wrong. Missy Woo's teacher was honest with us too - and said her only fault was she could get a little too chatty if she sat next to the wrong person, but that she was always mortified if teacher had to have a word with her.The children they spoke of were recognisable as my children, albeit the immaculately behaved version they reserve for school hours.

These teachers weren't lying. I would know if they were and I'm certainly not lying either.Yes, they are good kids but they are not angels; they are just normal kids who have their moments, and thankfully, the good outweighs the bad. Both children are already at, or beyond, where they are expected to be by the end of the school year. Their teachers expect they will move up further during the next term - Monkey's teacher expects his reading to be that expected of a child finishing Year 4. He's in Year 2. Missy Woo is expected to be at the standard of a child in Year 2, a full year ahead of herself. Those facts blew me away. In fact, it still does.

But why is it wrong to be proud of this? They have both worked hard and tried their best in class and know we expect that of them. We do not push them, we encourage them - we read with them and do spellings as requested by school but the rest of the time anything we do with them is spontaneous. Why can't I be proud that they both try their best and are progressing so well? That they both love to read, to write and to add up? That they both love learning?

I accept there is a fine line between pride and boastfulness. When the children were babies, I avoided the Baby Olympics. I was open-mouthed when some parents were displeased that a friend's baby was ahead of theirs. One even told me she was worried her daughter wasn't walking - she wasn't even a year old. And yes, I talk about my kids, but never in a my-child-is-better-than-yours kind of way - they're just different, with their own personalities, strengths and weaknesses.

My children are my life. Their care and upbringing takes up the most time in my daily routine and it's been that way for the last 7 years. I think we've done a good job so far. If I can't be proud of that, what can I be proud of? I've had enough -  I am reserving the right to speak up when there is good news to report. From now on, I'm going to be a proud mummy and be unapologetic about tt. I won't bang on about my children endlessly but I will celebrate their achievements. I want my children to know that I am proud of them (which they do, I hope) but I want them to know it's OK to be proud in a gracious way, especially when it is something they have worked hard for.

I want other parents to join me, to demonstrate that pride in your children is a good thing. I've even made a badge to display on your blog, to show that you are proud and don't feel the need to apologise for that. Feel free to grab the code to do so, to put on a post or a sidebar. I'd love to know what you think about it, either in the comments or in your own post - what makes you proud about your kids? How have they made you proud recently? Is parental pride a good thing and when is it ever bad? If enough people write in response to this, I'll open a linky but I won't if there isn't a demand for it.

Proud Parents Club

Let's show everyone we are proud of our kids - we've spent ages growing and nurturing them, we have every right to be. In doing this, I'm hoping our kids learn pride in themselves - how to experience it and handle it, without losing friends over it. Mostly, I just want them to know people ARE proud of them because, God knows, children and young people take enough stick these days, and not a lot of it is justified.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Tots100 Book Club - Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell
I don't read half as much as I used to. You can blame the double whammy of having children and becoming engaged in social media for that. When I get into a good book, everything falls by the wayside. I drop everything - I hate having to stop to make tea, housework goes out the window (not that my house is ever pristine anyway) and I even forget about what's on the television. I can't read in short blocks - I need a good run at a book and read it in long sessions. I've been known to read books in a day before now but you can't do it with constant interruptions from small children and when they're at school, I'm supposed to be working!

I'm a huge fan of murder mysteries, whodunnits, crime fiction, whatever you want to call them. I've read the usuals - I went through every book Agatha Christie wrote in my late teens and twenties. Very English, murder with a thin veneer of respectability, which harks back to a bygone age. I moved onto Dick Francis - crime with a strong smell of horses in it! I've read many different mysteries, but over the last few years, I moved onto more contemporary - and grittier - writers.

Having sent me Helen's favourite book and a little extra treat, the Tots100 Book Club have asked me to pay it forward and recommend my favourite book to another reader and so I decided to pick out a book by a writer I have read frequently over the last few years. The book is Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell. It is the first book which features Kurt Wallander, a police detective in the town of Ystad in southern Sweden. Being a first book, it's a good introduction to the character and sets the scene for later novels.

Wallander books are never light reads. They deal with difficult subjects and is in part a social commentary on what he sees as a Sweden failing to adapt to modern life. The murders are often gruesome, never pleasant and of course feature many twist and turns. Wallander, himself, is of course a complex character. He drinks too much, is grumpy quite a lot and likes his opera - touches of Morse, perhaps, but he is his own man and  a good policeman, even if he doesn't always get results in the prescribed way.

Faceless Killers opens in a lonely farmhouse in the countryside around Ystad, where an elderly farmer is found beaten and tortured to death early on a cold January morning. His wife is also left for dead, with a noose round her neck. She survives long enough for her last word to be heard -  "foreign". Some believe that the attackers were indeed "foreign" and this gets leaked to the press. The relevation sparks off a series of attacks on immigrants. Wallander is not convinced that the killers were indeed foreign and begin digging into the farmers' lives and starts uncovering secrets from their past.

All this is set against a backdrop of Wallander's personal life - his failed marriage, his fragile relationship with a difficult daughter, a father who disapproves of the career path he chose. In addition, one of his oldest colleagues becomes ill and descends towards death, a man whom Wallander clearly respects and whose counsel he seeks. It is all pretty bleak, but the landscape in that part of the world is pretty bleak for large chunks, a fact overlooked largely by the BBC adaptations starring Kenneth Branagh, filmed mostly in the summer months, making the programmes seem like a travelogue. If you do like the books, I thoroughly recommend watching the Swedish language Wallander series, starring Krister Henriksson because to me, he IS Wallander and I now picture him in my head when reading the books.

Faceless Killers can be a challenging read because it's not just a crime novel - it makes you think. I like books like that and it's why all the Wallanders are my favourites.

I'm going to recommend this book to Nova at Cherished by Me because I know that like me, she enjoys a good murder mystery. In fact, I have recommended the Wallander books to her before so let's hope she's not run off and read them all in the meantime. Fingers crossed she enjoys the book.

(Tots100 Book Club sent me the book recommended by Helen to me, along with a bar of chocolate. I have chosen this book to review and recommend to someone else; all opinions and words are my own.) 

I'm a gadgetaholic

Hello, my name is Kate and I'm a gadgetaholic. Kitchen gadgets, that is. There are plenty in my kitchen, all jostling for position and . Some have been successful, others not so much. Some gather dust because I don't use them often, others are in daily use and are, frankly, lifesavers.

My lovely pink food processor
If you're going to invent a new kitchen gadget, I have three criteria on which I base my judgement on what makes a kitchen gadget useful, effective and therefore, value for money.

First, it needs to solve a problem or fill a need. If I have something I want to defrost quickly, my microwave is hot stuff. When grating lots of cheese or making breadcrumbs without taking off the tips of my fingers, my food processor saves my skin, quite literally. The fact it's pink is a bonus!

Next, it needs to save me time or money, as I don't have bags of either and both are precious. I love my stick blender for this - soups are whizzed to perfection in a couple of minutes in the pan, saving me time and washing up, especially as that rinses clean too. My slow cooker, although basic, saves electricity and cooking time. I also love my breadmaker - although it takes a few hours to make bread, a few minutes' effort produces freshly made bread - and the smell is amazing!

My new love
Finally, it's got to be easy to use and clean. I don't mind if I have to learn the knack, so long as it is fairly easy to master.  Our most recently acquired gadget - a bean to cup espresso machine has filled a void that many coffee makers have tried and failed to fill. Constant washing up meant that freshly ground coffee was a rare treat because, well, we just couldn't be bothered. Then we went to Germany and discovered the joys of a bean to cup machine. You pour beans in the top, add water, press a button and it does the rest. All I have to do is empty the grounds (pressed neatly into little discs) about once a week and top the water up occasionally. I've also sussed how to make cappuccino with it easily. It was expensive, but so worth it. We use it daily, thus reducing our need to frequent expensive coffee shops.

You get all these three things right and I'm sold. I'll develop an unhealthy attachment to it and will enter a period of mourning when it finally packs up its bags and moves to gadget heaven. But then, it's an excuse to go out and buy a new one. Oh yes, I'm a gadgetaholic and I need my regular fix!

I've written this post in my bid to be a Foodies 100 Morphy Richards Innovator.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Meal Planning Monday - the last week of term edition!

Another week flies by. Time to meal plan again. This time, it's the last week of school term for the children, a week I view with relief and a bit of trepidation. The relief of not having to dash about for school in the mornings is lovely, but at the same time, everything is thrown out and I worry about getting work done whilst keeping the children amused. Still, that's for next week.

Being last week of term, we have an evening event on at school which affects tea one day (more that I just have to have it ready on time than anything), but on Thursday, which is normally mad after school, Missy Woo has no dancing so all I have to do is deliver Monkey to football which means I can get on with making tea when I get home. Hurrah! The weekend is quiet though. Oh, and I'm out most of today so an old favourite is getting bunged in the slow cooker by me after school run to be ready when everyone else gets home (oh, and yes, potatoes are also cut into wedges and in a bag drizzled with some oil ready to be bunged into the oven.

On we go with the meals for this week.

Monday - Sausages in onion gravy (slow cooker) and potato wedges
Tuesday - Veg curry
Wednesday - Minced beef and onion pie (using bought pastry), mash and peas
Thursday - Fragrant chicken curry with chickpeas (it never got made a few weeks back!)
Friday - Moroccan meatballs with eggs
Saturday - Fishcakes
Sunday - keeping free

I'm looking forward to some of these this week, as some of them are interesting or new to me and that's what I like to do - make things that keep my interest. I rarely sit in my comfort zone these days.

Don't forget to do two things - first, tell me what you are eating this week and then, pop on over to Mrs M's to discover more wonderful entries in the MPM linky.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Half grand, that's me.

I don't write controversy - we've been there before.

I don't generally write funny posts. Whatever anyone says, it's a lot LOT harder to write funny stuff regularly than you might think. Meet me in real life and I will be funny occasionally, but the act of writing it makes it all sound a bit trite and unfunny. Hats off to anyone that manages to write genuinely funny posts regularly.

I don't do fabulous photography that makes people go "Ooh" and "Ahh". Possibly, it's because I don't have the patience to set it all up to create that effect. I am very much a "point and shoot" kinda gal. Which is a problem when I'm trying to make my food look fantastic,which of course it is *cough*, and it ends up looking ordinary.

It's that time of year again...when we all go a bit MAD!

Last year, I had an amazing experience. I mean, this blogging experience all round is pretty incredible but I was nominated and became a finalist in the MAD blog awards, went to the awards ceremony - where I promptly lost. Did I mind? Not one bit! Why? Because it was an amazing experience all round - from being dressed by John Lewis to the trip down to London for the ceremony on the hottest late September weekend that I think I can ever remember. To be recognised as one of the best was enough for me - yes, I would have loved to have won overall but in truth, and to trot out that old cliché, we were all winners.

Thing is, you see, I had such a fantastic time last year, that I'd like to go again. So, if you enjoy reading the ramblings, wittering, mots justes, pictures (maybe not - I know I'm not a great photographer), or you just think I'm great (it's a long shot I know), I'd love it if you nominated me in any of the relevant categories. You can only nominate once and you have to nominate a MAD Blogger of the Year then you can nominate in as many award categories  - or as few -  as you like. Don't forget to copy in the full URL of the blog or blogs you're nominating in each category or in the case of Blog Post of the Year, the full URL of the post.

MAD Blog Awards 2012Click on the badge to get started. Choosing who to nominate is going to be tough in some categories and I'd like to wish everyone involved the very best of luck. I can't stress enough how fantastic it was last year to be a finalist so anyone that is lucky enough to get that far is in for a real treat. 

Thank you for reading if you've got this far. I'll try to shut up about it now. I've gone a bit MAD, I think.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Meal Planning Monday - the finally Spring edition

Yes! It's finally Spring this week, whatever the Met Office says. We don't have a particularly busy week, apart from Parents Evening. At the weekend, we are going out on Saturday- I'm not going to tell you where, as I will be blogging about it later, so that's staying free. This week's menu is a mix - some things that we like (Monkey insisted we have the honey mustard pork this week, it's a favourite of his), me trying to perfect slow cooker risotto so that is back this week, plus there are a few new recipes I fancied trying. You'll notice the Thai spiced fish pie from last week - well, it got postponed to Saturday, then husband decided he was going to part cook Sunday tea on Saturday but it got so late, we decided to eat it there and then! Then, he was going to make the fish pie but on a whim, we ended up out for tea and I cooked the fish pie last night ready for tonight. So I did kind of end up cooking on Mothering Sunday, but I don't mind.

So here we go.

Monday - Thai spiced fish pie (see last week)
Tuesday - Honey mustard pork, mash and sweetcorn
Wednesday - Veggie shepherd's pie with sweet potato mash
Thursday - Sandwiches
Friday - Gnocchi bolognese with spinach
Saturday - Stay free
Sunday - Slow cooker leek and bacon risotto

That's our menu - how about you? What's on your menu this week? Don't forget to visit Mrs M to read more entries in Meal Planning Monday.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Competitive (dis)advantage?

Photo credit - wvubush
There is no doubt about it - Monkey is a competitive child. He is stubborn and determined, and he has learned that if he keeps trying at things, he will get better. In many ways, that is a good thing and it means he needs little encouragement to stick at it, certainly in his school work.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

LifeCircle 2012 - Next steps

Life Circle

I've just realised this is the 10th week of LifeCircle, 2012 edition. We are well into our 3rd month of moving our lives onwards. I'm wondering if this is a good point to take stock, and stir up some more action.

Not only is this our 10th task, the next week is the start of Spring. If you believe the Met Office, Spring actually started on 1st March but the more traditional first day of Spring is next Wednesday, which is the day before I open the next linky.

A few weeks back, we wrote a Life Plan  which was meant to throw up issues and things to do NOW. We've also worked on some time management techniques and that should be helping us move forward.

But is it enough?

What I want you to do this week is review how far you've come with your LifePlan, remind yourself that you're nearly a quarter of the way into your first year, and ask yourself if you feel you've moved at least a quarter of the way towards where you want to be in all areas of your life in the "one year from now" section of your LifePlan. Can you identify pressing matters you need to tackle that you've overlooked? If your progress has fallen behind, how can you get it back on track? Even if you're ahead of schedule, can you identify something that you could be tackling to keep you ahead of the game? Has something else cropped up that needs tackling before making further progress? What 3 things do you need to be tackling in the next week or so that you can actually achieve in that time? What one big thing do you need to complete soon to keep you on track? How do you feel about that?

Questions, questions - but they are all there to help direct your thinking before you do some blogging! Feel free to go off piste if you need to on this one - we are all different, facing varied issues and we might need to take different approaches sometimes. There is no right answer for all of us.

As usual, come back after Thursday when the linky will be open and will remain open until nearly Easter. Talking of Easter, LifeCircle will be taking a break over the holidays so I'll be setting a longer task soon.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Going back to school (dinners)

Photo credit - edgardg
Today, I'm going to do something I have not done in a very long time. I'm going to have a school dinner.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

LifeCircle 2012: Having me time

Life CircleThis post was almost a little late for me, because I've been having my me time. Ha, if only it were true! In truth, the past two weeks have been very busy and I have not been able to have as much me time as I would like. However, I've still taken some and I have me time booked into my diary for the next few weeks. Perhaps this was not the best choice of task for me at this time, but I was so busy with the run up to Monkey's birthday last week, if I had posted a linky and set another task, I would have had even less time for myself and his birthday was a lovely family time. I know that I do need to book it in advance to make it a habit so that it becomes a part of me, like the rest of my personality.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Blogger Wedding Album - Five Fs stylee!

Often midweek, you'll find posts from me taking part in the Gallery. Well, there is none this week but you have to watch that Tara. She has a week off and then she opens the Blogger Wedding Album, so she gets us finding pictures from our wedding and sending them to her or blogging about them. As I have already used this picture once for The Gallery, I'll use it again and tell you a little bit more about the story behind the picture.

Our wedding took place in Key West in Florida. We wanted to get married abroad but research told me that trying to get married in Italy or Spain may have given me grey hairs with all the hoops you have to jump through, and extra cost. Some friends of ours had got married in Orlando but had honeymooned in Key West and sung its praises. As the paperwork required and the process to get a marriage licence was straightforward, we decided to go for it. We invited the family but offered to pay for our parents' flights. They were the only family members who did come to the wedding - but we liked it that way. We got married on the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Historic Park at sunset and it was lovely (even though it was trying to rain!).

Not having the rest of our family present for the wedding, we decided to have a wedding party after we returned to celebrate with them and our friends. We were lucky to get a really good venue - a local hotel which has a strange location but was actually lovely, the staff were great and they accommodated all our needs without charging the earth. They organised pretty much everything for us and all we had to do was bring a cake - which turned into a £9.99 personalised half sheet cake from Costco.

The party was a really fantastic occasion - it was a chance to wear my dress again, which I love (although actually, it's a top and skirt), catch up with family and friends all in one place without having to schlep all over the country to do so, and generally have a good time. The DJ did a fab job and the food was lovely. Not that I think I had a lot to eat. And then, someone - I forget who - took this picture of us cutting our very expensive Costco cake. And yes, it was in a corridor as they set the food up just outside the party room. Everything was perfect. I'd recommend the hotel to you all, but it got sold and then closed a few years later and lies empty. We tried to explain to the children its significance the other day, but they couldn't get the concept of us having a party without them. Bless.

So, there you go, Tara, that's my entry into your Blogger Wedding Album. Hope you like it.

And the Oscar goes to...


Well, not exactly. But after the Oscars a few weeks back, Warner Brothers sent me a box of goodies, which included my very own Oscar. OK, so it was a lollipop on a stick. I can dream. They actually sent me two lollipops, but I didn't want to boast.

What was also in the box was a selection of Oscar-winning films, the most recent being Midnight in Paris that won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay this year for Woody Allen, and stars Owen Wilson (bonus). Also included is The Blind Side, which I'm looking forward to as I've heard good things about it, and a 5 disc collectors edition of Gone with the Wind, a film so long that it runs over 2 discs.

I think popcorn consumption in this house may increase over the next few weeks...

(I was sent the above box of DVDs and lollipops by Warner Bros. I have not received any other compensation and I have not been told what to write.)

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Phone pas

The woman glares at me, like a foul smell has got under her nose, her look of disgust matching my bewilderment. 

I grab the ringing phone. "But I turned it off...." my voice trails away as I realise that I’ve neglected again to switch it off properly.  

“Dammit,” I whisper, embarrassed,  then look up. “Sorry, my mistake.”

Silent, she raises her hand as the light begins to glow red. Her scorn has barely faded, but her voice affects a veneer of friendly approachability as she starts to address her audience.

“Good morning,  and welcome to the show. My guest today…”

See more entries into the 100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups over at Julia's Place.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Meal Planning Monday - the Mothering Sunday edition

We're having a quieter week this week after  Monkey's birthday celebrations. Having said that, we still have the usual weekly activities and school is having a Science Week, including a family Science evening and so, we won't be totally bored. This week is just a mix of some older favourites adapted for the slow cooker and some recipes I'd like to try.

Oh yes, and as Sunday is Mothering Sunday, I am not cooking. Husband has therefore told me what he is going to cook with the children. Apparently, they are also making pudding but I'm not entirely sure what right at this very moment. There is still time for this all to change before Sunday, but they can go shopping for the ingredients!

So, eyes down, look in, people. Here's the menu for this week with links where I have them. (Not that you need a recipe to make sandwiches, eh?!)

Monday -  Pork and veg chilli (slow cooker)
Tuesday -  Thai spiced fish pie
Wednesday -  One pot lentil chicken
Thursday -  Sandwiches
Friday -  Pea and pesto soup with fish finger croutons
Saturday - Slow cooker risotto
Sunday -  Sausage and chorizo goulash

So, what's on your menu this week? Don't forget to pop over to Mrs M's place to check out the other entries on this week's linky.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Cake of the Week - a chocolate Barca cake (in away colours)

Of course, my cake of the week just HAD to be Monkey's birthday cake. The origins of this cake go back a whole year actually, and I like to think comparing these two cakes will give you an idea of where I have gone with baking over the last year and also displays how great tutorials and recipes from other bloggers can really make a difference.

So, last year, when Monkey turned 6, we took him to Barcelona for the weekend as husband was running his first marathon and he had asked to go. Whilst we were there, we took him to see Barcelona play and I took him to the museum during the morning of the marathon, once husband had run past where we were staying and before we went to see him cross the finish line.

His birthday wasn't until just after we came back so I had time to make him a cake and I came up with the idea of turning into a Barcelona cake like this:

Which at the time, I was pretty impressed with. All I did was buy some ready to roll icing and the blue and red seemed to be close to Barcelona home colours and then of course, cut out the 6 from yellow icing, adding an offcut that looks mysteriously NOT like a football. Monkey loved it, especially as he had no idea I was making it and it was a bit of a spur of the moment late night decision which I basically winged my way through. 

At the time, we teased Monkey that if he'd been a year older, he could have had a David Villa cake as his squad number was 7. This is because when we were out there, he chose an away shirt with David Villa's name on the back as a present. You can see him in it here. 

Fast forward a year, and when I asked Monkey what kind of cake he wanted, his answer was unequivocal: a David Villa cake, in the away colours of his shirt, which is now so last season. Hey ho. So, this is how I did it, with links to recipes or instructions that I used. 

First, I made a chocolate cake. My go to recipe at the moment is on The Pink Whisk by the lovely Ruth. Yes, the recipe is for chocolate muffins but Ruth says you can use the same quantities to split between two 20cm/8 inch sandwich tins. I actually make it in a single tin, cook it for about an hour. I allow it to cool in the tin, so that I can shave the top level, then slice it in two, admittedly not very straight. 

Then, I referred again to Ruth's blog to follow instructions for covering the cake with sugarpaste. This can be summarised by saying having levelled and sliced it, I sandwiched the cakes with chocolate buttercream, chilled the cake, topped it with icing and spread it around the sides then chilled it again. Having bought the same pack of ready to roll icing, I realised my mistake in that there was far too little green for the job, but I ran out to the supermarket and bought some white sugarpaste and kneaded about half of it into the green and very quickly, it became evenly coloured. It probably was about right as the green needed to be lighter than the stuff in the packet. I rolled it out, and learned that I need to keep turning it or it sticks very easily, even if you have lightly dusted your workspace! Placing it on the cake is always a nervy moment but I get there and it's never as perfect as Ruth's final result but it will do. 

Next, I needed to do the red and blue flash that was on the front. For this, Monkey had given me his shirt for me to work from which was actually quite handy. I rolled out the red icing into an oblong shape, then trimmed it to the width I wanted and cutting it to the desired angle on the right hand side. I rolled out the blue icing and again trimmed it to the width I needed, overlapped it onto the red icing so I made sure when I cut that side, it was at the same angle. Then I fixed them both to the bottom third of the cake, using a few dabs of water from a clean paintbrush, another trick I learned from Ruth. I made sure they lined up against each other. 

For the lettering, I had thought ahead enough to go and buy number and letter cutters from Dunelm Mill a few days before, so I rolled out the rest of the blue icing, cut out the lettering I needed, and again fixed them to the cake with a bit of water. This was the nerviest part, making sure I got the spacing about right and I wished that I'd made a bigger cake at this point! 

Once it was done, I was ready to go for a lie down. 

And here it is, with candles on Monkey's big day.

And do take a look at Cake of the Week, over on Helen's blog.

Friday, 9 March 2012


At 10am on 9th March 2005, Monkey was born with the yank of some forceps. He made a grand entrance, covering me, the doctor, half the room and himself in poo as he came out; a fact he finds very funny, being a boy of the age that truly appreciates toilet humour.

He needed a clean before being handed to me. Not that I cared, I was exhausted and didn't feel that elation that many new mums experience. Instead, I was relieved it was all finally over as his birth had been a stop-start labour running over several days, involving trips back and forth to maternity units and antenatal clinics, most of them fruitless.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

A happy breakfast and lunch wrapped up

Every year, when it's the children's birthdays, we allow the birthday boy or girl to choose what they want for a special breakfast, especially now that the children are at school. We've had some interesting responses which have been quite sweet, like their usual stuff, but then we ask them to pick something special and it's normally something chocolatey or has some chocolate in it somewhere. Of course!

For Monkey's birthday this Friday, he has requested toast and chocolate spread. It made me smile because Warburtons had just sent me some products to try. Along with those, they also sent through details of a survey they commissioned that found that eating bakery products for breakfast made you happier than eating cereals (and even bacon butties). Top of the list for happiness was brioche, closely followed by white toast and crumpets, and in celebration of this, they sent us chocolate chip brioche to try. I'd normally insert a picture here but honestly, it didn't last long enough. Oops. 

Something else they sent was a pack of their Squareish Wraps so we could try out one of their recipes. These are thicker than normal wraps, so you can not only roll them, but also top them or fold them. Actually, I do have to say that I don't find them as good for rolling as usual wraps because of the thickness. Also, I like the way you fold in the edge to keep the filling in - you can't do that with these so the filling just falls out of the ends. 

We did however try them out as pizza bases and made two pizzas for lunch one day. With thanks to Warburton, here is the official recipe.

Chicken & peppers or Cheese, tomato and Rocket Pizza

Serves 2

· 2 Warburtons Square-ish Wraps
· Tomato puree
· Cooked torn chicken
· Char grilled Aubergines, Red and Yellow peppers
· Cherry Tomatoes
· Mozzarella Cheese
· Mixed Herbs
· Rocket Leaves

1. Spread a thin layer of tomato puree on both wraps.

2. Top one with chicken and vegetables and the other with cheese, tomato and herbs.

3. Cook in a hot oven (200C/400F/Gas 6)

4. Garnish with Rocket leaves.

Now, we took a few liberties with this. We had chicken and a jar of piquillo peppers, which I sliced, but not cherry tomatoes or mozzarella. The rest are not huge fans of rocket so I didn't buy any of that. Monkey helped me "cook" and we just put everything we had on both wraps. I grated cheddar instead of using mozzarella. Monkey enjoyed sprinkling on the cheese, although he did decide at one stage just to dump a load of cheese on the baking sheet "because it was funny". 

I thought that the pizza would come out too flimsy but although they did come thin, cooking made them firmer. I cooked them in the oven for about 15 minutes - I noticed the time is not mentioned in the recipe so I just made sure the cheese was melted. It was very tasty - and quite light for a lunch; a thick pizza would have been way too stodgy for lunchtime. I always want to sleep the afternoon if I have pizza for lunch but this was nice. I am not sure that I would have liked the pizza without cheese - it just doesn't seem right to me.

And there you have it - lunch all wrapped up. (Stop groaning at the back there).

(Warburton's sent me some bakery products to try. I have not received any further compensation. I have not been told what to write. I was sent some recipes to try and include but not obliged to include them on my blog.)

Car insurance - how I save money

This post is sponsored - please see below for more details

It’s the time of year for me that I have a very important job to do – compare car insurance. I’m on a budget, so every penny counts, more so than it ever has before. My renewal notice comes around now and even if it hasn’t changed much, the cost always goes up and never down, doesn’t it? I thought I’d share my tips for ensuring you get the best deal.

Photo credit - blary54
It is however worth doing a comparison, because you are pretty much guaranteed to save something. Insurance companies want to win your business, so the prices you’re offered as a new customer will be lower than a loyal one. Madness I know, but that’s how it seems to work.

When you are comparing, make sure you check that you will save by whichever method you prefer to pay. Paying in one lump sum is always cheaper but if you can’t do that, then be wary of the varying finance charges as you might not save paying by instalments. Also, be sure to declare EVERYTHING before getting those comparisons – every accident, any recent or pending convictions, everything about your car, how you intend to use your car. Don’t skimp on your cover in that respect, because you could have any claim refused for missing something out, and that’s a false economy.

Even if you’re not intending to change insurers, it’s worth comparing prices then ring up your current insurance company and telling them that you can get it cheaper elsewhere. They will often reduce the price on the spot if they think they are going to lose you. They are depending on your inertia, but a quick check and a brief phone call should help you save money.

My final tip would be to investigate if the insurers you find are on the usual cashback sites. If they are, check those deals out as they will further reduce the final cost of your insurance, although you may have to wait a while for the money to come through. It’s worth doing though, as it can bring down the cost of some policies with better cover levels and lower excesses.

One thing is for sure – do not just accept the price you’re first quoted on your renewal notice. Put a little effort in, and you will save yourself money. Go forth and compare! 

I was paid a fee to write a post and include a featured link. All words and opinions are my own and are from my own personal experience. 

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Cake of the Week - a chocolatey Jaffa drizzle cake!

Randomly, I decided to bake at the weekend with Missy Woo and this cake jumped out at me from a booklet with this month's Good Food magazine as I had everything I needed to hand, and it celebrated two things she loves foodwise - chocolate and citrus. This is the little girl that will literally lick the cut edge of lemons and enjoy it.

The original recipe is for a loaf cake but I thought I would share my unique method of preparation with you. As I didn't have a large enough loaf tin (it specified a 1.2 litre loaf tin), I used a 7 or 8 inch round deep baking tin which really requires adjustments of cooking time, which I have given here. Also, I wasn't sure the cake would be orangey enough so I took inspiration from Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries, which has an orange drizzle loaf cake recipe using marmalade, so I bunged that in too.

Jaffa Drizzle Cake 

(Cuts into 10-12)

For the cake:
140g/5oz butter, softened
200g/7oz self-raising flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
200g/7oz caster sugar
3 large eggs
6 tbsp milk
75g any marmalade - shredless is best
1 large orange

For the syrup:
3 tbsp orange juice (from the orange)
50g/2oz caster sugar

To top the cake:
75g/3oz dark chocolate (the darker, the better - 70% cocoa solids is good)

This is how I actually did it.

1. Heat your oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4. Butter and line the base of either a 20cm/8" deep round tin or a 1.2l loaf tin with baking parchment.

2. Measure your butter, and place in microwave ready to soften.

3. Place all the cake ingredients into a mixing bowl and start to beat with hand whisk. Realise you haven't grated in the zest of the orange, so stop and finely grate the zest into the bowl.

4. Recommence beating with hand whisk for 3-5 mins and wonder why it's not gone light and fluffy as expected, but more like a cake batter. Realise baking powder has not been added, add that in and mix again.

5. Realise your cake mixture is not going to go light and fluffy. Shrug. Pour cake batter into tin and go to place cake in oven. Turn towards microwave and ..... OH MY GOD! The butter. It's STILL in the microwave. Turn microwave on to soften butter.

6. Wrestle cake bowl that children were about to start licking from small hands, pour cake batter into bowl. Quickly wash out tin, discarding cake parchment. Re-butter and re-line the base of the tin.

7. Add now softened butter. Mix again, and realise that butter was indeed the missing ingredient and the mixture finally becomes light and fluffy. Place in the tin, level the top.

8. Bake in the oven until risen and firm to the touch, should be about 50-55 mins if you use a round tin, 40-50 mins if you are using the loaf tin. In the last few mins of cooking, place the orange juice and sugar in a pan  over a gentle heat, and stir until all the sugar dissolved. Try to keep warm, but don't allow to bubble too much or the liquid will evaporate and dry too hard. (Ahem.)

9. Remove cake from the oven and spoon over the syrup. Leave to cool in the tin. Remove from the tin, using ingenuity and some force to ease the solidified syrup from the top of the cake. Leave to cool completely.

10. Break the chocolate into small pieces and either melt in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, ensuring the water does not touch the bowl or microwave in 30 second bursts and stirring vigorously between. Drizzle over the cake and leave to set.

Thankfully, this is a fairly forgiving cake. It's an all-in-one sponge, so all you do is place ingredients in the bowl and just mix them together. Missing the butter out initially didn't mean the final cake suffered - it was actually light and fluffy, even though it sank back quite some distance after removing from the oven, although the syrup might be the culprit there. It smells gorgeous, even cold. I wondered if you could add some cocoa powder to the sponge to make it fully chocolate and orange flavoured; that might be a step too far but it may be an experiment for another day.

Linking this up with Helen's Cake of the Week feature once again, just because I love her cakes!

Monday, 5 March 2012

Meal Planning Monday - the Monkey birthday edition

As the title suggests, it's Monkey's birthday this week. Friday to be precise, when he turns seven and obviously, this week's meal plan reflects the change to usual routine that this will provide. We're having a party at home, which I have not done in years for him and so, Saturday is a bit of a write off. He's asked to go out to Pizza Hut for tea on the Friday so we're going to be very pizza-ed out! That leaves us only 4 meals to plan this week as Thursday is always a riot of after-school activity so we just tend to have sandwiches for simplicity and speed.

Here, in meals, is our week. The recipes I'm using are from the latest edition of Good Food, which landed on my doorstep just as I was doing an online shop. None of the recipes are currently on their site, so I can't link to them but they will be there in a week or two.

Monday - Cod (well, white fish) with bacon, lettuce and peas
Tuesday - Smoky bean, bacon and eggy bread bake
Wednesday - Singapore noodles
Thursday - Sandwiches
Friday - Pizza Hut
Saturday - party so leaving free - probably leftover pizza but we'll see.
Sunday - Potato frittata with pesto and goats cheese

I also have some ideas in my locker for next week already, but you'll have to wait until next week for those. In the meantime, let me know what's on your menu and don't forget to check out Mrs M for MPM entries.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

LifeCircle 2012 - Some time for me

Life CircleFirstly, sincere apologies this is  so late. Yeah, I have a life! I was going to blog during Saturday but spent it doing other things and when I finally sat down, totally forgot I was supposed to be blogging. I remembered far too late to get something out on Saturday, so Sunday it will have to be. Oops.

The next task I'm setting is rather apt really. Because this is going to be a two week task - you won't need to link up this Thursday, nor will there be a new task next Saturday. This task will therefore have a linky open on Thursday 15th March. 

Why? Because it's Monkey's birthday next Friday and he has a party next Saturday. I am going to be busy with birthday and party preparations and I also need something else that is important in my life - time for me.

Friday, 2 March 2012

On my birthday meme - a challenge for all bloggers!

On my birthday Yes, yes, my birthday was a while back but I've had this idea in my head for a while for a meme. It was something that we did for fun when I used to post on the Handbag forums, when Wikipedia was first becoming popular and vaguely useful.

I'm kind of reviving it for the blog but I'm going to try and be ambitious for this one. I'm going to set up a linky and attempt to get at least one post for all 366 days of the year. If you add your post to it, please try to mention the date of your birthday in the link title if you can. That way, I can check through the list quickly to check how we're doing. It won't matter if we get more than one post for the same date, the aim will be at least one post for each day on the calendar.

What you will have to do is answer questions about your birthday. If you don't know where to look, the best way is to go to Wikpedia, type in your birthday in the search box and it will tell you all you ever want to know (and more) about your special day. Obviously, you can take what is said with a pinch of salt but it's mostly correct. There is also a site called On This Day which you can use but it's not as user-friendly and the lists are not as extensive.

I'm always fascinated with people and things that happened on my birthday. I'm nosey enough to want to know about all your birthdays too, and what you find fascinating about your own birthday. I'm going to tag a few people at the end of this post but don't wait to be tagged if you want to join in - blog and link up, but I would be grateful if you could tag others for me so we can spread it around a bit.

Better get on with the questions then.

When is your birthday? 6th January

Pick three people who share your birthday and share what you know about them.
My three are:
- Kahil Gibran, whose book The Prophet is an absolute favourite of mine, and I've read quite a lot of his work. He even has the same initials as me before I was married. He died before my parents were born, let alone me, so I couldn't really tell you what he was like but I bet he was interesting.
- Nigella Lawson; can you see the similarity? Whaddya mean no?!
- Andy Carroll. Oh dear.

That would make for an interesting dinner party, wouldn't it?

When I was growing up, the only famous person it was ever mentioned shared my birthday with me was Sylvia Syms. Yeah, who? Now, there seems to be a sprinkling of ageing comedian/TV presenter (Angus Deayton, Rowan Atkinson), a dodgy but loveable national football manager (Terry Venables) and a saint (Joan of Arc, allegedly). All very interesting.

Is anyone listed as being born on the same day as you (ie the same year)? If so, what do you know about them?
Erm, well, Wikipedia lists three people - an American Muslim writer, a Cuban wrestler and a Danish political scientist. Again, an eclectic mix but I've never heard of any of them ever before. I know not a sausage. I could tell you from their Wikipedia entries but I suspect you'd drop off.

List three people who died on your birthday and tell us what you know about them. 
Looking down the list, a name leapt out at me - Theodore Roosevelt, the former US president, who died in 1919. And then, in 1993, both Dizzy Gillespie the jazz trumpeter, and Rudolf Nureyev, the ballet dancer, died on the same day. Which was a surprise to me - I remembered Nureyev dying of an AIDS related illness as it was the talk of the newspapers but I don't remember Dizzy Gillespie dying at the same time.

List three notable events that took place on your birthday.
At the top of the list, it mentions that King Harold (or Harold Godwinson) was crowned on 6 January 1066. Err, yes. That ended well and was a long reign. Not. Then, a little more recently in 1947, Pan-Am became the first airline to schedule a flight around the world - yes, around the whole world! Finally, 6 January 1994 will become forever notorious as the day when the American figure skater Nancy Kerrigan got clubbed on the knee by someone paid by her rival's husband. Do you remember that? I certainly do!

Tell us about a holiday that falls on your birthday.
Well, my birthday is Epiphany and is a public holiday in many parts of the world (I live in the wrong country - I could guaranteee my birthday off every year if I moved abroad!) but it's also Pathet Lao Day in Laos and Armed Forces Day in Iraq. Also, I didn't know that it also marks the start of Carnival period which ends on Shrove Tuesday. Why did no-one tell me that another party season starts in January? We're mostly partied out once New Year has been and gone but Carnival appears to be a tradition that has passed this country by. But it would be a great excuse to start yet another party!

Finally, please tag some people who will hate you some lovely people to carry on this meme, then link back to this post so they can find the badge and link up their post once published.

I am tagging:

Ruth at Geekmummy
Nickie at Typecast
Fay at Glass Half Full
Heidi at Him, Me & Three
Angela at This is Life
Claire at CJ's Palace

Badge code is here:

  On your birthday

And linky is here. I will leave it open for over a year, but I should be able to reopen it if necessary. Get entering, people! I'm counting on you.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

LifeCircle 2012 - that's a negatory right there

Life Circle Well, I was going to write a post about how it's worked for me but I have come across a bit of a hitch - no-one has asked me to do anything I didn't want to do this week! I could make up a story but you wouldn't believe it so I'll be honest with you. Obviously, that means I've been great at saying no in the past as no-one now dare ask me! I think, actually, that it has more to do with the fact that I work from home and don't come into contact with many people in the course of an average week.

So, it's over to you. What's happened to you with this task? How did it feel saying no, both before and after? Did you learn anything new about yourself this week? I'd love to know.

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