Monday, 25 March 2013

Meal Planning Monday - the freezer springclean edition!

Meal Planning Monday
It might well feel like it's still Winter - we had snow on 22nd March with massive drifts on some of the roads, what is going on? - my freezer is desperately in need of a spring clean. I've got things in there I could really do with using so this week, before I put together my plan, I did a quick audit of things that need turning into meals in my two freezers and added in a couple of things from my cupboards (which could also do with sorting out but not quite so urgently). This keeps the food bill down, and reduces wastage.

Nothing is particularly complicated - they're often things I've made before with a couple of new things thrown in for good measure (or at Monkey's request, he wants to try Tandoori Chicken!) One of the recipes comes from another blog that links up to Meal Planning Monday - when I have time, I like to look around and note down ideas for future weeks so I'm never faced with a blank sheet of paper when starting my plans. Saves me even more time and I get to discover new blogs all the time!

Here's the week - the children here don't finish until Thursday by the way so it's fairly "normal" until Thursday and then they are off Friday. Husband is working the weekend so it's just the kids and me so it won't feel that much different than any other weekends and won't feel much like Easter.

Monday - Spicy bean fajitas
Tuesday - Thai Fish Pie
Wednesday - Slow cooker pork goulash
Thursday - Home made burgers and baked chips
Friday - Tandoori chicken
Saturday - Freezer surprise (there's a pie in there that needs some extra potato topping but I can't remember what it is!)
Sunday - Ham hock and cabbage hash

Don't forget - there are lots of entries on Mrs M's Meal Planning Monday - click on the badge to start discovering.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Proud mummy moment

Indulge me if you will for a few moments. I don't write enough about the children on this blog these days, even though they are still the most brilliant thing and keep me on my toes daily, if not hourly.

Since the start of the school year, Monkey has been learning to play the ukulele. His school decided a few years ago that Year 3 would learn an instrument and chose a ukulele because they are small and easier to handle. We had to buy a ukulele for him but luckily, the school managed to buy a job lot of them from another school and it cost us £5.

Photo credit: wjunior

For the first term, Monkey would randomly practice upstairs and we could hear nothing but random strumming. Just before Christmas, we went to an assembly to hear them play and they weren't bad but obviously still learning. The teacher they get in to teach them is great with them; she sings and plays along with them and they obviously all have a ball doing it.

Then, a few weeks ago, Monkey started mentioning something about playing in a concert at a festival but the details were unclear. Just before half term, school sent home some details and asked for permission for the children to take part. Unfortunately, it was on a Thursday evening when the children have everything on. The only way I could manage it was for my husband to go into work late, taking Monkey to swimming and onto the venue, leaving him there with another parent until I arrived with Missy Woo after picking her up from dancing.

On the day, it became apparent that Monkey was getting a little nervous, but I told him to try his best and smile! The children were all raring to go but had to wait sometime as there were other classes first. When their class came around, they were the last of 3 groups to come onto the stage. Having sat through two other groups which were brass bands, they were certainly different.. It was obvious they were enjoying themselves and I thought how much they had progressed since I had last heard them play. They did three songs, and the class were ably abetted by a few children from older classes doing percussion and one sang a solo. When they finished, they got rapturous applause and I remember thinking they had a chance of winning. They were quite clearly the youngest group in terms of average age out of the 3 groups competing.

The adjudicator stood up after their performance to give her comments to all 3 groups. She was brilliant with the children and had some really constructive feedback for them all. Then it was results time. Third was one of the brass bands so we were at least second. They had a chance and I remember thinking that at least they hadn't come last.

Then she announced the second place went to.... the other brass band. I could see the children from where I sat as the realisation dawned on them. They'd won! I will admit, I was nearly crying as I turned to Missy Woo and said "They've won, they've won!" as she hadn't realised. When the adjudicator finally announced the school's name as the winners, a big cheer went up. Looking at Monkey, I'm not sure he wasn't crying too but I could see he was bursting with pride. The adjudicator handed over the trophy and a certificate. Then we all had to settle down again for the final class, the secondary ensemble, which was won by a guitar group run by the same teacher who teaches the ukulele to Monkey's class!

At the end, the children were all very excited and happy, but they'd been so well-behaved considering it was getting late, past 9pm. After sharing fish and chips at home before ringing Daddy and grandparents, two tired children finally got them to bed. Monkey had a bit of a reaction the next day as he developed a tummy ache and I had to pick him up from school early.

Then came news that the local paper was coming in. Not only to photograph them, but video them playing a song. They all had to wear uniform in the morning to school (it was non-uniform day) although they were allowed to change afterwards. Monkey reported afterwards that it went OK and I knew from school assembly that it was due to be in the paper on the Saturday.

On Sunday, (late in the way only local papers can) the video finally appeared. I was sat in the café at the gym when I saw it and watched the video, once again nearly in tears. Monkey is right there at the front, although this does seem to show up how much he is looking around and not actually playing. I'm sure he wasn't like that for the concert. Now, I'd love to share the video, but since I don't publicly name the children's school on this blog or on Twitter, I can't because the school name is all over it. However, if you ask me nicely, I'll share it with you.

And then today, there they were in the paper - on page 3, and a big write up too and a big colour photo.

The school the children go to is relatively small nor is it particularly well known. That's not to say it's a bad school - far from it, the children love school, are doing well and get lots of opportunities to do things outside of school. It's the first time since the headteacher joined the school that they have actually won something. Winning something like this gives the chance for the children to see themselves in a different way as well as others to see the school in a different light. On top of that, it is a fabulous achievement on only a term and a half of lessons - so not only did the children do a fantastic job, their teacher did too!

I will stop banging on about my children's achievements now. Normal service is about to resume...

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Meal Planning Monday - the Missy Woo edition!

Meal Planning Monday
It's been a busy week in our house for various reasons. We had cake club at the weekend, Monkey has been away at Granny's having a birthday treat, and we seem to haveD after school clubs galore at the moment. It's been a bit busy to have time to put together a full meal plan so I asked Missy Woo to choose some things she liked to have again. And she only went and chose the pea and potato soup again. Yes, I did actually ACTUALLY make it last week and now we're having it again.

Here is the plan a la Missy Woo (with a couple of suggestions from me)

Monday - Mixed vegetable curry
Tuesday - Sausages in onion gravy
Wednesday - Cottage pie (with a twist)
Thursday -  Minty pea and potato soup
Friday -  Chicken jambalaya
Saturday - Pasta "risotto" with pea and pancetta
Sunday - Let's keep free, huh?

More Meal Planning Monday mayhem available at Mrs M's by clicking the badge above.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Giveaway time! Win a pair of tickets to the Cake & Bake show in Manchester

In April, The Cake and Bake Show is coming to Manchester Central (what most people still refer to as GMEX!) It's an opportunity to see your favourite baking stars in action, watch demonstrations, learn new skills. Oh, and eat cake too! Come on, what is not to like about that?

I've been offered a pair of tickets to visit the show myself but in the spirit of sharing,  I also have secured another pair to give away to one of my lovely cakey readers. Well, the readers aren't cakey as such; I mean the ones that love cake. Which is most of them. Oh, shut up, Kate.

The show is on from Friday 5th April to Sunday 7th April. Some of the highlights include

- Paul Hollywood (Friday only)
- Eric Lanlard
- John Whaite and all the other contestants of last year's Great British Bake Off
- Chances to learn or develop skills from top bakers
- Baking competitions

to name but a few.

If you fancy going but don't want to take your chances with the giveaway, you can buy tickets for the show here.

To enter, all you need to do is follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter widget below. All entries will be verified and entries that do not fulfil the criteria will be removed before the winner is chosen.

Rafflecopter will pick a winner at random.

This competition runs from 15th March until 22nd March 2013. Full terms and conditions are listed on the Rafflecopter widget.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Cake of the Week - Tennis ball cake

So it was Monkey's birthday at the weekend. Eight. Bloody hell!

Apart from the chocolate oat flips that we have to eat the night before his birthday (we bought some in Booths when we were told to go for a walk when I was progressing and in Preston and in my mind, they are forever associated with his birth!), of course we have to have a cake. This year, Monkey had a tennis party for his birthday so, rather than do yet ANOTHER Barcelona cake, I talked him into a tennis ball cake to fit the theme.

Fitting in making a cake shouldn't have been hard but Monkey insisted he helped me make the cake and the evenings were mad last week. In the end, I pre-weighed everything so we could mix and bung into the oven before bed on Wednesday. And then it was Friday night before I managed to finish it off after the children went to bed. Talking about leaving it late, but we got there.

And here it is.

I decided on this because it's a simple design. Underneath is a standard chocolate cake recipe from my lovely friend Ruth - in her book, the chocolate cake recipe is scaleable according to the size of pan which I find so helpful. The recipe is easy and it always works. Then I split it and filled with a standard buttercream, covered it and chilled. It's then filled with lime green sugarpaste. Some wag on Facebook said aren't tennis balls yellow but yellow sugarpaste was too sunny so I went for the lime green as it's a yellowy green.

Then, I used some white sugarpaste to finish the decorations. I tried to find a way to extrude and if I'd found a way, I would have done so. Instead, I had to make do with rolling it out sausage style and sticking it on with water. A final 8 pressed out with a cutter finished the cake.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Meal Planning Monday - the trying to eat more veg edition!

Meal Planning Monday
It seems like the only time I come here at the moment is to do my meal plans. I know, I know but really, I've been busy. Monkey had a birthday on Saturday and preparing for it whilst juggling work seemed to take it out of me - I was in bed early (for me) on Thursday and Friday and then on Saturday, I got in bed shortly after 11pm - unheard of for me - and slept like a log until nearly 9.

I have to admit, I've been feeling a bit sluggish lately and even Monkey got sent home from school on Friday with a tummyache. This turned into nothing, thank God, but it made me reflect on the fact that we don't seem to have had much in the way of veg these last few weeks. So, this week, there are more in the plan. And no, I still haven't got around to doing that pea soup. It WILL happen this week. It WILL. Looking at the plan, it seems to be a lot of beans and pulses actually but onions and tomatoes are featuring too.

The children seem to have signed themselves up for every after school activity going lately. One or both of them have something on 3 days of the week, we go to the gym on Wednesdays, leaving only Fridays for down time. Not ideal, but some of the activities are only for a few weeks and it is entirely their choice so I don't feel so bad. Monday is going to be good because they are both at school until 4.30! Then, at the weekend, both the children are coming to Clandestine Cake Club with me then Monkey is going to stay at the grandparents for his birthday treat (a trip to see Horrible Histories!).

This is what I have planned.

Monday - Roast beef hash (adapted slightly)
Tuesday - Chicken with spices and cream (aka Nigel Slater's chicken curry)
Wednesday - Chipotle bean chilli with baked eggs
Thursday - Minty pea and potato soup (don't laugh)
Friday - Mushroom risotto
Saturday  - keeping free, I will have cakeache
Sunday - Sticky roasted sausages with lentils

This is us for the potentially cold week ahead. What about you? When you've told me, mosey on over to Mrs M's for more Meal Planning Monday (non) mayhem.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Meal Planning Monday - the birthday and Mother's Day edition!

Meal Planning Monday
The short weeks are coming thick and fast at the moment.  On Saturday, Monkey turns 8 (how the hell did that happen?) so is having a tennis party and then on Sunday, it's Mother's Day and I am not cooking. I'm not sure WHAT we are doing yet but I did suggest to husband that he and the children made a roast for us to have at home. We'll see.

The weekend is therefore busy. On top of that, Monkey is taking part in a ukulele concert at a small music festival on Thursday night, on top of doing badminton AND swimming after school. I don't know when he's going to fit eating in. For now, I'm sticking to soup and might finally get around to making the soup I keep putting on the plan and then it not happening.

Here is what I have so far.

Monday - Prawn and coconut curry
Tuesday - Honey mustard pork
Wednesday - Corned beef and beans pie
Thursday - Minty pea and potato soup
Friday - keeping free
Saturday - keeping free (and party food)
Sunday - keeping free

What about you, oh wonderful meal planners? My plan was done in a rush, and I'm hoping I can return to normal next week. In the meantime, Mrs M has more meal planning marvellousness.
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