Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Meal Planning Monday (Tuesday?) - the extremely late summer edition!

Meal Planning MondayYes, OK, I'm late. A whole day, in fact. I have an excuse - we were down south until Monday morning, and having called in to see some of my family on our way home, we didn't get home until Monday evening. I wasn't organised enough to have a plan ahead of time, let alone do a post, so I had to scribble one down with Missy Woo offering me suggestions from a summer book the children managed to acquire this weekend.

This week is a big one for husband - he's competing in the Ironman at Bolton on Sunday so he's off this week preparing for it. Hence the pasta on Saturday night. Apart from that, it's a normal summer holiday week. Oh yes, not quite - the children are running 1.2km for Ironkids on Saturday morning.

Here's the week (obviously, starting on Tuesday - we ate at services on the way home) in meals.

Tuesday- BBQ chicken and sweet potato
Wednesday - Sausage and roast veg couscous
Thursday - Leek and bacon frittata
Friday -  Asian chicken, mandarin and cashew salad
Saturday - Veggie macaroni cheese
Sunday - Homemade fish fingers

If you are still after some meal planning inspiration, get yourself over to Mrs M's. Click the badge above to find it.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Planning for back to school with Aldi Specialbuys

Yes, yes, I know. Don't start on the Back to School stuff now, the kids have only just finished - unless you are one of the unlucky ones who hasn't quite reached that days. But still - I always have my uniform bought as early as possible. I don't know if it's just me, or my children, but whenever I go to look for their sizes, the choice is either limited or non-existent so I tend to snap it up as I see it.

I also try to pay as little as possible, given that my two manage to destroy uniform at an alarming rate. I have a bagful of stuff that is no longer good enough - polo shirts get covered in all sorts from food to paint to mud to grass stains, as do dresses, skirts, trousers. Consequently, I refuse to pay top dollar for uniform that will get trashed in a few weeks. This year seems particularly bad  as I've already binned some disgusting looking polo shirts.

This year, I have a saviour in Aldi. Starting from this Thursday 25th July, they have uniform on special buy in their stores. They sent me some uniform to try on the children and really, I am pretty impressed. The polo shirts (Why did our school choose white?) look fairly sturdy, ready to accept paint and food stains come September. For Monkey, they sent a pair of trousers that just fit him so will be perfect once he's had 6 weeks of rest and growing time. And for Missy, a lovely pleated skirt that's long enough to reach her knees. To give you an idea, they both have 8-9 year sizes - my little Missy is tall and catching her brother!

Best of all, Aldi also sent us two fab winter padded jackets which will be ace when - perish the thought - it gets cold all over again. The children thought I was a bit odd making them try them on in this heat because they ARE cosy. Missy has a lovely comfy fur trimmed hood and Monkey's has a hood - you wouldn't believe how many winter coats don't have hoods on them. This is Lancashire, you know. There is rain.

What I like most, however, is the price. A two pack of polo shirts are £1.25. The skirt and the trousers are both £1.50. You can get a multibuy deal of a pack of polo shirts, a round neck sweater - which we don't use as school have crested ones - and a skirt or trousers - for £4. That's amazing. The quality looks good and I noticed that it's all easy to wash, and tumble dry and has Teflon coating to repel stains. Obviously, they do have other colours available if you need them; we just have the basics of white and grey.

Both jackets cost £9.99 which I think is excellent for the quality. There are lots of other items available too - PE kit, socks, vests, pants, plimsolls, even ballet kit! I may have to get down there myself tomorrow to finish off my uniform buying!

These uniform Specialbuys are available from tomorrow - 25th July - in Aldi stores, and will only remain available whilst stocks last so get yourself down there. And sorry if this is too early to be talking about going back to school but in a few weeks, you'll be praying for that day!

(Aldi sent me the items shown to try out for free. All opinions are my own.)

Monday, 22 July 2013

Meal Planning Monday - the very late but only half a week edition!

Meal Planning MondayYes, it's late. I know. I spent most of Sunday chasing children around, making cakes for teachers (despatched to school today), and watching cricket, golf and cycling. I started a plan but it's a bit of a half plan this week, for we are away this weekend. We are off to the Anniversary Games in London and we can't wait!

Thus, I only need four meals so I haven't planned loads. In fact, the supermarket shop was more snack foods for long journeys than it was about meals as most of the ingredients were already to hand and I'm not buying lots of fresh stuff. There is one carry over from last week which didn't happen when Monkey went off to a party, husband was at work and a small child called Missy Woo pleaded with me to take her to Burger King. It was hot, I relented.

This is really three and a half meals because although I have a plan, tonight is not yet set in stone. Husband is going over to Pennington Flash to do an open water swim and has asked if we'd like to go. If we do, then they have a barbeque there but I can't decide if I want to go or not so I'm going to leave it up to the children to decide. If they want to stay home, I'll just do them some pasta.

So, eyes down, look in.

Monday - Barbeque or pasta, pesto and meatballs
Tuesday - Roast chicken (yes, I am bonkers)
Wednesday - Ham, feta, olive and rocket platter with crostini
Thursday - Sausages in buns or a freezer dive
Friday - not cooking
Saturday - not cooking
Sunday - not cooking

More - and better - meal plans can be found by clicking on the badge above and visiting Mrs M's place.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Papa was a-rollin' foam

(Yes, I know this is a fitness post. I'm SUPPOSED to blog about it here. It's one of my five Fs. Yes, really. Shhhhhh....!)

As long as I can remember, if I've had a really deep night's sleep, I've woken up with a lower back that feels like someone has stretched it all out overnight and then squashed it tight before putting it back in my body. Over the last year or so, it's been more like a generally stiff lower back and then the stiffness has taken longer and longer to go away. You can blame my increased exercise regime for that.

I knew I had to do something but being of limited budget it had to be cheap. I fired up the Google machine and ignoring the warnings of impending death, I happened upon something that provided an option. If I foam rolled the front of my legs (my quads), it should help the stiffness in my lower back.

Thankfully, husband has a foam roller. I hadn't really considered what it was and what it meant but I know that he sometimes faffs around with it for ages when he's been working out. I'd kind of scoffed at what he was doing but I'd heard other mentions of it. So I thought I'd give it a try.

The relief was instant. Whilst I didn't feel it stop the stiffness straight away, I felt fine after rolling my quads but when I stood up, I felt less stiff in the back area and didn't feel stiff the next morning.

I know you're going to ask me now - what IS foam rolling? Well, it's literally taking a cylinder of foam about 15 cm in diameter and using your bodyweight to roll along a muscle. To give it its full title, it's self-myofascial release. The fascia is basically the soft tissue element of the connective tissue surrounding your muscles. Sports massages basically targets these areas too but doing it yourself, with only a foam roll, works out a lot cheaper.

Believe me, it's not an easy option. If you've ever had a sports massage (I haven't but I know people who have), you'll know that it's quite a painful experience. Not searing pain, probably more substantial discomfort. But as you find trigger points, it's often super-sensitive but you have to keep holding the roller there breathing deeply until the point releases. Ow!

If I needed any indication that it wasn't a fluke, my back started stiffening up after I'd not rolled for a couple of days. Since then, I've tried to add rolling different parts of my body post-workout - hamstrings, calves, upper back / shoulder area, and worst of all, the IT band (it runs down the outer front of your thigh) - I am still working up to doing them properly as boy does it hurt! Some sites say you don't need to roll it but it seems to be doing something for me.

I try to do it at the end of my workout if I've got time - as there are a couple of foam rollers at the gym I can use. If not, I do some at home. If I'm really short of time, I roll my quads only - because I know that my back will thank me for it. I'd never really thought that my quads were causing the problem - but I do a lot of squats and lunges so it makes sense really.

The most complete routine of foam rolling I can find (without spending a minute selling you a foam roller) to show you what I mean is here.

Please don't fall asleep listening to the bloke's voice but believe me this is the best!

After rolling, you're meant to stretch and some say it helps you stretch better. Stretching afterwards definitely helps.

Give it a go if, like me, you don't want to turn into a crock holding their back all the time. I know it sounds crazy, but believe me, it works. There are lots of foam rollers around but I'm not going to recommend any particular brand to you - this is not a review post, just me sharing my own experience.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Meal Planning Monday - the lacking inspiration summer no-cook edition!

Meal Planning MondayLong title but it sums it up. It's looking like this warm weather is hanging around and whilst it doesn't seem as if it is going to be quite as hot, it looked like it was going to be cooler last week and then it got hotter. I'm still trying to leave turning the oven on until evenings after the children have gone to bed so it's easy cook stuff. Then of course, when you decide that, everything you want to cook needs an oven, doesn't it?

This week is showing signs of getting no easier. Tomorrow is celebration evening at school and I'm out for lunch. Missy Woo goes on a school trip on Thursday although thankfully, her dance lessons have finished now so I'm taking the children straight to swimming after school and getting tea there. Monkey is at a party on Saturday and husband is working the weekend.

Children have pitched in with one or two ideas but it took me most of the evening to figure it all out.

Monday - Sweet potato and chorizo quesadillas (sweet potatoes going to be "baked" in slow cooker)
Tuesday - Pasta, red pesto and meatballs
Wednesday - Warm new potato and smoked mackerel salad 
Thursday - Tea out
Friday - Sandwiches
Saturday - Serrano ham, feta, olive and rocket platter with crostini
Sunday - Indian chicken salad

Have a great week! The children don't finish school until next week so this is the last week of normality for a while as they finish next Tuesday.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

What to eat when it's too hot to cook

I don't know about you but I get bored with plain salads when I don't want to cook because turning the cooker on will raise the temperature in my kitchen from kitchen to kiln. Add to that the fact that husband doesn't really like barbeques. I know! We don't own one, so our children are of course deprived - they've only been to barbeques at other people's houses.

Options are limited - sandwiches? Repetitive. Stir fries? Too faffy. And salads aren't the children's favourite.

I say that, but I have found one or two main course salad type recipes that the children wolf down. We like this spicy salmon tabbouleh which takes a few minutes cooking, I microwave the salmon and just pour hot  water on the bulgar. This smoked mackerel and potato salad needs the potatoes cooking and so do they in this bean, ham and egg salad but it's just one ring on the hob.

I'm afraid that if I want options, I do resort to some bought things at this time of year, that I can just take out of a fridge, pop on a plate and add salad leaves, tomatoes, and some cucumber - hey presto, dinner! Which also means I have more time to do other things too.

Recently, the people from Higgidy Pies gave me the chance to try out some of their pies. Being the time of year, I'm not really in the mood for pies in this weather so we've been trying out the quiches instead. First, we tried the Balsamic Onion and Mature Cheddar quiche which went so quickly I didn't get chance to take a  photo. At the top is the usual cheesy egg filling topped with a cheese and onion crumb but underneath, just above the pastry base is a balsamic onion chutney. The children eyed it suspiciously because they complain about "too much onion" (even though they eat it in most things without realising) but they ate it and actually liked it.I liked the combination of flavours and the nice touch of seeds in the pastry.

Then, we tried out their Crustless Smoked Bacon and Mature Cheddar quiche. Now, I struggle with crustless quiches. I make my own which is fab but as I said, I'm not baking in this heat if I can avoid it! But then, I started seeing them in the shops - but they do have pastry. If you don't believe me, have a look at the ingredients page on the Higgidy website. It's 18% pastry. Normal quiches are 23-24% pastry. Why is that crustless? The pastry is identical to the regular quiches, there's just a bit less of it. Odd. I don't really get why they do this, or indeed call it crustless. As you can see from the photo above, the crust is noticeably thinner.

Anyway, apart from this, we also enjoyed this. The custard was similar to the balsamic onion quiche but it was topped with bacon lardons and a crumb nicely flavoured with a bit of parsley. Again, it didn't last long (but long enough for me to grab a quick snap) and we ate it with some salad leaves and some coleslaw. Yes, I bought that too!

My only reservation about them is the price. At £3.99, they would be only an occasional treat. Up against own brand versions, some like Waitrose are similarly priced but others are less than half the price. I know there would be a quality difference but it is a huge price gap. I think I'll be waiting for them to be on special offer.

Higgidy are running a competition at the moment aimed at new parents in honour of the imminent arrival of the royal baby.  They have three boxes of Higgidy pies and quiches to give away and one of the pies will be personalised with the name of their baby. If you don't have a baby, you can enter for someone who does, and the competition is open until a week after the royal baby arrives. To enter, all you need to do is go here and enter your name and email. It's that simple.

(Higgidy Pies sent me some vouchers to try their range for free. I have not been paid further for this post.)

Monday, 8 July 2013

Meal Planning Monday - the salad edition!

Meal Planning MondayI'm not ACTUALLY going to say it's too hot but yes, it's a bit warm, isn't it? I have no inclination to turn on ovens and I'm having a bit of a reaction to a busy weekend of Missy Woo's birthday followed by the Wimbledon final, which felt interminable to me, so heavens only knows how it felt to the players!

As a result, I'm going to attempt to make most of the weather and just do as many salads and grilled food as possible. Some are our favourites, some are new ones.

Here goes. I am literally planning this as I type this post so it really is hot off the press.

Monday - Bean, ham and egg salad
Tuesday - Sausages in buns or wraps with corn relish
Wednesday - Spicy salmon tabbouleh
Thursday - Sandwiches
Friday - Loaded mushroom burgers
Saturday - Omelette wedges
Sunday - keeping free for cake club!

Err, that's it. Click badge above etc.

Friday, 5 July 2013

And now, you are seven.

Jazz hands
My darling Missy Woo,

Today, you become seven. It doesn't seem possible but then, people ask me if you and Monkey are twins and are surprised when I say you are still six if they ask your age. There are girls at school two years above you who aren't as tall as you. People naturally think you are older because you are tall but also you have a grown up way about you most of the time. They obviously don't see you when you are being giddy and giggly. 

You love to dance and so it seems apt that today is also your first ever dance exam. And you can't wait. You are almost as excited about your exam as your birthday. You love the idea and you're so proud to be doing your exam. You are not scared at all, and you've practised your moves in the conservatory to the music a few times. I'm not sure if it's the fact you get a couple of hours off school or just that you are going to be dancing. 

Today is going to pass by in a blur. Presents and breakfast, dance exam, school, where you'll have golden time and celebration assembly as it's a Friday. Then, we'll be going to Blackpool to see Granny and Granddad and go out for tea with them. 

It seems like the complete opposite of the day you were born. Having arrived in this world at 4.52am, all hell broke loose after you were born and you spent much of your first couple of hours in a hospital cot whilst the staff dealt with me, put me on drips and stopped me bleeding. I lost half the blood in my body that morning but luckily, the staff were ready and did a fantastic job, but I had to stay lying down all day. I did get to hold you but it was hard to hold you constantly with a drip in my hand. That day felt like it was frozen in time but eventually, they moved me down to a ward and in the afternoon, Monkey came to see you and I and jumped on my stomach. By the time they allowed me to stand upright again, you were already 14 hours old. Of course, you didn't know this - you were either sleeping, or lying wide awake looking around. And boy, you could sleep as a newborn! Even now, you are the one I have to wake up in the mornings. 

Seven years on, you are still my baby. You are funny and you can talk the hind legs off a donkey. If I ask you what you did at school today, I get a blow by blow account and it takes you five minutes to tell me about the first lesson! You are kind and you are a great friend. You rarely fall out with your friends and if someone says something horrid to you, you let it go over your head. You often sort out arguments between other girls in your circle of friends. 

You love to draw and if I'd kept every one that you'd done, we'd have had to move house. You are always drawing, colouring, making and creating. But you're also really good at maths and it's your favourite subject. Actually, you love school all round. You first walked in your school just before you were two and when we went back a couple of months later, you sat down in the reception classroom and started to try and write with the children. You wanted to go to school when Monkey started the year before you did and when it was finally your turn, you walked in without a tear or a moment of worry and you have blossomed there. Every now and then, you have a crisis of confidence in some aspect of learnin - it's been reading, writing, and even some of your dance moves so far. I have to remember to keep telling you that no-one is brilliant at anything first time around and you have to keep trying to get better. Then you do it and you completely forget that you ever doubted your abilities.

At seven, we have a glimpse of the woman you will become. The world is opening up to you, a world of possibilities. You don't know what you want to be when you grow up, mainly because you want to do so many things. You'd like to be an author, an illustrator, a dancer or a mathematician (although you are not sure you can do maths as a job). If you could work out a way to do them all together, I have no doubt you would - unless you change your mind about any of those things. 

And so, on your birthday, I want to wish you happy birthday and tell you how much I love you - although you knew that anyway, didn't you?

I have one final message for you, Missy Woo, on this day of days. Don't stop being you. 

Mummy xx

Monday, 1 July 2013

Meal Planning Monday - the easy cook birthday week edition!

Meal Planning MondayWeek two of Wimbledon so don't expect anything complicated. In addition, Missy Woo turns seven on Friday, and gets to celebrate by doing a modern dance exam and then go out for tea after school. With a party on Sunday, that doesn't leave too many meals to plan. On top of that, Missy Woo has a friend coming round for tea tomorrow as Monkey is off to a friend's and told me she'd promised lasagne to a friend "so long as it hasn't got mushrooms, Mummy, because it's easy for you". Groundhog day, anyone?

So, this is our week in meals.

Monday - Lasagne and garlic bread
Tuesday - Quiche, new potatoes and salad (pre-made quiche, so shoot me)
Wednesday - Slow cooker lamb and sweet potato curry
Thursday - Sandwiches
Friday - Out for tea
Saturday - Party
Sunday - Roast chicken (this is going to be a minimalist version as I'll be watching the men's final!)

See? Nothing special, but next week should have some nice things in it. If you want some better plans to inspire, click on the badge above to reach Mrs M's place where the linky is hosted.

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